INDIANAPOLIS — Sammy Watkins was described as explosive by Browns coach Mike Pettine.
Smooth also fits.
Watkins, the Clemson receiver who could be in consideration for the Browns with the No. 4 pick in the draft May 8, worked out Sunday for NFL general managers, coaches and scouts inside Lucas Oil Stadium. He’s been billed as the best receiver in the draft, and looked the part on the field.
Watkins ran a 4.43-second 40-yard dash, tying for seventh among receivers. He led the way through the receiver drills, looking faster, smoother and more explosive than the other two dozen receivers in his group. He was also chosen by the coach overseeing the drills to demonstrate how to run them.
Watkins dropped one pass in the gauntlet drill and had a little slip running an out route. The rest of the time he showed unrivaled acceleration and an ease catching the ball, as The Chronicle-Telegram was part of a small group of reporters allowed inside the stadium to watch the workout. On a 12-yard comeback route, he chopped his feet to slow down, pivoted toward the quarterback and effortlessly reached down to make the grab of a low throw.
“Overall, I think we have a great class at receiver,” Watkins said Saturday. “I’ve just got to be uncommon when I go out there and run those drills and separate myself some way, somehow.”
Watkins (6-0 ½, 211 pounds) bench pressed 225 pounds 16 times, had a vertical jump of 34 inches and a broad jump of 10 feet, 6 inches.
He showed the athleticism that will likely make him a top-10 pick.
“I think I can run by just about anybody,” he said. “That’s my objective, that’s my motive. Fly route, home run, post, that’s the kinda guy I am. I feel like I can score on just about any play on any route when I get the ball and that’s the mentality you have to have as a receiver.”
“He’s a franchise receiver,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said.
Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde wanted to run himself into the first round of the draft with a 4.4 40. Instead, he limped off the field.
Hyde pulled up and grabbed his left hamstring after finishing his first attempt in the 40. He was clocked at 4.66. He didn’t take his second attempt or participate in any other drills.
“It’s a temporary setback,” Mayock said. “Hopefully he will be ready for the Ohio State pro day.”
Kent State scatback Dri Archer had a much better day. He ran a 4.26, the best time of the day.
Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel ran 4.68, fourth among quarterbacks. Central Florida’s Blake Bortles ran 4.93 and Fresno State’s David Carr 4.69. Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater declined to run.
After the Week 3 trade of Trent Richardson, the Browns were without a true starting running back. Willis McGahee, 32, led the way with 138 carries for 377 yards, a 2.7 average and two touchdowns.
The team ranked tied for 27th with 86.4 yards per game and had only four rushing touchdowns.
“It’s a priority. But we’re not going to be in the business of drafting for need,” Pettine said. “I think there are a variety of ways to fill the roster out.
“We’ll look at what’s available in free agency. We’ll get back from the combine and continue to churn through the tape of the college prospects. We want to put ourselves in the position when we draft that we’re taking the highest-rated player at that spot as opposed to need. While running back is a critical thing, I think it’s something that we’ll definitely have a plan for.”
Running backs have largely been devalued in recent drafts with the nearly league-wide emphasis on passing. Teams have also had success finding good ones in the later rounds.
“It’s hard to be that three-down back anymore in the NFL, Pettine said. “Most of the successful teams have a committee approach. You need to have depth there given the pounding that position will take. We’re going to make a commitment to run the football and obviously that position is a priority.”
- One of the themes of the week around the combine was that Rob Chudzinski deserved better than to be fired by the Browns after only one season. From former players to coaches from other teams, they often started the conversation with a less-sterile version of “Chud got mistreated.”
- Browns owner Jimmy Haslam attended the workouts Sunday.
- There were a lot of bad throws by the second quarterback group, which lacked any big names.