Ranking the Buffalo Bills' First-Round Draft Picks of the Past 10 Years
Over the past 10 years, the Buffalo Bills have not found much success in the first round of the NFL Draft. In this time frame, they have selected 12 players. However, six of them are no longer on the Bills, and four of them are out of the NFL completely.
Not all is lost, though, as the Bills have made much better picks over the past couple of years, and the front office hopes for that trend to continue on May 8 when they announce their pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
In this list, I have ranked the 12 players the Bills have selected in the first round based on their career while a member of the Buffalo Bills.
12. John McCargo
Drafted: 2006, 26th overall pick
Career Stats with the Bills: 47 combined tackles, 2.5 sacks and 5 Passes Defended
John McCargo ranks 12th on this list, not only for his lack of production but, because of the fact that the Buffalo Bills traded back into the first round to get him. The Bills traded a second- and third-round pick in that year's draft to the Chicago Bears to draft the defensive tackle.
McCargo played five seasons for the Bills and only started one game. As a member of the Bills, McCargo struggled with injuries and played a full 16-game season just once.
That draft class included two of McCargo's teammates on the defensive line who also went in the first round. Those two players are now currently members of the Buffalo Bills: Manny Lawson and Mario Williams.
11. Aaron Maybin
Drafted: 2009, 11th overall pick
Career Stats with the Bills: 24 combined tackles, 1 forced fumble
Aaron Maybin may go down as one of the worst picks ever by the Buffalo Bills. The team could not find a position for him, as he was too small to play defensive end and was constantly out-muscled by offensive linemen. He was drafted because of his pass-rushing ability but did not register a sack as a Buffalo Bill.
He played two seasons with Buffalo playing in 27 games over that span. He only started one game, though, and was released before the 2011 season.
10. J.P. Losman
Drafted: 2004, 22nd overall pick
Career Stats with the Bills: 59.3 completion percentage, 6,211 passing yards, 33 TDs, 33 INTs
When the Bills traded back into the first round in 2004, they were hoping they were getting a franchise quarterback. Unfortunately, J.P. Losman did not pan out the way Buffalo had hoped for.
Losman played five seasons with the Bills but only had one season (2006) where he started all 16 games. He showed improvement that year with over 3,000 yards passing and was the only season where he threw more touchdowns (19) than interceptions (14).
After that season, Losman was not able to hold on to the starting job due to injuries, and the Bills went back and forth between him and rookie quarterback Trent Edwards. Losman's contract expired in 2008, and the Bills decided to go in another direction, ending his time with Buffalo.
9. EJ Manuel
Drafted: 2013, 16th overall pick
Career Stats with the Bills: 58.8 completion percentage, 1,972 passing yards, 11 TDs, 9 INTs
It is hard to judge a player after one season, especially one that was riddled with injuries. However, at this point in his career, Manuel would have to be slotted at No. 9, just ahead of Losman because there is still the potential for him to move up.
The rookie quarterback was named the starter for Week 1 and had impressive games right from the start. He led the Bills to wins against the defending Super Bowl Champions Baltimore Ravens as well as a game-winning drive over the Carolina Panthers.
The concern with Manuel, though, is about durability considering he had three knee injuries over the course of his rookie season. If he is able to stay healthy over the course of the 2014 season, there is a strong possibility that he would move quickly up this list.
8. Leodis McKelvin
Drafted: 2008, 11th overall pick
Career Stats with the Bills: 237 combined tackles, 7 INTs, 47 passes defended
Leodis McKelvin is the only player on this list who was re-signed after his rookie contract had expired. This is definitely very telling of the Bills' lack of success in the first round over the past 10 years.
It was a surprise that the Bills decided to offer McKelvin a four-year contract, with an average salary of $4.25 million, considering he struggled at cornerback over his first five seasons. He did make an impact as one of the best kick returners in the league, but the contract seemed high for a kick returner.
The idea that McKelvin couldn't be a starting cornerback has changed a bit one year later, though, as he had his best season at cornerback opposite Stephon Gilmore last season. He posted career highs in tackles and passes defended in 2013. If he continues to show improvement this coming season, he would definitely move up this list.
7. Stephon Gilmore
Drafted: 2012, 10th overall pick
Career Stats with the Bills: 96 combined tackles, 3 interceptions
After his rookie season, there was a great deal of excitement around cornerback Stephon Gilmore. A wrist injury suffered in preseason last year set him back to start his second season.
Gilmore looked to regain his form toward the end of 2013, and the Bills will need him to take that next step in 2014 for this defense to become one of the best in the league. In the next couple of years, I expect Gilmore to rise on this list.
