AFC West: Sammy Watkins

Holding the No. 5 overall selection in the upcoming NFL draft could be seen as a both a blessing and a curse for the Oakland Raiders. After all, to get such a prime pick, the Raiders had to have a down season the year before ... and going 4-12 qualifies as such, meaning they have many needs. Even after signing 11 free agents from other teams, plus four of their own, and acquiring quarterback Matt Schaub in a trade since free agency opened March 11.

In his fourth mock draft , which is on ESPN Insider today, Todd McShay addresses a couple of needs for the Raiders, which should satisfy fans and Oakland's front office -- if it does indeed go this way.

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The Oakland Raiders hold the No. 5 overall pick in the draft after going 4-12 last season. And as Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said, his team has needs -- with an "s" -- and he wants a playmaker.

In his latest Grade A mock draft, Mel Kiper put on his GM hat for us and went through the draft selecting players for every team as if he were the one making the picks, rather than predicting the selections. His choice for the Raiders will raise more than a few eyebrows.

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If Sammy Watkins is a target of the Oakland Raiders, who hold the No. 5 pick in May's NFL draft, that might be news to the former Clemson receiver.

Watkins, the top wideout in the draft who could go as high as No. 2 overall, told ESPN affiliate 95.7 The Game on Tuesday that he did not recall meeting with the Raiders at last month's combine in Indianapolis.

That's not to say, though, that Watkins is feeling shunned. As he put it, he has love for all 32 teams.

“I have some freakish talents and ability to make plays,” he said. “I can jump, run catch, make somebody miss. That's my game.”

It's a game and playmaking skill set badly needed by the rebuilding Raiders, who added veteran possession pass-catcher James Jones in free agency and return Rod Streater, Andre Holmes, Denarius Moore, Brice Butler and Juron Criner.

Watkins, though, plays bigger and faster than his listed 6-foot-1, 211 pounds, and many see him as Denarius Moore 2.0.

“I'm able to transition myself and work through tough conditions,” Watkins said. “I understand football and the preparation, so for me, it's getting in with the team I'm with and learn that playbook. That's all I need to do is really learn that playbook, and after that, just adjusting to the speed of the game and how cornerbacks play in the NFL.

“That would be the next step. I think after the first few games I'll be definitely fine.”

Watkins said he patterned his game after many different NFL receivers, listing Julio Jones, Torrey Smith, DeAndre Hopkins, Alshon Jeffery and Larry Fitzgerald. He was also asked where his skill set would best be put to use on an NFL field.

“If you want to make a lot of plays and help your team, I think ‘Z' would definitely be the position, because if they flip the coverage to your side, you definitely got one-on-one back side,” he said of what is commonly known as the flanker. “I think for me to spread the field and getting down the field and have space, the ‘Z' would be a nice position for me.”

And his favorite route to run?

“I would probably say a dig, probably a speed dig or a regular dig,” Watkins said. “You can't really stop those.”
It's clear the Kansas City Chiefs have intentions of selecting at least one wide receiver in the upcoming draft. Their near-miss with Pittsburgh free-agent Emmanuel Sanders, who wound up signing instead with the Denver Broncos, was a signal the Chiefs understand they have some work to do at the position. They could also use a skilled kick return specialist, though that need could be filled with a defensive back or running back instead.

ESPN draft analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay have ranked their top 10 receivers available in the draft Insider. ESPN Insider access is required to view their lists.

The top five receivers are the same for both Kiper and McShay, though they have them in a slightly different order. Kiper Jr. has them starting with Clemson's Sammy Watkins, followed by Mike Evans of Texas A&M, Oregon State's Brandin Cooks, LSU's Odell Beckham Jr. and USC's Marquise Lee.

McShay's order is the same except Beckham is third and Cooks fourth.

The Chiefs, whose first-round selection is 23rd overall, can forget about Watkins and Evans. They will be off the board by the time the Chiefs make their pick.

Others probably will as well. But at least one among Cooks, Beckham and Lee could be there when the Chiefs pick. From here, Beckham looks like the best fit for the Chiefs. He runs well after the catch, an important quality for a receiver, particularly given quarterback Alex Smith's affinity for shorter throws. Beckham also has the best kick return potential.

The draft is deep in receivers, so if the Chiefs choose at another position in the first round, the odds increase they will go with a receiver in another round. Kiper Jr. and McShay have Clemson's Martavis Bryant, Oklahoma's Jalen Saunders and Pittsburg State's John Brown as receivers who have sleeper possibilities in the mid to late rounds.

Analyzing Kiper 3.0: Raiders

March, 13, 2014
Mar 13
Apparently, the Rodger Saffold fiasco and the Oakland Raiders losing out on an offensive lineman had no bearing on Mel Kiper’s Mock Draft 3.0.

No, he did not stay with his pick for the Raiders at No. 5 overall -- he went with Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins both times before.

