Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins wants to dominate defenses

jjones@charlotteobserver.comFebruary 22, 2014 

— Sammy Watkins isn’t hiding the fact that he’s nowhere close to being the receiver he wants to be.

The Clemson wideout has a chance at this week’s NFL combine to further separate himself from the class of receivers with a strong performance, but there’s aspects of his game he still wants to work on.

“I think I’m pretty much a good route runner, but there are a lot of areas I can improve in with getting out of my routes,” Watkins said. “I think the routes I need to focus on are my curl and comebacks. I got to start getting my transition and know when to run full speed and not, when to sink my hips and get out of my routes.”

The Clemson junior caught 101 passes for 1,464 yards last season and finished his three-year career with 3,391 receiving yards. At 6-foot-1, 211 pounds, Watkins isn’t the ideal size for a No. 1 receiver, but his ability to catch the ball at its highest point and his speed make him the consensus top receiver in the draft.

Watkins said he hopes to model his game after his former Clemson teammate and current Houston receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who had 802 receiving yards in his 2013 rookie season.

His hope is to be a top-10 pick in the draft, and Cleveland (No. 4) and Detroit (No. 10) are possible landing spots.

“I think I can do just about anything on the field from running back to wide receiver and slot,” Watkins said. “I can make plays all over the field. What I love doing is dominating defenses, and that’s what I bring to the game. I think that’s going to turn over to the NFL. When I come to the NFL I think I can be that dominant receiver.”

Heels shine: Eric Ebron promised he would beat his former teammate Gio Bernard’s 40-yard dash time of 4.53 seconds, and on Saturday, he followed through.

Ebron ran the 40-yard dash in 4.50 seconds, which was second-best among all tight ends and a time that should solidify him as the top tight end in the class.

Center Russell Bodine helped his draft stock tremendously by posting 42 reps at the 225-pound bench press, which was six more than any other offensive lineman.

The 6-foot-3, 310-pound lineman is projected to be a third day selection in the draft.

Nicks likely hitting the market: All indications are New York Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks will hit the free-agent market in two weeks, and the team’s general manager only reinforced that belief Saturday.

Speaking on Nicks, a Charlotte product and Independence grad, and former Panthers linebacker Jon Beason, GM Jerry Reese indicated the two will be free agents come March 11.

“You never know,” Reese said. “Something could happen. But they deserve to see what the market is going to be for them.”

Giants coach Tom Coughlin said Friday that Nicks will likely go where the market goes, meaning the receiver will follow the money. And in Carolina, where Nicks is asked about more than any other soon-to-be free agent, there’s not much of it.

Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman has said repeatedly since January the team is cap-challenged, and signing a big-name free agent wide receiver doesn’t necessarily jibe with a team struggling with the salary cap.

Gettleman has a 16-year background with the Giants, and Reese had glowing things to say about his former coworker.

“Dave has winning in his background,” Reese said. “I’m not surprised what happened when he went to the Carolina Panthers, and we have a great relationship. We talk all the time. We worked together for a long time, and I have great admiration for Dave.”

Jones: 704-358-5323; Twitter: @jjones9

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