CFB 24/7  

 

Sammy Watkins, Khalil Mack solidify spots near top of draft

  • By Mike Huguenin and Chase Goodbread
More Columns >

As we transitioned from NFL Scouting Combine fallout into the opening week of pro-day workouts, a number sexy storylines began to emerge. Among them were several players cementing early-first-round status, connecting the dots between teams and prospects, and couple of headlines from the world of college football.

Here are College Football 24/7's top takeaways of the week:

1. Watkins is a stud

NFL Media draft analyst Mike Mayock said Clemson star Sammy Watkins is one of the best wide receivers he has seen on tape in the past decade. Watkins seems a lock to go in the top 10 and could go in the top five; five wide receivers have gone in the top five in the past 10 drafts: Justin Blackmon in 2012, A.J. Green in 2011, Calvin Johnson in 2007, Braylon Edwards in 2005 and Larry Fitzgerald in 2004. One team especially intrigued by Watkins is Detroit, which picks 10th. A Johnson-Watkins pairing would be scary, but the Lions almost certainly would have to move up to get him, and they need defensive help desperately anyway.

2. Mack in play to go No. 1

Khalil Mack is another guy who had a great college career, then tore it up at the combine and on his pro day. His pro-day performance backed up his jaw-dropping work at the combine, and NFL Media senior draft analyst Gil Brandt said Mack is one of seven players who could go No. 1 overall. But that he could doesn't mean he should, Brandt says.

3. Backing it up

Auburn defensive end Dee Ford backed up some bold comments at the combine with an absolutely stellar pro day, making up for a medically-related withdrawal from combine workouts with a 4.59 40-yard dash at 252 pounds. It's a close call as to whether he or Missouri's Kony Ealy will follow Jadeveon Clowney as the second defensive end drafted. There isn't a pair of teammates in the country that shot up draft boards like Auburn's Ford and Greg Robinson. Back in September, Ford was considered just another tweener with more questions than answers about his NFL potential. And Robinson was coming off a redshirt freshman season in 2012 -- not even on the radar.

4. Rams zeroing in on OTs?

Everybody knows St. Louis needs a stud tackle, and the Rams could take one at No. 2. There is bad history with the Rams and tackles at that pick, though: St. Louis grabbed Baylor's Jason Smith with the No. 2 pick in the 2009 draft and he didn't pan out -- which is why the Rams could grab another at No. 2 in May. (Given St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher's long history with the Matthews family, you wonder if that means Texas A&M's Jake Matthews is the guy Fisher is focusing on.)

5. Bortles' calendar is filling up

UCF quarterback Blake Bortles is in play to be the No. 1 overall pick, and he already has meetings set up later this month with Houston (which picks first) and Jacksonville (which picks third). NFL Media draft analyst Bucky Brooks doesn't see either team taking Bortles, though; he has Bortles going 20th, to Arizona, in his latest mock draft. But even Brooks admits it would be a shock if Bortles fell that far.

6. Donald is the best DT in the draft

Well, so says Mayock, who has been suitably impressed with Aaron Donald's work at the NFL Scouting Combine and at his pro day earlier this week. Donald's lack of height (he's a bit under 6-foot-1) likely bothers some scouts, but his production at Pittsburgh was tremendous throughout his career, and Donald also should've answered any questions about his perceived lack of athleticism with his work at the combine and his pro day. If he's not drafted in the first round, NFL teams should be ashamed.

7. Evans climbing boards

As Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans' draft star rises in the wake of an impressive combine performance, one can't help but wonder if he can translate his size (6-5, 225 pounds) into the sort of advantage that the NFL's most successful big receivers impose on Sundays. Or does he go ahead and bulk up his frame to 250, which wouldn't be difficult, and join the hybrid tight end club that has taken the NFL by storm? Per an NFC scout, don't consider the latter out of the question.

8. Dawg Pound South

Has the Dawg Pound begun to migrate south on I-71? What is it with the Cincinnati Bengals and Georgia Bulldogs? If all the former UGA players on Cincinnati's current roster make the club next year, and the Bengals bring in Aaron Murray as a mid- to late-round pick to compete with Andy Dalton as has been speculated, that would make eight former Bulldogs in one NFL uniform. On a 53-man roster, that'd be about 15 percent of the team coming from one school. Throw in tight end Arthur Lynch while you're at it, Cincy. He could make nine.

9. FSU protective of Winston

Oh, to tap the call that Florida State athletic officials made to Texas A&M for a couple of pointers on handling the celebrity befalling quarterback Jameis Winston in the wake of his Heisman Trophy award. Here's guessing that after Johnny Manziel's offseason escapades between 2012 and 2013, the Aggies' advice to the 'Noles included fewer do's than don'ts. FSU has a built-in advantage, however, in the form of Winston's baseball career. That will limit his distractions as much as anything this spring.

10. Targeting rule adjusted

Here's a newsflash: Reversing a penalty in the replay booth, but then enforcing a 15-yard penalty anyway, is a horrifically bad idea. Too bad it took the NCAA the entire 2013 season to figure it out. The ever-toughening job of playing defensive back aggressively but cleanly scored a much-needed victory.

Headlines

The previous element was an advertisement.

NFL Shop

NFL News
CONTENT
15