At the outset of the NFL Combine and the college pro days over the past two months, Clemson’s Sammy Watkins and Texas A&M’s Mike Evans entered the pre-draft period as the premier options among a deep receiver class. With less than a week remaining before the Houston Texans make their first overall selection, that consensus has only been further confirmed.
Both Watkins and Evans project as likely top-10 selections next week, with Watkins projected as a possible top-five pick.
Watkins enters the draft following a season in which he led the Tigers with 101 catches for 1,464 yards and 12 touchdowns. He saved his best performance for his final collegiate game, when he grabbed a season-high 16 catches
Evans enters the draft as one of the larger options at the receiver position. As a former basketball player, the 6’5”, 231-pound Evans possesses the size and athleticism often coveted from primary receivers. He also turned in an impressive performance at the Combine, posting a 37-inch vertical and a 4.46-second 40-yard dash. Many draft analysts project Evans as a likely pick between the seventh and 10th overall selections.
Evans was the primary target possible first-round pick Johnny Manziel while at Texas A&M. The Rams reportedly held a recent private workout for Manziel, Evans and offensive tackle Jake Matthews, all of which could be chosen within the first 10 picks.
Though he is one of the youngest at his position to enter the draft, Evans remarked on his ability to transition his success at the college game to the NFL while meeting with media at the NFL Combine.
“I think I’ll thrive in an NFL offense, being able to move around and play the slot,” Evans said at the Combine. “I think I can always improve, but I’ve got a high ceiling. I think I’m one of the best players in this draft and I can keep getting better.”
In a recent mock draft by NFL.com, a team of eight panelists had Cleveland pegged as a likely destination for Watkins with the fourth overall pick. The consensus on Evans had the 20-year-old as a popular option at seventh overall to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The addition of Watkins or Evans could signal an exclamation point on a position of strength for the Rams. While meeting with the media at the conclusion of the 2013 season and during the NFL Combine, General Manager Les Snead issued a vote of confidence to his team’s receiver group, a position that has seen significant upgrades and taken considerable strides over the past two seasons. Adding one of this year’s primary targets to that group, however, could represent one of the more significant upgrades in what is seemingly a never-ending arms race in the league’s best division, the NFC West.