The road to Buffalo for Robert Woods was a bumpy one to say the least. From top recruit, to second fiddle in college, Woods comes to the Buffalo Bills high on credentials and talent, and even higher expectations from fans and coaches alike. With the roster moves the Bills made in the offseason, a lot of early pressure will be on the rookie wideout to contribute opposite of star wideout Stevie Johnson, though the pressure to perform is something he has been handling well for quite some time.
Woods was the Bills first of two second round draft picks and the 41st overall selection after he declared early after three years at the University of Southern California. While at USC, Woods had a bit of an up and down tenure. Woods was ranked as the number one wide receiver in his recruiting class by Scout.com and Rivals.com had him as the no. 6 overall recruit. Woods put together an outstanding freshman season and an even better All American sophomore season. But for as good as he played in his first two seasons, Woods took a secondary role for his junior year as Marquise Lee led the team in reception and yards. Woods was only able to top 1000 yards receiving in that sophomore year and averaged his USC career low of 11.1 yards per reception in his final year.
Physically, Woods brings everything you could desire of a wide receiver. An All American in both football and track in high school, Woods has the speed (4.51 40 yard dash) and height (6 foot) to be a lethal weapon if given the chance. Woods, after his sophomore season, was considered an overall top 10 talent if he came out after his junior season — that was until Marquise Lee took the nation by storm with his play. As Woods saw less passes come his way, and the USC season slide in disappointment, so too did Wood’s draft stock.
Woods comes to the team with a chip on his shoulder sliding all the way to the second round, and fifth wide receiver taken, after being projected as possibly the first wide receiver selected only a year earlier. Woods has been praised for his ability to read defenses and accurate route running ability in comparison to the other receivers in his class. Those mental details are often the ones that are the hardest to teach as wideouts transition from the college to the pro game.
The most comparable player the scouts used on Woods was Green Bay Packer wideout James Jones. Jones flourished last year, his sixth, as he caught a career high 14 touchdowns. The Jones comparison starts in both height and weight, but also with speed, talent and a history of dropping passes at times. These mental lapses were a knock on Woods coming into the draft and during his junior season.
The big difference between the two players will be their roles on the team. Jones was a third option to Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson. It wasn’t until the past two years, with both Nelson and Jennings dealing with a myriad of injuries, that Jones was allowed a larger role in the offense. Woods will come in as the unquestioned starter opposite of Stevie Johnson and the Bills will look at him early and often to provide a threat in the passing game.
If Woods can succeed playing in tandem with Stevie Johnson then the Bills will have the beginning of a burgeoning surplus of pass catchers. With second year man TJ Graham’s continuing development and either Da’Rick Rogers or Marquise Goodwin fitting into their roles as the fourth or fifth options, the Bills could boast a receiving corps that many in the league would be jealous to have.