Thursday, May 8, 2014

Bills go 'bold,' use pair of first-rounders on Watkins


Last season, the Buffalo Bills were able to trade down in the first round of the draft and still nab their franchise quarterback, E.J. Manuel.

For his supporting cast, however, the cost was much greater.

Buffalo swapped first round picks and traded two 2015 picks to the Cleveland Browns in the opening night of the NFL Draft Thursday, acquiring wide receiver Sammy Watkins from Clemson.

Watkins, who hauled in more than 100 catches for nearly 1,500 yards his senior year, joins a receiving squad that includes second-round pick and sophomore Robert Woods, as well as a pair of third-round speedsters in T.J. Graham and Marquise Goodwin.

Despite his 6-foot-1, 200-pound frame, Watkins also possesses breakaway speed, having won state titles in high-school track.

"We went into this draft saying we'd be bold. We made a bold move," CEO Russ Brandon said, via Mike Rodak, after the selection. "We're sitting up here very pleased right now."

Bold is certainly the way to describe it. The trade gave the Browns the Bills' first and fourth-round selections in next year's draft, as well as their No. 9 pick for this year. And though Watkins amassed nearly 3,400 receiving yards in three seasons at Clemson, he also had his share of issues. 

He missed time his first season with the Tigers with a shoulder injury and with an ankle injury the next. He also sat out on a suspension for drug charges during his 2012 season. On the flip side, the soon-to-be 21-year-old holds 23 records at Clemson, including most receiving yards, receptions and touchdowns.

GM Doug Whaley said Watkins was "the highest player on our board," calling the move a high-risk, hopefully high-reward situation.

"We felt like it was a calculated cost but a risk we were willing to take,” he told Rodak. "This game’s about making plays and surrounding our QB with playmakers. He’ll automatically make our QB better."

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