Orchard Park, N.Y. (WBEN) - Following their first round pick os Sammy Watkins in the NFL Draft, Bills brass talked with the media:
President & CEO Russ Brandon & General Manager Doug Whaley
Thursday, May 8, 2014 President/CEO Russ Brandon Opening Statement:
We certainly are excited about what just happened. We went in to this draft saying we were going to be bold and we made a bold move. I just want to give a lot of credit obviously to our General Manager Doug Whaley and our scouts and the preparation that has gone on over the last eight months. Obviously Sammy Watkins was a player that was very, very, very high on our board and someone that we felt could contribute immediately and we’re sitting up here very pleased right now. We’ll open it up to questions and look forward to answering them.
Q: Why make this move and what do you think about Sammy Watkins?
Doug Whaley: Dynamic playmaker. That’s what this game is all about, making plays. This game is about making plays and surrounding our quarterback with playmakers. He’s automatically going to make our quarterback better and us better as a team. I do want to start this by saying this all goes back to Russ Brandon. He allowed us to make this move and he okayed it and was willing to give up the resources and future picks to go up and get a guy that we think will help us get to where we need to be.
Q: How do you feel about giving up next year’s first round pick?
DW: Very high cost. We thought it was a calculated risk and a risk we were willing to take. The high costs not making the playoffs is something we weighed in and we thought this guy was going to get us to the playoffs. We think for us, the Bills organization, Mr. Wilson and the Bills nation out there, it was well worth it.
Q: In terms of the overall success of drafts, how expensive is this trade weighed against what he brings to the table?
DW: Well anything that’s worth having is worth working for and you’re going to have to give up something. Yes we gave up something, but we thought it was a calculated effort and that it was a win for us now and in the future. We’re building our roster now and granted you hate giving up number one picks, but we thought what he brings to us now is worth the low one that we’ll be giving up next year.
Q: Did you feel you had a good chance of pulling this trade off with the Browns?
DW: It came together in the last minute. We had talked throughout the week with a bunch of teams, nothing solid, but as the draft started to unfold the talks intensified and then we hammered a deal out actually with maybe five minutes on the Browns pick.
Q: You said you were giving up a low first round pick, is that a guarantee of the playoffs?
DW: That’s not a guarantee. I’m saying we expect it to be low.
Q: Do you feel your job is on the line if you don’t make the playoffs?
DW: I’m a competitor and call me crazy, I like those odds.
Q: You’ve said all along you’re all in on EJ Manuel. How much is this an endorsement of that?
DW: I think it’s self-explanatory. I don’t meant to be flippant about it, but that’s it. We want to surround EJ Manuel with every possible weapon he can to help us get to where we need to go.
Q: You have a lot of receivers on this team now and one ball. How do you see this playing out?
DW: I think competition is going to bring out the best and it’s going to give options to EJ. It also gives options to our offensive coordinator and it makes us tougher to defend.
Q: How receptive was Cleveland to taking on picks from next year?
DW: There were different negotiations and that’s what it always comes down to. We settled on something that we thought was a win-win for both of us.
RB: To answer your question on that too is that last year when we pulled off the trade with St. Louis, that was a much different scenario, the way the trade market worked last year. We were in conversations throughout the week and had the framework done prior to the draft. This was definitely a conversation during the week, but it was very quiet over the last 48 hours leading right up to draft time. Really on the clock type conversations which was a little bit unique this year.
Q: Can you talk more about Sammy?
DW: The total body of work, not just one game. If you look at his resume it is pretty impressive. We believe he’s got great ball skills. He’s explosive; he can get in and out of cuts. He’ll be able to separate with his quickness and burst, but he also attacks the ball. He plays much bigger than his size and that is an added benefit for him, we like to say being open when he is covered. That elongates the target for EJ to have.
Q: What is the future for Stevie Johnson?
DW: This is all about our first round pick Sammy Watkins. We’re taking this all in, leaving this to you guys to pontificate on that. We’re all about Sammy Watkins right now and we’re excited about that. Stevie is on our team, he is under contract and that is another weapon in our arsenal.
Q: Do you see the ability to step right in and be productive right away?
DW: Yes, we do and that is why we made the commitment to him.
Q: Were you more willing to give up next year’s number one pick because of the ownership change and nobody knows what the future holds?
