For the second straight year, the Buffalo Bills made a trade to pick the player they wanted all along in the NFL Draft. Last year, it was a trade down to nab their preferred quarterback in EJ Manuel; this year, it was a trade up to get Manuel an elite, go-to receiver in Clemson star Sammy Watkins.
There are two basic ways to look at the Watkins pick and the trade required for the Bills to make it, but there's a larger point to discuss before those considerations: this Bills regime is finding ways to get their guys. It puts GM Doug Whaley, head coach Doug Marrone and the entire football operation in no-excuses territory, but that's better than being in grin-and-bear-it territory. For better or worse, these guys are being bold and doing what it takes to make sure that if they fail, they're going to do it while ensuring that they held nothing back in finding players they thought could get the job done. That means a lot, and it's something Bills fans should be keeping in mind for the remainder of this weekend.
The short-term view
Because of the Bills' ownership situation - team founder Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. passed away in March, and the Bills could be sold as soon as this July, according to various reports - the current football regime at One Bills Drive can't be sure that they have a long term. Their best shot at keeping their jobs under new ownership, therefore, is to end the team's NFL-long, 14-season playoff drought this year. The trade that Whaley orchestrated with the Cleveland Browns was very favorable for Buffalo in the short term.
- CLE gets: 2014 Round 1 pick (traded to MIN), 2015 Round 1 pick, 2015 Round 4 pick
- BUF gets: 2014 Round 1 pick (WR Sammy Watkins)
You'll note the absence of a second-round pick from Buffalo involved in that deal. The Bills were able to move up to get their guy in Watkins, and they kept their two picks (Nos. 41 and 73) tomorrow night, preserving their ability to walk out of this draft class with another two early contributors - perhaps even starters. That, again, is huge for a regime that needs all of the immediate help it can get. They came into this weekend with six draft picks, and they exit Round 1 with the same number.
Make no mistake about it: the decision amps up the pressure for the Bills to make the playoffs in 2014. Anything short of that, and this move might end up looking a bit too bold next winter, when a new owner might be making a decision on the team's front office structure. "Playoffs or bust" might be the theme of the next eight months; the long-term ramifications of this deal notwithstanding, there is some appeal to that state of affairs.
And yeah, regardless of the opinion of the cost-benefit of what it took to take Watkins, he is a player that is going to be a tremendous asset in the team's playoff bid. Widely considered the best receiver prospect to come into the NFL since the 2011 duo of A.J. Green and Julio Jones, Watkins is the caliber of athlete that makes a quarterback better instantly - much like Green did for Andy Dalton in Cincinnati. There is no more important factor in the Bills' playoff push than a big leap in performance from Manuel, and the presence of Watkins increases the odds of that leap occurring by a considerable margin.
The long-term view
Honestly, after a month-plus of fretting over what the Bills might give up if they traded up as high as they reportedly looked into trading, the compensation sent to Cleveland seems meager. (It undoubtedly seems like a king's ransom for Browns fans, given their extremely eventful and exciting evening.) It isn't meager compensation, of course, but it might not be as debilitating as many assume it will be, either.
Barring some other massive maneuver that would re-net them a first-round pick, the 2015 NFL Draft will be the first that the Bills don't have a Round 1 selection in since 2005. That pick was traded to Dallas for a quarterback, J.P. Losman; it's a tougher pill to swallow when a future No. 1 pick is traded for anything other than a quarterback, even when the position (receiver) is one highly valued in the NFL.
The trade makes next May less fun, regardless of the regime that's in place. If it's the Whaley and Marrone crew, they're sitting without a first-round pick to better a team that has either made the playoffs, or come so close to it in ticket-selling fashion that everyone deems them on the cusp. If it's a new regime following a 2014 flop, the latest rebuilding effort will begin without an early draft pick. The current regime is undoubtedly okay with that possibility, but fans of the team that will outlast the current regime have a bit more to worry about.
Bottom line: the short-term view of tonight's events focus on the Bills going all in on making the playoffs this season, while the long-term view focuses on the potential ramifications of either a playoff team not being able to get significantly better next spring, or a new regime not having a first-round pick to begin a rebuild. That's the risk the Bills took tonight. They got a heck of a prospect, and they put a ton of pressure on themselves to make it work.
We'll see you tomorrow for a fun Day 2 of the 2014 NFL Draft, Bills fans.
|1||1||Texans||Jadeveon Clowney||DE||South Carolina|
|1||3||Jaguars||Blake Bortles||QB||Central Florida|
|1||4||Bills (f/CLE)||Sammy Watkins||WR||Clemson|
|1||6||Falcons||Jake Matthews||OT||Texas A&M|
|1||7||Buccaneers||Mike Evans||WR||Texas A&M|
|1||8||Browns (f/MIN)||Justin Gilbert||CB||Oklahoma State|
|1||9||Vikings (f/BUF via CLE)||Anthony Barr||LB||UCLA|
|1||10||Lions||Eric Ebron||TE||North Carolina|
|1||12||Giants||Odell Beckham, Jr.||WR||LSU|
|1||14||Bears||Kyle Fuller||CB||Virginia Tech|
|1||15||Steelers||Ryan Shazier||LB||Ohio State|
|1||16||Cowboys||Zack Martin||OG||Notre Dame|
|1||20||Saints (f/ARI)||Brandin Cooks||WR||Oregon State|
|1||21||Packers||Ha Ha Clinton-Dix||S||Alabama|
|1||22||Browns (f/PHI)||Johnny Manziel||QB||Texas A&M|
|1||24||Bengals||Darqueze Dennard||CB||Michigan State|
|1||27||Cardinals||Deone Bucannon||S||Washington State|
|1||28||Panthers||Kelvin Benjamin||WR||Florida State|
|1||30||49ers||Jimmie Ward||S||Northern Illinois|
|1||31||Broncos||Bradley Roby||CB||Ohio State|
|1||32||Vikings (f/SEA)||Teddy Bridgewater||QB||Louisville|