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Bills swing 'last-minute' deal to draft Clemson WR Sammy Watkins fourth overall

Bills swing 'last-minute' deal to draft Clemson WR Sammy Watkins fourth overall Bills draft pick Sammy Watkins holds up a jersey at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. (James P. McCoy/Buffalo News)


The Buffalo Bills made a big investment in Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins.

And now they're thinking playoffs.

With Watkins still available after three choices had been made in tonight's NFL draft, including the Jacksonville Jaguars snagging Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles third overall, the Bills pounced.

The Bills sent their ninth overall pick, next year's first-round pick and next year's fourth-round pick to the Cleveland Browns to move up five spots.

The Bills drafted the guy they claimed was the highest-rated player on their draft board.


Photo gallery: Sammy Watkins


Bills General Manager Doug Whaley admitted it was "a very high cost" to pay, but that Watkins was a risk worth taking. Whaley added the Bills are confident next year's first-round pick will be a late one. That means making the playoffs was involved in this trade calculation.

A Bills source informed me a couple hours before the draft that trade talks were quiet and they believed they would keep the ninth overall pick.

The Browns stepped up to make a deal the Bills liked. Whaley called it a "last-minute" trade.

Watkins is considered the best receiver in this year's draft class. He had 101 receptions for 1,464 yards and 12 touchdowns last year.

"He's automatically going to make our quarterback better and make us better as a team," Whaley said.

Watkins' arrival could mean movement among the others already on the depth chart, particularly veterans Stevie Johnson and Mike Williams. Third-year receiver T.J. Graham has been a disappointment so far.

  • Jeff

    It'd be nice if it's the 32nd pick.

  • Steve Schmitt

    Two first for this guy? Too much!

    • Jr

      I don't think you understand we swapped 1'sts this yr and lost our 1st next yr and our 4th next year

      • Dave J

        No, he's right....a first this year, a first next year, and a fourth next year - big price. Time will tell.

  • nflworstteam

    looks like Stevie will be drop'n em for another team

  • ptato22

    Too risky. How does this improve EJ? Either EJ can play, or he can't. If he's lying on his back because we need an OT, it doesn't matter who's receiving. The good QBs make any receiver look like an all-pro, not the other way around. Bad decision in giving away next year's top pick. Obviously, the Bills' administration is very concerned about a new owner and feel they MUST make the playoffs at any cost or they'll lose their jobs.

    • zbubble

      Maybe the Bills draft Tajh Boyd in the 2nd or 3rd round as a backup. If EJ doesn't pan out, At least Boyd and Watkins have chemistry.

  • Rich

    Can the Bills draft 2 new knees for EJ? They gave up too much for Watkins.

    • Harvsbuddy

      So, you want EJ to give up his good knee?
      Detractors are the laziest "fans."

  • Lee

    Oh need to note - they are thinking Playoffs.... They most likely will be last in the AFC East. Come on guys draft some toughness !!!!

  • rooks

    Holy )(*R% they gave up next year's first rounder just to move up 5 spots? That is ridiculous! When I saw they traded up I thought for sure they were taking Mack!

  • ptato22

    I noticed ESPN has Lewan (was still available at 9) as a grade of 94 and Watkins as 96. Surely a 94 for a lineman who will help cement the line for 10 years should have been the pick. Nothing against Watkins - I'm sure he's excellent, but imagine how Watkins will feel when he realizes a team that hasn't made the playoffs in 14 years drafted him because HE will be the player to get them there. No pressure there.

    • randyJ23

      Yeah - much rather draft a player who doesn't want to be under pressure to perform - or can't handle the pressure. That works out well in the NFL.
      Also where was Williams graded when we drafted him a few years ago? How did that work out? ESPN rankings don't mean a whole lot.

    • Ed

      Take the third best Left Tackle in the draft and stick him on the right? Yuck. We can get a very good, starting caliber right tackle in the second round.

  • Buzz saw

    Too much to move up 5 spots. Manuel pick now that much more important because we cant bail out on him after this year if he doesnt cut the mustard.....

  • Pat Leary

    Whaley over his head.With the Q.B. running for his life it doesn't matter.Stupid,stupid,stupid.Mortgage the future for a dwarf receiver

    • Harvsbuddy

      6-1, 210 is hardly a dwarf receiver.
      You were just eliminated from the "taken seriously" list.

    • Paul Bruhns

      You have a point, the O Line needs to hold protection for at least a three count. If the line leaks in a two count, the QB is looking to dump the ball. But Whaley over his head? Hardly. I am looking to see what round 2 brings. The head coach knows the needs on the O Line. Let's wait and see that play out.

  • Pat Leary

    What idiots.

  • DBart

    We gave up all that for Watkins? We could have waited and got him at 9 or Evans...Another bad draft!

    • WHAT?

      I doubt it. Many had the Raiders taking him at 5, and Tampa certainly would have taken him at 8. I think they knew they had to move up, or both Watkins and Evans would have been gone. Beside all that, the guy was a Bills fan, maybe he'll even want to play here.

  • WHAT?

    Very risky. But if Watkins proves to be the once in a generation type of player some claim (one panelist tonight called him the best receiver in the last 5 to 10 years) then the price is worth it. Playmakers like that only come at the number one or two spots in the draft. That he fell to five and it was possible to move up is what made the deal. Who knows? maybe they can get something back for Stevie and make it not quite as bad.

  • TomFromNT

    neither would have been available at 9. You can't honestly think that

    • j. shuford

      exactly, I hate when these guys comment with emotion and not fact... smh..

  • j. shuford

    funny to me how we bills fans find something to complain about every year. its crazy. the bills have been making conservative picks for years now and gotten zero results, now they go balls out , we still complain, FOH, it was a great move....period....

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About the reporters

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.