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ESPN Insider: Bills' best draft class

From ESPN Insider (via Scouts, Inc.) - April 1, 2009 ESPN Stats and Information has ranked all NFL players drafted in the modern draft (1967-2008) based on their performance during their NFL careers -- regardless of how they fared with the team that drafted them. Insider will count down each team's best draft class (seeded 1-32), then conduct a tournament to determine the best class of all time. For a short explanation of the ranking system, click here, or, for a more detailed rundown of how the system was developed, click here. The Buffalo Bills are infamous for their early '90s runs to the Super Bowl. Four consecutive AFC championships is an impressive feat, but nobody remembers four straight Super Bowl trips in a positive light when each one is lost. The Bills found every way possible to lose Super Bowls; they fell on a last-second missed FG and they got blown out, but Buffalo was always resilient enough to make it back the next year. The Bills built their AFC title teams with solid drafting. Four of the franchise's top six drafts came in the '80s and five of the Bills' top nine draft picks of all time came between 1983 and 1988. These players were the key elements in the early '90s run to four Super Bowls. Buffalo has drafted five Hall of Fame players, which ties the Bills for the third-highest total with the Raiders and Cowboys. Andre Reed was a Hall of Fame finalist in 2009, but was not inducted, but he would be the sixth Bills draft pick to be inducted if that honor is bestowed upon him in the near future. Two Buffalo draft picks have won an MVP award, making them one of only 10 teams that can say their draft picks have won multiple MVP awards. The Bills had many tremendous drafts, but ESPN Stats and Information's ranking system says their best draft came in 1985. BILLS' BEST DRAFT CLASS: 1985 DE Bruce Smith (Round 1, 1st overall, Virginia Tech): There are always great expectations placed on any player drafted first overall in the NFL draft, and by the time Bruce Smith's career was over he had completely lived up to his potential. Smith finished his career with 200 sacks, was named to the Pro Bowl 11 times and was named a first-team All-Pro eight times. There were three D-linemen selected in the top four picks in 1985, and four of the top five picks were defensive players. The Bills definitely selected the best defensive player in 1985, and if it weren't for a receiver named Jerry Rice, Smith would have been the best player in that year's draft. WR Andre Reed (Round 4, 86th overall, Kutztown): Andre Reed is one of only three players drafted out of Kutztown, and the wide receiver from the small college had one great career in the NFL. Reed was the 13th wide receiver drafted in 1985, and the second taken by the Bills. Buffalo selected WR Chris Burkett in the second round, but it was the WR the Bills selected in the fourth round that would become the go-to wideout on their Super Bowl teams. Reed finished his career with over 13,000 receiving yards, and was named a second-team All-Pro twice. Of the 42 receivers taken in the 1985 draft, Reed would go on to have the second-best career behind only Jerry Rice, possibly the best wide receiver of all time. Interestingly enough, the third-best receiver taken in 1985, according to our rankings, was Houston's ninth-round pick, Steve Tasker, who spent the majority of his career with Buffalo as a great special-teams player. QB Frank Reich (Round 3, 57th overall, Maryland): Frank Reich never attempted 100 passes in any season for Buffalo, but he will always be etched into the hearts of every Bills fan. In the playoffs following the 1992 season, Reich completed one of the best comebacks in NFL history, leading the Bills back from a 35-3 deficit to beat the Oilers in overtime. The Bills would go on to play in the Super Bowl, where Reich found himself in his familiar role of backup QB to Jim Kelly. Reich also led one of the best comebacks in college football history when he led Maryland back from a 31-0 score to win the game 42-40.

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