The Buffalo Bills gutsy move to trade up for star wide receiver Sammy Watkins in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft was met with some criticism, and it was a bit weird to see a non-contender with an uncertain commodity at quarterback mortgage their future a bit by aggressively moving up for a star receiver. They cleared the way for Watkins by dumping off Stevie Johnson, who had a large salary, to the San Francisco 49ers, thus making Watkins their immediate No. 1 receiver with Robert Woods and Mike Williams as the No. 2 and 3 guys.
But while the Bills finished last in the AFC East last season, their move to move up for Watkins shows us a few things. First of all, it shows that they are confident in the team’s ability to compete next season, and it shows their belief that E.J. Manuel will be a franchise QB and make good on his first-round status. He didn’t play well as a rookie, but he also had to deal with injuries and was never expected to make a big first-year impact.
And thanks to the NFL Network’s Albert Breer, we’ve just learned today that the Bills like Watkins even more than we could have imagined. In fact, Whaley told Breer that the only prospect who would have given Watkins pause- if they had a chance to pick any prospect in this class- was Jadeveon Clowney, the first overall pick and the consensus No. 1 guy analyst’s boards. But per their needs, Whaley stated that the Bills had Watkins on top.
He said, “(Jadeveon) Clowney was just slightly behind him. When he was gone No. 1, it was a no-brainer. It would’ve been a decision (if Clowney was there). But the way we ranked them, it was Sammy first.”
Whaley stressed the importance of having a true No. 1 receiver who can run a variety of routes and open up the offense, and there’s no doubt that Watkins can do that. The best WR prospect in a class filled with top-notch talent at the position, Watkins has been compared to Julio Jones as far as quality (not playing style, of course) goes when coming out of college. The Clemson product is the full package, as he can win downfield, blow by DBs on screen routes, win in the intermediate game, line up in the slot or on the outside make circus catches, high-point the ball, and he also has solid hands and a great understanding of the game. Whaley isn’t afraid of taking risks, and this is especially true when it comes to securing the top prospect on his board.
Check out the rest of Breer’s post above, because it contains plenty of valuable insight and key quotes from Whaley that help us better understand the Bills organization.