Draft Rewind – Buffalo Bills

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With NFL training camps back in full swing, we continue to take a look back at each team’s hits and misses over the past 25 years.

Editor’s note: between 1983 and 1988 the Bills drafted Jim Kelly, Darryl Talley, Bruce Smith, Andre Reed, Will Wolford, Howard Ballard, Martin Mayhew, and Thurman Thomas; they parlayed that core of great picks into a 70-26 record over a six-year postseason stretch in which they won four AFC titles. However, in the last 15 years they have not made the playoffs due in part to terrible drafting and are now on their eighth head coach since Hall of Famer Marv Levy retired in 1997.

FIVE BEST PICKS

1. Ruben Brown, G, Pitt. 1st round, #14 overall in 1995.

Brown was a fantastic LG in the NFL, especially his first nine years in Buffalo. He was a Pro Bowler in eight of those seasons, missed only seven games in his Bills career, and is easily one of the best 20 Bills players ever. From the 1995 draft class, only Derrick Brooks made more trips to Hawaii.

2. Kyle Williams, DT, LSU. 5th round, #134 overall in 2006.

Despite a solid career at LSU culminating with second-team All-American honors, NFL scouts in love with size, height, and athleticism had him rated a late-round pick. The Bills scooped him up with the first pick in the 5th, and he paid immediate dividends; within five games he was a starter, and by 2010, was a Pro-Bowler. Williams has since added three more Pro Bowls to his résumé and is one of the more underrated players in the league. Only Haloti Ngata has been a better interior lineman from his draft class.

3. Eric Moulds, WR, Mississippi St. 1st round, #24 overall in 1996.

A year after drafting Brown, Buffalo got it right again in the first round  with Moulds. The #4 WR his first two seasons, Moulds broke out in year three with a Bills’ record of 1,368 receiving yards in 1998. Including the next seven seasons, Moulds averaged 78 – 1,065 – 6 and made three Pro Bowls. Thirty one WRs were drafted in 1996, but only Marvin Harrison and Terrell Owens had better careers; Moulds ranks 36th all time in career receptions. He also holds the NFL record for most receiving yards in a postseason game (240). Coincidentally, he was traded to the Houston Texans after the 2005 season for a 5th round pick the Bills used to select Kyle Williams.

4. Seantrel Henderson, T, Miami, 7th round, #237 overall in 2014.

Henderson was a blue chip HS recruit and was the consensus #1 OL in the country when he began his collegiate career at Miami. Disciplinary problems plagued his career there and during the Senior Bowl he openly admitted that failed drug tests led to three suspensions at the U. As expected, teams were scared off and he fell to the 7th round. Henderson won the RT job in camp and started all 16 games last year. This could conceivably become the best Bills pick since Thurman Thomas, but only if Henderson can prove his past discretions are behind him.

5. Aaron Schobel, DE, TCU. 2nd round, #46 overall in 2001.

No discredit to Schobel, but this selection emphasizes how poorly Buffalo has drafted the past 25 years. Schobel had a very good career as a Bill making two Pro Bowls in nine seasons and starting 116 consecutive games. Only Jason Taylor had more sacks from 2002 to 2006. His production was a good return for a #46 overall pick.

FIVE WORST PICKS

1. Mike Williams, OT, Texas. 1st round, #4 overall in 2002.

Everyone had Williams as a can’t-miss OT heading into the draft after a stellar career in Austin. He turned out a lazy, unmotivated, below-average tackle. By his fourth season in Buffalo, he had lost his job to an undrafted free agent (granted it was Jason Peters, who the Bills of course turned around and traded to Philly where he has been a perennial All-Pro), and they resorted to trying him at G and even in goal line situations as a DT. He was gone by 2006 and resurfaced with Washington as an average OL for a few years.  2002 might have been the worst OL draft class ever; Bryant McKinnie was the lone Pro-Bowler, and he went to Hawaii once.

2. Aaron Maybin, DE, Penn St. 1st round, #11 overall in 2011.

Maybin led the Big Ten in sacks, forced fumbles, and tackles for loss his (redshirt) sophomore season in Happy Valley. Buffalo projected him as Schobel’s replacement, but he couldn’t get on the field ahead of the likes of Chris Kelsay or Spencer Johnson. The numbers with the Bills are not pretty: one start, 14 tackles, and as many sacks as you did in the NFL those two seasons. He had a few situational sacks with the Jets a year later, but is now out of football – painting & smoking weed while reminiscing about a horrible rap song he made and getting two women pregnant that delivered on the same day.

3. J.P. Losman, QB, Tulane. 1st round, #22 overall in 2004.

The Bills traded back into the first round and grabbed Losman to pair with #13 overall pick WR Lee Evans. It would be another 68 picks before a QB was selected (Matt Schaub), and in hindsight, they were better off making a run at Ben Roethlisberger who went two spots ahead of Evans. Regardless, Losman got hurt in training camp and sat behind Drew Bledsoe his rookie year and was benched in year two in favor of Kelly Holcomb. His third year was actually productive and it appeared that he may be turning a corner, but got hurt early in year four and lost his job permanently to future journeyman Trent Edwards. Not a complete bust, but the pick sent the Bills into turmoil at the position that they still haven’t found an answer for.

4. John McCargo, DT, NC St. 1st round #26 overall in 2006.

The Bills had a chance to draft Haloti Ngata in the first round in ’06, but instead went with Donte Whitner (a underachiever in Buffalo) at #8. Later in the first round, they drafted the overshadowed linemate of #1 overall pick Mario Williams’ at NC State. McCargo was garbage in Buffalo and had zero impact. His greatest accomplishment was managing to stay on the roster for all five years of his rookie contract. He must have been a hell of a teammate.

5. James Hardy, WR, Indiana. 2nd round, #41 overall in 2008.

Hardy had a stellar career at IU, racking up numerous school records. In high school, he was Indiana’s Mr. Basketball runner-up and even earned minutes his Freshman year on the Hoosiers hoops team. A Harold Carmichael/Plaxico Burress prototype, the Bills envisioned him as a perfect complement opposite deep threat Lee Evans. Hardy was a disaster in Buffalo, unproductive when he wasn’t hurt, and caught nine balls in two seasons. He had a couple of off-field red flags in college and sadly was last heard from getting locked up in the loony bin.

Stats courtesy of pro-football-reference.com

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