Sammy ready to 'shock the world,' as Boyd, Bryant, Breeland, Thomas look to impress

NFL Scouting Combine gets underway Thursday, on-field workouts begin on Saturday

KEN RUINARD/INDEPENDENT MAIL
Clemson’s Sammy Watkins avoids a tackle by Ohio State’s Armani Reeves during the Orange Bowl in Sun Life Stadium in Miami last Friday.

Photo by Ken Ruinard, Anderson Independent Mail, S.C.

KEN RUINARD/INDEPENDENT MAIL Clemson’s Sammy Watkins avoids a tackle by Ohio State’s Armani Reeves during the Orange Bowl in Sun Life Stadium in Miami last Friday.

Sammy Watkins recently told an NFL website that he's going to "shock the world" with his 40-yard dash time at the NFL Scouting Combine this week in Indianapolis.

The former Clemson All-American has been training to do just that, working alongside South Carolina's Bruce Ellington and others at Performance Compound in Tampa, Fla. over the last two weeks.

Watkins, who's widely projected as a top-five pick, surprised many observers when he announced his intention to participate in a full range and timed drills and skill work during Combine week, which gets underway on Thursday with weigh-in and medical exams for offensive linemen, tight ends and special teams players. Among that group are Clemson offensive tackle Brandon Thomas and Georgia tight end Arthur Lynch.

Watkins, Ellington, Clemson's Tajh Boyd and Martavis Bryant, South Carolina's Connor Shaw and Georgia's Aaron Murray will go through their check-in activities on Friday, and all but Murray will work out for the scouts on Sunday.

Scheduled for workouts Monday and Tuesday are South Carolina defensive linemen Jadeveon Clowney and Kelcy Quarles, South Carolina safety Victor Hampton and Clemson cornerback Bashaud Breeland.

A total of 335 players accepted invitations to the Combine, which will be attended by coaches, scouts and executives from all 32 NFL teams.

The week's schedule is staggered by position, but will include the same routine for all: measurements and medicals the first day; interviews, psychological testing and bench press on the second day; with on-field workouts, including timing stations and position-specific skill drills, on the third day.

Clowney and Watkins will be looking to solidify their standing at the top of the draft. Various mock drafts have Clowney in the running as the No. 1 pick, while some have Watkins going as high as No. 4 to the Cleveland Browns or No. 5 to the Oakland Raiders.

"Watkins is a special player - and I usually don't get too excited about wide receivers in the Top 10, but this kid is different," said NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock during a teleconference this week. "He's physically explosive, he's got great hands, he's got good size.

"What I really, really liked about this kid is he's got toughness. He'll physically beat press coverage. He high points the ball. He's got a little attitude about him. He blocks people. You can see him getting pissed off during games and going after corners and safeties and linebackers."

Mayock says that Clowney "has got the physical makeup to be the best player in the draft."

"If you want to compare him to Mario Williams, I think he's a better football player with more upside than when Mario came out of college, and he was obviously the first pick," Mayock said. "From a physical skill set, this kid is as freaky as they come.

"My biggest concern is just what's his mental makeup and how important is it to him when he gets a big paycheck to become the best player in football, or is he just going to be happy to be a millionaire."

Mayock says he thinks quarterbacks Boyd, Shaw and Murray will get opportunities.

"Tajh Boyd had better arm strength than people think, good mobility, and won a lot of football games," Mayock said. "He has some inconsistency on tape, but he's a playmaker and I like that. He's a guy I think you get mid to late in this draft and you can try to develop him, so I like him.

"I love Shaw's toughness on the field, but I'm just not sure if his body type - if his training is going to warrant taking much of a beating. But I think he'll get an opportunity."

Murray, who suffered a late-season ACL injury, will attend the Combine, but won't participate in drills. He expects to be ready to go by Georgia's Pro Day on April 16.

Mayock sees Clemson's Breeland and USC's Hampton as mid-round picks.

"I think (Hampton's) talent is in the second or third round range, but I don't know if he'll go that early," he said. "The corner from Clemson (Breeland), I'm a little bit intrigued by because he's long, he can run. I think he probably could have benefitted staying in school a little bit longer but I still think he's probably going to go in the third or fourth round."

Television coverage of the NFL Scouting Combine will begin on Saturday, Feb. 22, at 9 a.m. on the NFL Network.

ACC Players At NFL Scouting Combine

Quarterbacks: Tajh Boyd (CU), Stephen Morris (MIA), Bryn Renner (UNC), Logan Thomas (VT)

Running Backs: Devonta Freeman (FSU), James Wilder (FSU), Andre Williams (BC), Jerome Smith (SYR)

Wide Receivers: Sammy Watkins (CU), Martavis Bryant (CU), Devin Street (PITT), Kelvin Benjamin (FSU), Allen Hurns (MIA), Michael Campanaro (WF)

Tight End: Eric Ebrom (UNC)

Offensive Linemen: Brandon Thomas (CU), Russell Bodine (UNC), James Hurst (UNC), Seantrel Henderson (MIA), Brandon Linden (MIA), Morgan Moses (UVA), Bryan Stork (FSU), Matt Patchlam (BC)

Defensive Linemen: Kaleb Romsey (BC), Brent Urban (UVA), Jason Bromley (SYRA), Aaron Donald (PITT), Kasim Edeball (BC), James Gayle (VT), Timmy Jernigan (FSU), Kareem Martin (UNC)

Linebackers: Jeremiah Attaochu (GT), Christian Jones (FSU), Kevin Pierre-Louis (BC), Telvin Smith (FSU)

Cornerbacks: Bashaud Breeland (CU), Jemea Thomas (GT), Ross Cockrell (Duke), Antone Exum (VT), Dontae Johnson (NCS), Lamarcus Joyner (FSU), Dexter McDougle (MD), Jahari Price (UNC)

Safeties: Tre Boston (UNC), Terrence Brooks (FSU)

Specialist: Pat O'Donnell (MIA)

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