Much of the attention surrounding the Buffalo Bills’ offseason has been focused on first-round pick Sammy Watkins, and justifiably so. Watkins was among the very best players to come out of college this past season and the Bills’ justified the hype by trading up to select the former Clemson star fourth overall in this month’s draft. The Bills’ star rookie will likely be the team’s number one wide receiver from day one.
But despite the enormous amount of hype and expectations surrounding Watkins, he is not the Bills’ most important receiver going into the 2014 season. That distinction belongs to a player that the Bills’ drafted high in the 2013 draft, Robert Woods.
After taking EJ Manuel in the first round last year, the Bills followed up that pick by selecting the former USC standout to serve as a reliable target for their new franchise quarterback, and for the most part, Woods did not disappoint as a rookie. In 14 games in 2013, Woods caught 40 passes for 587 yards and three touchdowns. While those totals may not seem impressive at first glance, it is important to remember that the Bills’ quarterback play was inconsistent to say the least in 2013. Manuel missed almost half the season due to multiple injuries, and Thad Lewis and Jeff Tuel were hardly star material as backups. When Manuel and Woods were on the field together, they showed a good rapport with one another.
Woods will likely start the 2014 season as Buffalo’s No. 2 wide receiver, which is good for both Woods and the team as a whole. Woods is a quality player, but he is nowhere near as talented as Watkins. Watkins will draw most of the attention from opposing defenses, leaving Woods to be covered by less skilled defensive backs. When Manuel is not able to get the ball to Watkins, he will have Woods as his second option, and if Woods is able to improve on his solid rookie season, he should be able to put up very good numbers. Coupled with a strong running game and an improved offensive line, the potential emergence of Woods could lead to a significantly improved Buffalo Bills team.