They Made a Huge Mistake: Buffalo Bills’ Worst Draft Picks of the 21st Century

The risk of drafting Aaron Maybin with the No. 11 overall selection in the 2009 NFL Draft backfired on the Buffalo Bills.

BBD Editor: Dan Hope

The seven-year wait for “Arrested Development” fans following Fox’s cancellation of the show is finally over. A new, 15-episode continuation of the dysfunctional family sitcom was released on Netflix today.

In many ways, the Buffalo Bills fit the description of being the NFL’s version of a dysfunctional family (though the New York Jets may be a better example in the immediate present). A franchise defined by losing four consecutive Super Bowls from 1990-93, Bills fans have had a long wait of their own: 13 seasons since the Bills last made the playoffs in 1999.

In honor of the return of “Arrested Development,” we take a look at one of the primary reasons the Bills have been so dysfunctional in recent years: “huge mistakes” they have made in the NFL draft since the last time the Bills made the playoffs.


Of the many Bills draft picks since the turn of the century who have failed to pan out as hoped, the following five were the most significant busts. These players’ careers all fell well short of living up to the expectations that come with being a first-round pick.

The five selections are listed in chronological order.

Erik Flowers, DE, No. 26 overall pick in 2000 NFL Draft

The draft century got off to a bad start in 2000 with the first-round selection of defensive end Erik Flowers. Flowers lasted just two seasons with the Bills, managing just two sacks in each of those years.

By drafting Flowers in Round 1, the Bills took a risk by selecting a classic example of a one-year wonder. Flowers had 10 sacks and 18 tackles for loss in his senior season at Arizona State, but only played two seasons for the Sun Devils as a junior college transfer, and had just three sacks in his junior season.

The risk backfired for the Bills, as Flowers failed to establish any consistent role with the Bills. He started just six games in his two years in Buffalo, and was completely out of the NFL following the 2004 season.

Mike Williams, OT, No. 4 overall pick in 2002 NFL Draft

Coming off of a 3-13 season, the Buffalo Bills were looking for a new offensive tackle to lead their shaky offensive line. They went with massive Texas product Mike Williams, whose dominance as a consensus All-American in 2001 failed to translate to NFL success.

While Williams was big and strong, he proved to be too big. He weighed in at 6’6” and 375 pounds at the 2002 NFL Scouting Combine per NFLDraftScout.com, and struggled with his weight throughout his career. While his famous ballooning to 450 pounds did not happen until after the Bills released him in 2006, he struggled with speed rushers on the field along with a waning desire to play football.

Williams spent time at right tackle, left tackle and guard in his four NFL seasons, but never played well enough at any one spot to hold down a long-term starting job. As a top-5 overall pick, many consider him to be the Bills’ biggest bust of the century to date.

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Tags: Aaron Maybin, Arrested Development, Draft Busts, Erik Flowers, J.P. Losman, John McCargo, Mike Williams

18 Responses to “They Made a Huge Mistake: Buffalo Bills’ Worst Draft Picks of the 21st Century”

  1. Vaughan Moore says:

    The biggest bust was definitely Aaron Maybin. Zero production, zero sympathy for him as the #11 pick.

  2. Ryan Talbot says:

    I understand the rationale Vaughan. I remember watching the 2009 draft vividly and when Buffalo was up I wanted Brian Orakpo or Michael Oher. Both were on the round so I thought there was a great chance the Bills would pick one. Instead, Maybin was the name and I actually yelled, “No!”

    I instantly soured on Maybin with his holdout. Then he came in and did nothing. Once the games that mattered began, you could see how little the Bills thought of him. He was terrible and he was thrown around in his first two seasons.

    You can’t take away his 2011 season with the Jets where he finished with six sacks, but it’s apparent he’s not an every down player. At pick 11, you better be taking someone who will be on the field for the majority of the team’s snaps.

    However, I believe that Bob Cousineau was the biggest bust in Bills history. First overall pick and never even played for Buffalo. Started his career in Canada and eventually had his rights traded to the Browns. When you have the first overall pick in the draft, you need to get some kind of contribution out of him. Buffalo got nothing from Cousineau.

    • Dan Hope says:

      I was likewise shocked when the Bills drafted Maybin over Orakpo. I was a huge fan of Orakpo coming out of Texas, and thought he would be a steal at the No. 11 slot. One of numerous reasons I disliked the Maybin pick.

