Trading up to select a wide receiver in the first round of a deep draft class may be viewed as a risky maneuver. After all, not many prospects meet the lofty expectations established by the likes of Calvin Johnson, A.J. Green and Julio Jones.
Although, that's exactly what Buffalo Bills rookie wide receiver Sammy Watkins faces in 2014.
Will he live up to the hype? Will he elevate this offense to another level?
Of the wide receivers in this year's draft class, Watkins has all of the necessary tools to, not only succeed, but to earn Rookie of the Year honors as well.
Let's break it down.
When saying Watkins has "the necessary tools," it's not solely referring to his skill set—which is pretty darn good—it's also taking into consideration his drive, determination and supporting cast in Buffalo.
Watkins may not be viewed as a burner like fellow rookie wideouts Brandin Cooks or Odell Beckham Jr., but his football speed is simply incendiary.
Need a better picture? Sport Science breaks down Watkins perfectly:
So, that's what we already knew about Watkins.
Here's something that will go a very long way in his young NFL career.
Watkins has already been impressing at rookie minicamp in Buffalo, according to a tweet from Around the League:
That was expected; however, his dedication and determination to succeed is even more impressive. Take a look at where Watkins found himself at 6:45 a.m. ET on Monday, according to a tweet from P. Schrager of Fox Sports:
For the long suffering Bills fans out there-- Sammy Watkins was at the Bills facility at 6:45 AM running routes on air today.— P. Schrager (@PSchrags) May 19, 2014
That's called making an early impact.
Watkins has an extremely impressive attitude and work ethic as a rookie—something that should be admired in today's NFL. He's taking his new role seriously, as every prospect should, according to a tweet from the Bills' official Twitter account:
.@sammywatkins: "This is a job now, you have to come prepared. As an athlete you have to love the grind"— Buffalo Bills (@buffalobills) May 17, 2014
So, we know Watkins has the skill set and determination to get the job done. He also has the necessary supporting cast as well.
The Bills were surprisingly effective in pass protection last season, finishing ranked 12th in the league with a positive-11.1 rating, according to Pro Football Focus (subscribers link). Adding Cyrus Kouandjio in this year's draft should only enhance those numbers.
Watkins won't be without a complementary wide receiver either. The Bills acquired former Tampa Bay Buccaneers wideout Mike Williams over the offseason and plan on utilizing the speedy Robert Woods in the slot, according to Chris Brown of BuffaloBills.com.
The 6'2" Williams has the length to take some focus away from Watkins on the outside, and Woods' speed on the inside could make teams pay dearly for failing to properly cover him.
Let's not forget about the running game, either.
C.J. Spiller provides a dynamic option out of the backfield. He's a home-run threat whenever he touches the football, which makes it rather difficult for opposing defenses to stray too far from the line of scrimmage.
Spiller—another former Clemson Tiger—has already begun to assume the mentor role with Watkins, according to an interview with Scott Keepfer of The Greenville News, via WLTX.com:
I tell him to take it one day at a time and not let it overwhelm him. He needs to go out there and just be himself. He doesn't have to come and be Superman. We have a great running game to take a lot of pressure off, he just needs to keep doing what he's been doing. I think he understands that.
I'm looking forward to watching him and being on the field with him. I've seen him play a ton of times since he's been at Clemson, but now I get to see him first-hand out there on the field. He can be a star. He has the knowledge and understands defenses, so we'll see how it goes.
It should go swimmingly.
With the budding EJ Manuel under center, expect Watkins to become an early favorite target.
As Manuel continues to develop, he'll continue to rely mainly on short-to-intermediate routes to get the job done. With Watkins' burst, speed and agility, he'll have great opportunities to create yards after the catch and produce some of the same highlight-reel plays he created time after time at Clemson.
Unlike most other receivers in this year's draft class, Watkins will be the surefire No. 1 target on a Bills offense that seems poised to take significant steps forward this season.
He'll get plenty of targets and more opportunities to make plays than his draftmates, and that projects into some gaudy numbers for the rookie receiver.
So, will Watkins generate enough production to receive Rookie of the Year honors? Detroit Lions rookie tight end Eric Ebron thinks so, according to an interview with Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press:
[Myself and Jadeveon Clowney will] probably end up setting [a wager] before the season, but we don't have one yet. We don’t have one, but he'll probably end up trying to go for Defensive Rookie of the Year, which he probably will get 'cause the dude's unreal. I'm going to try to go for Offensive Rookie of the Year, which I probably won't get 'cause Sammy Watkins is there. But we're going to try.
Ebron's not alone.
Expect big things from Watkins this season. When it's all said and done, he'll be viewed as the NFL's most prolific offensive rookie.