By Danny Cox
CBS Local Sports presents 32 Players in 32 Days, a daily feature focusing on one impact player from each NFL team.
Weight: 205 lbs.
Hometown: Fort Myers, Florida
Everyone knew that Sammy Watkins would be selected in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft, and it was also common knowledge that he would have an immediate impact on any team he was taken by. Upon being selected by the Buffalo Bills with the fourth overall pick, no one realized just how much of an impact he would have in his rookie season.
It was highly expected that Watkins would step into the No. 2 receiver spot and create a formidable tandem with Stevie Johnson. Well, there is no chance of that happening with the Bills this year, or possibly ever.
Watkins was drafted on a Thursday and the very next day, Johnson was traded away to the San Francisco 49ers. With that, all faith was put in Watkins and he instantly became the No. 1 wide receiver for the Buffalo Bills.
At South Fort Myers High School, Sammy Watkins became the all-time leading receiver of Lee County, Fla. with 133 receptions for 2,997 yards and 36 touchdowns. His high school stats made him a five-star recruit, and after graduating, he was rated the third-best wide receiver prospect in the country.
Watkins was the target of numerous schools including Florida, Michigan, Miami and others, but he chose Clemson.
He didn’t take part in spring practice for Clemson, but the extra skill-building wasn’t necessary. As a freshman, Watkins hauled in 82 receptions for 1,219 yards and 12 touchdowns. He ended up leading the nation in receiving yards per game, all-purpose yards and touchdowns.
That’s on top of the 11 school freshman records he had broken just seven games into the season. Watkins became the fourth ever true freshman to be an AP first-team All-American.
His sophomore season brought even more big-time stats, but his junior season was his prettiest by far. In 2013, Watkins had 101 receptions for 1,464 yards and 12 touchdowns while fighting his way to the MVP award for the 2014 Orange Bowl. That was due to his Orange Bowl record 16 receptions for 227 yards.
It took him just three seasons to become Clemson’s all-time leader in receptions with 240.
From that point on, it was just a mere formality that Watkins would end up skipping his senior season and putting his name into the 2014 NFL Draft. Some experts had him as the No. 1 overall pick while others didn’t see him going that high. No one thought he would make it out of the top five though, and he didn’t once Buffalo got on the clock.
Oddly enough, Watkins did a pre-draft interview in which he said that the Buffalo Bills was his favorite football team. Unfortunately, he may have to end up playing against his brother, Jaylen Watkins, who was selected 97 picks later by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Before training camp even began, it was now known that Watkins would be stepping into not only a starting role for the Buffalo Bills, but also the overall No. 1 receiver spot.
There is all of training camp to go through, as well as preseason, so a lot can change before the regular season starts. Still, there is hardly any doubt that Sammy Watkins will be used as a huge part of the Bills’ offense, and the same can be said for running back C.J. Spiller, another former Clemson player.
Starting opposite Watkins is projected to be Robert Woods, but Mike Williams, Marquise Goodman, T.J. Graham, and others will be fighting for that spot. No matter who is across the field from Watkins, he’s going to draw double and possibly even triple coverage a lot of the season.
For Sammy Watkins?
That’s actually just the way he may like it so that he can show everyone he is even better than they believe he is.
Danny Cox knows a little something about the NFL, whether it means letting you know what penalty will come from the flag just thrown on the field or quickly spouting off who the Chicago Bears drafted in the first round of the 1987 draft (Jim Harbaugh). He plans on bringing you the best news, previews, recaps, and anything else that may come along with the exciting world of the National Football League. Danny is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.