It seems ridiculous to label a wide receiver with an 82-catch, 1219-yard, 12-touchdown debut as “unsung,” but consider the company Sammy Watkins kept his freshman year. The Clemson wide receiver is one of only four players in the history of college football to earn First Team All-America honors as a true freshman. The other three were Herschel Walker, Marshall Faulk, and Adrian Peterson.
A semester later, Watkins was arrested for possession of a controlled substance. This led to a two-game suspension and he missed two other contests with injuries. The result was an underwhelming sophomore effort of 57 catches, 708 yards, and 3 touchdowns. It’s what happens when a first-year college receiver ditches Walker, Faulk, and Peterson for the company of Vyvanse, Adderall, and Mary Jane.
By all means laud the talents of Marqise Lee, Mike Evans, Amari Cooper, Donte Moncrief and Jordan Mathews. They’ve all earned it. But Watkins at his best laps this field of potent contenders for the crown of top receiver in college football. (I purposely left one receiver off this list, because I’ll be writing about him another week.)
Watkins has done the best job of these players at integrating his physical, conceptual, and technical skill sets at the position at this stage of his career. And as polished as he is, there is room for him to get better. If Watkins were a creation of real-life Dr. Frankenstein, the mad scientist would have spliced the genetic material of Percy Harvin’s rugged, explosive athleticism and Brandon Lloyd’s route savvy and mind-bending body control without the migraines or mood swings.