BBD Assistant Editor: Ryan Talbot
The Buffalo Bills have plenty of options in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft. The easiest philosophy for the Bills to follow would be drafting the best player available. If Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins is on the board at the No. 9 overall pick, the Bills would be hard-pressed to find a better player.
Watkins and the Bills haven’t really been linked to one another, but in his press conference in which he declared for the draft, he revealed one connection to the Bills according to Aaron Brenner of The Post and Courier.
Sammy Watkins’ favorite NFL team growing up? Surprise: the Buffalo Bills. Said he liked them pre-Spiller. Also likes hometown Dolphins/Jags.
— Aaron Brenner (@Aaron_Brenner) January 10, 2014
The storyline of Watkins being drafted by his favorite childhood team writes itself, but that’s certainly not a good reason to draft a player. The reason the Bills should strongly consider Watkins, if available, is because he would give the team a true No. 1 wide receiver.
What Watkins Brings to the Table
Some Bills fans are clamoring for a large wide receiver, whether it be Texas A&M’s Mike Evans (6’5″, 225 lbs), Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin (6’5″, 234 lbs), Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews (6’3″, 206 lbs) or Penn State’s Allen Robinson (6’3″, 210 lbs). But height isn’t everything. Watkins (6’1″, 205 lbs) makes up for his lack of height with other attributes.
Watkins possesses excellent footwork. When opposing teams attempt to press Watkins at the line of scrimmage, he can use his footwork to elude jams and get down the field. The Clemson product also shows terrific body control in terms of getting his feet in bounds on sideline passes.
Watkins has explosive speed on the field, but more than just the straight-line speed that Bills receivers Marquise Goodwin and T.J. Graham already bring to the offense. Watkins can run a variety of routes and seemingly accelerate on command.
Though not as tall as some of the other receivers in the draft class, he improved in each of his three seasons at Clemson in his ability to attack the ball at its highest point.
Watkins is not shy about taking on contact despite his smaller frame, and he is a surprisingly good blocker. Watkins is aggressive with the ball in his hands and as a blocker; that should endear him to the fan base of whatever team drafts him.
The Bills have plenty of athletes, but Watkins would provide quarterback EJ Manuel and the offense with another weapon. He could start instantly at wide receiver, but also be used as a runner on end-arounds and as a return specialist.
Watkins finished his three-year Clemson career with 240 catches for 3,391 yards and 27 touchdowns.
- In a seven-game stretch from Sept. 28-Nov. 14, Watkins had more than 100 receiving yards in six of those games.
- Clemson won all eight games in which Watkins had 100 or more yards receiving this season.
- For his career, the Tigers went 14-1 when Watkins had more than 100 receiving yards.
- Watkins finished his final season at Clemson with 101 receptions for 1,464 yards, both single-season school records.
The only major concerns with Watkins are injuries and off-field issues.
Watkins missed one game in 2011 with a shoulder sprain. An injury-riddled 2012 season ended with an ankle injury suffered in the Chick-fil-A Bowl against LSU. This season, Watkins injured his hip against Syracuse, but he was able to play through it.
In 2012, Watkins was arrested for possession of a controlled substance and possession of marijuana. He was subsequently suspended by Clemson for the first two games of his sophomore season.
Watkins does not have the ideal size of a No. 1 wide receiver, but he is still the most talented wideout in this year’s draft class, and it’s not close. If the Bills are looking to give Manuel more weapons to work with, Watkins would be a great choice. Though the Bills have three young wide receivers with upside in Goodwin, Graham and Robert Woods, none of them possess the No. 1 receiver potential of Watkins.
NFL Comparison: Julio Jones
Watkins is two inches shorter than Julio Jones and about 15 pounds lighter, but their styles of play are very similar. The Clemson wide receiver is aggressive, plays the ball well and has excellent speed and footwork.