The Buffalo Bills selected Robert Woods, an undersized, yet physical and talented wideout in the second-round of the 2013 NFL Draft. In his first two seasons, the former Southern California standout has hauled in 105 passes for 1,286 yards and eight touchdowns. When the team traded up to snag Sammy Watkins with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2014 draft, the optimism following Woods’ impressive rookie year took a backseat to the hype-machine Sammy brought with him.
However, in 2014 Woods and Watkins became the first receiving duo in NFL history to each record at least 60 receptions before their 22nd birthdays. While Watkins garnered the majority of attention, Woods quietly had a productive year, catching 65 passes for 699 yards and scoring five touchdowns.
After primarily playing the “Z” or “flanker” positon on the boundary during his rookie season in which he averaged 14.7 yards-per-catch, Woods lined up in the slot for 49.4% of his offensive snaps in 2014, where he was typically utilized on short-to-intermediate routes.
During the offseason, the Bills retained Chris Hogan as a restricted free agent, signed another explosive playmaker in Percy Harvin and selected Dez Lewis in the seventh-round of the draft. The Bills wide receiver room is a bit crowded with all different shapes and sizes of wideouts that each bring a unique trait to the table. The only issue is that new offensive coordinator Greg Roman has made his name with a run-first mentality that hasn’t boded well (statistically speaking) for his wideouts over the years.
While the big names like Sammy Watkins, Percy Harvin, LeSean McCoy and Charles Clay will steal the headlines throughout training camp, make sure you’re keeping an eye on Robert Woods, a complete receiver that’s versatile enough to warrant a significant role within the Bills’ 2015 offensive attack.
Woods is 6’1” and weighs 200 pounds, but has a lean frame that doesn’t put much fear in opposing defensive backs. However, he’s physical and fearless when tracking the ball—whether he’s going across the middle or high-pointing a jump ball—with a style reminiscent to that of Steve Smith.
He’s got great speed and is a fluid route runner, showing the ability to get in and out of his breaks with little wasted motion. He’s not going to take the top off a defense in the way that Percy Harvin will, but he’s a smooth runner that can cover quite a bit of ground in a short time.
Woods is a natural hands-catcher who will attack the ball at its highest point, and he isn’t afraid to make catches away from his body in traffic.
Another aspect of Woods’ game that seems to fly under the radar is his ability to create yards after the catch. Once he gets the ball in his hands, he has a running back mentality—getting downhill and not shying away from contact.
From 2012 through 2014, Greg Roman’s 49ers offense attempted 1,251 passes. 678 of those (54%) traveled just 0-9 yards through the air. Roman’s offense is centered around the run, while using short-to-intermediate passes as an extension of the running game. This should actually bode well for Woods, who saw 55 of 81 targets in 2014 in that 0-9 yard range, catching 38 passes for 270 yards, adding 108 yards after the catch.
While Woods likely won’t see the high volume of passes to put up big numbers, his ability to work the middle of the field in the quick passing game should allow him to be an extremely valuable asset to the Bills’ offense this season.