Those are not numbers that will spark a ton of excitement in today’s NFL. In a game where the rules are designed for quarterbacks and wide receivers to produce bloated numbers, players like Calvin Johnson and A.J. Green reign as marquee players at their position. Known well for their elite size and speed, the Johnson and Green types are best known by media and fans because of their ability to produce monster fantasy football numbers.
Then there’s Robert Woods, a receiver considered average by NFL standards when it comes to size (6’0”, 190 lbs.), speed (4.51 40-yard dash) and fantasy value. He ranked 70th overall and third amongst Bills WRs in ESPN’s preseason fantasy rankings. But when it comes to wins and losses, Woods is as valuable as any other wide out in the league.
The 41st pick of the 2013 NFL Draft is never going to be a fantasy football stud. But he continues to serve as a reliable and sure-handed target that makes the plays that significantly impact the outcome of games.
In Sunday’s overtime win at Chicago, that’s exactly what Woods did with his four receptions. His first two catches went for 12 and 19 yards on a first-quarter drive in which the Bills tied the score at 7-7. His next two receptions didn’t come until the fourth quarter, but a nine-yarder on 1st-and-10 and a 25-yarder on 2nd-and-16 set up a Dan Carpenter field goal that made the score 20-17. The second of the catches on that crucial fourth-quarter drive was vintage Robert Woods. He went up and high-pointed a ball then secured the catch despite pending contact from Bears safety Chris Conte.
That play reminded me of the fourth-quarter grab Woods made against Atlanta last season in which he went airborne and withstood a vicious hit (which drew a penalty) from William Moore. The play netted the Bills 48 yards, and on the next snap, Woods’ team scored to grab a 31-24 lead.
Remember a few weeks ago when Woods was being challenged for playing time by Chris Hogan? That is a pretty distant memory at this point. Woods took 52-of-57 offensive snaps (91%) against the Bears, the second most for receivers behind only Sammy Watkins.
In 2013, Woods finished his rookie campaign with 40 receptions for 587 yards and three TDs. Again, that is not an overly spectacular stat line, but Woods makes his touches count. His first career reception was an 18-yard TD right before halftime against the Patriots. The following week against Carolina, he scored the two-point conversion in traffic to tie the score at 14 in the third quarter.
I think you get the point.
Woods is a tough, clutch player. He had just one dropped pass in 85 targets as a rookie. He can play effectively on the outside or in the slot. The Bills front office was obviously pleased with Woods, or they wouldn’t have shipped Stevie Johnson off to San Francisco for a fourth-round draft pick.
The training camp “competition” with Chris Hogan was a self-admitted motivational tactic by Doug Marrone. I honestly didn’t think that was necessary. Woods has shown to be plenty fiery (remember the Miami punch last year?), but Marrone knows better than I do if his players need to be motivated to elevate their game.
I have to remind myself that Woods just started his second year in the league. He carries himself and performs like a seasoned veteran. I think many more people will begin to better appreciate Woods as the play at the quarterback position improves. Woods’ numbers will subsequently improve in fantasy terms, but I could care less about that.
Woods will continue to make impact plays as the Bills continue to win games.
It’s been a great week for Bills fans, and this Sunday is going to be blast. I can’t wait to see many of you there.