After being passed over by the Cleveland Browns and eventually drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the 2014 NFL draft, Sammy Watkins should be determined to have a breakout rookie season and silence his doubters. The No. 4 overall selection recently completed OTAs, and with training camp coming up, the rookie understands the need to develop more rapport with quarterback EJ Manuel and improve upon his immense talent.
At 6'1" and 211 pounds, Watkins isn't as large a receiver as Calvin Johnson or Vincent Jackson. At the next level, he will rely on his hands and incredible 4.43 40 speed. With that said, he has shown the ability to lower his pads and deliver blows to unsuspecting defensive backs.
Notice the type of play being run in the video? Watkins flourishes in the screen game because he is so good in the open field.
According to ESPN Stats and Information, in his last college game at Clemson, the Orange Bowl against Ohio State, Watkins had 227 receiving yards. 207 of those yards came after the catch.
One of the major challenges for rookie wide receivers is perfecting their routes and timing against physical defenders. Luckily for Watkins, the screen pass does not require the most accurate of route-running.
As Bleacher Report's own Erik Frenz tweeted, look for the Bills to incorporate their wide receivers more in the play this season:
58 of Sammy Watkins' 101 receptions were on screens. Only four of EJ Manuel's attempted screens were to a WR. That number goes up in 2014.— Erik Frenz (@ErikFrenz) June 9, 2014
A wide receiver can have all the talent in the world, but if he isn't in sync with his quarterback, his talent will have a hard time translating into impressive stats. Manuel, and specifically Manuel's trust in his young receiver, will largely dictate Watkins' rookie season performance.
Credit Watkins for understanding this and acknowledging to Alex Flanagan in the video above that both players must continue to improve their on-field chemistry if they are to be successful.
While his success may rely on the maturation of his quarterback, Watkins is aware of the fact that he needs to work on his own game as well, particularly his routes. He explained to BuffaloBills.com's Chris Brown how improving the details is something he is steadily working on:
Most of them are similar but you got to have steps, it’s more steps now than yards. You got to get the correct steps to get your yardage. So that’s been the biggest struggle. But this week, I’ve been doing all my steps and revolutions, I know how to do them now so now I’m running my routes perfect.
If Watkins continues to improve the nuances needed to succeed at his position, the sky is the limit. The rookie understands that he can never stop learning and improving if he wants to be the best. In addition to his phenomenal talent, understanding this concept at the tender age of 21 is a major reason why Watkins will be a stud.
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