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NFL New England Patriots

New England Patriots Should Trade Up In The 2014 NFL Draft To Select Clemson WR Sammy Watkins

Sammy Watkins

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the New England Patriots‘ 2013 season is a thing of the past, it is time to look ahead to the future. Lately much of the talk around New England has been regarding free agency and which of their own players the team should re-sign. However, the real question for the team  — and perhaps the decision that will have the largest impact in the 2014 season and beyond — will be how the team approaches this May’s draft.

In recent years the Pats have drafted several players on the defensive side of the ball, although they did take a step in the right direction drafting WR Aaron Dobson last year. Unfortunately for the Patriots, Tom Brady will not be the team’s quarterback for much longer and they must capitalize on his window while there is still time.

One way the team could do that is by trading up in the draft this year to select former Clemson Tigers WR Sammy Watkins. Watkins is a freak athlete and is the very definition of a number one wide receiver in the NFL. Watkins is listed at 6-foot-1, 205-pounds, and according to Tigernet.com he ran an unofficial 40-yard dash time of 4.27 in June of 2013.

Besides the speed and measurables that he possesses, Watkins is an extremely gifted receiver as well.  He has elite hands, route-running ability and can go up and get the football with authority.  He can be a big presence in the red zone and screen game as well.

For those who may have doubted that he was a special player, he proved to be just that in this year’s Orange Bowl against the Ohio State Buckeyes. In that game he caught 16 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns despite playing most of the game with a knee injury. That one game was not a fluke either.

During his three-year college career, Watkins caught 240 passes for 3,391 yards and 27 touchdowns. Those numbers would likely have been higher if Watkins wasn’t sharing reps with current Houston Texans WR Deandre Hopkins his first two years.

The only real red flags for Watkins are his health as he has missed some time over his college football career with lower extremity injuries, and he was arrested and suspended two games for alleged Marijuana and ADHD medication possession without a prescription in 2012.

Unfortunately for the Pats, he is likely to be a top-10 draft pick this year.  However, the team could package their first round pick this year and perhaps a pair of second round picks in the next two years to move into that range to draft him. After all, the Pats did trade up twice in the first round of the 2012 draft to take DE Chandler Jones and LB Dont’a Hightower thereby showing that they will move up for the right player.

In any case, Watkins will be a name to watch during the Scouting Combine and on day one of the draft. If the Patriots were to draft him their offense would be elite once more with Dobson, Watkins, Julian Edelman and/or Danny Amendola, Rob Gronkowski, Shane Vereen and Kenbrell Thompkins as pass catchers for Brady.

Will Gellman is a New England Patriots’ writer for RantSports.com.  Follow him on Twitter, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.