The Bills made a big gamble when they traded up to #4 to pick up wide receiver Sammy Watkins. Lacking a #1 WR and in a win-now mode due to the upcoming ownership change, General Manager Doug Whaley went all-in to get Watkins and give the Bills something they lacked for a while, a true #1 WR.
The Legend of Sammy begins in 2011 with his freshman year of college. He was highly regarded coming out of high school, and was highly recruited by such schools as Florida State, Florida and the U. But for some reason, he chose the Clemson Tigers. In his third game of his freshman year, he had his big coming-out against the Auburn Tigers, where he had 10 catches for 155 yards and two touchdowns. But Auburn didn’t have a good defense, so that game wasn’t as big a deal. However, the next week the Florida State Seminoles, reeling from the Oklahoma debacle, came to Death Valley and Sammy has his true coming-out party. Against a defense that was no joke (top 10 in the country), Watkins lit them up for 7 catches for 141 yards and two TDs and gave FSU fits. Watkins finished the season with 82 catches for 1219 yards and 12 TDs as well as being only the fourth true freshman to be named 1st Team All-American, the others being Herchel Walker, Marshall Faulk and Adrian Peterson; pretty good company to be in. He would finish his NCAA career with 240 receptions for 3391 yards and 27 TDs.
Coming into the draft, there were concerns about his route running because his junior year, the majority of the routes he ran were either go routes or screens. But that was a product of 1) teams giving him a 10-yard cushion 85% of the time and 2) it masked quarterback Taj Boyds’ weaknesses. Watkins ran most of the route tree and so far, he has been working tirelessly to get better, waking up at six every morning to work on his route running. So far in camp, Watkins has looked like a stud, having a full highlight reel of catches and looking like quarterback E.J. Manuel’s go to guy.
There have been many NFL comparisons for Watkins; some say he is like Percy Harvin, and others say he is a better version of Cordarrelle Patterson. One reporter even went as far as comparing him to Randy Moss. The closest comparison I can see on the field is either Justin Blackmon or a better route-running Cordarrelle Patterson. Watkins is a hybrid between the two major type of wide receivers out there; he is a shifty after-the-catch guy like Harvin, but he also plays physical and tough like Larry Fitzgerald. Justin Blackmon is probably the closest comparison as they both are 6’1″ and around 210 pounds. Comparing him to Blackmon isn’t a bad thing; when he isn’t suspended, Blackmon has been a stud, as evident in his games against Houston and Denver, where he combined for 21 catches and 426 yards in just 2 games.
My prediction is Watkins will have a good rookie year, he probably will be the most targeted player on the Bills roster and finish with 70 catches for 987 yards and 5 TDs. The one concern for him will be how he handles man and press coverage as he hardly saw that in colelge. What will benefit him is that t he Bills have two #2 WRs in Robert Woods and Mike Williams who defenses will have to account for. Watkins will struggle against the better CBs like Revis or Haden but if the Bills are smart and move him around, he can take advantage against the lesser DBs. Overall Watkins will have a good year by rookie standards but won’t put the elite top 5 WR numbers that some are expecting of him.
Note from HOF game: Watkins only played 2 series and had no catches on 2 targets with a deep throw just missing him by a step. The Giants played man and it shut down Watkins. But it is still early, no need to panic.