Doc Five: Players with the most to lose or gain before 2014 draft – No. 5, Sammy Watkins

This offseason we will count down various topics from Monday through Friday, bringing you the top five of the important and definitely some not so important issues in college football. It's the Doc Five, every week until we will thankfully have actual games to discuss.



For some players, the college season doubles as a job interview. Every interception Matt Barkley threw last season probably caused him grief over letting his USC teammates down, but his mistakes also cost him a ton of money. He tumbled down to the fourth round after regressing from his junior season.

At this time last year, various way-too-early mock drafts were touting players like Barkley, Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson and Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones as probable first-round picks. They all went in the fourth round last week. There are a lot of college players whose professional futures will change pretty dramatically based on what happens between now and the end of the season.

Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins is one of the players whose resume could change the most based on what his 2013 season looks like.

Watkins is still considered to be one of the elite prospects in college football, and he can enter the NFL draft after this season. Most of that is based on what he did as a freshman, because his sophomore season was not first-round worthy.

Watkins was unbelievable as a freshman. He had 82 catches for 1,219 yards and 12 touchdowns. He has good size and great athletic ability, and looked like a can't-miss star.

Last year was a lot different. He was arrested for drug possession in the offseason and suspended the first two games. When he returned, he rarely produced like a future NFL star. He had just two 100-yard games, and in one of them he needed 11 catches to get 110 yards. He had a great 202-yard effort against Wake Forest, but most of the rest of his season was fairly quiet. He was knocked out of Clemson's bowl game on the first series with a leg injury. For the most part, his entire season was a wash.

His numbers dipped to 57 catches, 708 yards and three touchdowns. A 2.5-yard dip in yards per catch and a 75 percent decrease in touchdowns is troubling, even though Watkins missed all or most of four games. He wasn't even the best receiver on his team last year; that was clearly DeAndre Hopkins.

The NFL will let one bad season slide, even with the off-field issues. But if it becomes two bad seasons, especially with Clemson returning top-notch quarterback Tajh Boyd, all of a sudden Watkins' freshman season might look like the outlier.

Watkins did catch seven passes for 156 yards and two touchdowns in Clemson's spring game, which is a great sign. There's no reason Watkins can't return to his freshman form. The talent is off the charts. He'll get all the targets he can handle this season. Last season can be explained away by him dealing with the off-field distraction and suspension, as long as it doesn't happen again.

But this season is huge for Watkins. If we see the Watkins from his freshman year, he should be a first-round pick. If he repeats his sophomore season instead, he won't last long on those 2014 draft prospect lists.

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