This is how good Sammy Watkins is: He had a down year in 2012, struggled through injuries, illness and a self-inflicted suspension and still averaged a catch every 8 snaps he was on the field.
Sure, some of the explosiveness was missing – Watkins averaged a touchdown every 19 receptions vs. one about every 7 receptions as a freshman – but Watkins numbers weren’t bad – if your name isn’t Sammy Watkins and you didn’t have 1,219 yards and 12 touchdowns as a true freshman in 2011.
With great talent comes great expectations and Clemson fans expect Watkins to return to 2011 form this season and there’s no reason to expect otherwise.
The question is will that form match or exceed 2011 or will it be something a little less as the defense focuses on Watkins in his first season without Nuk Hopkins on the other side.
Watkins is used in the short game quite a bit as we documented last fall. Over 40% of Watkins receptions were at or behind the line of scrimmage. That number may dip a bit this season as the Tigers need to replace the deep threat of Hopkins, but you can bet that Sammy will catch his share of passes within 5 yards of the line.
That’s good news for Tiger fans, because Watkins with a football in his hands typically ends well.
How I Got There
I assumed Watkins would maintain his career average of catches per snaps played, yards per catch and touchdowns per catch ratios while playing 738 snaps.
Sammy’s back. He won’t be quite as explosive as 2011 because defenses will play him differently, but sometimes there’s no stopping a talent like Watkins.
Watkins will shatter the school record for receptions in a season, approach Hopkins yardage total from 2012 and perhaps the career receiving touchdown record (though I have him falling just shy).