6. Donte Whitner
Drafted: 2006, 8th overall pick
Career Stats with the Bills: 451 combined tackles, 5 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles, .5 sacks
Donte Whitner played five seasons for the Bills and was a good tackler, but he was not the playmaker many hoped for. When a player is drafted in the top 10 of a draft, there are certain expectations that come with that. The safety from Ohio State was never able to meet those with Buffalo.
In his five years with the Bills, he averaged 90.2 tackles and one interception per season.
Since leaving Buffalo, Whitner found success with the San Francisco 49ers and has now signed with the Cleveland Browns to join former Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. He has built a reputation for delivering some hard hits and even thought about changing his last name to "Hitner."
5. Marshawn Lynch
Drafted: 2007, 12th overall pick
Career Stats with the Bills: 2,765 rushing yards, 670 receiving yards, 18 touchdowns
Marshawn Lynch played three full seasons in Buffalo before he was traded during the 2010 season to the Seattle Seahawks. When he was on the field, he was a productive running back, rushing for over 1,000 yards each of his first two seasons as a pro. He was even selected to the Pro Bowl in 2008.
However, Lynch had some off-field troubles that went as far as to get him suspended three games in 2009. He saw his rushing yards per game drop to a career low of 34.6 yards, which was one of the reasons the Bills drafted the next player on this list.
4. C.J. Spiller
Drafted: 2010, 9th overall pick
Career Stats with the Bills: 3,021 rushing yards, 1,070 receiving yards, 17 total touchdowns
Marshawn Lynch and C.J. Spiller have had very comparable stats over the start of each of their careers. Spiller gets the edge because he is a better pass-catcher than Lynch and averages a full yard more per rushing attempt with Spiller at 5.1 and Lynch at 4.0.
The running back from Clemson had a breakout season in 2012 with 1,703 yards from scrimmage and eight touchdowns. The expectations were high entering the 2013 season for Spiller, but he battled an ankle injury for a majority of the season, which held him back.
3. Eric Wood
Drafted: 2009, 28th overall pick
Career Stats with the Bills: 63 games started (39 at center, 24 at right guard)
Over the past 10 years, the Bills have had two picks in the first round three times and finally got it right the third time. In 2009, after selecting Aaron Maybin with the 11th overall pick, the Bills picked center Eric Wood with the 28th pick.
Wood started out his career at right guard for the first two seasons, but was moved back to his college position of center in 2011. He struggled with injuries to start his career, missing 15 games over the first three years but has only missed two since that time span.
The Bills feel these injury concerns are a thing of the past, as before last season, the Bills signed Wood to a four-year contract extension worth $9 million. Next season will make Wood one of only three players drafted in the past 10 years to play more than five seasons with the Bills.
2. Marcell Dareus
Drafted: 2011, 3rd overall pick
Career Stats with the Bills: 153 combined tackles, 18.5 sacks, 11 passes defended
The highest the Bills have drafted in the past 10 years came in 2011 when they selected Marcell Dareus third overall. The defensive tackle out of Alabama has had an up-and-down career. Last season, he finally had his breakout season, which was capped off with his first trip to the Pro Bowl.
It was not all good last year, though, as Dareus was suspended twice in the final two weeks of the season due to issues surrounding tardiness to team functions. This is hopefully not an issue entering this season, as Dareus is entering his final year of his rookie contract, and fans would love to see a defensive line of Dareus, Kyle Williams and Mario Williams stay intact past 2014.
1. Lee Evans
Drafted: 2004, 13th overall pick
Career Stats with the Bills: 377 receptions, 5934 receiving yards, 43 touchdowns
Any player who wears No. 83 has big shoes to fill, considering it was the same number worn by Hall of Famer Andre Reed. Lee Evans was initially assigned No. 84, however, being Lee Evans III and wearing No. 3 in college, he wanted that number.
In 2011, Chris Brown of Buffalobills.com wrote about this issue:
When Lee Evans came to the Bills as a number one draft choice in 2004, he was issued number 84. Having worn jersey number 3 at Wisconsin, Evans knew that was not an option by league rule for a receiver. But being Lee Evans III and having worn 3 in some form on his jersey his whole football career he wanted 83.
Brown also spoke with Bills equipment manager Dave Hojnowski:
Basically we don’t use those numbers again until we check with Mr. Wilson. After getting the okay there I also did have to place a call to San Diego to Andre and tell him myself, 'Look as a courtesy I’m letting you know that we’re issuing your number.' So he asked me who and I told him it was Lee Evans and he said, 'Okay, he’ll do the number proud.'
Evans went on to have a productive career with the Bills averaging 53.9 receptions, 847.7 yards and 6.1 touchdowns per season. His career with Buffalo ended before the 2011 season when he was traded to Baltimore for a fourth-round pick.
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