Watkins' height, not ability, is the question

Streeter Lecka

Clemsons' Sammy Watkins has the tools, toughness to become a budding NFL star.

Ohio State had no answer for Sammy Watkins.

Despite behind hampered by an injury that left him limping after every play, the Clemson junior receiver continued to terrorize Ohio State's defense in this year's Orange Bowl.

When it was all over, Watkins limped off the field the game's MVP by pulling in 16 catches for an Orange Bowl record 227 yards and two touchdowns. Clemson prevailed 40-35 to cap off an 11-2 season.

While his quarterback, senior Tajh Boyd, was a supreme factor in the Tigers success that night-scoring six touchdowns- Watkins was the difference in a game. After his 34-yard touchdown catch helped put his team ahead early, 20 consecutive points by the Buckeyes put OSU up 29-20 late in the third.

Watkins, despite his condition worsening throughout the game, continued to inflict pain on the Buckeyes. His 30-yard touchdown catch with less than three minutes left in the third cut Clemson's deficit to two points. His 14-yard reception on the Tigers' ensuing drive helped set up a go-ahead touchdown three plays later. After the Buckeyes regained the lead to start the fourth quarter, Watkins caught key nine and 13-yard receptions as the Tigers drove to the game-winning touchdown.

Watkins showed his toughness and heart that night matched his talent and statistics. He caught 101 passes for 1,464 yards and 12 touchdowns. He caught a touchdown in eight different games while tallying seven 100-yard games.

NFL.com's Draft analysis stated that Watkins is an  "exceptional football playing speed -- can flat out fly and take the top off a defense. Has world-class track speed. Extends outside his frame and plucks the ball. Outstanding body control and agility. Tracks the ball well over his shoulder and is a natural hands-catcher who can make an average quarterback look good. Consistently turns 2-yard gains into 15-yard chunks -- possesses big-time playmaking ability and is very effective creating in the open field on bubble screens and quick-hitting short/lateral tosses. Superb run-after-the-catch ability. Good burst out of his cuts to separate. Has game-breaking return ability and is a threat to score every time he touches the ball."

His height could be factor in whether or not the Steelers choose to select Watkins, if he is available when Pittsburgh is up in the first round. It's no secret Pittsburgh wants to draft a receiver. GM Kevin Colbert has also stated that the Steelers will appease quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's request for a "tall" receiver. Big Ben hasn't had a tall, rangy receiver since 6'5 Plaxico Burress. Watkins is listed at 6'1, 205 pounds.

In contrast, Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin stands at 6'5, while Texas A&M's Mike Evans is 6'5 as well.

While all three have garnered attention, USC's Marqise Lee has been mostly flying under the radar after his numbers dropped off in 2013 due to injuries and inconsistent quarterback play. In a draft flooded with talented receivers, Lee could be a deal for the Steelers in the second or third round. Like Watkins, Lee, checking in a 6'0 and 195 pounds, is on the smaller end of receivers in this draft.

The question regarding the Steelers is how much height will play a role in who Pittsburgh drafts. If they play back the 2014 Orange Bowl or the tape of Lee's Biletnikoff Award winning season of 2012, the Steelers will see that height didn't stop Watkins and Lee from being great college players.

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