What if: Buffalo didn’t trade up for Sammy Watkins?


Just over 11 months ago general manager Doug Whaley made a decision during the 2014 NFL draft that then head coach Doug Marrone didn’t appreciate.  Now, Whaley is still in town with a young superstar at wide receiver and Marrone is (willingly) the new offensive line and assistant head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

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In a bold move to improve a passing game that had lacked explosiveness since the Eric Moulds and Lee Evans days, Whaley swapped first-round selections with the Cleveland Browns last May to trade up for former Clemson University wide receiver Sammy Watkins.  In the deal, Buffalo received the Browns’ fourth overall pick to select Watkins and Cleveland received the Bills’ eight pick in the 2014 NFL draft as well as this years first and fourth-round picks.

Before we address the question at hand, let’s first look at the rookie season Watkins had for Buffalo.  After spending the season dealing with nagging injuries relating to his ribs, groin and hip (underwent offseason surgery to address hip issues), Watkins finished the season with 65 catches for 982 yards and six touchdowns.  His biggest game came in week seven against the Minnesota Vikings when he caught nine passes for 122 yards and a season high two touchdowns, one coming on the final second of the fourth quarter to cap a game-winning drive.

Oct 19, 2014; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Minnesota Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes (29) lines up against Buffalo Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins (14) during the game at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not fair to compare Watkins’ rookie season to his fellow class; between the successes of Kelvin Benjamin, Odell Beckham Jr, Mike Evans and Jarvis Landry, it almost seemed as if Watkins had only an average season at best.  Even through dealing with injuries, Watkins was able to start all 16 games and record a catch in each contest.

After recapping Watkins’ impact in Buffalo last season we can flip the page back to why you’re here: What if Buffalo didn’t trade up for Watkins in 2014?

First, let’s recap their options they had at their original spot eight overall.  It was Buffalo’s goal to draft a receiver and for this sake let’s say Cleveland drafted Watkins.  At seven the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took Evans which left Beckham Jr., Brandin Cooks and Benjamin left on the board.  Cooks wasn’t addressed earlier due to missing half the season due to injury but before he went out he was on fire.

Would it have been a reach to take any of those three at eight?  Absolutely not.  Between them they caught 217 passes for 2,863 yards and 24 touchdowns.

What if Whaley and Marrone decided to take tight end Eric Ebron?  How about Calvin Pryor to take over for Jarius Byrd at safety?  Both would have addressed needs last season and while that’s true, the issue wasn’t the fact that Buffalos main target was Watkins but instead what they were giving up to go get him.

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  • Sitting less that two weeks away from the 2015 NFL draft, Buffalo is without their first and fourth-round picks.  Instead of drafting at #19 Buffalo has to wait until #50 before adding a piece to what many believe will be a squad fighting for the AFC East division title.

    Looking at their needs heading into the draft there’s no doubt they are missing their first round pick this Spring.  With the struggles the line saw last season, guys like La’el Collins, T.J. Clemmings and Cameron Irving are all looking like viable options Buffalo could have had at #19.  Another player that could just in as a starter day one is Landon Collins at safety.

    Let’s get this straight.  I’m not one for judging a player’s worth especially after only one season in the NFL.  Watkins was my favorite prospect heading into the draft last season and I’m ecstatic that he’s a part of the Buffalo organization.  Personally, if he can stay healthy, I’m looking for him to have a huge season with all the other pieces added to the offense this offseason.

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