Buffalo Bills’ Best, Worst First-Round NFL Draft Picks in Team History

Bruce Smith is one of the Buffalo Bills’ best first-round picks ever. (Photo: Dale Zanine — USA Today Sports)

Defensive Ends

According to a recent report from Bleacher Report’s Dan Pompei, the Buffalo Bills might want to trade up (should they?) for the No. 1 overall pick of the 2014 NFL Draft. If they were to do so, I couldn’t see the team adding anyone other than Jadeveon Clowney. The defensive end from South Carolina has a lot of hype around him, but he’d have to have a remarkable career to unseat Buffalo’s best defensive end.

Bruce Smith was the first overall pick of the 1985 NFL Draft and his career was nothing short of legendary. Smith made 11 Pro Bowls and was an eight-time first-team All-Pro. The defensive end finished his career with 200 career sacks, 171 of which occurred in a Bills jersey. Smith was recognized for his outstanding career in 2009 when he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Mayhem. This is what Bills fans were promised when the team selected undersized defensive end Aaron Maybin from Penn State in 2009. Instead of mayhem, Buffalo fans were rewarded misery. Maybin held out after being drafted by Buffalo and eventually signed a 5-year, $17.6 million contract, but the defensive end/linebacker hybrid lasted just two seasons in Buffalo and recorded zero sacks.

Defensive Tackles

Marcell Dareus has only been a Buffalo Bill for three seasons, but he’s already the best defensive tackle has drafted. In three years, Dareus has notched 18.5 sacks and started in 45 of 48 possible games. He had his best season to date in 2013, which he finished with 7.5 sacks. It certainly appears that Dareus’ career is about to take off.

I’m giving Phil Dokes and John McCargo a tie for the worst first-round defensive tackle in the team’s history. Dokes’ career lasted just two seasons. He started ten games in his two seasons and did nothing of note. McCargo played 4o games in Buffalo, starting one. He did notch 2.5 sacks, but it stings that the Bills traded back into the first round for him in 2006.


With only three first-round picks at the position in team history, linebacker is another position where the Bills have drafted surprisingly few players in Round 1.

Shane Conlan started 77 games for the Buffalo Bills between 1987-1992. He made the Pro Bowl three consecutive years from 1988 to 1990 and had 545 tackles in six seasons with the team.

Tom Ruud only started three of 36 games with the Bills, but Tom Cousineau never played a game for the Bills. Cousineau opted to play for the Montreal Alouettes, who offered him more money per year than the Bills did, after being drafted by the Bills with the No. 1 overall pick in 1979. Buffalo’s selection with the pick they acquired from the San Francisco 49ers for O.J. Simpson, Cousineau’s rights were eventually traded to Cleveland for the No. 14 overall pick in the 1983 draft, which the Bills used to select Jim Kelly. As I’ve always said, Cousineau is a nice Bills trivia question as he came and went in transactions with two of the most prominent players in the franchise’s history.

Defensive Backs

The Buffalo Bills’ two best first-round defensive back selections, Antoine Winfield and Nate Clements, were both selected out of Ohio State within a three-year span from 1999 to 2001. Mario Clark also had a very underrated career, but it doesn’t stack up alongside the accomplishments of Winfield or Clements.

Clements’ tenure with the Bills was longer and more productive, but if you look at both players’ careers, Winfield had the better career. In five seasons with the Bills, Winfield started 58 of 72 games. His six interceptions in Buffalo don’t seem like a great statistic, but the cornerback was outstanding in coverage. He later appeared in three Pro Bowls during a nine-year run with the Vikings. Even at the end of his career, Winfield was still playing cornerback at a high level.

James Williams was Buffalo’s first round pick in 1990, just as their heyday was beginning. Williams started in 28 of 54 games as a Buffalo Bill and collected seven interceptions. Williams wasn’t the answer for the Bills, leaving Buffalo to desperately try to upgrade their secondary in subsequent years with first-round picks Henry Jones (1991), Thomas Smith (1993) and Jeff Burris (1994).

Who’s Next?

Buffalo has plenty of options with the ninth overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. The Bills are in the position to take the best player available, and their pick will all depend on how the board falls in front of them. Tight end, wide receiver, offensive tackle, linebacker and safety are the likeliest options, but regardless of who it is, Buffalo’s first round pick in 2014 will have a chance to make history with the Bills, for better or for worse.

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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

2 Responses to “Buffalo Bills’ Best, Worst First-Round NFL Draft Picks in Team History”

  1. mike says:

    maybe i missed something but no juice

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