Sammy Watkins wanted to run the fastest 40-yard dash in NFL Combine history. Didn’t happen. The speedy Clemson receiver turned in a slightly underwhelming 4.43 seconds on Sunday, behind several competitors in a deep receiver class.
That’s still fast, but nowhere near Chris Johnson’s 4.24 prior to being drafted by the Tennessee Titans in 2008. The odds of it impacting Watkins’ draft are slim. He’s still expected to go in the top 10, and could end up a Raider at No. 5 overall.
If the first four selections don’t go the Raiders’ way and they can’t trade down, Watkins could be a viable option. The Silver and Black are in desperate need of a true No. 1 receiver, and Watkins has the potential to assume that role early on.
He’s a big play receiver with great hands. While drafting a receiver that high – a rarity to be sure -- has historically been a mixed bag. Cincinnati’s A.J. Green and Atlanta’s Julio Jones made an instant impact as high draft picks, and analysts believe Watkins could do the same.
“I can make plays all over the field,” Watkins said in a Saturday press conference at the NFL Scouting Combine. “What I love doing is dominating defenses. I think that’s what I bring to the game and I think that’s going to turn over to the NFL. When I come into the NFL, I think I can be that dominant receiver.”
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While his 40-yard dash wasn’t as fast as his lofty expectations, Watkins plays fast. He’s not just a burner running in a straight line.
“I think I can run by just about anybody,” Watkins said. “That’s my objective, that’s my motive. Fly route, home run, post, that’s the kind of guy I am. I feel like I can score on just about any play on any route when I get the ball and that’s the mentality you have to have as a receiver.”
This year’s receiver crop might work against Watkins going high. It’s incredibly deep, with solid options available when the Raiders select No. 36 overall. They could draft a different position up top and get a solid player as the draft goes on.
The Raiders must decide if Watkins is truly special, can’t miss prospect. If he is, Watkins would help a young quarterback evolve and help the 2014 passing game improve after last year’s struggles.
Watkins must show unique qualities during this pre-draft process. He had a decent workout at the NFL combine, with a 34-inch vertical leap and a 126-inch broad jump.
He’ll have to improve that effort some during Clemson’s pro day in order to do so.
“I think we have a great class at receiver,” Watkins said. “I’ve just got to be uncommon when I go out there and run those drills and separate myself some way, somehow.”