Welcome back to part two of a series that is as educational as it is painful. This particular era of Bills draft history is known to sting, so be ready.
1. C Eric Wood – Pick 28, 2009
If Eric Wood had a healthy man’s legs, he’d probably already be on the ring of honor. Battling through injuries from the very first season of his career, Wood won every camp battle he was thrown into, whilst playing at an elite level in one of the least consistent offensive lines in the NFL. The sheer amount of teammates he played shoulder to shoulder within an eight-year career is mind-boggling, and he still earned a Pro Bowl honor in 2015. Playing at a combo of G and C over his tenure in Buffalo, Wood was a leader, a cornerstone, and a damned good man. He still covers Buffalo sports to this day on multiple platforms.
2. WR Lee Evans – Pick 13, 2004
Evans was the first WR taken in the first round by the Bills since Eric Moulds in 1996. After being granted special permission to wear #83, which had been set aside to honor the great Andre Reed, Evans set extremely high expectations for himself. He hit those expectations perfectly, taking over the WR1 role from Moulds himself and setting a rookie TD record that still stands today (nine). Evans excelled, all the way up until 2010 when he suffered an ankle injury. He was traded that offseason and flunked out in Baltimore in his limited playing time between injuries. Evans is still third in Bills history for receiving yards (5,934) and TDs (43), as well as fourth for receptions (377).
3. DB Leodis McKelvin – Pick 11, 2008
When you talk about a jack of all trades, few guys meet the criteria quite as well as Leodis McKelvin. A notorious kick returner, McKelvin torched teams with the ball in his hands. He wouldn’t be young forever, and it was his coverage skills that kept him in the league for eight years as a CB. A consistent starter, and always thriving no matter where on the depth chart he sat, McKelvin was a prime example of a guy we probably didn’t deserve to have in the middle of an 18-year playoff drought. As is far too often the case, he wasn’t quite the same after his injury in 2015 and retired after being released by Philadelphia in 2016.
4. RB Marshawn Lynch – Pick 12, 2007
Those of you who may know me personally will know that I am vehemently against the concept of drafting a RB in the first round, with very few exceptions to that rule. Lynch was not one of those exceptions. Many of you might be saying to yourselves, ‘But Iestyn, Lynch is a five-time Pro Bowler! He led the NFL in TDs twice! He’s 16th all-time in rushing TDs!’ All of those things are true, but he did nothing for Buffalo, and a vast majority of his accolades came after his trade to Seattle. Lynch is an incredible athlete, and undoubtedly one of the most entertaining players to ever touch a ball, but he’s far from a Buffalo success story.
5. S Donte Whitner – Pick 8, 2006
Whitner was a good player but held out of camp before his rookie contract was even inked. That made for a poor impression. His first game changed things as he picked off Tom Brady for his first career INT. He had a few good seasons during his five years in Buffalo but didn’t warrant a new contract. He went on to have a few uninspiring, but entirely acceptable, seasons with San Francisco, Cleveland, and finally Washington. Whitner was actually a decent pick, which might put him miles above the rest of this list.
6. RB Willis McGahee – Pick 23, 2003
McGahee was talented but taken far too soon, despite being touted as a former top-five prospect before his injury in the Fiesta Bowl. His long rehab process pushed his draft stock down and he could have fallen a lot further if not for the general incompetence of the Buffalo front office during that era. Despite a great deal of initial success, his comments on the state of the franchise, the City of Buffalo, and the concept of moving the whole team to Toronto after the 2006 season led to his trade. It was not a bitter farewell.
7. DT John McCargo – Pick 26, 2006
The Bills have made a history out of trading up to get the wrong guy. No one really knows what they saw in John McCargo. The general consensus was that he was a late second-round pick at best and, realistically, should have been a fourth. Instead, with more valuable draft capital invested in another bad pick, they tried their hardest to make it work. McCargo was a problem, just not for opposing offenses. He passed out at rookie camp due to his general lack of fitness and conditioning and didn’t ever really get off the ground again.
8. QB J.P. Losman – Pick 22, 2004
Have you ever seen an ugly duckling in real life? Losman followed Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, and Ben Roethlisberger off the draft board; even the next QB taken after him was Matt Schaub in the third round. Buffalo gave up their 2005 first-rounder, as well as their 2004 second and fifth rounders, in order to secure four more years of mediocrity, as Losman would go straight from Buffalo’s roster to the Las Vegas Locomotives of the UFL in 2009. After hitting the Raiders, Seahawks, and Dolphins on the way down, Losman fell out of the league in 2011, never to return. He is now an offensive analyst for Clemson.
9. LB Aaron Maybin – Pick 11, 2009
Aaron Maybin might be one of the worst picks Buffalo ever made, point-blank. Playing in all 16 games in his rookie season, Maybin accrued 18 tackles and zero sacks. By game six of his second year, he was a healthy scratch on the roster. He was waived before the 2011 season. Maybin failed to make the Jets roster on a league-minimum deal, then was brought back to New York after injuries. He led the team with six sacks, including two against Buffalo, and five forced fumbles. He would then fail to make a roster again, floating to the Bengals for an offseason, then the CFL, then an early retirement.
10. OT Mike Williams – Pick 4, 2002
For those who find offensive linemen forgettable, you’d be right in the case of former fourth-overall pick Mike Williams. He started a few games his rookie season at his preferred RT position but switched to LT after one too many bad games. And his downfall didn’t stop there. He lost his job to the undrafted Jason Peters, who would become one of the longest-lasting OL in NFL history. Williams is widely considered one of the biggest draft busts of the 21st century.