Bills Draft Looks to Improve their Record, At a High Cost

Matthew Jordan

Thursday, May 15, 2014 3:54 PM GMT

The Buffalo Bills gave up a sizable haul to the Cleveland Browns to move up to the No. 4 overall pick in the draft and take Clemson's Sammy Watkins. He is the second-favorite on Bovada's NFL odds at 4/1 to be named the Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Sam I Am
Buffalo took a huge gamble by sending the Browns the Bills' first- and fourth-round picks next year to move up only five spots to land Watkins. You give up that type of bounty for a franchise quarterback, but a receiver? (Atlanta did well in giving up a somewhat similar amount a few years ago to take Julio Jones). Even Bills' general manager Doug Whaley admitted the trade came at a "very high cost. ....  But we thought like it was a calculated risk, and a risk we were willing to take," Whaley said. "The high cost of not making the playoffs is something we weighed in and we thought this guy is going to get us to the playoffs."

You have to figure that first-round pick could be in the Top 10 next year considering the Bills haven't finished with a winning record since 1999, the last time they made the playoffs. They haven't won more than six games since 2008. Whaley probably finds himself out of work if that happens again, plus the team should have new owners soon who might want to bring in their own guys.

There's no doubt that Watkins looks like an electric playmaker. Watkins was arguably the best freshman in the nation in 2011, had some troubles as a sophomore and then bounced back in a big way last season with 101 receptions for 1,464 yards (14.5 yards per catch) and 12 touchdowns. He likely improved his draft stock significantly in the Orange Bowl to cap his career, catching 16 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns against Ohio State. For consideration in your NFL picks, Watkins is given totals on Bovada's NFL odds of 750.5 receiving yards and five touchdowns this season, with both 'over/under' options at -120. The Bills haven't had an Offensive Rookie of the Year in 44 years.

The question is if Watkins was such a huge need? Certainly second-year quarterback E.J. Manuel will be happy to see his former ACC competitor on the same roster. But the Bills had pretty good receiver depth with Stevie Johnson, second- and third-round picks from 2013 in Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin, and newly-acquired Mike Williams, who came over in a trade from Tampa Bay. To help recoup some of what Buffalo gave up to get Watkins, the Bills then traded Johnson to the 49ers for a conditional fourth-round pick next season that can become a third-rounder.

Buffalo's second-round pick was a guy some had as a first-round talent in Alabama offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio, and he fills a big need. If Buffalo had stayed put at No. 9 it probably would have taken a tackle like Michigan's Taylor Lewan or Notre Dame's Zach Martin. Kouandjio is expected to push mediocre incumbent starter Erik Pears, who started every game last year, at right tackle. With their last pick, the Bills stayed on the offensive line with Miami's Seantrel Henderson. He was the top-rated recruit in the nation in 2009 but never lived up to the hype. He had some off-field issues at Miami and reportedly flunked a drunk test during the NFL combine. The talent is there if the Bills can control his attitude.

Buffalo also added some running back depth by trading a conditional fourth-round pick to Philadelphia for Bryce Brown. That might have been a high price to pay for a guy the Eagles could have released. It was a minor surprise the Bills didn't take a safety in the draft after losing Pro Bowler Jairus Byrd to free agency.

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Full List Of Draft Picks
Sammy Watkins, wide receiver, Clemson (Round 1, No. 4 overall); Cyrus Kouandjio, offensive tackle, Alabama (2, No. 44); Preston Brown, inside linebacker, Louisville (3, No. 73); Ross Cockrell, cornerback, Duke (4, No. 109); Cyrill Richardson, guard, Baylor (5, No. 153); Randell Johnson, outside linebacker, Florida Atlantic (6, No. 221); Seantrel Henderson, offensive tackle, Miami Fla. (7, No. 237).

NFL free picks: Tampa Bay's Mike Evans is the ROY favorite, and he has two edges on Watkins: likely a better quarterback and playing in non-wintry conditions in Tampa. Still, Watkins will start from the get-go.