ESPN analyst: Watkins among the elite WR prospects in the past decade

Sammy Watkins

CLEMSON - The list goes Calvin Johson, then A.J. Green, then Julio Jones on the same line with Sammy Watkins.

That's the 10-year pecking order ESPN NFL Draft analyst Todd McShay shared on Monday's conference call with reporters following up on last weekend's draft, which helps to justify the Bills trading away first- and fourth-round selections in next year's draft to secure the former Clemson superstar wide receiver.

"They did give up a lot," McShay said. "But I think the Bills realize they've got a young quarterback in EJ Manuel who needs weapons around him."

McShay identified Watkins as one of this year's four "elite" players available to be picked, along with defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, linebacker Khalil Mack and offensive lineman Greg Robinson.

Being the only offensive skill player in the group, the Bills felt they couldn't wait to move up from No. 9 to No. 4, trading assets to Cleveland for the rights to Watkins.

"He can be that kind of playmaker," McShay said. "I don't know that I would have made the trade, I know it's giving up a lot, but it's very clear there is urgency to put playmakers around EJ Manuel."

A popular opinion among writers and prognosticators since Watkins' Thursday selection is that he's a good player, but might not be worth the price tag. That's the pressure bound upon the Tigers' two-time first-team All-American.

If McShay's correct in how he rates Watkins among the best wide receivers prospects he's graded in the past decade, Watkins might prove he was.

"Obviously, Calvin Johnson's a high bar - but if he can be a Julio Jones or A.J. Green, that kind of playmaker," McShay said, "then I think Buffalo will look back on it and believe he's worth every bit they had to give up to go get him."

The only other Clemson product McShay was asked about, receiver Martavis Bryant, was a fourth-round pick of the Steelers. Bryant will look to develop into a favorite target for Ben Roethlisberger.

Bryant slid from his ceiling (second-round projection) due to questions about his focus and lack of career exposure, but his 6-3 frame and 4.4 40-yard-dash speed were tantalizing to Pittsburgh.

"There's some boom and bust there. But when you're getting him in the fourth round, you're not worried so much about the risk factor," McShay said. "If he focuses and does all the right things, he could wind up being a real steal from this class."