2014 NFL draft: S&BP staff take on Sammy Watkins

Streeter Lecka

In part four of our series, we take a look at the dynamic receiver from Clemson and ask the question: is Sammy Watkins the guy for Oakland?

On a team with so many holes, is wide receiver really the position Oakland should spend the No. 5 pick on?

Could a wide receiver really change the course of a franchise that's hoping to recover from a decade-long tailspin?

These are the questions critics are asking when confronted with the idea that Sammy Watkins, the junior receiver from Clemson, could be the first round draft choice of the Oakland Raiders.

If you've missed earlier pieces, we've asked our staff writers about Johnny Manziel, Jadeveon Clowney and Teddy Bridgewater already, but now we turn our attention to Watkins.

Jeff Spiegel (@jeffspiegel) — Draft him

For starters let me say this: I get the line of questioning posed above. I'll be the first to acknowledge the Raiders have holes everywhere and I'll be the first to acknowledge that now is probably the best time to draft a quarterback.

But with all that said, I'd still take Sammy Watkins over Manziel or Bridgewater if given the choice.

When you look at the free agents on the market right now and those that have hit the market in the past few seasons, you realize there are a few positions that rarely have marquee players available. Among those are quarterback, running back and wide receiver.

I'd argue that a team could build an entire defense through free agency if it wanted to, but for long-term offensive success, a team needs to draft well consistently. For example, look at the top quarterbacks and wide receivers in the league and ask yourself what almost all of them have in common: they're playing for the team who drafted them.

Calvin Johnson, Julio Jones, Dez Bryant, AJ Green, Jordy Nelson. Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Cam Newton, Russell Wilson. The truth is, the draft is the only place to get these guys unless you get lucky with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity like the one Denver got in Peyton Manning.

For me, as anyone who has tracked this series would know, I just don't think any of the quarterbacks in this class are future all-pros. I think Bridgewater will be really good, but not great.

Watkins, on the other hand, I think could be great. While he lacks ideal size (he's only 6'1"), Watkins has shown the ability to catch balls in traffic, to break tackles and to attack the ball in the air — and I haven't even mentioned his game-changing ability once he has possession.

Oakland is in desperate need of a true No. 1 receiver — a player who would make the combination of Denarius Moore and Rod Streater lethal as a No. 2 and No. 3. If Watkins could come in and be that guy (which I believe he could), then the Oakland offense would be immensely improved without even addressing the quarterback position.

Marcus Allen Krause — Don't draft him

If Sammy Watkins was taller he would have had a shot at being the first pick in the draft, he is that good. He is listed at 6'1 so he is tall enough with his talent to still be a No. 1 WR — think Desean Jackson or Steve Smith — and if he had the size of Calvin Johnson, he would be impossible to defend.

What separates Watkins from the other receivers in the draft is also what separates him from the corners trying to defend him: his explosive burst off the line of scrimmage. He is fast, but it isn't just straight line speed — it is also his ability to get up to full speed in a hurry.

As great as he is and will be in the NFL the Raiders should not draft him — though if they do it is impossible to be upset about it. Wide Receiver is just not a pressing enough need to use their top 5 pick on.

Besides, with other elite receivers like Mike Evans, Marques Lee and Kelvin Benjamin set to go later in the draft it just doesn't make sense to go with Watkins at No. 5. The receiver depth is just so exceptional in this draft it makes more sense to wait for drafting that position. There are too many holes on the team and too good of receivers available later for Sammy Watkins to be the right pick.

RDreamer (@RaiderDamus) — Don't draft him

This really doesn't have anything to do with me liking or not liking Watkins — I really do like him as a player — it's just that if the Raiders are sitting at No. 5 and their top choices are gone (let's say Bridgewater, Clowney, Manziel, Bortles or something like that) then Watkins isn't really the direction they ought to go.If that is the case they need to trade down or take Jake Matthews.

While Oakland desperately needs a No. 1 WR, this year's WR class is deep and Watkins isn't so much better than the rest of them that the Raiders need to take him early. Oakland could easily wait and take someone like Jordan Matthews, Paul Richardson, Kelvin Benjamin, or Odell Beckham Jr., or they could trade down and take Mike Evans or Marqise Lee in the mid-to-late first. In my mind this is a seven-player draft and the Raiders sitting at No. 5 could get the moon if a team falls in love with a player that falls out of the top 4. That hypothetical haul would go a long way toward infusing this team with more talent.

That being said, I would not be displeased if the Raiders did draft Watkins. He has average size for a receiver but has blazing speed and excellent hands. He can catch anything thrown at him and has great elusiveness. He reminds me an awful lot of Michael Crabtree and Torrey Smith. He brings a lot of swagger and execution to the game and can stretch the field as easily as he can work down low or on the sidelines. He isn't overly physical due to his slight build, but he was better than his former teammate DeAndre Hopkins while at Clemson, and has elite change-of-gear football speed. He will probably run an outstanding 40 time, but he plays with even more acceleration than he shows on a track.

Levi Damien (@LeviDamien) — Draft Him

While the Raiders have much bigger needs, how do you argue with taking the best receiver in this draft? I believe if Watkins is the best choice on the board, the Raiders should, and will, look to trade out of the spot. However, if they don't receive a deal they would accept for that spot, taking Watkins is a nice consolation prize.

If they went with Watkins it would be an investment in the future. He won't instantly improve things the way a quarterback or a defensive end might. But when is the last time this team took a receiver high in the draft you could feel good about? I'll tell you when: 1988 when they took a man by the name of Tim Brown.

Since the Raiders made Brown their top pick 26 years ago, they have drafted one wide "receiver" in the first round - Darrius Heyward-Bey in 2009 - and no one agreed with his selection. Before that, they made the more egregious errors in who they did NOT select. Namely passing up Larry Fitzgerald for Robert Gallery and opting for JaMarcus Russell over Calvin Johnson. And as a result the franchise has continued its tailspin.

Watkins is a certified game breaker and is the complete package as a receiver. The Raiders have a decent receiving corps but still are without a No. 1 guy. Watkins would instantly be that guy. Then Denarius Moore, Rod Streater, and Andre Holmes can fight for catches. With Watkins, the Raiders receiving corps goes from decent to potentially one of the best in the league.

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