He's missed time due to injury and he's fallen victim to some inconsistent outings by Buffalo's offense, but as Sammy Watkins closes in on the end of his second NFL season his production is on track to be the best first two seasons by a receiver in Bills history.
Watkins 104 receptions in his first two pro seasons ranks third behind only Jerry Butler and Robert Woods, who both had 105 over their first two years. Buffalo's top wideout is expected to be at the top of that list by season's end with three games to play.
He already holds the top spot in receiving yards for a Bills player over their first two pro seasons with almost 1,700 yards in 26 career games. Watkins moved past Butler (1,666) this past Sunday when he posted 81 yards on five receptions. He now has 1,698 yards receiving in his career.
"Sammy has had a huge impact in just about every game," said head coach Rex Ryan. "He dictates coverage, they double him almost the whole game, and when they don't they pay the price. So yeah obviously you need to know where that kid is at every time."
Sunday's effort, which included a 47-yard touchdown, also made Watkins just the third Bills player in team annals with 13 or more receiving touchdowns in his first two pro seasons, joining Elbert Dubenion (13) and Lee Evans (16). Evans scoring mark is within reach for Watkins with three games to play.
Watkins first catch in last week's game also made him the fastest player in team history to reach 100 career receptions, as it took him just 26 games. Only Butler (28), Woods (30) and Hall of Famer Andre Reed (31) reached 100 receptions in their first two seasons in franchise history.
What put Watkins at or near the top of all of these statistical categories has been a strong second half this season. Since the bye week Watkins ranks third in the NFL in receiving yards with 569, trailing only Odell Beckham Jr. (666) and Antonio Brown (679).
Thanks to an ever improving on field rapport with QB Tyrod Taylor, especially on deep pass plays, Watkins also leads the league in receiving average since Buffalo's bye in Week 8 at 20.3 yards per reception.
"I think we are gradually more and more chemistry together, actually being able to get out there and get game reps," said Taylor. "That's beneficial for both of us. I'm able to practice with him on a consistent basis. With me battling injuries and him battling injuries, it's good to have us both back out there. Whether we're getting extra reps after practice or just talking through things, we're definitely on the same page. I just have to go out there and keep getting the ball to him."
For the season Watkins remains at the top of the league in average yards at the point of reception at 16.6 yards per catch. He credits the offensive staff and Taylor for putting him in a position to succeed every week.
"We're just getting the perfect looks," Watkins said. "We get a look in practice, and go over that look, and if we get it in a game, we're going to take that shot. That's what we're looking for. Tyrod is doing a great job in the film room where – on this look, do this. On this – do that. He's doing a great job of putting us in the best situations. And the coaches are doing a great job of having us watch film and making sure we're on top of our game."
At season's end Watkins shoulde also be on the top of the Bills two-year receiving list.