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Bills Draft Gems, No. 9: OT Howard Ballard

With the 2011 NFL Draft quickly approaching, we thought it'd be a good idea to run down the Buffalo Bills' ten biggest draft successes and failures. I decided at the last minute to make this an "of my lifetime" series, meaning that the only busts and gems that you'll see listed here every day were picked in 1985 or after.

When most Bills fans think of a diamond-in-the-rough offensive tackle, the first example is typically Jason Peters, an undrafted free agent out of Arkansas who became Buffalo's starting left tackle and struck it rich in Philadelphia. Peters was not unique in his methodology, however, as the Bills got another diamond-in-the-rough tackle that became a starter during four straight Super Bowls.

Howard Ballard of Alabama A&M was the Bills' 11th-round pick in the 1987 NFL Draft, selected No. 283 overall. (Today, that would put him in priority free agent range.) He did not dress at all as a rookie, and didn't start at all in 1988, but by 1989 he had become the starting right tackle. He remained there for 80 straight regular season games, and started in each of the Bills' four Super Bowl losses.

In all, "House" spent 12 seasons in the NFL, including his first seven with the Bills (five as a starter). After the 1993 season, he signed a free agent deal with the Seattle Seahawks, where he played five more seasons (making 74 more starts) before retiring.

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