A lot of folks are very high on Sammy Watkins as a top choice in the 2014 NFL Draft. His speed is breathtaking, he has hands as soft as Calvin Johnson‘s and he is also a “high character” guy having grown up in Dabo Swiney‘s Clemson football program. Watkins seems like the absolute no brainer in this case for the Browns to jump at with their No. 4 pick in the draft.
Wrong, wrong, wrong. Watkins may have all the “flash and dash” of a top level receiver, but there are still major question marks about his strength and ability to block downfield. Yes, you can point to his combine numbers of 16 reps on the bench press compared to Kelvin Benjamin‘s 13 or Mike Evans‘ 12, but that is not the sort of strength you need as a top level wide receiver in the NFL; that’s the kind of strength you need if you plan on hanging out at muscle beach. Watch Watkins try and shred a tackle when he gets stuck on a screen matched up against a safety. If the defender beats him to the spot, Watkins simply does not have the lateral strength movement to break through any sort of tackle by a safety, linebacker or even larger cornerback. Compare that to Calvin Johnson. Johnson is arguably the strongest skill position player in the NFL, and it certainly shows as he can push even linebackers off of him like rag dolls. Watkins is drawing early comparisons to Johnson which may not be fair to Watkins, but he will never be the player that Johnson is — period.
The other massive question mark existing in Watkins’ game would have to be his blocking ability. Watch some of the Orange Bowl game against the Ohio State Buckeyes. Watkins put up unbelievable numbers that game with 16 catches for 227 yards and two touchdowns. But when he does not get the ball, Watkins is often lazy about getting downfield to block for his teammates. This is not a character flaw, certainly, but it does show a lack of hustle that will not (and should not) fly in the NFL.
In many respects, Watkins became a stat junkie this season. He knew he was the best, he knew he was getting the ball and when he didn’t he stopped trying. Many people want to compare Watkins to Calvin Johnson, but the better comparison is to another Cleveland Browns top five draft pick — Braylon Edwards.