Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins said Tuesday that interest from NFL teams is strong. And then there's a few flights of stairs, an escalator and a Khalil Mack vertical to the level of love he is feeling from the Detroit Lions.
"It's kind of serious," Watkins said Tuesday in New York, about 56 hours before the 2014 NFL Draft begins.
Watkins is the No. 1-rated receiver on the NFLDraftScout.com board. Texas A&M's Mike Evans, a bigger and more physical target, could come off the board in the top 10.
Both players are targets for the Lions. General manager Martin Mayhew said Monday that Watkins "fits us" and that Detroit was in the market for a player on the edge who can turn a 5-yard completion into a 90-yard score.
Watkins ran a 4.43 40 at the Scouting Combine. But Mayhew said what stands out about him is soft, natural hands.
"I think that's really important. It kind of goes without saying, but you'd be amazed that, you watch tape, combine tape of guys, and they can't catch. That's kind of a problem if you're going to be a receiver. So I think that's pretty important," Mayhew said. “It depends on what you're going to use him for, but guys with speed excite us, because a guy that can make a 5-yard play into a 90-yard play is something you want. But those things are probably two of the most important qualities right now.”
The Lions signed Golden Tate in free agency, but the former Seahawks' field-stretcher might be situated inside if Detroit can reel in a game-breaker with the 10th overall pick.
There are indications that the Lions are knocking for trade possibilities to climb up and be in position to draft Watkins or Evans. There are also strong indications that will require dealing up at least three spots. The Minnesota Vikings (eighth) and Buffalo Bills (ninth) could take a receiver, as might Jacksonville (third), Cleveland (fourth) and Oakland (fifth).
Watkins was accustomed to playing the BMOC role at Clemson. He'd welcome more a sidekick spot with the Lions alongside Calvin Johnson.
"I'd be very happy to end up there," he said.