RB: Not at all. From that standpoint, we’ve been very upfront about that. It’s business as usual. I’m not worried about anything relative to the sale of the franchise when it comes to the football operation. When it comes to how we go about our day to day business and everything we do, it’s business as usual. This trade was made as a football decision that is focused on the 2014 season.
DW: To answer it in football terms, we’re willing to give up not making the playoffs again for Sammy. That’s what we looked at it as. We want to make the playoffs, so being 14 and not making the playoffs, that is the tradeoff we expected.
Q: How much did you target Sammy going in to today?
DW: I know everybody says this, but he was the highest rated player on our board. I told you guys at the press luncheon, we had a block of players we’d trade up for and he was obviously one of them.
Q: What was the biggest difference between him and the next receiver on your board?
DW: I wouldn’t say there was that much. Obviously there is a difference and that is why we coveted Sammy. Not to give any particulars, there wasn’t that much of a difference.
Q: There was a lot of speculation about Jacksonville taking Sammy Watkins. Did them taking Blake Bortles instead of Watkins jump you in to action?
DW: There were some preliminary discussions before that, but when (Blake) Bortles came off the board the talks definitely intensified.
RB: From that standpoint, you’re always doing your due diligence. You’re having conversations with everyone in front of you and obviously with all of your peers. From that standpoint, there is constant conversation that is going on above you for certain. We wouldn’t be doing our jobs if we weren’t doing that. Some teams obviously behind us as well. There is constant dialogue. Obviously when Bortles was taken, it certainly picked up as far as the conversations with Cleveland.
Q: In a roundabout way, a local guy in Jacksonville GM David Caldwell helped Sammy Watkins come to Buffalo.
RB: I talked to David a few times.
Q: Did you know what they were doing?
RB: Had a pretty good idea.
WR Sammy Watkins Conference Call
Thursday, May 8, 2014 Q: What is your reaction to being a Buffalo Bill?
A: Very excited. Just a blessing to be a Buffalo Bill. Just to get started with the young guys on the team—EJ (Manuel), C.J. (Spiller), Robert Woods and Stevie Johnson. It is just a blessing.
Q: They gave up a lot of future to get you. How much pressure does that put on your shoulders?
A: That is a lot, but for me, I think I am prepared. We have a great staff to get you prepared. I have a lot of great receivers that I can stand behind and get me to where I need to be. I need to be 100 percent when I get there. I need to be starting off on the right foot.
Q: Did you have an idea that the Bills would trade up to get you?
A: I did not really think that they were going to come up to get me, but I had my interview with them and Mr. Doug (Whaley) just kept telling me he was going to come up to get me. I was just thinking it was all fun and games—I was on an interview. Next thing you know, here we come May 8 and I am chosen to be a Buffalo Bill.
Q: You were a Bills fan growing up. How did that happen?
A: Just being a young kid, you like colors. You like the red, white and blue. You watched all the great receivers they had then and Drew Bledsoe. Then being a kid, you play the games with the best teams and at the time, they were the best team. One of the best teams. So I just used to play the games with them and beat everybody.
Q: Did anything stick out to you from your pre-draft visit?
A: Yeah, they have a great program going on. You have three (Clemson) Tigers up there; you have guys I played with and guys that weren’t on my team that I went against. It’s a blessing that I’m going to have a couple Tigers up there.
Q: How well do you know C.J. Spiller?
A: Great guy who helped me through my process with Clemson, who upgraded me and it’s just a blessing to have him throughout my process with Clemson and now I’m going to the Buffalo Bills. It’s just a great process and it’s going to be a great journey.
Q: What do you feel you can contribute and bring to the table right away in the NFL?
A: As a player I think I bring a lot to the table. You’re going to get a great, you’re going to get a hard player, get a guy that loves the game and a guy that understand the game, understands the power of preparation. I think if I just keep doing what I’ve been doing at Clemson it will translate to the NFL.
Q: What Bills player did you latch on to when you were growing up watching this team?
A: Andre Reed most of the time. That’s the guy I watched all the time and now he’s a future Hall of Famer. Actually I’m in New York, so he’s down here, so we were partying it up. I met him a couple times, he was at a couple events with me and told me to keep doing what I’ve been doing and one day I could be in his position.