The Bills invested a lot to move up in the 2014 draft and select Clemson WR Sammy Watkins. It’s not a mortgaging of the future per se for Buffalo to swap #4 and #9 picks with Cleveland this year while sending a first and fourth to the Browns next year but it has immediately put an onus on Watkins to contribute sooner rather than later.
There’ no doubt that Watkins was the highest on Buffalo’s list in a draft that was actually kind of high on top end talent at WR. While the Bills do give up a first round pick in 2015, they’re hoping the selection of Watkins is still a 2 for 1 transaction, enabling last year’s first round pick QB E.J Manuel to progress in his career from a mediocre rookie season.
Watkins Has Intangibles
Watkins has showed his potential basically since first stepping on the field at Clemson. In his freshman season Watkins amassed 82 catches for 1219 yards and 12 TD’s. He led the nation in receptions yards per game, TD’s, and all-purpose yards and went on to finish with 240 catches for 3,391 yards and 27 TD for one of the most prestigious college careers in Division 1. Watkins perhaps likes ideal #! receiver height standing at 6’1” but makes up for it with world class speed after running a 4.43 at the NFL combine. It was enough for Buffalo to mortgage next year for this one to snag Watkins with the 4th pick.
The Struggle of First Year Receivers
#4 picks in the draft are supposed to contribute in their first year but that’s been a rarity for the NFL’s history. A mere 12 wide receivers have toppled the 1,000 yard mark in their rookie year with Anquan Boldin’s 1,377 still being the tops. In addition only five have grabbed double digit TD’s their debut in the league. It doesn’t bode well for Watkins but in a pass-heavy league that is increasingly favoring wide receivers over defensive backs, big numbers are possible. One of those receivers who had rookie success was Mike Williams, Watkins’ new wide receiver-mate in Buffalo. Williams had 964 receiving yards and 11 TD’s his rookie year in 2010 and could take some of the defensive pressure off so Watkins can shine.
Develop a Rapport With E.J. Manuel
In order to have any semblance of success in 2014, both individually and as a team, Watkins will need to develop a relationship with second year QB E.J Manuel. By all accounts the two have not been on the same page through the preseason which has actually led to Watkins making a number of spectacular one-handed catches – mostly because Manuel has missed him. One thing that can ease a rookie WR’s transition into the NFL is a veteran QB to mentor them but Manuel himself only has 10 starts under his belt.
It’s a hit or miss season that awaits Watkins, just don’t be too overwhelmed by the hits or too depressed by the misses.
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