BBD Assistant Editor: Joe Marino
The Buffalo Bills haven’t made the playoffs since 1999. In a move to end that drought in 2014, first-year general manager Doug Whaley made an aggressive trade with the Cleveland Browns to move up from number nine overall to the fourth slot and select Clemson star wide receiver Sammy Watkins.
To complete the trade, the Bills parted with their 2015 first- and fourth-round selections. In what is widely considered to be an extremely deep draft, the Bills did not have to part with any of their 2014 draft picks to get Watkins.
After investing a first-round selection on quarterback EJ Manuel, this move was all about building an arsenal of weapons around Manuel that puts him in the best possible position to succeed.
Watkins is one of the premier talents in this draft and the best offensive skill player overall. In selecting Watkins, the Bills finally have a true No. 1 receiver who opponents must pay special attention to on every down.
A dynamic player after the catch, Watkins has top-end play speed to separate down the field, making him a threat at all levels. He is a quick-twitch athlete who can dominate on physical traits alone. He runs crisp, precise routes and is a sure-handed receiver who consistently catches the ball with his hands away from his body while plucking the ball out of the air.
Despite not being considered a “tall” receiver at 6’0 3/4″, Watkins is excellent at positioning his body to shield off defenders and competing at the catch point.
In his final season at Clemson, Watkins had 101 catches for 1,464 yards and 12 touchdowns as he dominated the ACC en route to his third straight All-American season. He turned in an impressive performance at the NFL Scouting Combine, running the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds, producing 16 bench press reps and timing a 6.95-second three-cone drill.
The Bills bolstered their offensive firepower with their selection of Watkins, but they are not slated to select in the first round of the draft again until 2016. Watkins becoming a top-flight, true No. 1 receiver in the NFL is paramount in this move being the “right decision” for the team. That said, nobody is wrong on draft day and the situation has to play itself out before labeling it as right or wrong. I give the Bills a ton of credit for identifying “their guy” and doing what was necessary to get him.