ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Speculation was rampant in the days leading up to Thursday's opening round that the Buffalo Bills were a team to watch in the 2014 NFL Draft.
And when Jacksonville passed on wide receiver Sammy Watkins in favor of quarterback Blake Bortles at No. 3, the Bills made a fast call to Cleveland and negotiated a deal to swap first-round spots -- No. 9 to No. 4. The big jump came with a big price tag. The Bills gave the Browns their first-round pick in 2015 and a fourth-rounder for a chance to draft the best wideout available.
"We went into this draft saying we were going to be bold and we made a bold move," said team president Russ Brandon. "We're very excited about what just happened. Sammy Watkins was a player who was very, very high on our board and someone who could contribute immediately."
Bold is an understatement.
It would have been very easy for the Bills to stay put and select North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron, who ended up going to the Lions at No. 10. Instead, they went after the most skilled offensive player in the draft, a dynamic playmaker who instantly upgrades a passing game that ranked 28th last season.
"This game is about making plays and surrounding our quarterback with playmakers," said general manager Doug Whaley. "He's automatically going to make our quarterback better. We want to surround EJ Manuel with every possible weapon we can to help us get to where we need to go."
By making this move, Whaley sounded the warning siren. Nothing less than a playoff berth will be expected, and if that happens, then the first-round pick the Bills gave away in 2015 won't be a coveted one.
"We want to make the playoffs, so being 14 (years) and not making the playoffs, that is the tradeoff we expected," Whaley said in reference to mortgaging part of the future to go up and get Watkins. "It's a very high cost, but we thought it was a calculated risk and one we were willing to take. The high cost of not making the playoffs is something we weighed and we thought this guy is going to get us to the playoffs. We thought it was well worth it."
It sounded like a guarantee, but Whaley said, "That's not a guarantee; I'm saying we expect it to be low. I'm a competitor, call me crazy, I like those odds."
Watkins was widely considered the most polished and NFL-ready wide receiver in the draft.
He caught 101 passes for 1,464 yards and 12 touchdowns last year for Clemson, and during his three-year career totaled 240 catches for 3,391 yards and 27 touchdowns. His greatest strengths are his speed (4.39 seconds in the 40), his ability to play bigger than his size thanks to a physical frame and a 34-inch vertical leap, and his tremendous run after catch skills.
"I think I bring a lot to the table," said Watkins. "You're going to get a great citizen, a hard player, a guy that loves the game, a guy that understands the game, and understands the power of preparation. I think if I keep doing what I've been doing at Clemson, it will translate to the NFL.
By Sal Maionara, The Sports Xchange
Publish Date: May 8, 2014 11:35:12 PM
Bills move up to snag WR Watkins
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