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

J.P. Losman, QB, No. 22 overall pick in 2004 NFL Draft

With a new coach, general manager and team president in place, Buffalo Bills fans are hoping that their team has turned the corner and is finally ready to contend for playoff berths again. One key to whether that occurs will be whether 2013 first-round pick EJ Manuel fares better than J.P. Losman, the “huge mistake” the Bills drafted last time they selected a quarterback in Round 1.

Losman was the fourth quarterback selected in a draft class that featured Super Bowl champions Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger along with another successful NFL starter in Philip Rivers. Losman never came close to matching any of their successes.

To be fair to Losman, it was not all his fault: he played behind a very weak offensive line, in part due to Mike Williams being a bust, and he suffered numerous injuries as he was hit frequently in his five seasons in Buffalo.

That said, he never proved himself good enough to be a long-term starter for the Bills. He only started one full 16-game season, completed less than 60 percent of his passes and was very turnover-prone (34 interceptions, 17 lost fumbles, only 33 touchdown passes).

The Bills needed a franchise quarterback when they drafted Losman, but he never came close to being the passing playmaker he exhibited the physical tools to be during his career at Tulane.

John McCargo, DT, No. 26 overall pick in 2006 NFL Draft

Three North Carolina State defensive linemen went in the first round of the 2006 NFL draft. Two of them, Mario Williams and Manny Lawson, are currently members of the Buffalo Bills having been signed as unrestricted free agent. The other, John McCargo, was drafted by the Bills.

Unfortunately for the Bills, the player they drafted was easily the worst NFL player of the three.

While Williams and Lawson were both widely-projected to be the first-round picks they were, McCargo came as a surprise first-round selection. He had 30.5 tackles for loss in his three-year NC State career, but no longer playing on a line where Williams and Lawson often drew double-teams as pass-rushing defensive ends, his game did not translate to NFL success.

In five seasons with the Bills, McCargo made very little impact. He started just one game and had only 2.5 sacks, all of which came in the 2007 season. The Bills had already given up on McCargo by 2008, when they attempted to trade him to the Indianapolis Colts, but that trade was voided when McCargo failed a physical.

The Bills actually made up for this failed selection later in the 2006 NFL draft with the selection of LSU defensive tackle Kyle Williams in Round 5. Williams turned out to be a massive steal, and has emerged as a first-round talent and one of the NFL’s best defensive tackles. Unfortunately for McCargo, Williams’ emergence as a starter in his rookie season helped keep McCargo from ever seeing the field much.

Aaron Maybin, DE, No. 11 overall pick in 2009 NFL Draft

Of all the selections the Buffalo Bills have made since 2000, picking Aaron Maybin at the No. 11 overall slot of the 2009 draft may very well be the worst. From the beginning, Maybin was a very incomplete player who had high upside but also very high bust potential for a top-15 draft choice.

Maybin had 12 sacks and 20 tackles for loss as a redshirt sophomore in 2008, but was a true one-year wonder with a raw game. He was an explosive pass-rusher at Penn State, but with a lean frame at 6’4” and 249 pounds, he needed to bulk up, become a stronger point-of-attack run defender and develop a more complete arsenal of pass-rush moves.

Unfortunately for Maybin and the Bills, none of those needs were met. Maybin was a poor fit for the 4-3 defense he was drafted into, but even when the Bills switched to a 3-4 defense in 2010, he struggled to get on the field or do anything productive when he did get in the game.

At the very least, Maybin was expected to make plays as a situational pass-rusher in the NFL, even if he never became strong against the run. He failed even to do that. He did not get a single sack in two seasons in Buffalo, and was released prior to the 2011 season.

“The Bills are very likely to regret this decision,” I wrote of the pick at the time. One-trick pony pass-rushers like Maybin are rarely successful in the NFL, but as teams continue to draft incomplete, high-upside rushers with very high draft picks, they continue to often be sources of busts.

The Worst Mistake?

Of the bad picks the Bills have made since the 2000 NFL draft, which one would you say is the worst? Join the discussion in our thread below the post to weigh in on the Bills’ biggest draft mistake of the century!

And for all my fellow “Arrested Development” fans out there, enjoy the new episodes. (NO SPOILERS!)

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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:


        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.


        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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