BBD Assistant Editor: Ryan Talbot
Since joining the National Football League in 1970, the Buffalo Bills have had 48 first-round picks. Much like every other team in the league, there have been some colossal hits and misses and some quality players in between.
Note: The chart and following article do not include players who were selected in the first round of the 1960-69 AFL drafts, such as O.J. Simpson.
The Bills have only drafted three first-round quarterbacks during their time in the NFL. The best has easily been Jim Kelly. Although Kelly originally wanted nothing to do with Buffalo, he grew to love being a Bill. The quarterback, now battling a cancer recurrence, is the only Buffalo Bills player to have his number officially retired. Kelly threw for 35,467 yards and 237 touchdowns over 11 seasons with the Bills.
The worst pick? Jonathan Paul (J.P.) Losman. The quarterback showed flashes in his first full season as the Bills starting quarterback in 2006, passing for more than 3,000 yards, but he never came close to his production again in his career. Losman could throw the ball deep, but his play was terribly inconsistent.
As for the 2014 draft, it’s highly doubtful the Bills select a quarterback in Round 1 after taking E.J. Manuel in 2013.
The running back position has been a popular first round pick for the Bills over the years. Only defensive backs have been selected more than running backs and the success of Buffalo’s selections are all over the board.
The best first-round running back ever drafted is currently playing for the Seattle Seahawks. Marshawn Lynch, Buffalo’s first-round pick in 2007, is coming off of a season in which he helped the Seahawks win a Super Bowl ring. During the regular season, Lynch ran for 1,257 yards while rushing for 12 touchdowns. In Seattle’s three playoff games this past season, Lynch ran for 288 yards. In his career, he has 599 yards in seven playoff games. Lynch has four Pro Bowls under his belt as well and is still relatively young at age 27.
Booker Moore is probably Buffalo’s worst first-round runningb ack selection, but it truly wasn’t his fault. Moore rushed for 420 yards in four seasons with the Bills but was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome, a disorder that affects the nervous system and starts by weakening hands and feet, shortly after being drafted. The fact that Moore played a few seasons with this disorder is praise-worthy.
Buffalo won’t be taking a running back in Round 1 this year, partially because they don’t need one and also because there are none worthy of going with the No. 9 overall pick.
Buffalo has had decent success with drafting first-round wide receivers. Eric Moulds was the most successful receiver of the bunch. Moulds, the 24th overall pick in the 1996 draft, had six seasons of 900-plus yards with the Bills. He finished his career with 49 career receiving touchdowns and five yards short of 10,000 yards. In Buffalo’s wide receiver record book, Moulds is second in most categories behind only Andre Reed. That’s pretty elite company and Moulds deserves the nod here.
The Bills’ only big bust at wide receiver has been 1982 first-round pick Perry Tuttle. Tuttle lasted two seasons in Buffalo, where he had just 24 receptions for 368 yards and three touchdowns. Tuttle played one more season in the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, notching just one reception for seven yards in eight games. Tuttle’s NFL career was brutal, but to his credit he joined the Canadian Football League and performed well for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Tuttle, who caught 321 passes for 5,817 yards and 41 touchdowns in Winnipeg, was inducted into the Blue Bombers’ hall of fame.
Buffalo’s recent acquisition of Mike Williams has lessened the likelihood of the Bills pulling the trigger on a wide receiver in the first round of this year’s draft, but the door isn’t completely closed.
If the Bills draft Eric Ebron in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft, it’s not going to take much for him to be the best tight end the team has ever selected in round one.
Reuben Gant currently holds that title. Gant played for the Bills from 1974-1980. The tight end had 127 career receptions for 1,850 yards and 15 touchdowns. Yikes.
Paul Seymour, taken in the first round one year before Gant, is the worst tight end the Bills have selected in the first round. His career lasted from 1973 to 1977. During this time, Seymour caught just 62 passes for 818 yards and three touchdowns. He never recorded more than 19 receptions in a season.
I was a bit surprised by how few offensive tackles the Bills have selected in the first round. Of the three players, John Fina had the longest career as a Bill (148 games in 10 seasons), but he is not the best tackle the team has selected.
Will Wolford was selected by the Bills in the first round of the 1986 NFL draft. Wolford was a career starter. He played in a total of 191 games in his career and started them all. In Buffalo, Wolford started 102 games. Wolford was a guard in his first season, but played left tackle the next six years in Buffalo. Wolford made two Pro Bowls during that time and three Super Bowl appearances.
Mike Williams was supposed to be one of the safest picks of the 2004 NFL draft. When Buffalo selected the large tackle out of Texas, fans assumed the Bills had an anchor at tackle for years to come. Instead, he lasted four years in Buffalo and after sitting out of the league for three years, played one more season at guard for the Washington Redskins. Selected fourth overall in 2002, Williams’ bust is perhaps why the team has not selected a tackle in the first round since.
Despite just three picks at the position, guard is definitely where the Bills have had the most success in the draft. Joe D., Jim Ritcher and Ruben Brown had 17 Pro Bowl appearances amongst themselves!
While all three players had strong NFL careers, Joe DeLamielleure is the easy choice for the team’s best guard. In eight seasons with the Bills, DeLamielleure started 105 of 112 possible games. DeLamielleure’s first five Pro Bowl appearances came in the final five seasons of his first stint with the team. He was traded to the Cleveland Browns in 1980, but finished his career with the Bills in 1985. In 2003, DeLamielleure was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
None of Buffalo’s first round guards can be labeled as being the “worst” or a “miss,” so I won’t.
Eric Wood is the only center that the team has ever selected in the first round since joining the NFL in 1970. He wins best first-round center—and I suppose worst—by default. Wood has played in and started 63 games in his career with the Bills. The center is undoubtedly one of the team’s locker room leaders and is very vocal in regards to the team.
See page 2 for a closer look at Buffalo’s best and worst defensive first-round picks.
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Tags: Bruce Smith, Buffalo Bills, C.J. Spiller, Draft History, EJ Manuel, Eric Moulds, Eric Wood, History, Jim Kelly, Joe DeLamiellure, Leodis McKelvin, Marcell Dareus, Marshawn Lynch, NFL Draft, Ruben Brown, Stephon Gilmore, Willis McGahee