In a whirlwind of an early Friday afternoon, the Buffalo Bills have decided to move on from often-injured playmaker Sammy Watkins. Along with a 2018 6th round draft pick, Buffalo traded him to the Los Angeles Rams in order to acquire CB E. J. Gaines and a 2nd round 2018 draft pick. Wow. Just wow!
Watkins was said to be in the mix for the 2nd pick overall in the 2014 draft for the Rams, but they opted to take LT Greg Robinson instead which ultimately in hindsight looked like a bust for the organization. Now that coach Sean McVay is the new guy in town, he knew he needed a bonafide WR1 to help second year QB Jared Goff, and Watkins is that when healthy. The key words in that sentence are definitely “when healthy”. He missed 11 games over the past two seasons due to foot problems and is entering the final year of his contract. With the trade, the Rams no longer have the ability to exercise his 2018 option after the Bills declined it earlier this offseason. However, I believe the Rams didn’t trade for a one-year rental either for their WR1 spot. They’ll either use the franchise tag next season to work on a contract or extend Watkins during this upcoming season. Let’s break it down in some fantasy terms to what the landscape might look like after this blockbuster trade.
Fantasy Reaction: Rams Offense
Sammy Watkins is moving to a team that has a similar scheme and is considered a run-heavy offense just like the Buffalo Bills. However, the perception of other new teammates of Sammy has changed significantly. I think more importantly it takes some relief off of Todd Gurley, who has been controversial in fantasy circles this offseason. Though most analysts and writers including myself believe that Gurley is in for a bounce-back season, defenses from opposing teams have to respect and plan for the passing game of LA now that they tout a true WR1 in Watkins. This means less of the box being stacked as Gurley might be able to surprise some defenders with his progress in the passing game.
Check out The Path to WR1: Sammy Watkins from earlier this offseason.
This is also a great opportunity for a young and still developing Jared Goff. He now has a talented pass catcher to throw to in Watkins who can pull it down and separate easily from defensive backs when he is at 100%. To put it simply, he is a game changer. Newly signed Robert Woods, who was Watkins’ teammate in Buffalo, and rookie Cooper Kupp, who’s impressing coaches and personnel alike, gives Goff the chance to really take a step up in production from year one.
This does hinder the sleeper potential of Robert Woods as a whole but he still could be a sneaky grab for someone to take a waiver on, especially if Watkins gets injured again. And, in all honesty, it’s starting to look like doomsday for WR Tavon Austin, who was once looked at as the cornerstone of the Rams offense. We know Austin might be used in the slot but he has mostly been used for trick or sweep plays out of the backfield. If Coach McVay can’t come up with more clever ways of using him, his time as a Ram seems to be dwindling with the statement made today in this trade.
Fantasy Reaction: Sammy Watkins
Thus far in his career, Watkins accumulated 153 receptions for 2,459 receiving yards, and 17 touchdowns while in Buffalo. With the move to the west coast for Sammy, this does change some things especially when it comes to his Average Draft Position (ADP). Right now before any adjustments have been made, Watkins is being drafted in PPR formats at the 3.11 spot according to Fantasy Football Calculator. Watkins had been able to build a rapport with former QB Tyrod Taylor the past couple of seasons and flashed WR1 ability when playing the game fully healthy. Now he finds himself a new acquisition and will need time to develop similar chemistry with Jared Goff who is still trying to figure everything out as far as the playbook and the difference in play from the college level to the elite plateau of the NFL. This is just a gut feeling without really diving in and looking at the numbers and a quick first take, but I believe Sammy Watkins for right now should be seen as a high-end WR2. He has potential to be the steal of the draft with massive upside if Goff can develop quicker than what he is letting on currently in camp.
Just don’t correlate the name to the production of the past just yet. Watch the pre-season first to see how he looks in his new home. Give it some time and look for the right matchups to plug him in as your WR2 or flex positions. Make sure you are checking out The Ultimate Draft Kit and the website for Andy, Mike, and Jason’s reflections of this trade to their rankings. Be sure to be listening on Monday to the podcast when they will be talking about all the craziness the fantasy football world brought us on August 11th, 2017.