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Bills bank on playoffs this season as part of big Sammy Watkins wager


On the surface, tonight's trade breakdown looks like this:

The Buffalo Bills got the fourth overall draft choice and used it on Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins.

The Cleveland Browns got the ninth overall choice plus next year's first- and fourth-round draft picks.

But the swap has another, implied factor.

The Bills expect their 2015 first-round pick to be no earlier than 20th because they've banked on the playoffs this season.

If the Bills do end the NFL's longest postseason drought -- a big if -- then Watkins almost certainly will have helped.

That also would mean sophomore quarterback EJ Manuel probably had a solid year, and the Bills have found their quarterback of the future.

If the Bills don't reach the postseason, then they very well could find themselves in the market for another quarterback but without a first-round pick in a year that's believed to be good for quarterbacks.

"It's a very high cost, but we thought it was a calculated risk, a risk we were willing to take," Bills GM Doug Whaley said. "The high cost of not making the playoffs is something we weighed in, and we thought this guy was going to get us to the playoffs."

Whaley insisted he wasn't making a playoff guarantee, but he's obviously willing to bank on success to come.

Asked about a late first-round pick in 2015, Whaley replied "We expect it to be. ... I'm a competitor and, call me crazy, I like those odds."

The Bills have receivers who can stretch the field and work underneath, but Watkins can do it all. He plays larger than his 6-foot-2, 211-pound frame would suggest.

Watkins caught 101 passes for 1,464 yards and 12 touchdowns last year for Clemson. He's considered the best receiver in this year's draft class because of his ability to outmaneuver defenders for the ball and gain yards after the catch.

"This game's about making plays and surrounding our quarterback with playmakers," Whaley said. "He's automatically going to make our quarterback better. He's going to make us better as a team."

  • Greg

    While other teams target the Super Bowl, Whaley forfeits the future for a play-off team? How low can you go? Buffalo deserves better.

    • Jamie Rozek

      What would you have done, Greg? Hmm? Why aren't you in the chair making the decisions?

  • Frank Buxton

    If the kid is 3/4's a Julio Jones or A.J. Green it was worth it. If not it's on the E.J. mistake of last year, injury or not.

    • Jamie Rozek

      What are you even talking about? A players' success doesn't determine whether the team moves.....

    • Paul Bruhns

      non sequitor

  • Pat Leary

    What clusterpuck.Fools.

    • Jamie Rozek

      Oh, you think you can do it better? Why weren't you hired for the job, again?

      • Lou Bordonaro

        Why are your comments always reactions, critical of other comments? You don't initiate discussion, only jump in to respond and criticize others. I'm not saying I don't agree. It's just none of your commentary is to put your own thoughts out there, just chastise others'.

  • jk

    So let me get this straight - first three posts are negative because ..why? It most certainly limits Stevie Johnson's tenure with the Bills (is that bad???) And, if all the EJ haters prove to be correct the Bills will still have Watkins and Woods as weapons in 2016...Sorry gang...I don't see any problem with this pick...

    • thenextone82

      The pick isn't bad. The price is ridiculous.

  • thenextone82

    This is the most shocking trade in the NFL draft in years. This is just crazy. The only position you give two first round picks for is a QB. The Bills won 6 games last year. It's not like they're one player away from the Super Bowl.

    This is just WAY too expensive. The Dolphins moved from #12 to #3 in last year's first round for only a 2nd round pick. The Bills give up a 1st + 4th to go from #9 to #5? Wow. The kid's a good prospect obviously, but he's not even guaranteed to be good. How many bust "can't miss prospect" wide receivers have the Detroit Lions taken in the first round in the last 15 years? Three? This kid could be Charles Rodgers just as easily as he could be Julio Jones.

    This is like paying $200 for a steak dinner. I'm sure the meal is good and all, but it's just way too expensive. 1st round picks are like gold in today's salary cap NFL.

  • randyJ23

    The reality is nobody knows if this is a great pick or not - but I like the Bills taking a chance and going for someone with tremendous skill. If they didn't, we could be arguing did they take the right tackle. But it probably wouldn't be a game changer. Several people said that there were 4 guys in this draft who are significantly better than the rest. We got one of them. Why sit back at #9 and get a really good player when you can get greatness. We don't have enough of that on this team. Could be a total bust, but the people talking smack on here don't know any better than anyone else how this will end.

    • jwdundee

      I've heard this before. Does the name CJ Spiller ring any bells? We've been down this road. You'd think they would have learned their lesson. Mediocrity is worse than a total bust when you're leveraging the future of the franchise.

      • randyJ23

        So Watkins is the same as Spiller because they were both drafted by the Bills? Or both went to Clemson? Every team in the league said Watkins is a polished receiver and an elite player. That was not the word on Spiller coming out. Several teams took a pass on Spiller, and many others said they were not interested. Not sure how you can compare the two.

        • jwdundee

          Spiller dominated in college too and was considered elite. Being Elite at Clemson doesn't necessarily translate to the NFL obviously. That was the point. p.s., the guy they got rid of when they drafted Spiller won the Superbowl last year. I hope Stevie does it this year to prove a point. The players aren't the problem. The cancer of this organization starts with the president of it.

  • Jan Reimers

    We have had 14 straight years of mediocre, playoff-less football. Bold moves - not safe ones - are needed. Williams and Spikes in free agency were gambles, as is the Watkins deal. But we need to take some risks to get this team out of the doldrums.

    I applaud Whaley for this gutsy move.

  • Cannibal King

    Seems odd to me to take a "dynamic playmaker" when the guy who has to deliver the ball is getting chased around. I would have rather they stood pat at 9 and take Lewan. There are a couple of o-line prospects left... I hope they focus in on Bitonio, Jackson, Mewhort or Richardson now. Bills don't need a "gigantic human" project like Kouandjio... they need somebody that can play LG or RT now. Hard to figure out what the heck they're gonna do after seeing how much Whaley dumped into Watkins. They could have taken Lewan and traded back into 1st to get Lee at WR... I don't really get paying so much to get Watkins. Smacks of trying to hard to look smart.

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Vic Carucci returned to The Buffalo News as a Bills beat reporter in September. Carucci covered the Bills for 17 years before joining as a columnist in 1999. Prior to rejoining The News, he spent three years as a senior editor for the Cleveland Browns.

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida.