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Sammy Watkins hopes NFL career matches his college hype

Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins recently received high praise from NFL Media draft analyst Mike Mayock, with Mayock saying Watkins was one of the best wide receivers he has seen on tape in the past decade.

There have been 38 wide receivers selected in the first round in the past 10 drafts, and 14 were top-10 picks. Watkins is considered a top-10 lock.

Those 14 can be put into three groups.

Stars or rising stars: Larry Fitzgerald (third overall pick in 2004), A.J. Green (fourth in 2011), Calvin Johnson (second in 2007), Julio Jones (sixth in 2011).

Too soon to tell or journeyman talents: Tavon Austin (eighth in 2013), Justin Blackmon (fifth in 2012), Michael Crabtree (10th in 2009), Braylon Edwards (third in 2005), Ted Ginn (ninth in 2007), Darrius Heyward-Bey (seventh in 2009), Roy Williams (seventh in 2004). Note: Edwards was out of the league last season and Williams retired before the 2012 season.

Misses: Mike Williams (10th in 2005), Reggie Williams (ninth in 2004), Troy Williamson (seventh in 2005).

Here is some perspective on Watkins, those 14 receivers and how Watkins compares to that group:

Sammy Watkins

Size: Measured 6-foot-0¾ and 211 pounds at the NFL Scouting Combine

Combine events: 4.43 in the 40 (unofficial 10-yard split of 1.53 seconds); 34-inch vertical jump; broad jump of 10 feet, 6 inches; 16 reps in the bench press; 4.21 seconds in the 20-yard shuttle; 7.00 seconds in the three-cone drill.

Stats at Clemson: 240 receptions for 3,391 yards and 27 TDs in three seasons.

College numbers

Average size of the 14: 6-foot-2, 210 pounds

Leading career receiver: Austin, with 288 catches in four seasons.

Leading per-season receiver: Crabtree, with 231 receptions in two seasons (115.5 catches per season). His 231 receptions rank sixth among the 14 despite just two seasons in college.

Receptions yards leader: Roy Williams, with 3,866 yards in four seasons.

Leading yards-per-season receiver: Crabtree, with 3,127 yards in two seasons (1,563.5 yards per season).

Most TD catches: Crabtree, with 41 in two seasons. Blackmon had 40 in three seasons, and that was the second-highest total.

How Watkins ranks compared to the 14: His 240 catches are fifth-most, his yardage total is sixth-most and his TD catches are ninth-most.

Pro results

Austin: He had 40 receptions for 418 yards and four TDs as a rookie with the Rams in 2013. Eighteen of his receptions came in the first three games. His lack of size bothered some teams, and he was considered far from a sure thing coming out of West Virginia.

Blackmon: He has had a troubled start to his career, with 93 receptions in just 20 games. He was suspended for 12 games in 2013 for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. He had a great career at Oklahoma State, but needs to get on the stick -- and quickly.

Crabtree: He has had one 1,000-yard season, with 1,105 yards in 2012. He set his career-high with nine TDs that season. For as much success as he had at Texas Tech, he doesn't appear to be an elite-level receiver in the NFL.

Edwards: He had a great season in 2007, with 80 receptions for 1,289 yards and 16 TDs. Alas, his season-highs since then are 55 catches, 904 yards and seven TDs, and his career appears to be over. He was considered by some to be the best prospect in the 2005 draft, but didn't come close to that level.

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Fitzgerald: He is one of the league's best receivers and was one of the nation's top two receivers in each of his two seasons at Pitt. In the NFL, he has had six 1,000-yard seasons, two 100-catch seasons and seven seasons of 80-plus receptions. He also has had five seasons with at least 10 TD receptions, including 2013. Still, he's 30, and it's fair to wonder if he is on the downside of his career.

Ginn: He has 11 career TD catches and never has caught more than 56 passes in a season. He has been a solid return man, though. Still, picking him at No. 9 was a huge reach by Miami, given his production (1,943 receiving yards in three seasons) at Ohio State.

Green: He has reached the 1,000-yard plateau in each of his three seasons and caught 11 TD passes in each of the past two seasons. He also has caught a combined 195 passes in the past two seasons. In short, he is proving to be one of the league's elite receivers. He was highly touted out of high school and lived up to the hype in college at Georgia. So far, he has lived up to the hype he received coming out of college, too.

Heyward-Bey: His selection widely was panned, and the criticism was deserved. No question Heyward-Bey was fast, but he was far from a polished receiver at Maryland. He has 12 career TD receptions, and his season-high in receptions is 64. He has caught 40 or fewer passes four times in six seasons. He is a complementary guy, and if not for his blazing speed, he would've been a mid-round selection at best.

Johnson: Is there really a need to explain how good Megatron has been? He has had four consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and has 45 TD receptions in that span, including a 16-TD extravaganza in 2011. He had 122 receptions for 1,964 yards (but just five TDs) in a dominant 2012 campaign. He is the best receiver in the league. He was ultra-productive at Georgia Tech, too, under then-coach Chan Gailey.

Jones: He looked good in his first two seasons, but played just five games in 2013 because of a foot injury. He had a 1,159-yard season in 2012 and missed a 1,000-yard season as a rookie by just 41 yards. As with his former SEC rival, A.J. Green, Jones was a highly hyped high school star and lived up to that hype in college at Alabama. If he returns to form in 2014, the Falcons will have one of the league's best young receivers.

Mike Williams: He looked like a mini-tight end -- and he ran like a slow mini-tight end. He simply overpowered defenders in two phenomenal seasons at USC (2,579 yards and 30 TDs with the Trojans), but he couldn't do that in the NFL. He finished his career with 127 receptions and five TDs, and played for five teams in his five seasons. He did show some moxie by returning to the league in 2010 after missing two seasons and was solid that season with Seattle. But one solid season does not cut it for a No. 10 overall pick.

Reggie Williams: He lasted for five seasons and never had more than 629 receiving yards in any of them. His season-high in receptions was 52 in 2006, and he did have 10 TD receptions in 2007. But he was out of the league by 2009 and finished with just 18 TD catches. He had a big-time career in college at Washington.

Roy Williams: He had one 1,000-yard season, catching 82 passes for 1,310 yards and seven TDs in 2006. He had four seasons with at least seven TD catches, but never showed the ability -- outside of '06 -- to be a go-to receiver. He did hang around for nine seasons, though, and finished with 393 receptions and 44 TDs. He is one of the best wide receivers in University of Texas history.

Williamson: He was a great athlete out of South Carolina with basically zero clue as to the nuances of the position. He finished his five-year career with 87 receptions and five TD catches.

WATKINS GOING FORWARD

It's not as if he has a lot to live up to. The majority of the 14 receivers who have gone in the top 10 in the past decade have been disappointments.

Johnson is a tremendous player, and Fitzgerald is another who lived up to the hype. There is hope for Green and Jones.

The other 10, though, did not meet or have not met the hype, with a handful being flat-out busts.

Watkins is both fast and quick, and also is elusive and strong. As Mayock said, he looks like a can't-miss guy. But it's not as if can't-miss receivers haven't missed before.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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