After three incredible seasons at Clemson, including a virtuoso 16-catch, 227-yard and two touchdown performance in the Orange Bowl, wide receiver Sammy Watkins will reportedly declare for the NFL.
Citing several unnamed sources, Yahoo! Sports first broke the junior Watkins intentions late Saturday night.
In a draft expected to be loaded with defensive players, offensive lineman and quarterbacks, Watkins will standout as one of the best skill players and should come off the board in the first round. His 2012 running mate at Clemson was DeAndre Hopkins, who went No. 27 overall to the Houston Texans and finished his rookie year with 52 receptions for 802 yards and two scores. Watkins could go even higher.
Other than an injury-plagued second year, Watkins was dominant throughout his collegiate career with 240 receptions for 3,391 yards and 27 touchdowns.
Blessed with otherworldly leaping ability and the acceleration to run every route, Watkins is considered by many as the best receiver prospect in the country. He joins USC’s Marqise Lee, Texas A&M’s Mike Evans, and Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks as some of the biggest names to declare.
It’s likely Watkins jumped Lee in the overall receiver rankings, with the Trojan’s stock possibly dropping behind a subpar year and several minor, but nagging injuries.
Five of the first 10 teams atop the draft (Houston, Jacksonville, Cleveland, Oakland, and Minnesota) are all in the market for quarterbacks, but its still possible for Watkins to go as high as No. 6 overall to Atlanta or No. 7 to Tampa Bay.
The Falcons could arguably be the best fit for Watkins, with quarterback Matt Ryan already one of the best at his position in the league, and Atlanta in need of a future replacement for veteran receiver Roddy White, who battled injuries throughout the season.
The Buccaneers are a bit tricker. New head coach Lovie Smith will have to decide if Mike Glennon is his quarterback of the future, and Smith is typically a more defensive minded coach so he could go with Notre Dame defensive end Stephen Tuitt.
The Vikings are at No. 8 also needs a receiving threat to draw attention away from Adrian Peterson, but it also must address its 31st ranked secondary and an offensive line that gave up 44.0 sacks.
The Bills own the No. 9 overall pick, and Watkins could grow with young quarterback E.J. Manuel. Then there’s Detroit, Tennessee, and the New York Giants at 10, 11, 12, respectively.
With plenty of talent already on the offensive side of the ball, Detroit might decide to bolster their middling defense, but Tennessee could use a second option behind receiver Kendall Wright, and Watkins gives the Giants more cause to let Hakeem Nicks walk in free agency.