Buffalo Bills: WR Steve Johnson Among Bills' Late Round Draft Gems

Chris TrapassoAnalyst INovember 23, 2010

CINCINNATI - NOVEMBER 21:  Steve Johnson #13 of the Buffalo Bills runs for a touchdown during NFL game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on November 21, 2010 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Bills won 49-21.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Over the past futile decade for the Buffalo Bills, one in which the team never inhaled playoff air, many directly blamed the postseason no-show on the Bills' scouting department for whiffing on those ever-important early-round draft picks.

To kick off the 2000s, Buffalo picked the heir apparent to the legendary Bruce Smith when they grabbed Erik Flowers out of Arizona State with the 26th overall pick.

Flowers had zero impact as a rookie, and after earning a starting job in 2001, he was benched after five games and then the Bills released him prior to the 2002 campaign. Ouch. 

They "hit" on Nate Clements in the first round of the 2001 draft, but his ego led to a short tenure in Buffalo. 

Then it was the colossal mistake, Mike Williams. Bryant McKinnie was available, but the Bills seemingly pushed Williams' supposed immaturity issues to the side, and it cost them. Big time. 

Josh Reed, selected in the second round that same year, was respectable during his time in Western New York, but compared to his illustrious college career, he fell very short of expectations.

The early-round blunder list continues from there. 

Willis McGahee was drafted in the first round in 2003. He was a solid runner but only played for the Bills for three seasons and subsequently dogged the city of Buffalo upon leaving. 

Lee Evans may be the lone first-round hit of the decade, when he was taken 14th overall in 2004. However, his selection is negated by the J.P. Losman pick later in the same round.

Then came the Marv Levy era. Donte Whitner, No. 8 overall in 2006. That pick was followed by a trade back into the first to nab the infamous John McCargo at No. 26 overall.

The Marshawn Lynch selection in 2007 seems like a good one on the surface; after all, he did make a Pro Bowl in Buffalo. But the Bills could have used Lawrence Timmons, Jon Beason or Darrelle Revis, all players drafted after the polarizing back who's now running in Seattle...right?   

Luckily, Levy stepped down after the 2007 season. However, the ill-advised early-round picks didn't end there.

The jury is still out on Leodis McKelvin, first round pick in 2008. Second-rounder James Hardy is unemployed. Chris Ellis...cut.

Recently and possibly the most abominable pick of them all, Aaron Maybin, was selected 11th overall, when Brian Orakpo was still waiting for a call from the NFL.

With all that, it's easy to look at the Bills and laugh. First-round pick after first-round pick flopped. Even most of the second and third-round picks ultimately became professional football failures based on when they were drafted.

But if you look at the Buffalo Bills today, you'll see that for nearly all the early-round mistakes, the Bills have uncovered a late-round or undrafted gem.

Terrence McGee was picked in the fourth round in 2003. He's made the Pro Bowl and has probably been the most consistent member of the secondary in Buffalo since his arrival.

Jason Peters, who during his prime was considered by some as the best left tackle in the game, was found by Bills' management as an undrafted free agent tight end in 2004, although he's on the Eagles today.

Buffalo signed Jim Leonhard as a free agent in 2005, and somehow he's starring as a Jet today.

Kyle Williams, who arguably is the best overall player in Buffalo right now, was drafted with great value in the fifth round in 2006.

Reggie Corner fits his round value as a nickel corner. He was a fourth-rounder in 2008. Demetrius Bell is far from perfect as an offensive tackle but is surely coming into his own. He was the 219th overall choice in that same draft.

Steve Johnson, who's become a star overnight and could be named to the Pro Bowl in a loaded AFC, was grabbed 224th overall in '08. Even Donald Jones contributed five catches for 70 yards and a touchdown last week—another undrafted free agent. Same for David Nelson, the team's slot receiver, who has the potential to be a go-to third down target.

Fred Jackson: an undrafted Division III star. Ryan Fitzpatrick: a seventh-rounder from Harvard. George Wilson, who intercepted Carson Palmer in the end zone last week, was an undrafted wide receiver turned safety.

Buffalo's really getting the most out of guys who were vastly overlooked in the draft process, whether the Bills selected them or not. 

Imagine if the Bills could find a gem in the first round.