By Budd Bailey, Buffalo Sports Page Columnist
No. 11: April 30, 2014 – The Bills trade a first-round draft choice in 2014 (Tavon Austin), a first-round draft choice in 2015, and a fourth-round draft choice in 2015 (Ibraheim Campbell) to Cleveland for a first-round draft choice in 2014 (Sammy Watkins).
The first three picks in the 2014 NFL had been made, and the Bills took a good look at their roster and their own board of ranked players who were available in the draft. They had a huge need at wide receiver, as Stevie Johnson was the only player at the position to catch 50 passes in 2013. Buffalo also had a quarterback who was entering his second year in EJ Manuel, who needed a prime target. And the Bills’ coaching staff noticed that the player who the team ranked as No. 1 overall in the country – wide receiver Sammy Watkins of Clemson – was still unpicked as Cleveland was considering its options at No. 4.
The Bills opted to be bold and trade up in the first round to obtain the Browns’ selection. It cost Buffalo the No. 8 pick in the first round and a fourth-rounder in 2014, plus another first-round choice in 2015. That was a high price, but they hoped Watkins would be worth it. This was an eye-opener of a deal, one that caught the attention of the entire football world.
Watkins had a couple of seasons in Buffalo with 60+ receptions. However, issues at quarterback remained an issue, and Watkins also had some injury problems. He only stayed three seasons before he was traded to the Rams. Perhaps the biggest problem with the deal was the man who was taken right after Watkins in the first round. Khalil Mack became one of the best linebackers in the NFL, and it’s not as if the Bills didn’t have a chance to watch him play. After all, Mack was a standout at the University at Buffalo.
(Follow Budd on Twitter @WDX2BB)