There was talk prior to the 2014 NFL draft of the Buffalo Bills moving into the top two, and while they didn't quite do that, they were still able to strike a deal with the Cleveland Browns and get their man: Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins.
The Browns' official Twitter feed has details of the first trade of the night:
So, Bills quarterback EJ Manuel, how are you feeling about this move?
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!— EJ Manuel (@EJManuel3) May 9, 2014
The second-year quarterback’s elation is understandable.
Watkins is a rare playmaker. Standing at 6’1” and a chiseled 211 pounds, the 20-year-old needed just three seasons at Clemson to set school records in catches (240) and receiving yards (3,391), earning first-team All-America nods all three years on campus.
Just as likely to embarrass a linebacker in the open field as he is to run over a corner or safety, Watkins pairs explosive, home-run-hitting speed with running back-esque power.
As ESPN Stats & Info noted, he brings along a dimension the Bills severely lacked in 2013:
Sammy Watkins led all AQ receivers with 1,044 yards after the catch last season. The Bills ranked 29th in YAC last season. #BUFpick— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 9, 2014
Suddenly, Buffalo has a loaded receiving corps.
Stevie Johnson missed four games in 2013 but has three 1,000-yard receiving seasons under his belt, second-year Robert Woods is a dangerous possession receiver who should continue to improve and Mike Williams was acquired this offseason by former Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone.
Throw in Marquise Goodwin and running back C.J. Spiller, and the Bills are now among the fastest teams in the league, as Rotoworld's Adam Levitan explained:
Bills gave up heaps, but they're getting faster. Marquise Goodwin 4.27, CJ Spiller 4.35, Sammy Watkins 4.43, Robert Woods 4.51.— Adam Levitan (@adamlevitan) May 9, 2014
As Joe Buscaglia of WGR 550 noted prior to the draft, the writing may be on the wall for Williams with this move by Buffalo:
If the Bills do end up with a receiver in the first round of the draft, Buffalo will then likely look to immediately see what they can get for wide receiver Stevie Johnson in terms of draft picks, according to sources. With his increasing cap number, it isn’t likely that Johnson stays on with the Bills past this season, meaning the drafting of a receiver would likely fast forward the clock on his potential departure from the team.
No matter what happens with Johnson, Manuel suddenly has an array of weapons to work with, led by Watkins’ game-changing ability. Add that to an extremely talented front seven on the other side of the ball, and the Bills are looking like a legitimate playoff contender.
Moving up was a bit pricey, but if it helps put an end to the Bills’ 14-season playoff drought, no one in Buffalo will mind much.