Just over two weeks before the NFL Draft kicks off, the Bills hosted Clemson WR Sammy Watkins, Notre Dame OL Zack Martin, and McGill University (Canada) OL Laurent Duvernay-Tardif for pre-draft visits on Wednesday.
WR Sammy Watkins
Watkins rewrote the school record books in his final collegiate season with 101 receptions for almost 1,500 yards (1,464) and 12 touchdowns. Though only 6-1 and 211 pounds, Watkins plays bigger on the field, and big plays largely summarized Watkins college career.
This past season he was the only receiver with two touchdowns of more than 90 yards with one coming against Syracuse (91) and the other against Virginia (96). But Watkins is far from a one trick pony. Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney made use of the dynamic wideout in a variety of ways with bubble screens to make use of his elusiveness, routes over the middle knowing he was physical enough to make plays in close quarters and fades knowing he could outleap defenders.
"For me I think I can do just about anything on the field from running back to wide receiver, slot. I can make plays all over the field," said Watkins. "What I love doing is dominating defenses and I think that's what I bring to the game. I think that's going to turn over to the NFL. When I come into the NFL I think I can be that dominant receiver."
Perhaps his greatest asset is his body control and the way he can adjust to passes when they're not on the money. Watkins is also a team player that works to sustain blocks for backs or fellow receivers on end arounds and receiver screens.
Watkins solidified his top five prospect status with a 4.43 40 time at the combine along with a 34-inch vertical, 10-foot six-inch broad jump and a solid 16 reps on the bench. If he gets past the Oakland Raiders at five it will be big news.
OL Zack Martin
Martin (6-4, 308) has an impressive 52 starts to his credit 50 of which took place at left tackle.
"I've played tackle my entire career and I've told teams that's the position I'm familiar with and I think I can be effective there, but at the same time I'm willing to play any position," said Martin. "I think that's one of my biggest strengths is my versatility. It's just a matter of where they see me playing."
Due to Martin's less than ideal measurables for the tackle position with 32 7/8-inch arms, some teams see him as more of a guard prospect. However, Martin had a very strong Senior Bowl lining up at tackle and guard and has convinced a good number of teams that tackle won't be a problem for him at the NFL level.
"I'm a big fan of Zack Martin as a player," said NFL.com draft analyst and former scout Daniel Jeremiah. "As he's come through the process, through the Senior Bowl, the workouts, meeting with teams… to me there's no real mystery to him. You know exactly what you're getting. I think he's one of the safer players in the draft. He can play tackle if you want him to, he can slide inside and play guard."
Martin himself has heard the talk about him having shorter arms than most teams would prefer in a tackle, but he feels his game tape and his play at the Senior Bowl should be enough to prove he can have a successful career out on the edge in the NFL.
"I know there's a reason why they do measurements so I know why people look at that, but for me at the end of the day when you watch the tape you have to watch what I've put on tape and give everyone a chance at a position before you rule them out because of measurements," said Martin.
Going back to school for his senior season in 2013 also proved to be a plus for him. Martin believes he sharpened his game even more in his fourth collegiate season.
"I think I grew a lot this year. I became more of a complete player. I think they saw a growth in my technique and consistency," he said. "I thought I had a pretty good year in 2012, but from a consistency standpoint I thought 2013 was my best year."
A two-time captain with natural leadership skills who holds teammates accountable it's easy to see why the Bills and a host of other NFL clubs see Martin as an attractive prospect.
Not surprisingly, Buffalo isn't Martin's first pre-draft visit. There were reports that he visited with the Dallas Cowboys at Valley Ranch last week.
OL Laurent Duvernay-Tardif
Every year we see a few Canadian based prospects come off the board in the NFL draft. On day three McGill University offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif is likely to be one of them.
The Bills, like most clubs when it comes to Canadian-based players, have some blanks to fill in on their final report on the prospect that may have been answered with an in-person meeting.
Following a pro-day style workout that demonstrated his NFL caliber athleticism (40 time around 5-flat, 31.5" vertical, 9-6 broad jump, 34 reps on bench, and a 4.59 short shuttle) Tardif had dinner with one of Buffalo’s scouts, per a report from the Tornoto Sun.
As impressive as his workout may have been, he was more than 20 pounds lighter (298) than his listed playing weight (321). Prospects often shed weight so they can run and move faster. NFL talent evaluators will undoubtedly factor that into their evaluation. That being said, Duvernay-Tardif did enough to show he has NFL-level athleticism and is forecast as a developmental prospect who will probably come off the board on day three (Rounds 5-7).