With draft season here, it’s important to remember that not all picks are a gamble. In fact, while the Buffalo Bills had a bunch of first round busts over the past 20 years, they’ve also found some great players too. So, I’ll be taking a look back at the Bills’ best first round picks from the past 20 years.
1.) Josh Allen
The Bills shocked everyone by trading up twice in the 2018 draft. But what was an even bigger surprise was who they selected that shocked the fanbase even more… Josh Allen. He would go on to have a rocky rookie season, but the flashes of potential he showed had some fans looking at the positive side for his future.
After his rookie year, Brandon Beane & Co. gave Allen some weapons. Signing Cole Beasley and John Brown in Free Agency, then drafting Dawson Knox in the third round of the 2019 draft. Allen progressed even more in 2019, totaling 3,089 yards, 20 TDs, and 9 INTs, while bringing the Bills to their second playoff appearance in three years. In 2020 though, we saw unbelievable growth from Allen, and Stefon Diggs played a big role in that. Allen and Diggs combined for 1,535 yards and 8 TDs, while taking the Bills to the AFC Championship game.
2.) Tre White
White was the first pick of the Sean McDermott era, and it proved to be a big one. After trading back with the Chiefs to the 27th pick, White would become a day one starter and play a big role in a secondary with free agent acquisitions Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde. Since being drafted in 2017, White has been a first team All-Pro (2019), second team All-Pro (2020), two time Pro Bowler (2019-2020), and co-INT leader (2019).
After his elite 2019 season, Tre would sign a massive four year/$70M extension, which, at the time, made him the highest paid CB in the league. 2020 would prove crucial for him and the rest of the team. It was the best season for the Bills franchise since the Super Bowl era. Tre would play a big part in that, totaling three INTs, 1.5 sacks, and 11 passes defended. However, the 2021 season wouldn’t be as kind to him, suffering a torn ACL in their thanksgiving game against his hometown team New Orleans Saints. In the 11 games he played, he had one INT and six passes defended.
3.) Eric Wood
Wood, the 28th overall pick in 2009, became a cornerstone to the Buffalo Bills offense for eight seasons. Through multiple coaching staffs and QBs, Wood was the only consistent piece to the Bills offense. He was selected to a Pro Bowl in 2015 and saw his first playoff appearance in 2017. He signed a new two year/$16M deal during the 2017 off-season, but wouldn’t see that contract after suffering a career-ending neck injury.
4.) CJ Spiller
Spiller was drafted ninth overall in the 2010 draft, and had an up and down tenure here. After a down rookie year where he scored 0 rushing TDs, Spiller would see his first action in 2011, recording his first 100 yard game against the Denver Broncos (a game that he also scored in). Spiller finished his second year with 561 rushing yards and four TDs. In his third season, Spiller would reach 1,000 rushing yards as Fred Jackson missed time due to an injury. Spiller reached 1,200 yards & six TDs in 2013, earning his first career Pro Bowl. Spiller’s 2014 season would be a rocky one, returning a kickoff 102 yards for a TD against the Miami Dolphins. But, after suffering a broken collarbone, he would miss most of the season. Spiller ended his Buffalo Bills tenure with 3,321 rushing yards and 12 TDs.
5.) Stephon Gilmore
After being selected 10th overall in 2012, Gilmore was named the starting CB alongside Aaron Williams. Gilmore’s rookie season started off pretty good, recording five tackles in a loss to the New York Jets. Gilmore’s first INT came against the St. Louis Rams in a 15-12 loss. Gilmore’s second season started off rocky, undergoing wrist surgery and missing the first five weeks of the season. Gilmore totaled 35 tackles, 10 passes defended, and two INTs. Entering his third season with new DC Jim Schwartz, Gilmore would have a career year, totaling three INTs, including one from Geno Smith in a week eight victory over the New York Jets. In 2016, Gilmore would record five INTs, including two off of Carson Palmer in week three, and was invited to his first career Pro Bowl.