Sammy Watkins is widely considered the best skill position player in the 2014 NFL draft, and the Clemson star figures to go in the Top 10, perhaps even the Top 5, on May 8th. Despite a word of caution recently from Greg Bedard at The MMQB, the consensus among draft pundits – for the uninitiated, that’s Kiper, McShay and Mayock – is that Watkins will either go 4th to Cleveland or 5th to Oakland.
Watkins was a terror at Clemson, using his speed and strength to dominate the ACC. He dismembered Ohio State in a riveting bowl game performance – 16 catches, 227 yards, two TDs – and in one of my favorite moments of the college football season, Watkins lowered his shoulder and ran over NFL prospect Ryan Shazier, who is a 229-pound linebacker.
But Watkins is just 6-foot-1 and at the NFL Draft Combine in February, his vertical leap was only 34 inches, which ranked him 27th among receivers who participated. As an NFL-obsessed friend noticed, here’s a look at how receivers shorter than 6-foot-3 who have been selected in the Top 10 since 2000 have fared.
A few notes:
* All player heights taken from Pro Football Reference
* David Terrell is listed various places as 6-foot-2 and 6-foot-3
* Ginn and Crabtree are still in the NFL and Crabtree is in his prime
* Heyward-Bey just signed with Pittsburgh, on his third team in three years
Obviously there is no guarantee that wide receivers 6-foot-3 or taller are automatically going to be superstars, or even good players. Charles Rogers (2003), Roy Williams (2004), Reggie Williams (2004) and Mike Williams (2005) are just a few examples of tall receivers failing to live up to being a Top 10 pick.
This isn’t to suggest Watkins shouldn’t be taken in the Top 10. But teams expecting him to come in and be a No. 1 receiver the way Julio Jones (Atlanta) and AJ Green (Cincinnati) have in recent seasons may want to temper expectations. Could Watkins seamlessly fit as the No. 2 receiver in Cleveland next to 6-foot-3 Josh Gordon? Certainly. But given Gordon’s suspension history, the Browns not having a running game or a QB, and the potential “value” of some lineman the Browns could take 4th, is the better move to take a tackle who will be the franchise for 10 years, and then take a receiver in the 2nd round? Cleveland has seven of the first 123 picks.
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