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Buffalo Bills Quarterbacks: NFL Draft History

Matt Warren is Associate Director of NFL coverage for SB Nation and previously covered the Bills for Buffalo Rumblings for more than a decade.

Many Buffalo Bills fans think the team must address the quarterback position in this April's 2011 NFL Draft. On Friday, we took a look at Mr. Wilson's opinions on the matter as well as some of the top quarterbacks in this draft. In keeping with the quarterback discussion, let's take a look back on the Bills' draft history at the position.

Clearly, this is not to be used as an indicator of what the Bills could do this April, as only one of these quarterbacks were selected by the current front office. Rather, this is meant as an entertaining exercise into Bills QB history. We'll limit this discussion to the common draft, which took place beginning in 1967 when the two leagues agreed on the merger.

First Round - Two Quarterbacks
Two Bills quarterbacks have joined the team after being selected in the first round of the draft. It took Jim Kelly a little time, but he ultimately went on to a Hall of Fame career after being selected No. 14 overall in 1983. To say he's the best quarterback in team history is probably an egregious understatement.

J.P. Losman is the only other quarterback taken in the first round by the Bills. Losman went 10-23 at the helm in Buffalo and threw more picks (34) than touchdowns (33). To make matters worse, the Bills traded up to get Losman, costing them second- and future first-round picks. As has been discussed here in recent weeks, a first-round QB is a 50-50 proposition. (It also must be noted that Dennis Shaw, who we'll discuss in the second round, was selected No. 30 overall.)

Second Round - Four Quarterbacks
The aforementioned Shaw was the first Bills QB taken in the second round. He won the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year award in 1970 after passing for 2,500 yards and earning a 3-8-1 record. He started two more seasons, totaling an 8-27-2 record as starting QB and passing for less than 140 yards per game. Like so many QBs on this list, he had more interceptions (67) than touchdowns (35).

Gene Bradley was selected 37th in the 1980 draft but I have no information on anything about the former Arkansas State quarterback. He never played in a game for the Bills or any other NFL team.

Matt Kofler was the Bills' second-round pick in 1982. He never started a game for Buffalo, amassing 872 yards, seven touchdowns, and 11 interceptions on 154 pass attempts. He took 25 sacks, which is an unusually high number for a guy who dropped back only 179 times. He finished his career with one year on the Colts and lost the only start of his career.

Todd Collins, taken 45th overall to eventually replace Kelly, was taken in the 1995 draft. He spent only three seasons in Buffalo before the team gave up on him after going 5-8 in his first season as the starter. His career 16-to-19 touchdown-to-interception ratio and 6.2 yards per attempt, as well as his high sack rate, were likely reasons to move on from the former Michigan Wolverine.

Third Round - Four Quarterbacks
Buffalo has made a habit of finding starters in the third round. More third-round QBs have been the primary starter in a season for the Bills than any other round. The list starts with Joe Ferguson in 1973. Ferguson was immediately inserted into the starting lineup to replace Shaw, and he stayed there for 12 years, yielding the spot under center only due to injury. The man who started the most games at quarterback in team history went 77-86 while throwing for 27,590 yards. Continuing the wrong-way trend, he threw 181 touchdowns and 190 interceptions, the latter being the most in team history.

Gary Marangi was selected to back up Ferguson in 1974. Marangi started only seven games in his three-year career, losing every one of them. He totaled 1,373 yards, 12 touchdowns, and 21 interceptions in 19 games.

Fan favorite Frank Reich was selected in the third round in 1985. His spot duty starts in place of an injured Kelly were epic, including the greatest comeback in NFL history against the Houston Oilers. He threw for 2,540 yards, 18 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, and went 4-4 in his regular season starts for Buffalo.

Trent Edwards is the most recent third-round quarterback selected by the Bills. He took over for an injured Losman in 2007 and started 32 games, going 14-18. In his three-plus seasons, he amassed 5,739 passing yards, 25 touchdowns, and 27 interceptions.

Fourth Round - Zero Quarterbacks

Fifth Round - Two Quarterbacks
Fred Besana was selected 115th overall in 1977. He never played in the NFL. Dan Manucci was taken one year and one spot later. Manucci played three years in Buffalo, appearing in 19 games and going 0-1 as a starter. Two interceptions, no touchdowns, eight sacks, 44% completion percentage.

Sixth Round - Zero Quarterbacks

Seventh Round - One Quarterback
The most recent member of our list and only current QB on the roster who was drafted by the team is Levi Brown. Brown was released in final cuts, but was brought back to the team when they released Edwards. He has one game appearance, one interception, and 24 passing yards.

Eighth Round - Five Quarterbacks
While the eighth round is home to the most quarterbacks of any round, it is barren in actual production. James Harris played three season in Buffalo after being drafted in 1969. He was 0-3 in those three years with 189 pass attempts in 18 games. He had five touchdowns and 11 interceptions to go with 1,120 yards. He made a Pro Bowl with the Los Angeles Rams, and had a decent career with the Rams and the San Diego Chargers.

Gregg Hare (1974), Scott Gardner (1976), Todd Krueger (1980), and Luc Tousignant (1982) were drafted, but never played for the Bills.

Ninth Round - Zero Quarterbacks

Tenth Round - Two Quarterbacks
Matthew Reed (1973) and David Marler (1979) never played in the NFL.

Eleventh Round - Zero Quarterbacks

Twelfth Round - Two Quarterbacks
During the 1987 player's strike, twelfth-round draft choice Brian McClure won the only start of his career in the only game he would ever play. He went 20 of 38 for 181 yards and three interceptions in a rousing 6-3 win over the New York Giants. He was more trying to not get killed by Lawrence Taylor than anything else.

1992 twelfth rounder Matt Rodgers never played an NFL game.

Thirteenth Round - Two Quarterbacks
Dan Darragh played three seasons for Buffalo after being selected in the lucky thirteenth round in 1968. He started seven games his rookie year, as injuries ravaged Buffalo's QB corps. In all, he went 1-10 in his three seasons with the Bills, passing for four touchdowns and 22 interceptions.

My personal favorite name on this list, Busty Underwood, never played for the Bills after being taken No. 316 overall in 1971.

Fourteenth Round - Zero Quarterbacks

Fifteenth Round - One Quarterback
Chris Kupec, drafted in 1975, never played in the NFL.

Sixteenth Round - One Quarterback
Brian Linstrom never played in the NFL after being taken No. 391 overall in 1972.


The most startling figure that jumped out at me was only two quarterbacks that were drafted by Buffalo have positive TD to INT ratios: Jim Kelly and Frank Reich.