Over the whirlwind that has been the past few days, Kansas City Chiefs general manager Brett Veach has made something abundantly clear.
“He was one of the best receivers coming out in a long time,” Veach said, sitting to the left of Watkins at his introductory press conference. “Everybody loved the guy. He went top 10 for a reason. As I said yesterday, Sammy Watkins is a scheme fit for every team in the NFL.”
Watkins, 24, was the fourth-overall pick of the Buffalo Bills back in 2014, and he stayed in Buffalo for three seasons before the Bills traded him to the Los Angeles Rams last August. As it turned out, Veach had already been talking to Buffalo about Watkins’ availability at that time, but the Chiefs and Bills couldn’t strike a deal.
“I don’t think it ever really got close,” Veach said. “I was calling (general manager) Brandon Beane of Buffalo a lot and he made it clear that this is an immensely talented player. I’d have to get at least a [second-round pick].”
Veach wasn’t willing to give up a second-round pick after the Chiefs already traded their first-round pick in the deal for Patrick Mahomes. The Rams were able to offer the Bills a second-rounder along with cornerback EJ Gaines, and off to Los Angeles Watkins went.
Watkins started 14 games for the Rams in 2017, catching 39 passes for 539 yards and eight touchdowns.
Then last week something funny happened. Though the Rams were reportedly interested in bringing Watkins back, they opted not to franchise tag him, leaving him free for Veach to finally lure to Kansas City.
“It’s an exciting time for me because I chose to come out here,” Watkins said at his introductory presser. “[I want to] spend hopefully the rest of my career here. I’m just happy, excited to get started. It’s a very blessed moment for me and my family and this organization.”
Watkins has one visit to Arrowhead Stadium under his belt—that came two years ago as a member of the Buffalo Bills. he recorded six catches for 158 yards and two touchdowns in the game, arguably the best of his career.
But it was more than his own stat output in KC that attracted him to the city.
“Just the Chiefs Kingdom,” he said. “I played here two years ago and I feel like I fed off these fans, the fans they have in the stadium, the atmosphere. And of course you have the Hall of Fame coach Andy Reid, you have Patrick Mahomes. You have so many other players—Travis Kelce—so many other guys that have been here that have been doing great things ... my family was definitely a big [determinant] on where to go at.
“For me, I’m not a big city guy or party life, whatever the case may be, I just want to be somewhere where I can be comfortable, where my family could be comfortable...great schools, private schools around here, really where I can just raise my family and be happy and that’s what made me choose here.”
Watkins will join an already talented offense featuring the players he mentioned, as well as a player he didn’t mention—Tyreek Hill. Reid said that Hill would remain at the “Z” position in his West Coast offense, while Watkins would line up at the “X” to start with.
This essentially means Hill is still technically “the guy,” though that doesn’t really matter as Reid moves his receivers and tight ends all across the line of scrimmage during any given game.
Asked who he grew up watching, Watkins mentioned names like Terrell Owens, Jerry Rice, Michael Irvin and Randy Moss.
Veach is betting when it is all said and done, Watkins will be among them.
“It’s just hard to acquire these guys,” he said, almost beaming. “When you’re sitting in free agency and you see a 24-year-old elite playmaker, you don’t get those opportunities a lot, and with what we have where we’re going ... we said we may not get this chance again ... we got one chance to go get him. Let’s make it happen.”