Clemson’s star wide receiver Sammy Watkins will likely be the first wide receiver taken in the 2014 NFL draft class. And he has drawn comparisons to every star receiver imaginable from Julio Jones to even Calvin Johnson. The speed he possesses for the position has enamored many on tape and at the NFL Scouting Combine, but metrics don’t lie. As you may or may not know from previous articles on this site, I have dived head first into the world of scouting metrics, and after analyzing data from every wide receiver from 1999-2013 using metrics formulated by Waldo, Sammy Watkins should not be considered a slam dunk top 10 wide receiver. But before I make my case, let me explain a few terms to understand the data.
These are the formulas used
“Mass = weight/height
Explosive Power = (vert+3.5*broad)*(weight/height)/3000
Speed 40 = 100*(1-(40 time/(0.0397*(weight/height)+3.092)))
Agility = 100*(1-(3 Cone/(0.0573*(weight/height)+4.8403)))
Twitch = Shuttle – 2*10 yd split – (1.60 – 10 yd split)”
Explosive Score: Uses the vertical jump and broad jump of a player with their density to determine how powerful their lower body is out of their stance. The higher the number, the more explosive the player is.
Speed 40 Score: Determines whether a player’s 40 yard dash is positive or negative compared to the mean determined by mass density.
Agility Score: Determines whether a player’s 3-Cone is positive or negative compared to the mean determined by mass density.
Twitch Score: Determines how sudden a player is in by subtracting the short shuttle by the 10 yard split times two with an additional modifier to reward players who are fast. The lower the number, the more quick twitch the player should have on tape.
The purpose of these formulas is to compare wide receivers side by side based solely on their athletic performance at the Combine with a few Pro Day numbers sprinkled in. Why? Because it gives you a historical perspective of the type of athletes who become Pro Bowlers or end up out of the league by isolating wide receivers based solely on their true athletic ability . Some may say Combine numbers don’t matter, but when these numbers are correlated with the mass density of prospects and examined through the lens of these metrics, the slightest difference of speed, agility or power can make or break a prospect. With that said, let’s explore where Sammy Watkins exists in the world of metrics.
To start, let me explain why Watkins isn’t Julio Jones, Calvin Johnson or even Dez Bryant.
This is the land of suns.
Notice the names. Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson, Vincent Jackson, Matt Jones, Dez Bryant, Chris Chambers and Julio Jones. These guys are here, because they had an explosive power score of .9 or higher. They’re all way over 6 feet tall, 210 plus pounds and have insane broad jump and vertical leap abilities for their size. In other words, they’re freaks.
Also notice that Sammy Watkins isn’t here.
Here is the land of giants.
Notice the names here too. Miles Austin, Roddy White, Torrey Smith and 2014 NFL draft prospect Mike Evans. Fewer Pro Bowlers, but relatively bell cow players who would all be surefire superstars if they just had a little more explosive power in the .9 range other than the .89 or lower area.
Also notice that Sammy Watkins isn’t here either.
Here is the land of dwarf giants.
Guys like Mike Williams, Brandon Marshall, Javon Walker and Nate Burleson. Wide receivers who have either mastered the mental side of the game or have good agility or speed to make up for the lack of explosive power of being in the .85 range.
Also notice that Sammy Watkins isn’t here either.
Now we’re reached the land of speedsters.
Mike Wallace, Michael Floyd, Robert Meachum, Pierre Garcon and others who need abnormal speed to make up for a lack of explosive power. These wide receivers are below the .85 range of explosive power.
Sammy ain’t here either.
Here is the second tier of speedsters.
David Boston, Dwayne Bowe and Alshon Jeffrey. Another area where these wide receivers make up for their lack of explosive power with speed or agility.
Watkins…well he isn’t here either.
And now we’re here.
The just a little bit over .81 explosive power score area. This is where Watkins is and how he tested at the NFL Scouting Combine. Notice the names here. Arnaz Battle, Mohamed Sanu, Laurent Robinson and David Gettis. Not exactly household names. And this is why Watkins isn’t a top 10 wide receiver, because his name and hype is writing checks his talent may not cash.
No wide receiver in this area are Pro Bowlers, and most have to rely on their speed and mental acuity to succeed. But mastering the mental side of the wide receiver position is not something that can be measured or guaranteed. At best, according to this data set, Watkins will likely be David Gettis 2.0. And there’s nothing wrong with that, because Gettis has flashed All-Star potential, but was never healthy enough to make it through 16 games. So now you’re taking a wide receiver top 10 at a place where there is no confirmation of Pro Bowl success.
Not exactly slam dunk. He’s not as gifted as Julio Jones, Dez Bryant or Calvin Johnson. He’s also showed various mental mistakes such as not always having the awareness to adjust to cornerback blitzes to bail his quarterback out consistently, or not always accurate when reading defensive coverages. All issues that people ignore for a perceived talent ability that isn’t accurate according to these metrics. Making excuses for talent is very common in the scouting community. We all do it, because we believe the talent can overcome it at the next level.
However, Watkins isn’t as talented as people believe he is and these metrics prove that. All putting doubt on how surefire a pick Watkins truly is. And while on tape I believe he’s a good wide receiver with a chance to be great, there is virtually no comparable wide receivers since 1999 to Sammy Watkins other than David Gettis in terms of mass density compared to athletic scores.
So you’re putting your job on the line for essentially David Gettis 2.0. Not Calvin Johnson 2.0. Or Andre Johnson 2.0. Or even Dez Bryant 2.0. He’s truly Watkins 1.0.
And you can still believe in his tape that he can become a Pro Bowl player and break the mold of wide receivers with his explosiveness historically that Gettis was never healthy enough to do, but you would essentially be taking a leap of faith on a prospect that you must hit on if you’re taking him in the top 10. And how does taking a player in the top 10 with this amount of uncertainty sound wise? This is why metrics exist. It gives you a glimpse into a world where there is no bias or hype, only a number with an outcome. So all of this praise about the athletic ability of this prospect is inaccurate.
And the real question isn’t how much like Julio Jones he will be, but will he break the mold. A mold that hasn’t been broken since 1999. It’s possible, I believe he has the talent to get it done, because I believe David Gettis would have been a Pro Bowler if not for all of his injuries. But why would I want to take a guy in the top 10 to break a mold, when I already have a wide receiver in Donte Moncrief squarely in the world of Suns?
James Cobern is the lead writer for All Pro Football Source and can be contacted at email@example.com and follow him on twitter @Jmcobern1