Should teams draft for need or value? The Buffalo Bills have often split the difference and addressed neither. Identifying the most deficient position is enough of a challenge. Predicting how collegians will do in the workforce is like trying to beat the house at roulette. Still, some teams are better at figuring out the spinning than others.
The Bills have selected many players who they should’ve let bum around Europe after graduation. Never stop judging them. Whinging about past failures can be cathartic. Let it out while hoping you won’t have to do the same with this year’s top choice.
The roster of first-round failures is formidable in its way. How do we determine who’s best at being the worst? Keep in mind the scoring system for superstar disappointments, namely half based on how little they did with the other half judged on draft position. Earlier picks fizzled more spectacularly even if they were slightly better. Let’s remember who’s forgettable:
Al Cowlings (5th, 1970) – When given a single-digit pick as compensation for a crummy season, prioritize what your team needs. Skill should rank above being O.J.’s pal. History shows they should’ve been split up.
Walt Patulski (1st, 1972) – They could’ve picked anyone else. To be fair, he led the team in sacks as a rookie, even if he only registered a mere five. Patulski was vaguely productive for a few moments, but he makes the list because every other draftee that year was hired later.
Tom Ruud (19th, 1975) – An unusual name is the only memorable thing about Mister Ruud’s career. What position did he play? You’d have to check, which is the point.
Tom Cousineau (1st, 1979) – The Bills were too cheap to sign the top choice, which worked for the best. An undersized guy who got away with it in college thankfully never played for Buffalo, as his penchant for valiant dashing which made him an exciting collegian didn’t translate to the pro game. He may be exempt by virtue of how he was traded for a pick which turned out to be Jim Kelly, proving if nothing else that the Bills may occasionally by chance get it right.
Booker Moore (28th, 1981) – Rushing for 420 yards would be a decent month for a good first-rounder. That was Moore’s career.
Perry Tuttle (19th, 1982) – His Wikipedia features a longer CFL section than NFL.
Tony Hunter (12th, 1983) – Selecting Kelly two picks later shows how unpredictable this process is. So, Hunter did have value.
Erik Flowers (26th, 2000) – As a football player, Erik was a really nice guy.
Mike Williams (4th, 2002) – Your strange friend who ignores the Super Bowl says nobody cares less about football. But he’s wrong. Fans must be careful about calling players soft from behind a screen, as the pain levels faced in the NFL are virtually inconceivable. That said, not only was Williams a Texas-sized bowl of custard, but he didn’t care if you called him that. The Bills missed as badly as he did on blocks.
J.P. Losman (22nd, 2004) – Every fan is entitled to defend a few players who don’t deserve it. I personally have a soft spot for a quarterback appointed captain of a sinking ship. His reward for a decent 2006 was being replaced by Trent Edwards, who’s still working on his arm strength. Vince Wilfork’s filthy forearm didn’t help, either. Nevertheless, he was playing like he had never held a football by the time he left.
John McCargo (26th, 2006) – The Bills had a gap in the defensive line’s middle. McCargo still hasn’t filled it. Special consideration for an earlier first-round pick the same year in a particularly infamous round goes to Donte Whitner, who isn’t included because A) he started for a few years, even if only marginally competently, and B) this isn’t a list of top surly jerks.
Aaron Maybin (11th, 2009) – If you have one dimension, as least be good at it. His holdout despite desperately needing training camp to learn something besides speeding past a tackle summed up his mentality and play. “Doing nothing” is a phrase often applied to busts. But when a player added to attack the quarterback gets zero sacks for his first team, it’s accurate.
EJ Manuel (16th, 2013) – The most recent big miss may not have reached all-time worst status. But a letdown who’s fresh in mind inspires venting.
The tour of drafting woe is one way to cope with it. Who’s your top worst selection? My personal choice for first overall is Mike Williams, who embodies everything that hasn’t gone right this century for our beloved team. It’d be much more fun to discuss who was replacing the offensive tackle after his distinguished career. Instead, he went fourth and did infinitely less.
Yet the next season remains scheduled. It was painful to watch plans go askew as badly as Walter White’s inheritance scheme. Just try again with the wisdom provided by learning from what went wrong. We diagnose where this team hit the iceberg not to wallow while treading but to know there’s a chance to be rescued.
Time kept going. The best way to distract ourselves from apprehension is by noting how badly it’s gone before. This team has persevered despite wasted choices. Sure, it hasn’t always been in title contention. To change that, please don’t lengthen this list.