Over the last two years, the Buffalo Bills have been a relatively one-dimensional team. They’ve finished second in rushing attempts and first in yards in each of those years while falling to the bottom of the pack in passing attempts. While plenty of that involves the dynamic ground talent they have, at least part of it owes to the lack of receiving talent they’ve had on the roster. The most talented receiver on the roster missed half of last year, but will be good to go at the start of training camp today.
Name: Sammy Watkins
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 211 lbs.
Draft: Round 1, Pick 4 by the Buffalo Bills (2014)
Financial Situation (per Spotrac): Watkins is on the final season of his rookie contract, as the Bills declined his fifth-year option. He cap hit this year is just north of $6.3 million, all of which is guaranteed.
2016 Recap: Watkins only appeared in eight games last year due to a foot injury that limited him for a couple games before it landed him on short-term injured reserve for two months. In the eight games he did play, Watkins caught 28 passes for 430 yards and two scores. One of those came during his season-best performance in the 34-31 overtime loss to the Dolphins in Week 16, where Watkins caught seven passes for 154 yards.
Positional Outlook: The only person within spitting distance of Watkins on the depth chart is second-round draft pick Zay Jones, who could find himself bumped down a notch if the Bills end up signing Anquan Boldin. The only thing that will keep Watkins from the top of the depth chart is his health.
2017 Offseason: Watkins had a second surgery on his injured foot in January, and he’s been working to come back from that all offseason. His recovery has progressed to the point that he’ll be completely healthy in time for the start of training camp today.
2017 Season Outlook: If Watkins can play in all 16 games this year, the Bills will be an order of magnitude more competitive than they would have been otherwise. Watkins never really got going last year until Week 16, a game the Bills lost in large part to the poor performance by the run defense. If they’re even going to hope to challenge for a playoff spot this year, they’ll need him at full tilt.
Of course, if he does, he’ll be in line for a nice payday next offseason, but that’s a story for another time