Top wide receivers drafted each of the past eight years:
2007 Calvin Johnson, 2nd (Lions)
2008 Donnie Avery, 33rd (Rams)
2009 Darrius Heyward-Bey, 7th (Raiders)
2010 DeMaryius Thomas, 22nd (Broncos)
2011 A.J. Green, 4th (Bengals)
2012 Justin Blackmon, 5th (Jaguars)
2013 Tavon Austin, 8th (Rams)
2014 Sammy Watkins, 4th (Bills)
CLEMSON - Nearly four months ago, Sammy Watkins was asked at his final Clemson press conference which NFL team he rooted for as a boy.
Sure, Watkins would admit he kept a close eye on the three teams in his native Florida: the Jaguars, the Buccaneers, the Dolphins. The former two were potentially in a position to draft the dynamic wide receiver Thursday.
However, the first team Watkins mentioned came as a bit of a surprise.
"The Buffalo Bills were my favorite team, before (ex-Clemson tailback) C.J. (Spiller) even went there," Watkins said on Jan. 9. "I don't know, I just always liked the Buffalo Bills."
He loves them now.
Watkins equaled the highest draft pick in Tigers football history Thursday night when he went fourth overall to Buffalo. The Bills felt smitten enough with Watkins they felt the need to offer a trade with Cleveland, the No. 4 pick's original owner, to get their man.
"Dynamic playmaker. That's what this game is all about, making plays," Buffalo general manager Doug Whaley said on a media teleconference, adding later Watkins was "the highest-rated player" on Buffalo's draft board. "He's automatically going to make our quarterback (EJ Manuel) better and us better as a team."
Buffalo, getting aggressive in pursuit of its first playoff appearance since 1999, relinquished its 2015 first- and fourth-round picks to Cleveland.
"We went in to this draft saying we were going to be bold," said Bills president and CEO Russ Brandon, "and we made a bold move."
Just five years ago, Spiller went ninth overall to the Bills. He never played in college with Watkins. They're now professional teammates.
"Great guy who helped me through my process with Clemson," Watkins said.
Spiller's one of the faces of the franchise; he and Watkins are joined by other former Clemson players in safety Jonathan Meeks and offensive linemen Chris Hairston and Antoine McClain on the team's offseason roster.
"This is just unbelievable. Two of the greatest players in Clemson history are now teammates," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said in a statement. "C.J. has been blowing up my phone since the announcement was made. This could not be a better situation for Sammy."
Buffalo was one of four individual visits taken by Watkins following the NFL Combine, along with St. Louis (which owned the second pick), Jacksonville (No. 3) and Detroit (No. 10.) A widely presumed top-five pick for months, Watkins knew the Bills would have to take action to get him, something Whaley told Watkins was possible.
"I didn't really think that they were going to come up to get me," Watkins said. "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'm chosen to be a Buffalo Bill."
Watkins joins offensive back Banks McFadden (to the Dodgers in 1939) and defensive end Gaines Adams (to the Buccaneers in 2007) as the other No. 4 overall selections in Clemson history.
The Tigers' only other top-five pick, Jerry Butler, will share some history with Watkins: Butler was a wide receiver who in 1979 went No. 5 ... to Buffalo.
Watkins will catch passes from former Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel, the first quarterback selected in the 2013 NFL Draft. Manuel and Watkins' college quarterback, Tajh Boyd, shared a quarterbacks coach in Ken Mastrole each year they prepared for the NFL Draft.
"(Manuel's) a great quarterback, I played against him, they beat us pretty bad," Watkins said, "but I respect him, and I'm ready to get to working with him."
Watkins broke school records with 101 receptions for 1,464 yards in 2013, catching 12 touchdowns and being named a Biletnikoff Award finalist, picking up his second 1st-team All-American honor.
"I'm excited about the young man, Sammy Watkins as we watch a guy who can just flat-out go," NFL Network analyst Michael Irvin said. "All the intangibles: he's fast, he's quick, he's big, he can do everything. This is a passing league; that is a pass-catching specialist."
The fourth Tiger to attend the draft in New York City - Adams, Spiller and Chester McGlockton were the others - Watkins is the school's 24th first-round selection in school history.
Clemson is the first program to produce first-round wide receivers in back-to-back seasons since Ohio State in 2006-07.
Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins, who went 27th to the Houston Texans in 2013, are the first Clemson teammates at the same position to be taken in the first round in consecutive years.
This year's No. 4 selection is projected by OverTheCap.com to sign a four-year contract valued at $21.7 million, including a $14.1 million signing bonus. Per Spotrac.com, last year's No. 4 pick, Eagles offensive tackle Lane Johnson, was guaranteed $19.9 million on his rookie deal.
With South Carolina star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney going first overall to the Texans, this is the fourth year in draft history both the Tigers and Gamecocks produced a first-rounder, and the first in which both programs boasted a top-15 selection.
Other Clemson players looking to be drafted in Friday's second and third rounds include receiver Martavis Bryant, cornerback Bashaud Breeland, offensive lineman Brandon Thomas (recovering from a torn ACL) and Boyd.
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