Decisions to be made

Since 2011, most folks have been operating under the assumption that Sammy Watkins will head to the NFL after his junior year.

Though Watkins hasn't confirmed to CUTigers that he will indeed forgo his senior season at Clemson -- not yet, at least -- we're still of the belief that he will.

And so is just about everyone else, including his coach, Dabo Swinney.

On Thursday night, Watkins became the second player in Clemson history to have two seasons of 1,000 or more yards receiving. One of 10 semifinalists for the Biletnikoff Award, he's put up some impressive numbers during his junior season.

Watkins has 71 catches for 1,086 yards and nine touchdowns through 10 games . Nationally, he's tied for 16th in receptions, eighth in receiving yardage and tied for 10th in touchdown catches.

The only receiver in all of college football with two touchdown receptions of at least 90 yards, Watkins also has a school-record seven 100-yard receiving games this season. With eight more receiving yards, he'll own the school's all-time record.

"Sammy's got a decision to make," Swinney said. "I don't see how there's anyway possible that he's not one of the top [draft] picks out there. But haven't had that discussion with him. He'll have to make that decision when the time comes."

Watkins isn't the only draft-eligible underclassman at Clemson with a decision to make after the season comes to a close in January.

With one year of eligibility remaining, Martavis Bryant is the Tigers' second-leading pass catcher this season with has 34 catches for 698 yards and four touchdowns.

Redshirt junior defensive end Vic Beasley has 17 tackles for loss, 10 of which are sacks. Of those 10 sacks, three were forced fumbles that lead to a turnover. He's third in the country in tackles for loss, sixth in sacks and 17th in forced fumbles.

Fellow redshirt junior Bashaud Breeland will also mull his options. The cornerback is first among Clemson defenders with four interceptions.

Middle linebacker Stephone Anthony is playing the best ball of his three-year career. He leads the team with 95 tackles and is second with 11 tackles for loss.

"I don't think any of those guys should come out, except for Sammy," Swinney said. "I think all those guys need another year. I don't think there's any question about it. Anybody who's telling them otherwise, they're not very well informed."

That's not to say Swinney thinks their respective football careers will be finished after Clemson.

"Absolutely, they can play on the next level, there's no question," he said. "But maximizing their opportunity, the only guy that I could say fits in that category, to me, is Sammy."

His category is as follows: If you're going to be a first-round pick, leave early.

"I've just never been a guy, if you're not a first-rounder, I just don't think it's to your benefit to come out and give up school, an opportunity to improve your stock," Swinney said. "I've always felt that way and still do."

But circumstances dictate why or why not a guy will take off early.

"Everybody makes decisions for different reasons," Swinney said. "But it's not something we need to be sitting here talking about right now. We've got to go and finish the season. Guys decide to do that, you deal with it and move on, wish them well."

CUTigers.com Top Stories