      It is a little tough to compare Cousineau to these five busts as he was only a bust because of a career decision he made. But it’s tough in general to compare draft “busts” from the 70′s to more recent years, which is one reason I focused only on the 21st century with these picks.

    • Jeff says:

      The rights to Cousineau were traded for the 1st round pick that turned into Jim Kelly.

      • carl says:

        and i i’m not mistaken the draft pick used to pick Cousineau was aquired from SF in the O.J. trade

  3. danielryansdad says:

    Mike Williams #4 is biggest bust of bills history-like double d’s biggest bust

  4. It is a Sofie’s Choice really. In my upcoming book I talk about Maybin in relation to Michael Oher. There is also Phi Dokes and Walt Patulski. Man, J.P Losman is also a good choice. I have a headache! You know I have to go with Mike Williams. He was supposed to be the next Orlando Pace and he just flamed out! OK, with all due respect to Booker Moore, JP, Erik Flowers and Maybin, it is Mike Williams as the gold standard of Buffalo Bills busts.

  5. Ryan Talbot says:

    Between here and Twitter, I’m a bit surprised by the amount of Mike Williams answers I’m receiving to this question. He’s certainly one of the team’s biggest busts, but he did start for the team. Was he underwhelming? Yes. If we’re talking recent picks, I’d have to lean Maybin.

    • Glenn Gifford says:

      These were all lousy picks. I personally remember doing the “Orakpo Dance” prior to the Bills selection on my deck. When we drafted Maybin……..I was crestfallen. I guess the rest of that draft made up for it. Orakpo plus Wood, Levitre and Byrd! Oh my! That would’ve been something.

      • Ryan Talbot says:

        That would have been a really strong draft class.

      • Dan Hope says:

        You’re absolutely right, Glenn. It’s rare to have a strong draft with a bust of a top-15 pick, but I’d say the Bills accomplished that. They ended up with three first-round talents in Wood, Levitre and Byrd.

  6. danielryansdad says:

    Well I am 49 i have witnessed many bad number ones-Perry Tuttle-Moore, Tony Hunter, but the last 12 years or so bills as team have blown top picks and for me its Mike Williams that stands out above all others #4 overall, never came close to playing as professional. he was content to get contract and go thru the drive thru at KFC, pathetic. LOSMAN was gamble, but Maybin, McCargo-so many since 2000. NFL Draft is key, the life blood of any team and Bills have failed catastrophically in this area until 2009, The Nix era is still wet cement i believe we have huge studs drafted by buddy, 2013 will showcase his picks #CJ will have monster year 1500yds at least.

  7. Omar says:

    With so many busts, I believe an outter factor can determine which one is the biggest. I mean, I thought the Maybin pick was stupid even on draft day. Orakpo was a much better fit an much more proven

    • Dan Hope says:

      That’s exactly why I agree with you that Maybin was the worst pick of them all, even over Mike Williams. While it certainly could be said that the Bills made a mistake from the get-go by drafting Williams over Bryant McKinnie, selecting Maybin over a much more complete player in Orakpo never made sense to me, especially with a 4-3 defense at the time.

  8. Joe Marino says:

    I know he wasn’t a first round pick but one of the most disappointing busts has to be James Hardy. The Bills picked him 41 overall in 2008. He had all the size, production and athletic ability you could ever want in a prospect and was going to finally be the compliment to Lee Evans. He was on the team for just two seasons and caught only 10 passes. I remember being really excited for that pick and he didn’t pan out at all.

    • Emmett says:

      I was pumped for that pick as well. His size was becoming prototypical for the NFL. Very disappointed. On a similar note I believe this year is Marcus Easly’s last chance. He’s got all the tools. Fingers crossed.

      • Dan Hope says:

        Joe,

        I was a huge fan of Hardy coming out in 2008 — he had the potential to be great, but largely due to injuries, he never put it all together. Seems a little unfair to call him a bust as it was largely due to injuries, but nonetheless, he was a huge disappointment for a second-round pick.

        Emmett,

        There are many similarities between Hardy and Marcus Easley, with both having very high potential but exhibiting no production, both largely due to injuries. A few of our writers have actually written recently about Easley and what he has to do to make the team this year, so you should check those out as well.

  9. Emmett says:

    The popular opinion at the 2002 NFL Draft was that Mike Williams was a sure bet for NFL dominance. His Texas career and film backed it up. It was considered a solid pick, when in fact it was like buying an aged prime Kobe Beef NY strip and getting it home and discovering it was a cardboard replica. = BIGGEST BUST EVER.




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