The way Kiper sees things shaking out , Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will fall to Oakland, and the Raiders will scoop him up. Makes sense in the way that Oakland needs a franchise quarterback and, as many observers note, Bridgewater is the closest thing to an NFL-ready QB in this draft.

But are the Raiders ready to hand over the keys to the franchise to a rookie? Depends upon what else they do in free agency.

Kiper's Mock 3.0: Raiders

March, 13, 2014
Mar 13
In his first two mock drafts, ESPN’s Mel Kiper selected a playmaker for the Oakland Raiders, sending Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins to the East Bay both times with the No. 5 overall selection.

The pick echoed what Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said in January, that he wanted, well, a playmaker. Now, in the wake of the Rodger Saffold fiasco -- in which the offensive lineman failed a physical by Raiders standards after agreeing to a five-year, $42.5 million contract, with $21 million guaranteed, but was healthy enough to go back to the St. Louis Rams -- have needs changed?

Is an offensive lineman more of a priority in the draft, or maybe even a quarterback. Or is Watkins still Kiper’s guy? Stay tuned ...
Sticking with the Oakland-needs-a-playmaker storyline, ESPN NFL Insider draft guru Todd McShay has unveiled his Mock Draft 3.0 Insider and adhered to such thinking when it comes to the Oakland Raiders.

McShay has the Raiders selecting Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins at No. 5 overall now, after having Oakland go with Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel in his second mock and selecting Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles in his initial mock.

The selection of Watkins, who caught 101 passes for 1,464 yards and 12 touchdowns last season, did come with a caveat, though.

“I think that if Bortles or (Louisville QB Teddy) Bridgewater drops to the Raiders at No. 5 they’d be very happy,” McShay wrote, “but if not they’d love to trade back (I’m not sure that Manziel is what they're looking for at QB). This is a team with holes all over the roster, so being able to trade back and pick up a guy like WR Mike Evans, CB Justin Gilbert or OT Zack Martin later while also stockpiling extra picks would be ideal.”

Makes sense. A year ago the Raiders fell in love with Houston cornerback D.J. Hayden and traded back from No. 3 overall to No. 12 and still got their man. Now, whether Hayden should have been that selection is another topic for another day.

The next big thing: Raiders

January, 22, 2014
Jan 22
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Now that the Oakland Raiders have answered any questions about who will be their head coach next season -- Dennis Allen is returning for his third season after consecutive 4-12 campaigns -- and we know that all but three of Allen’s top-tier assistants will return, the team’s focus turns to its own roster.

It is a three-step process for the Raiders, really, as they must decide which of their pending 18 unrestricted free agents they want to keep. General manager Reggie McKenzie has already publicly identified four in left tackle Jared Veldheer, running back Rashad Jennings, defensive end Lamarr Houston and free safety Charles Woodson.

Depending upon who they retain, the Raiders will then make runs at free agents to not fill holes, but be frontline starters. McKenzie intimated he could go after a quarterback (Josh Freeman? Josh McCown? Mark Sanchez, if and when he’s cut?) while adding that a prototypical edge rusher (Greg Hardy? Justin Tuck? Jared Allen?) is also atop Oakland’s needs. Still, McKenzie says he will not spend the Raiders’ $60 million in cap space foolishly.

Then comes the draft as the Raiders hold the No. 5 overall pick. McKenzie may have spoken too soon in evaluating Texas A&M junior quarterback Johnny Manziel, but he did call him a playmaker and the Raiders do need playmakers. Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins also fits that description, no?

Kiper mock 1.0 reaction: Raiders

January, 15, 2014
Jan 15
ALAMEDA, Calif. -– The Oakland Raiders have myriad needs as they enter Year 3 of the Reggie McKenzie-Dennis Allen regime, Year 1 of the franchise’s “reconstruction,” per owner Mark Davis.

The Raiders also have the No. 5 overall pick in May’s draft and, the way ESPN’s Mel Kiper sees it in his NFL mock draft 1.0 Insider, Oakland will go with Clemson playmaking receiver Sammy Watkins.

Sure, the Raiders have a couple of emerging pass-catching talents in the undrafted duo of Rod Streater and Andre Holmes and a pseudo-playmaker in Denarius Moore (when he doesn’t disappear). But Watkins seemingly has immediate star written all over him.

The 6-foot-1, 205-pound junior is coming off setting an Orange Bowl record with 16 catches for 227 yards with two touchdowns in the Tigers’ 40-35 victory over Ohio State.

On the season, he caught 101 passes for 1,464 yards and 12 touchdowns, with two of more than 90 yards, and in three years at Death Valley he had a combined 240 receptions for 3,391 yards and 27 TDs.

Watkins is not the largest of targets and has a 40-yard dash time of 4.47 seconds. He also reminds some of Percy Harvin.

Should the Raiders go the Watkins route, the question then is this: Who’s going to throw him the ball? I told you the Raiders have a lot of needs.

But Watkins would definitely fill one.