The Bills shocked a ton of people today by making two trades that on the surface make it seem like they are rebuilding. Trading away a guy like Sammy Watkins may seem like a big deal but taking a deeper look at the numbers I'm not sad he's gone and I think they won the day. To me getting rid of Watkins for essentially what mounts to a likely high 2nd rounder and Jordan Matthews who may very well be a better receiver in Buffalo than he ever was in Philly. I was a big Sammy Watkins guy, I drafted him three straight years unashamed because I believed.
Sammy is essentially like a football drug, when he's on as a Bills fan you feel wonderful, yet more likely than not after you've come down you realize you're an addict to something that really isn't all to good for you. In terms of catch percentage and drops Eagles fans have made a big deal out of Matthews drops but when you catch average around a catch percentage of 65% of 115 targets a year of course you're going to have some drops. When you look at the guys above him or tied with him every year you see elite players littered all over. His rookie year he had less drops than Demaryius Thomas, Steve Smith, and Gronk. His second year he was behind Julio, B-Marsh, and tied with OBJ. Last year he had as many drops as Kelce and Hilton and less than Evans. All the while he has maintained a fairly solid catch percentage which in a cold weather city like Buffalo has tons of importance. They brought in Boldin, Philly Brown, Andre Holmes, and Rod Streater to go along with Zay Jones and now Matthews. That's more depth and variety than they've had in the past few years and could actually benefit Taylor rather than hurt him as he's never been one that lives by the deep ball as his last two years Yards per Attempt were around 7.5 give or take, just .3 less than Tom Brady's career average for comparison. As for Watkins Catch percentage, his career high of 62.5% was just .1 percent higher than Matthews career lowest which came last year, and missed 11 games in his career compared to 2 for Matthews. While Watkins doesn't have to seem as much as a problem with drops with his career high being 4 as a rookie, he also clearly the riskier WR of the two even with all his talent. Foot injuries are no joke and Watkins hasn't shown an ability to stay healthy. Due to hit free agency clearly the Bills felt better about a guy like Matthews than they did about Watkins if they had to extend someone going forward.
The Darby Gaines deal could very well be a mistake but at the same time Darby regressed mightily since a strong rookie campaign and has had character issues in the past. Moving on and getting an extra draft pick plus a wildcard in E.J Gaines as a stopgap could be the best for a team that wasn't a Super Bowl contender before the trades.
As for the draft the Bills now have 2 picks in each of the first 3 rounds! If they indeed got worse they now have a better chance at competing for a high draft pick. In addition Charlie has the Bills the Rams sending the 36th pick to Buffalo. Historically that pick has plenty of value. Since the 07' draft the 36th pick amounted to Kevin Kolb, Jordy Nelson (Pro Bowl), Brian Robiskie, Dexter McCluster (Pro Bowl), Colin Kaeperinick (Went to Super Bowl), Derek Wolfe (Solid 3-4 DE), Darius Slay (#1 Corner), Derek Carr (Franchise QB), T.J. Yeldon (Nice 3rd Down Back), Myles Jack (Jury Still Out), and Budda Baker (Too Soon). For the most part outside of Yeldon, and Robiskie, and Kolb, each of these players carved out a nice career in the NFL. Even Kevin Kolb netted the Eagles DRC, and a 2nd rounder which got them Vinny Curry and Brandon Boykin. As of now the Bills are Mocked for Josh Rosen, Christian Kirk, and Ronnie Harrison. The 36th pick is currently projected to be James Washington. The Bills realistically won't be able to create massive cap space until 2019 thanks to the prior regime. They could easily keep the current team including Matthews, draft a quarterback to groom behind Tyrod or trade down and continue to amass draft picks. Given free agents don't usually choose Buffalo the plan in Buffalo is smarter than it would be in most other areas.
Not only are the draft picks valuable but they take on an extra intrigue when you look at the schedules for the Chiefs, Bills, Eagles, and Rams you can see where all those picks wind up being valuable. The Chiefs are in a tough division and have to play the AFC East and NFC East getting the Cowboys AFTER Zeke comes back from suspension. The Bills face the NFC South and the AFC West meaning they have to play Falcons, Bucs, Broncos, Chiefs, Raiders, Chargers, and Panthers. Their saving grace is they play the Jets twice although unfortunately they landed a week one matchup which tend to be tight games, and the fact they landed their warm weather and dome opponents in the Bucs, Raiders, Saints, Colts and Dolphins in Buffalo when the weather in Buffalo should start to become a factor gives them some hope. Even their early schedule is daunting having to go to Atlanta, Cincy and Carolina while facing the Broncos at home. The Eagles remain a distant 3rd behind the Giants and Cowboys and get the AFC and NFC West two divisions that have at least 2 teams that are playoff contenders (Sorry Rams and Niners). Lastly the Rams are the Rams. I know they brought in a new head coach and signed a few guys but this is a team that was 10th in points allowed, and last in points scored. Their big additions were the starting WRs for the Bills last year (How Ironic is that?) in Woods and Watkins, an aging Andrew Whitworth, John Sullivan, Kavyon Webster, Nickell Robey-Coleman, plus their draft that included 2 WRs, a saftey and a tight end, none of whom I would put in my ROY race prior to the season. So how much better are they actually? Obviously we won't know until the games are played but based on preseason rankings on most sites including this one weren't high on them before they went out and acquired an injury prone WR for CB in a passing league.
When the dust settles the Bills could be looking at a haul of draft picks that resembles what the Browns did this past draft which was widely praised by many and seems to be a smart strategy in terms of building a team going forward. In addition with guys like Jacob Eason, Ed Oliver, Deandre Francois, Dexter Lawrence, Rashan Gary looking like early entries in the 2019 draft the Bills could very well trade down again similar to this year and continue to amass a war chest of draft picks to build their team the right way.