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The Jaguars should draft ... Sammy Watkins

4/30/2014

Which player should the Jacksonville Jaguars take with the No. 3 pick in the NFL draft? That’s a question that GM David Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley are trying to answer before the first round on May 8. Not that they’re asking, but I’m here to offer some help. Every day until the first round I’ll argue for a certain player. We're going to go with the caveat that each of the players is available when the Jaguars make their selection.

Today I make the case for receiver Sammy Watkins. Thursday will be quarterback Johnny Manziel.

The Jacksonville Jaguars need a little fear on offense.

They need to be able to put a player on the field who scares the heck out of defensive coordinators. When the Jaguars break the huddle, the first thing the defense has to do is look for that player because everything they’re doing on defense centers around that player.

The Detroit Lions have that guy. So do the Cleveland Browns, Arizona Cardinals, Denver Broncos and New England Patriots.

The Jaguars can have that guy, too, if they draft receiver Sammy Watkins next week with the No. 3 overall pick.

There isn’t a more explosive player in the draft than Watkins, who caught 101 passes for 1,464 yards and 12 touchdowns last season at Clemson. He averaged 14.9 yards per catch and totaled 3,730 yards and 28 touchdowns from scrimmage in his career.

He also averaged 22.9 yards per kickoff return and left Clemson after his junior season as the owner of 23 school records.

The 6-foot-1, 211-pound Watkins has blazing speed (4.43 in the 40) and a 34-inch vertical jump. He catches the ball with his hands, has good body control and consistently turned short passes into big plays throughout his college career. He’s also strong enough to handle physical defensive backs and can go up and win jump balls.

In short, he’s everything the Jaguars don’t have on the outside right now. They have players that have some of those things -- Ace Sanders, for example, is a burner, but he’s only 5-7 -- but they don’t have one with all those skills.

Boy do they need one. The Jaguars averaged 10.7 yards per reception in 2013 -- the second-lowest average in team history (10.5 in 2011) -- and quarterbacks threw just 16 touchdown passes, which is tied for the third-lowest single-season total in team history.

The Jaguars were pretty pedestrian on offense in 2013, ranking 22nd in passing, 31st in rushing and 31st in total offense. Too often the Jaguars were forced to drive the length of the field to score. The league’s top offenses thrive on explosive plays and Watkins instantly upgrades the Jaguars’ big-play arsenal.

Another reason to take Watkins is the uncertainty surrounding Justin Blackmon. He is serving an indefinite suspension for his third violation of the league’s substance-abuse policy. While he can petition the league for reinstatement later this summer, there’s no guarantee he’ll be on the field for the Jaguars.