When Mario Williams suits up this September for the Buffalo Bills, he'll be just the fifth former No. 1 overall NFL Draft pick to play for the team, and the first to sign with the team as a free agent.
O.J. Simpson was drafted by Buffalo and was the first player chosen in the 1969 NFL Draft after a Heisman Trophy-winning career at USC. During his Hall of Fame career in Buffalo, he went to six Pro Bowls and was named All-Pro five times. In 1973, he was the league MVP and the Offensive Player of the Year.
Three years after selecting Simpson, the Bills took defensive end Walt Patulski. After a successful career at Notre Dame, the Syracuse native spent four seasons at left defensive end before finishing his career with a year with the St. Louis Cardinals. He was a big disappointment for the team in the middle of a hard decade.
The next time the Bills held the first overall draft choice, Virginia Tech's Bruce Smith was the selection in 1985. During his Hall of Fame career, he was twice named NFL Defensive Player of the Year and was an 11-time Pro Bowl participant. By the time he was done, he had set the NFL record with 200 sacks - a title he still holds.
The Bills haven't had the first overall pick since Smith. Ten years ago, they traded their 2003 first-round selection to the New England Patriots for former top pick Drew Bledsoe. Bledsoe had become expendable when Tom Brady emerged in 2001. Starting with the 2002 season, Bledsoe played three seasons in Buffalo and earned a Pro Bowl selection for orchestrating the finest statistical passing season a Bills quarterback ever had. The Bills couldn't get over the hump, though, and never made the playoffs behind Bledsoe.
While Williams will be the fifth to suit up, there is one more player who was picked at the top of the draft by the Bills. Tom Cousineau was the top pick in 1979, but the linebacker didn't like how the Bills were being run and signed a record-setting contract to play in the CFL. He eventually returned to the NFL, and Buffalo traded him to Cleveland for a first-round pick, later used to select Jim Kelly. Cousineau spent six seasons with the Browns and San Fransisco 49ers before retiring.
Williams compiled 53 sacks and two Pro Bowl starts in his six seasons with the Houston Texans before signing with the Bills last week.