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On Sammy Watkins’ Age, Production and Quantifying His Impact

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Sammy Watkins turned 23 yesterday. Let's take a look at what he’s accomplished as a young NFL star and truly examine his impact on Tyrod Taylor.

Sammy Watkins turned 23 yesterday, which seems incredible relative to what he’s accomplished thus far in the NFL.

I’ve had some Watkins-related research ready to use in an article for a while now, but figured I can just add it here. Before I get to that, though... let’s circle back to his age and production.

Going as far back as the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, here’s a Top 7 ranking of the most receiving yards for wideouts by the conclusion of their age 22 season:

Credit: Josh Rawdin, Buffalo Rumblings

Without a doubt, the aerial renaissance the NFL finds itself in today has helped to “inflate” some figures for young, modern-day receivers. However, eclipsing the 2,000-yard mark before your 23rd birthday is still quite the feat, and standing alone in fifth behind those pass-catchers is undoubtedly impressive.

Watkins’ 16.23 yards-per-catch average trails only Randy Moss and Josh Gordon in the 2,000-Yards-By-23-Years-Old Club.

If you include receivers who had at least 75 receptions by the end of their age 22 season, only Moss, Gordon, Kenny Stills and Kenny Britt managed a higher yards-per-catch average than Watkins. His 15 touchdown grabs are good for sixth within these age-related constraints as well.

Going one step further, Watkins has seen 224 NFL targets, meaning his grand total of 2,029 receiving yards equates to a yards-per-target average of 9.23. Among the Top 10 wideouts in total receiving yards by the max age of 22, Watkins has only been outdone by Moss (10.44) and Gordon (9.61).

Watkins’ Impact on Bills QBs

You don’t need me to tell you Watkins is a game-changer for the Bills and whoever is under center for Buffalo. However, I figured you might be interested to know just how impactful he is.

Last season, Tyrod Taylor and EJ Manuel averaged 6.65 yards per attempt when Watkins was not on the field. Blah.

For perspective, Colin Kaepernick averaged 6.61 yards per attempt in 2015, which was 32nd in the NFL out of 35 qualifying signal-callers.

When Watkins was on the field, Taylor and Manuel combined for a 7.38 yards-per-attempt average. Blake Bortles averaged 7.30 yards per attempt last year, good for 15th in the league.

The disparity is even more staggering when solely focusing on Taylor.

  • Taylor with Watkins: 8.23 YPA
  • Taylor without Watkins: 7.13 YPA

Using YPA as the sole measuring stick, Watkins helped to make Taylor basically as efficient as 2015 Russell Wilson (8.33 YPA). When Watkins wasn’t on the field with Taylor, the Bills quarterback was essentially as efficient as 2015 Brian Hoyer (7.06 YPA).

Striking statistics, especially in that context, right?

Watkins is currently nursing a broken foot, and in my intro Rumblings article, I mentioned I don’t think Watkins should take a snap — in training camp or preseason — before Week 1 of the regular season against the Baltimore Ravens.

That thought won’t change.

Although Robert Woods and Charles Clay are solid primary “second options,” a plethora of veterans are battling for the No. 3 WR spot and speedster Kolby Listenbee is now in the mix, Watkins’ on-field presence is of the utmost importance in regard to the efficiency of Buffalo's offense.