As the story goes, fellow wide receiver Randall Cobb approached Watkins early in training camp and asked him whether he’d take Patrick Mahomes or Aaron Rodgers at quarterback? Watkins was teammates with for three seasons Mahomes between 2018-20 as members of the Kansas City Chiefs, where the two won a Super Bowl ring together.
“I think Pat is incredibly good, but I think A-Rod is on a whole other level,” Watkins said.
Packers analyst Larry McCarren rehashed that moment with Watkins during a recent interview, which independent NFL reporter Dov Kleiman shared via social media on Tuesday, August 23.
“He’s amazing, how he controls the ball, how he put everybody in place. I’ve been with a lot of quarterbacks, and I’ve never seen them carry [themselves] like Aaron Rodgers,” Watkins said.
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Rodgers Holds Slight Edge Over Mahomes on Paper
In fairness, there’s a little bit of apples-to-apples happening in Watkins’ comparison. First, Rodgers and Mahomes have split three of the last four NFL MVPs between them — two for Rodgers, one for Mahomes. Next, both own a Super Bowl victory, though Mahomes has come far more recently. Finally both average between $45 million (Mahomes) and $50 million (Rodgers) in annual average income, making them the fourth-highest paid and highest-paid players in the NFL, respectively, as of 2022.
End-of-season results have also been very similar for the two QBs and their teams over the last couple of years. Mahomes lost to Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Super Bowl in 2020, failing to repeat as champion, they fell to the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Championship Game last year.
The Packers came up short against that same Bucs team in the NFC Championship Game in 2020, before dropping yet another postseason matchup to the San Francisco 49ers — the franchise that has had Rodgers’ number in the playoffs more than any other.
Individually, Rodgers has slightly outperformed Mahomes over the past two years. Rodgers has been named a first-team All-Pro and league MVP each of the last two times out, while Mahomes settled for Pro Bowl berths in 2020 and 2021.
Rodgers has posted 8,414 passing yards and 85 touchdowns compared to 9 interceptions during that span. Mahomes tallied 9,579 passing yards to go along with 75 touchdowns and 19 interceptions over the same time period, per Pro Football Reference.
Rodgers, Watkins Already Building Strong Relationship in Green Bay
Rodgers sounded open to the idea of Watkins joining the Packers when he spoke about the addition in early June, though he also used his first public comments to send a message to the receiver.
“Aaron Rodgers was pleased #Packers signed Sammy Watkins,” per Ryan Wood of USA Today. “He even Facetimed the veteran WR when Watkins signed his contract. ‘I think it’s important you get guys who have a lot to play for, and I think Sammy has an opportunity to continue and travel down a new path.'”
Watkins has also acknowledged a desire to alter his career trajectory. While he has been a solid starter and owns a championship ring, Watkins has been an underachiever since the Buffalo Bills drafted him with the fourth overall pick in 2014.
Across his eight-year NFL career, Watkins has caught 348 passes for 5,059 yards and 34 touchdowns with an average of 14.5 yards per reception, according to Pro Football Reference. While solid, those numbers fall far short of a Hall of Fame-level resumé.
Watkins has eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards in a season only once (2015), the same season he pulled down a career-high 9 touchdown catches. Watkins has only caught more than 3 touchdowns in two other seasons, the last of which came with the Los Angeles Rams in 2017.