(John Rieger/USA TODAY Sports)

Stop comparing Sammy Watkins to Odell Beckham Jr.

Stop comparing Odell Beckham Jr. and Sammy Watkins and credit the Bills for being aggressive. Beckham has quite a few factors working in his favor.

Odell Beckham Jr. has had a better start to his career than Sammy Watkins. That can’t be debated. Beckham Jr. may actually have the best start ever for a wide receiver. He’s been outstanding for the NY Giants and he deserves all of the praise that he receives.

That said, it gets tiresome to see him compared to Watkins. The Buffalo Bills traded up for Watkins in the 2014 NFL draft and some people like to dwell on the fact that Buffalo could have stayed in their start slot and selected Beckham Jr. Jason La Canfora was the most recent person to compare the receivers but his tweet, as seen below, misses the mark.

https://twitter.com/JasonLaCanfora/status/676609126449987588

The haunt comment and comparing Watkins to Manuel is pretty preposterous. Moving away from that for the time being, there are many reasons why it’s not fair to compare Watkins to Beckham Jr. and here’s just a few of those reasons.

Quarterbacks

Here’s the biggest difference between Beckham Jr. and Watkins. The Giants wide receiver has a borderline Hall of Fame quarterback throwing him the ball. Eli Manning isn’t Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers but he’s still in the upper echelon of NFL quarterbacks.

Watkins hasn’t been so lucky in Buffalo. He’s had the aforementioned EJ Manuel, Kyle Orton and Tyrod Taylor throwing him the ball. Manuel has shown that he doesn’t have the ability to be an NFL starter and Orton was decent last season but at best, he was an average quarterback. Buffalo’s current quarterback, Taylor, is currently in his first season as a starter and is developing as an NFL QB before our eyes.

Taylor has been very good at times this season but there’s no telling if he’ll develop into a quality NFL starter.

Put Beckham Jr. with Manuel, Orton and Taylor and tell me with a straight face that he’d have the same stats that he does now.

Targets

Not surprisingly, Beckham has seen a much higher number of targets. Here’s a breakdown for each receiver.

Player

Games Played

Starts

Targets

Receptions

Yards

Touchdowns

Odell Beckham Jr.

25

24

272

176

2,625

24

Sammy Watkins

26

26

191

104

1,698

13

 

Despite one less game played, Beckham Jr. has seen 81 more targets. At this point in his career, Beckham Jr. has seen 10.88 targets per game whereas Watkins is at 7.34 targets per game.

Beckham has caught about 65 percent of his targets to date. Watkins has only caught 54 percent of his targets but a lot of this goes back to the accuracy of his quarterback.

One area where Watkins bests Beckham is in yards per catch. The Bills receiver averages 16.3 yards per reception to Beckham’s 14.9 yards per reception.

Catchable Targets

It's one thing to be targeted by a quarterback, but how many of those targets are actually catchable? Pro Football Focus breaks catchable targets. Here's a season-by-season look at catchable targets. 

Note: The targets listed at PFF aren't the same as the targets listed on other sites. 

2014 Catchable Targets

Player Targets Catchable Targets Catchable Target Percentage
Sammy Watkins 124 70 56%
Odell Beckham Jr. 129 93 72%

That's a pretty large gap between the duo in terms of catchable targets in their rookie seasons.

2015 Catchable Targets

Player Targets Catchable Targets Catchable Target Percentage
Sammy Watkins 63 41 65%
Odell Beckham Jr. 137 87 64%

In year two, their catchable target percentages are much closer. That's a testiment to how accurate Tyrod Taylor has been when targeting Watkins. That said, the biggest difference this year is the pure volume of targets. Beckham Jr. has more than doubled Watkins' targets. This has a lot to do with Buffalo being a run first offense (395 rush attempts) and the Giants being 22nd in the league in this category (320 attempts). In the passing game, the Giants have 500 attempted passes compared to Buffalo's 392 pass attempts (30th in the league). 

Watkins not "haunting" Buffalo

Despite the questionable quarterback that Watkins has dealt with, it’s no surprise that he hasn’t outperformed Beckham Jr. That said, La Canfora’s “haunt” comment was foolish at best.

BuffaloBills.com recently wrote an article looking at Watkins’ stats and how they fare all time versus fellow Bills receivers.

Watkins needs two receptions to pass Robert Woods and Jerry Butler (105 receptions) as the team’s all-time leader in receptions after two seasons. The receiver already leads all-time in receiving yards at 1,698 and if he scores four touchdowns in the final three weeks, he’ll surpass Lee Evans’ Bills record of 16 touchdowns in two seasons.

He may not be putting up Beckham’s numbers, but he’s been very good for the Bills.

NFL Draft What Ifs…

There’s nothing I hate more than NFL draft what ifs. La Canfora makes the assumption that the Bills would have drafted Beckham Jr. if they would have stayed put in the 2014 NFL draft. That’s a faulty assumption. Truthfully, no one knows what Buffalo’s draft board looked like. Is it possible that Beckham would have been the pick? Sure. However, the Bills were supposedly smitten with Eric Ebron as well. Instead of staying put, the Bills actually showed aggressiveness for once. Will it pay off long-term? We’ll have to wait and see. That said, staying put over the last decade plus certainly hasn’t paid dividends for Buffalo.

After La Canfora sent out his tweet, Joe Banner, former Browns CEO, also chimed in on the matter:

https://twitter.com/JoeBanner13/status/676612900363100160

Technically, the Bills swapped firsts and gave up a first and a fourth for Watkins. A steep price? Sure, but Buffalo wanted Watkins and he has performed in his first two seasons. How about the players the Browns added from the trade?

The Browns used Buffalo’s first round pick in 2014 to move up and draft Justin Gilbert. The cornerback has been the definition of a bust. In 2015, Cleveland used Buffalo’s first round pick on Cam Erving and their fourth round pick on Ibraheim Campbell. Erving has struggled greatly in his rookie season with the Browns. Campbell actually performed well on the field this year in Week 8 and 9 but he’s struggled to see the field since that point. Since Week 9, Campbell has played nine defensive snaps.

No one knows how Buffalo would have used their picks in 2014 or 2015 if they had stayed put but they easily could have drafted players who struggled to make an immediate impact much like the Browns did in 2014 and 2015.

Conclusion

ODB’s career is off to an unbelievable start and he deserves all of the praise that comes his way. That said, stop comparing him to Watkins. The two players are in completely different situations and Watkins is doing an unbelievable job in his own right.   


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