The NFL draft begins tonight, and we expect Sammy Watkins to go within the first few picks, exactly where he deserves to be. Unfortunately it'll likely mean he goes to a bad team, but hopefully one with a decent enough QB and system where he can shine. Various mock drafts have him going to Jacksonville, where Justin Blackmon remains suspended, or the Cleveland Browns depending on whether they want to risk it on Manziel, or possibly falling to Atlanta or Tampa Bay's picks at 6 & 7.
Personally I'd take a no-doubt player with a pick this high, and Sammy Watkins is a no-doubt talent. He's had one major off-field incident, and that marijuana case appears to be a non-issue for most NFL GMs and coaches. I wouldn't call Clowney a no-doubt player. I think his bust factor is quite high based on the complete lack of work ethic, not his talent, which I still believe to be the best DE talent I've ever seen in person.
Projections - M. Bryant - possibly as high as the 2nd, but likely 3rd/4th rounds.
Breeland - I think he's 3rd round unless there is a run on CBs.
Brandon Thomas - the player I'm pulling the hardest for to be drafted highly, because we really need the momentum and panache of a Clemson OL being drafted high and playing in the NFL. However his knee has dashed hopes that he goes higher than the 3rd. I'm thinking he slips to the 4th.
Tajh Boyd - I'm thinking late 4th, likely 5th round.
Shuey - I would take Shuey in the later rounds, but I couldn't see him going off the board before the 5th. I'd take him in the 6th.
Catman - Kickers don't get drafted high unless they have cannons attached to their leg, or you have a crazy owner calling the shots. Most don't get picked at all. I could see him going in the 6th or 7th if someone really needed a kicker, but most likely he's a UFA.
Clemson's official release for the NFL Draft:
CLEMSON, S.C. - Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins will be one of 30 prospects in New York City on Thursday evening as the National Football League begins its annual draft of college players at 8:00 p.m. Watkins is one of many former Tiger football players who should have their name called over the three days of the NFL draft.
Watkins, the number-one receiver available according to many analysts, is expected to be selected within the top five picks, and could go as high as second according to some.
If he is taken within the first three selections he will be the highest draft pick in Clemson history. Banks McFadden (1939, Brooklyn) and Gaines Adams (2007, Tampa Bay) were both the number-four selection of the NFL draft after their respective senior seasons.
Watkins had a record-breaking season for the Tigers with 101 receptions for 1464 yards and 12 touchdowns. He was a finalist for the Biletnikof Award and was a first-team All-American. He finished his Clemson career as the schools career leader in receptions and reception yardage. In his final game he had a Clemson record 16 receptions for a record 227 yards and two touchdowns in Clemson's 40-35 win over Ohio State in the Discover Orange Bowl.
Watkins is one of three Clemson juniors who made themselves available for the draft, the most underclassmen from Clemson in one draft in history. The others are wide receiver Martavis Bryant and cornerback Bashaud Breeland.
According to a recent mock draft by ESPN analysts Todd McShay and Mel Kiper, four former Clemson players could be selected among the top 100 players. They had Watkins going second to St. Louis, Bryant going 63rd to Denver, Brandon Thomas 83rd to Cleveland and Breeland 97th to Pittsburgh. ESPN.com had all four of the players ranked among the top 85 players available in the draft.
Other Tigers who could be drafted over the seven rounds according to the ESPN.com draft site are quarterback Tajh Boyd, offensive guard Tyler Shatley, linebacker Spencer Shuey, linebacker Quandon Christian, running back Rod McDowell, kicker Chandler Catanzaro and snapper Phillip Fajgenbaum.
"I think we will have 10 or 11 players get a shot at the next level, either by the draft or by signing a free agent contract," said Clemson Head Coach Dabo Swinney. "It will be an exciting, three-day period for our players and our staff. They have all worked very hard for this day."
- If Clemson has at least four players selected it will mark the sixth straight year Clemson has had at least four players taken in the NFL draft. That would be a first for an ACC school since Florida State had a 10-year run of at least four players chosen from 1992-2001.
- Over the last five drafts, or since Dabo Swinney became head coach, Clemson has had 23 players drafted, tied with North Carolina for the most in the ACC. Florida State is third with 22 and Miami (FL) is fourth with 21 over that time period.
- When Sammy Watkins is taken in the first round on Thursday evening it will give Clemson a wide receiver taken in the first round in consecutive drafts. DeAndre Hopkins was taken in the first round last year by Houston with the 27th selection. It will mark the first time in history Clemson has had players at the same position taken in the first round in consecutive drafts.
- Continuing along that theme, Clemson will become the first ACC school to have a wide receiver taken in the first round in consecutive drafts and will be the first school nationally to have to it since Ohio State in 2006 and 2007.
- Watkins will be the fourth Clemson player to attend the draft in New York City as a guest of the NFL. The others are Chester McGlockton (1992), Gaines Adams (2007) and C.J. Spiller (2010).
- Sammy Watkins will be drafted Thursday night at the age of 20 years, 10 months and 23 days. He will be the second youngest Clemson player drafted in the first round. The only one younger on his draft day was Watkins former teammate DeAndre Hopkins, who was 20 years, 10 months and 13 days when he was selected last year.
- When Watkins is chosen in the first round on Thursday he will be the 24th NFL first round selection in Clemson history. (NFL records do not consider Harvey White a first-round draft choice in 1960 as it was an AFL selection). Watkins will be the fifth Clemson wide receiver in the first round, joining Jerry Butler (1979), Perry Tuttle (1982), Rod Gardner (2001) and DeAndre Hopkins (2013).
Watkins will be the second Clemson underclassman taken in the first round since 1997 when Anthony Simmons was the number-15 selection by the Seattle Seahawks. Hopkins broke a streak of 11 consecutive Clemson underclassmen who were not first round draft choices.