5 Bold Predictions for Buffalo Bills 2014 Draft Class
We know Sammy Watkins will start right away, but what kind of impact will he and the rest of the draft class make? How much playing time will the newly drafted offensive linemen get?
There are plenty of questions to ask about the incoming players. We can't answer any of them with the season still miles away. What we can do, though, is predict what the newcomers might be able to do.
And when you're making predictions, you've got to be bold. So without further ado, here are some bold predictions for some of the rookie class heading into the 2014 season.
Sammy Watkins Will Lead the Team in Receiving Yards
While someone else (paging Mike Williams) will probably catch more touchdowns, no one on the Bills will have more receiving yards than Sammy Watkins.
Watkins is at his best racking up yards after the catch. Because of that, look for offensive coordinator Nate Hackett to find ways to get Watkins the ball in space. Considering how long the Bills have been drooling over Watkins, Hackett probably has plenty of plays already drawn up for the rookie.
Since Williams will be the primary red-zone target, he should find the end zone more than Watkins. But Watkins does have big play ability, as this 91-yard touchdown catch against Syracuse demonstrates. Watch as he turns on the afterburners and toasts the defender once the ball is in the air.
Watkins put up 3,391 yards in just three years at Clemson. While it's unreasonable to expect him to pump out 1,000-yard seasons from the jump, he will still be a threat every time he touches the ball.
The Bills went out of their way to make Watkins their No. 1 option on offense. Expect EJ Manuel to look his way early and often.
Cyrus Kouandjio Will Win the Starting Right Tackle Job
It's clear Cyrus Kouandjio is ready to make an impact for the Bills.
He said during an interview after he was drafted that he loves to run block, and he will be doing plenty of that in the Bills run-heavy offense. Tackle was one of the Bills' biggest needs heading into the draft, so Kouandjio will have every opportunity to earn a starting role.
Kouandjio's attitude is also something that will give him an advantage come training camp. Via Joe Buscaglia of ESPN 950 in Rochester, Kouandjio detailed what kind of impact he expects to make:
Personally, I don’t know why we haven’t been a winning team, but I’m a winner. That’s what I do. So I come here with the intention to win games, no matter what. I don’t care, I want to win and I’m going to do what I have to do to win. Whether it’s motivate whoever or whatever, if I see anything not right or see something missing in a team or characteristics missing of a winning team… I’ve been with two winning programs, I lost about seven games in my life. I know what a winning program looks like and I know the trends and I’ve seen trends in a winning program. If I see something a little bit off, I will say something. I have high hopes for this team. I believe in this team and I believe in these men. I see nothing but winners around me. I came here, I saw the attitude on the team and these guys, and I loved it. Everybody is willing to win and everybody is willing to have good plays and to work from what I’ve seen so far in one day.
That's just the kind of attitude Doug Marrone wants from his players. If Kouandjio backs up that attitude with his play on the field, he will have no problem becoming a starter.
Seantrel Henderson Will Make the Team
Seantrel Henderson knows he is on a short leash in Buffalo.
Despite the fact that he has first-round talent, Henderson slipped to the seventh round of the draft because of his questionable work ethic and decision making.
Back in 2010, Henderson was the top-rated high school lineman in the nation, per Omar Kelly of the Sun-Sentinel. Also per Kelly, Henderson admitted that he was suspended three times from the University of Miami's football team due to marijuana use.
Henderson then went on to test positive for marijuana at the NFL combine, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Henderson has to be humbled by the fact that he almost missed out on getting drafted due to his poor decisions. The Bills have strong leadership in Doug Marrone, Eric Wood and Kyle Williams. They will do everything they can to keep Henderson on the straight and narrow.
He almost doesn't have a choice. Henderson knows if he screws up, he will get the proverbial pink slip. If the Bills cut him loose because he still isn't fully committed, it is doubtful any other team will take a chance on him.
Therefore, Henderson's talent will win out and he will find himself on the roster Week 1. Who knows? With his talent, he could eventually even contend to start.
Preston Brown Will Be a Special Teams Standout
Considering Preston Brown's similarity to Brandon Spikes, it's unlikely Brown will see much time on defense.
However, Brown can be useful on special teams, given his ability while running downhill and his physical nature while tackling.
The Bills can certainly use some help on special teams, considering they gave up several long punt and kickoff returns. Their ineptitude tackling return men was especially detrimental against the Browns last year.
Brown even boasts that tackling is one of his strengths. Per Anna Stolzenburg of BuffaloBills.com, Brown had this to say about his ability to bring down ball-carriers:
I think tackling is one of the best things I do. It’s one of the main parts of the game. You’ve got to be able to tackle, especially if you’re going to be a linebacker. I try to be around the ball as much as I can and get forced fumbles anyway I could when I was around the ball.
Spikes is only on a one-year deal. If the Bills don't retain him after this year, Brown will be the guy to take his place in the middle of the defense. Until then, look for Brown to pile up tackles on special teams and maybe even force a fumble or two along the way.
Ross Cockrell Will Have at Least 2 Interceptions
The Bills got great value when they nabbed Duke defensive back Ross Cockrell in the fourth round.
Here's what Bleacher Report's Dan Hope had to say about Cockrell:
Cockrell’s ball skills are one of the first things that stand out on tape. He tracks the ball well in the air, competes to get his hands on passes and has good hands to catch the ball. As a result of those traits, Cockrell had 12 interceptions during his four-year career at Duke.
Considering injuries can happen at any time, Cockrell will provide the Bills with some depth at cornerback. Stephon Gilmore missed some time with a wrist injury last year, and Leodis McKelvin missed one game in 2013 and two in 2012.
Either way, I expect Cockrell to find his way onto the field in 2014. When he gets there, he will make the most of his time. Quarterbacks will likely try to pick on him because he is a rookie, and he should make them pay more than once.
If he earns quality playing time, Cockrell will use his ball skills and his intelligence to his advantage. Did I mention he planned on going to law school if the NFL didn't work out? Combine that with Thad Lewis' high praise, and it isn't out of the question to expect Cockrell to make an immediate impact.
What do you expect out of this year's draft class? What kind of bold predictions do you have? Sound off in the comments below and join the discussion with Justin on Twitter @JustinNeuman10.