Another offseason, another reason (or piece of evidence) that showcases that there is a more intelligent scouting department installed at One Bills Drive than analysts and people off the street are willing to give credit to.
I was bored as h*** at work today and I decided to surf the internet. The usual gamut of websites I visit with high frequency are bleacherreport.com, buffalobills.com, buffalorumblings.com (of course), and NFL.com along with the other leagues’ respective websites. Considering that today is the eve of our nation’s independence anniversary celebration, there really is not much to read about that truly holds any significance, albeit season ending injuries like the one that befell the Bills’ defensive superstar. I am still crying today about it. However, to the eye of someone who is extremely bored, sometimes low-profile stories pique that person’s interest and could potentially prove to be bigger than they first appear.
Which leads me to the point of this posting. On the NFL.com there is little 4-5 paragraph story about rookie WR for the Bucs: Mike Evans. http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap2000000363228/article/buccaneers-mike-evans-looking-to-drop-weight In the story, writer Kevin Pratta discloses the mundane news that Evans has admitted to being a little overweight leading into his first training camp and that he is having trouble understanding the playbook after playing under a much simpler scheme in college. As a Bills fan, one might wonder how does this even matter considering that the Bills do not play the Bucs this year or that the Bucs are in a completely different conference. Well, I think it is evidence of how well the Bills scouting staff are able to evaluate talent and potential.
When the Bills moved up in the 2014 draft to get Watkins there were some analysts and armchair quarterbacks who questioned the trade with the Browns. A revolving theme was that the team could have given up a lot less (to a team with a lower draft slot) or even sat back and could have drafted Evans, who some believe contains a better skill set for the NFL. Obviously, Evans has some benefits that Watkins does not: taller and more physical. However, I think that Bills’ staff saw something intangible in Watkins that Evans does not possess. Those traits that I allude to are maturity, leadership skills, intelligence, and the drive to be a No. 1 receiver in this league. Personally, the two players’ physical abilities are a wash. Where Evans has Watkins on size, Sammy is a ton more explosive than Mike. They both have NFL caliber hands, eye-hand coordination and can be relied upon to make a difficult catch. The major difference between the two is what I have mentioned above. Watkins was ready for his career to begin the minute he was drafted. Evans it seems is still trying to wrap his head around what it takes to be true star (and if you are a player taken in the first ten picks in any year’s draft, I think you best be ready to be perform like a star from day one). Other than talent, a top ten pick should be able to show up to OTA’s underweight and be able to grasp a majority of the playbook. True, Watkins still has some chemistry to create with EJ and he admits that his route tree was simpler in college but no where do you hear him complaining about the difficulty of comprehending his routes. As a matter of fact, he has said that he has learned aplenty from his short time in the team’s rookie minicamp.
Now, I am not saying the Evans will be a bust. Especially, when you consider that Bruce Smith had weight problems his rookie year and that Dareus’ had weight problems leading into last season. What I am saying is that when Buffalo had a choice between Evans and Watkins, I feel that Watkins was the best option and the scouting department got this one right. I will even go so far in saying that Whaley and his staff have gone above and beyond what was expected of them around the league. Collectively, they have an eye for talent in every facet of what a player is expected to be in this new culture of the NFL.