Sammy Watkins gets knocked sometimes. Maybe it’s because he was so hyped coming out of Clemson and hasn’t yet been one of the more dominant receivers in the NFL, like many thought he would be at this point.
The rebuttal to that? There aren’t any great ones, because Watkins hasn’t yet put up numbers that resemble a dominant, No. 1 receiver. In fact, he’s been overshadowed by a number of other receivers in his draft class, namely Mike Evans, Odell Beckham, Brandin Cooks, and Jarvis Landry. But Watkins does contain a lot of value according to STATS-unique metrics, and the Kansas City Chiefs paid him handsomely for it this offseason.
In a series of short articles that started with a look at Albert Wilson and has included the signings of Andrew Norwell and Aaron Colvin, and Anthony Hitchens, STATS will highlight some free agent signings that didn’t blow the top off the industry – ones that are a tad under-the-radar involving underrated players who have performed well in STATS-unique metrics.
In his lone year with the Los Angeles Rams, Watkins was targeted 66 times and recorded 42 burns. Like we’ve explained in previous posts, burns occur when a receiver is targeted and makes a positive play for the offense, excluding screen passes.
Watkins’ 63.6 burn percentage was slightly higher than Wilson’s (62.2 percent), who we highlighted as a more-than-apt replacement of Landry in Miami. Overall, Watkins’ burn percentage was 7.2 percent better than league average.
Where Watkins and Wilson really differentiate, though, is the contracts they signed. The three-year, $48 million ($30 million guaranteed) contract Watkins signed this offseason makes him one of the highest-paid receivers in the league. In terms of guaranteed money, he ranks sixth among receivers (Evans, DeAndre Hopkins, Julio Jones, Demaryius Thomas, and Dez Bryant are ahead of him). In terms of average annual value, he’s fourth – Antonio Brown, Evans, and Hopkins surpass him. Wilson signed a three-year, $24 million contract with Miami, with $14.45 million guaranteed.
Wilson signed the more team-friendly deal, but the Chiefs are betting on Watkins being a premier deep threat for new starting quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who has one of the stronger arms in the NFL.
Watkins flashed that in 2015, when he caught 16 balls 21+ yards downfield. That’s what the Chiefs are paying him for. If that Watkins shows up, combined with the Watkins that burned defenders almost 64 percent of the time last year, the Chiefs will gladly foot the bill.