How fast is Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins? He was one of the fastest wide outs at the combine, running a 4.34 (unofficially) on his first try at the 40-yard dash. His second run was slightly slower at 4.37. He may not have kept his promise to break the all-time combine record, but those are still terrific times.
So we know Watkins has great speed. He also has good size at a shade under 6-1, and 211 pounds. That size-speed combination, plus his good ball skills, has teams looking at him as a potentially great field-stretching X receiver. He could be explosive in the NFL, another Julio Jones or A.J. Green.
His combine performance could push Watkins all the way into the top 5, out of range for the Vikings at #8 overall. But let’s imagine for an instant that Watkins for some reason slid all the way to 8. Is he a guy the Vikings would consider at that spot?
At first glance, you would have to say no. Receiver is not a pressing need for the Vikings right now, with Greg Jennings, Cordarrelle Patterson and Jarius Wright representing a solid central group, and some lower-cost free agent options waiting out there if you want to bolster the corps (bringing back Jerome Simpson is among the options).
Other positions are much greater concerns than receiver right now. Quarterback is obviously a major issue, as is just about every position on the defense. Would it really make sense to draft Sammy Watkins when a guy like Derek Carr is sitting there, or C.J. Mosley, or some stud defensive lineman?
Looking at it purely in terms of need, no, Watkins would not seem to make sense, at least at first glance. But there’s another way of looking at it that goes beyond need and simply addresses talent. Sammy Watkins is such an amazingly gifted, potentially game-changing prospect, you can make the argument that you have to take him if he’s there, regardless of need.
Sometimes a guy’s pure talent just blows up your whole draft approach. Watkins could be that type of player.
Even if you add need into the equation, Watkins may make more sense than it seems at first. Yes we know you already have a potential #1 WR in Patterson on the roster, and a solid veteran #2 in Jennings (at least when you have an adequate quarterback delivering the ball). But should we take it for granted that those guys will work out as expected?
We love Patterson’s talent, but the truth is, he has not yet proven that he can be a genuine #1. Much of his production last year, when Bill Musgrave actually elected to let him be part of the game plan, came on more gimmicky plays.
Norv Turner will surely seek to use Patterson as a more traditional downfield threat, and all indications are that the has the speed and skill to grow into such a role, but it’s not a slam dunk. It’s also not a slam dunk that Jennings will produce as the #2, when you factor in his age and his injury-riddled history.
Point being, though receiver is seemingly not as much of a need position as some others, I’m not convinced it’s as locked down as some believe. I don’t think you can look at the Vikings’ receiver talent right now and say it’s set. There is room to add.
The question becomes, how much do you want to add? Some folks are eyeing free agents like Eric Decker, thinking a guy like him would put the Vikings’ offense into wow territory, even if they’re not able to draft or sign a top-drawer quarterback. Get overwhelmingly great at the skill positions and then you can live with a second-tier QB, the reasoning goes.
The only problem with this reasoning is that they’s no way the Vikings can afford Eric Decker. Even with all their cap space, paying a guy $10 million a year – that’s what Decker is expected to command on the market – just is not feasible. Not when you’re already paying Greg Jennings nearly $9 million-per-year. That’s too much money to tie up in one position.
The Vikings will have to pick up more receiver depth, but if they do it via free agency, they’ll do it lower down the pay scale. A lower-level free agent won’t represent a great boost to the overall talent, it will only further buttress what appears to be a solid receiver group.
If you want to go to the next-level talent wise, and really put an amazing group of skill players out there, you can’t do it via free agency, but you can do it via the draft. You can do it in a major way by taking Sammy Watkins.
Browns fans today are dreaming of a Sammy Watkins-Josh Gordon one-two punch.Well how about a Sammy Watkins-Cordarrelle Patterson one-two punch with Greg Jennings as a (somewhat overpaid, I grant you) veteran #3?
In the Watkins-Patterson-Jennings scenario, Watkins gives you the legit downfield threat from day 1, Patterson is the x-factor and Jennings is the dirty work guy who can still hit you with a big play on occasion. Their skills would seem to complement each other nicely. They would potentially be the greatest three-headed monster receiver corps in Minnesota since Randy Moss-Cris Carter-Jake Reed.
With that receiver group out there plus Kyle Rudolph, and a competent quarterback delivering the ball, we would no longer have to hear about defenses stacking the box to stop Adrian Peterson. The Vikings would be able to light up anyone.
It’s too compelling a prospect to just dismiss. So don’t say, they’ll never draft Watkins because they already have Patterson, Jennings and Wright. And don’t tell me Greg Childs is still in the mix because Childs has proven nothing and is someone who should in no way be factored in when considering this team’s future.
My point is, Watkins makes more sense than people may think. Is it a sure thing that the Vikings will take him if available? Of course not. Trading down is still a great option, and if Watkins is there and multiple teams are drooling over him, that just makes a trade down easier. Taking a top-notch defensive player is also a great option.
Reaching for a QB like Derek Carr is not a great option, but it might happen anyway.
Given all those choices, I would have to think hard about which is the best. I would not dismiss the Watkins option out of hand. I would have to look hard at taking Watkins, regardless of how the needs may rank right now. That’s how gifted this guy appears to be. He is a guy who might make a GM tear up his plans.