Looking into Buffalo’s history at wide receiver, there is not much to write home about. Since the AFL/NFL merger in 1970, only three have cracked over 5,000 receiving yards. Those three are Andre Reed, Eric Moulds, and Lee Evans. But it also brings up the debate of who is the best wide receiver in the team history? Well, it’s time to shred the hearts of 90s Bills fans: Eric Moulds is the best wide receiver.
1) Moulds developed quicker than Reed
After four-straight Super Bowl losses and an aging offensive attack, the Bills needed a fresh offensive weapon. And with the 24th pick in the 1996 NFL Draft, Buffalo selected Moulds, a 6’2’’ wide receiver from Mississippi State.
In a receiver class with Keyshawn Johnson and Marvin Harrison, Moulds still showed flashes in college. His stats for the Bulldogs speak for themselves: 118 receptions for 2,022 yards and 17 touchdowns in three seasons.
Going into the draft, Buffalo was looking at possible replacements for Andre Reed. He appeared in only six games in 1995 due to a hamstring injury and was starting to decline in production.
Settling into the offense, Moulds had a strong 1998 campaign. He had 1,368 yards and nine touchdowns, according to Pro Football Focus. Moulds needed only three seasons to become Buffalo’s top offensive weapon while Reed simmered out.
On the flip side, Reed struggled early in his career until his breakout season in 1989. In his fifth season, Reed had 1,312 yards and nine touchdowns. But Reed took longer to develop because of Buffalo’s new K-Gun offense.
But the stats do not lie here: Moulds still has the best single-season receiving yards record in franchise history. Point to Moulds.
2) Moulds had more quarterback inconsistencies than Reed and made the best of it
It is no secret the Buffalo Bills struggled to find a franchise quarterback once Jim Kelly retired in 1997.
But the reason I hate the debate is that Andre Reed played his career with the greatest quarterback in team history.
Officially, Reed recorded 10,247 yards with Jim Kelly under center for eleven consecutive years. This number includes games where Frank Reich started for Kelly due to injury. But Reed was better with Kelly on the field.
Reed played with three quarterbacks who started over four games in a season (Kelly, Todd Collins, Doug Flutie). But Eric Moulds was not so lucky. He played with eight quarterbacks who started more than four games.
Here’s the list: Kelly, Collins, Flutie, Rob Johnson, Alex Van Pelt, Drew Bledsoe, J.P. Losman, and Kelly Holcomb. Granted, I can just remember watching Losman and Holcomb duke it out for the starting job in 2005. But, Moulds had to adjust with whom he caught passes from.
Overall, Moulds recorded 9,096 yards from those quarterbacks. This is impressive, as Reed had about 10,000 from Jim Kelly alone. It seemed like Moulds had a new quarterback under center every year while Reed rode the coattails of Kelly.
3) Head Coach and Offensive and Defensive Scheme Changes Hurt Moulds
Alright, I get it. Andre Reed is officially better on paper. There is no denying his commitment to the game. Notably, he helped lead “The Comeback” with three touchdown receptions in the second half.
But there was an imbalance of coaching ability for Moulds. Let us compare the two, starting with Reed.
Under Marv Levy and Ted Marchibroda, the Bills developed the K-Gun offense. The style had Jim Kelly orchestrating Buffalo’s offense and showed no remorse for defenses, who had their hands on their hips gasping for air.
In terms of personnel, Reed played under two head coaches (Levy and Wade Phillips) and six offensive coordinators. They were also consistent on the defensive side, ranking in the top 20 in twelve of his 15 seasons in Orchard Park.
Back in the 1990s, both sides of the ball needed to work together to get to the Super Bowl. Buffalo did for almost five straight years. For Moulds, it was the complete opposite.
Moulds had no help in personnel
He played under four head coaches (Levy, Phillips, Gregg Williams, and Mike Mularkey) and six offensive coordinators as well. But in the prime of his career from 1999-2005, Moulds had four offensive coordinators.
The shuffling of the offensive scheme hindered Moulds, as he was not in a consistent system. Considering he had 7,155 yards in those six years, there should be recognition for his commitment.
And unlike Reed, Moulds played alongside an inconsistent defensive unit.
Buffalo’s defense jumped as high as 2nd in 1999 to as low as 29th in 2001. And during Moulds’ prime, NFL football was the same.
Both sides of the ball needed to work together to win a championship. In 2020, there is a higher emphasis on putting up points and less defense. But in the early 2000s, Moulds did not have this consistency, and it hindered his progression on the field.
