Wide Receiver, Clemson University
Since Watkins’ high school days as a receiver in South Fort Myers, Florida, the 6’1″, 205-pound Clemson wide out has been used to being the top prospect year in and year out. As a wide out in Florida, Watkins amassed 133 catches for 2,997 yards and 36 career touchdowns, absolutely obliterating county receiving records. In his freshman season at Clemson, Watkins showed recruiters and college skeptics what he was all about, catching 82 passes for 1,219 yards and 12 touchdowns to go along with his 231 rushing yards on 32 carries and 826 return yards and one touchdown on 33 kick-off returns (average of 25 yards per return). While Watkins Sophomore season wasn’t as grand (708 yards and three touchdowns on 57 receptions), he had a stupendous comeback season, catching 101 passes for 1,464 yards (ranked 5th in the nation) and 12 touchdowns (tied for 10th-most in the nation) in 2013. One of Watkins’ most memorable performances came in the Orange Bowl against former #2 Ohio State when Watkins caught 16 Taj Boyd passes for 227 yards and 2 touchdowns in a nail-biting 40-35 Clemson win.
When looking at Watkins and trying to predict where he’ll be best in this offense, we can make an assumption that his skill set will take him far. Where he is strongest is his route-running and ability to get open in the passing game. While he may not be a physical receiver like Mike Evans of Texas A&M, he has terrific footwork ad can use his quick acceleration to get space from defensive backs. Another key characteristic for Watkins is his versatility. As demonstrated by his Freshman season, Watkins has shown to be dangerous not only on the receiving side of the ball, but also the running and return side of the ball as well. If the Lions do end up going with Watkins as the #10 overall pick in the draft, I can see him playing a huge role in this offense, returning kick-offs and perhaps acting as a receiver-runner with some jet sweep runs. Some may look at this pick and think, “this is a horrible pick, Lions need to look at their defense.” Although defense is a huge concern, I believe that one of the reasons the Lions struggled this season was because of their receiving corps. Other than the league’s best receiver Calvin Johnson, the Lions don’t have any other vertical threats in the passing game. Tight ends Brandon Pettigrew and Joeseph Fauria are sure-handed, sure, but they don’t have the ability to go for huge games receiving, only huge games around the red zone. The Lions have a dangerous running game with Reggie Bush and Joique Bell, however I think by adding another receiver in Watkins the Lions offense could be one of the most dangerous in the NFC, even the NFL for that matter.