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Sammy Watkins takes top billing for Buffalo

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins reacts after

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins reacts after catching a pass for a touchdown to tie the game during the second half of an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings, Sunday, Oct. 19, 2014, in Orchard Park, N.Y. Credit: AP / Gary Wiepert

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - When wide receiver Sammy Watkins got the call on draft night that the Buffalo Bills had made a bold move to trade up to No. 4 and select him, the person sitting next to him was not surprised.

That person was safety Calvin Pryor, who went later in the draft to the Jets and will face Watkins and the Bills on Sunday.

"I wasn't surprised," Pryor said, recalling that May night at Radio City Music Hall. "We were sitting right next to each other in the draft room. Once he got the call, he picked it up. I wasn't surprised at all. How could you pass on a player like him?"

The Bills did more than "not pass" on Watkins, who starred at Clemson. They traded up five spots with Cleveland and surrendered next year's first-round pick to take the 6-1, 211-pounder.

When the rookie was slowed in training camp by injuries, Buffalo's gamble looked suspect. But Watkins had a breakout game last week in the Bills' 17-16 win over the Vikings.

Watkins caught nine passes for 122 yards and two touchdowns, including a tying 2-yard TD pass from Kyle Orton with one second left. An extra point and kickoff later, the Bills were 4-3.

Overall, Watkins has 35 catches -- the most of any rookie receiver -- for 433 yards and four touchdowns.

"He's an unbelievable player, man," Pryor said. "He has all the right tools to be one of the best to play the game. Definitely a playmaker. I know he got off to a slow start, but he had a good game last game. Now he's starting to get rolling, so we're going to have to do everything possible to -- I wouldn't say stop him -- but contain him."

Pryor, who starred for Louisville and went to the Jets with the 18th pick, never played against Watkins in college. But that doesn't mean he is unfamiliar with the 21-year-old.

"We both knew about each other in college because we had always seen each other make plays," Pryor said. "I got to know him a little bit during the draft process. It's tough going against him because you can't really have one person to try to stop him with him being so explosive."

Watkins, who is listed as probable for Sunday's game with a groin issue, was polite on a conference call with Jets reporters on Wednesday. He talked about the Jets' "great" defense and "great" defensive backs.

But he was more brash in talking about himself earlier in the week, when he told The Associated Press, "I'm trying to dominate the defense. Whoever I'm going against, I'm going to overwhelm them."

Jets coach Rex Ryan knows firsthand how good Watkins can be. Watkins played with Ryan's son Seth at Clemson. Ryan remembers watching Watkins in spring practice when he was a freshman.

"We went out there and they must've thrown 50 vertical balls, to where you're like, 'Oh, my goodness,' " Ryan said. "And it was him on one side. They couldn't cover him."

And now?

"Whoa, I tell you what, when you see him on tape, he's one of those guys that doesn't come around very often," Ryan said. "Kind of reminds me of Julio Jones, the [A.J.] Green kid at Cincinnati, one of those kind of receivers. Elite receivers."

Said Watkins: "I know Rex. I've seen him down there at Clemson a couple times. He's a great guy, great coach, great dad."

(Ryan actually jumped on Watkins' conference call Wednesday and asked a question about Seth while posing as a reporter. Watkins seemed confused and, not realizing it was Ryan, didn't get the joke.)

Bills coach Doug Marrone likes what he's seen from Watkins.

"He's been everything [the Bills expected] as far as his work ethic and how he goes about his business and things like that," Marrone said. "He's done a very, very good job at that. I think still very young in his career and things change for him -- he sees different things week to week. And he's just a player that's progressing."

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