4) Playoff game difference
For those who grew up in the 2000s, we hope to avoid this conversation for years to come. But it is worth mentioning how many playoff games Moulds and Reed suited up.
Reed started 21 career playoff games, recording 1,229 yards and nine touchdowns. His 323 career receiving yards in the Super Bowl are third all-time behind Jerry Rice and Lynn Swann. And his 27 receptions are 2nd all-time behind Rice’s 33. These stats are astounding for a former fourth-round pick.
But Moulds got the short end of the stick in playoff appearances. In just three games for the Bills, he hauled in 12 receptions for 302 yards and one touchdown. Most of them came in the 24-17 loss to the Dolphins in 1999, where Moulds had 242 yards. The performance still stands as the record for receiving yards in a postseason game.
While Reed basked in the glory of attending four straight Super Bowls, Moulds could not show his breakaway speed and magician-like catches.
It makes you wonder if Moulds would be a Hall of Famer if Buffalo had a playoff-caliber quarterback. We can all dream by playing Madden 2000 on our PlayStation or Nintendo 64.
5) Multi-Tool personality
When Buffalo drafted Moulds in 1996, he was not just an offensive threat. One of the things scouts overlooked was his playmaking ability in the return game.
In 29 attempts for the Bulldogs, Moulds averaged 28.6 yards per return, according to Pro Football Reference. And while he sat on the bench waiting his turn in the Bills offense, he became a kick return specialist.
In his rookie season, Moulds amassed 1,205 yards and one touchdown. The touchdown was 97-yards against the Jets in week 13. Meanwhile, Reed could not return the ball for Buffalo, as he did not have shiftiness. But it was not just the kickoff return ability that made Moulds special.
Yes, I know Reed has more career yards (13,095) than Moulds (9,096) while in Buffalo. But look past the yards. Moulds was the first Bills receiver to have over 100 receptions in a season (2002). Reed got close in 1994 with 90 but no dice.
We must keep in mind Reed had 88 more career games in Buffalo than Moulds. And when Reed came into the league in 1985, he did not have any competition at the position. The other wideout was James Lofton, who was an established Hall of Famer with Green Bay before coming to Buffalo in 1989.
Moulds had to sit behind Reed for two years before Buffalo let him do his thing. If Buffalo brought Moulds into the offense earlier, he would have the most receiving yards in team history.
6) Both leave on interesting terms
It is a shame Buffalo released Andre Reed in 2000 due to cap issues. But there was a much different story behind his release.
After having over 1,000 receiving yards in 1996, Reed lost his quarterback. Jim Kelly retired in the offseason on his own terms. With Kelly gone, Reed’s receiving yards declined until he only had 536 yards in his last year. He was not happy in his decreased role and wanted out of Buffalo.
He was very vocal in his decision, saying he was glad he was now a free agent. Andre, your career was over because your ball and chain retired on his terms. Give me a break.
Meanwhile, Eric Moulds understood in 2006 that his time in Buffalo was over. After not wanting to restructure his $10 million contract, he was dealt to the Houston Texans for a fifth-round pick.
While Reed made enemies in his exit from Orchard Park, Moulds was grateful for his time in Buffalo, according to ESPN’s John Clayton.
“It’s still tough to leave Buffalo. I have a lot of fans there, but there comes a time when everyone has to move on,” Moulds said.
Moulds had more class in his exit from Buffalo, as he knew it was time for a fresh start. But many people overlook the outcome of this trade.
After trading Moulds to Houston, Buffalo used the 5th round pick on Kyle Willams, a defensive tackle out of LSU. And we all know how Williams turned out in Orchard Park. Bills fans, you can send a thank-you note to Moulds for gifting us one of the best.
No disrespect to Andre Reed
Before everyone jumps down my throat, I am not disrespecting Andre Reed’s accomplishments. He is still Buffalo’s strongest draft steal in team history, as he was a fourth-round pick in 1985.
But Reed probably would not have had as much success if Jim Kelly wasn’t his quarterback. While Eric Moulds had to deal with a quarterback and offensive coordinator rotation that could rival a slot machine.
Based on stats, Moulds will never be in the hall of fame in Canton. But he deserves to be in the Buffalo Bills Wall of Fame, as he was one of the shining lights of the 2000s Bills.
As a parting gift, I will leave you with one stat for Moulds. In Buffalo, he had 675 receptions on 1,187 targets over ten seasons. Imagine if he caught more balls or had a consistent quarterback.
Should Eric Moulds be considered the best Bills wide receiver of all-time? What could have been if Moulds had a more consistent quarterback throwing to him? Let me know in the comments or connect with me on Twitter.