As Buffalo sports fans, we have a tendency to be pessimistic, a mentality that has been carefully nurtured through several decades of close calls, poor decisions, and awful luck. We remember the Bills losing four straight Super Bowls, and forget about winning four straight AFC championships. We remember "No Goal", yet forget the Sabres ripping through the Eastern Conference playoffs as a seven-seed, going 12-3 before the Stanley Cup final.
The same thing tends to happen with the NFL Draft. We remember picking T.J. Graham over Russell Wilson, Torrell Troup over Rob Gronkowski, or (my personal favorite) Leif Larsen over Tom Brady. It's those picks that we miss on that keep us up at night, but it's good to remember that old adage: "You win some, you lose some."
Believe it or not, there were a few times that other teams missed badly in the draft, to the Bills' benefit. I just wanted to highlight a few of those instances, to help give us (or at least myself) more of a 'glass half-full' mentality heading into the draft. I hope it helps.
1-22: Cleveland selects OG Pete Adams
1-26: Buffalo selects OG Joe DeLamielleure
Los Angeles is 2,346 miles away from Cleveland, yet the Browns saw enough of Adams to take a flier on him near the end of the first round. I mention the distance because East Lansing, Michigan is only 236 miles away from Cleveland, and there was a guy who played there at the same position that went on to enjoy a much better career. 'Joe D' was a key contributor on the famous 'Electric Company' line, starting every game as a rookie in the 1973 season that saw O.J. Simpson become the first 2,000-yard rusher in NFL history. He started 102 games for the Bills through 1979, then spent five years with - ironically - Cleveland before a Buffalo swan song closed his Hall of Fame career. Adams played in 25 games, and was out of the league by 1976.
2-45: St. Louis selects QB Gary Keithley
3-57: Buffalo selects QB Joe Ferguson
I wouldn't have brought this one up, except for the fact that Keithley's name rang a bell for me. He started two games in his NFL career, and posted a 0.0 quarterback rating in both games. He won one, the only game in NFL history where both starting quarterbacks carded a 0.0 rating. The fact that the next passer off the board was tops on the Bills' depth chart for the next 11 seasons made this one worth mentioning, in my opinion.
1-7: Kansas City selects QB Todd Blackledge
1-14: Buffalo selects QB Jim Kelly
Fun fact: Blackledge is the most recent starting quarterback drafted by the Chiefs to win a game for them. That game was on September 13, 1987, against the Dan Fouts-led San Diego Chargers, and Blackledge threw for 79 yards and a pick. He won 13 games in five seasons with the Chiefs, and never played in more than eight in one season, before two forgettable years in Pittsburgh capped a forgettable career. Needless to say, Kelly was a better choice, USFL and all.
4-85: Minnesota selects WR George "Buster" Rhymes
4-86: Buffalo selects WR Andre Reed
Two things jumped out at me about Rhymes' page on Pro Football Reference: one, he's actually listed as Buster Rhymes, which is amazing; and two, his career as a receiver amounted to eight catches for 149 yards. Reed topped that in a single game four times. I can only hope for the sake of Vikings fans that they either forgot, or never realized, this little whiff.
1-5: Cleveland selects LB Mike Junkin
1-8: Buffalo selects LB Shane Conlan
Junkin was the first Duke player to be selected in the Top 5 of the NFL Draft since 1942, and today serves as a poster child for being wary about football players from basketball-focused schools. He started seven games in his career, and was out of the league after the 1989 season. Conlan was a Defensive Rookie of the Year and went to three Pro Bowls with the Bills, who were benefactors of Cleveland's poor scouting yet again.
2-38: Phoenix selects RB Tony Jeffery
2-40: Buffalo selects RB Thurman Thomas
This is Jeffery's career. Just take that in for a moment, and then realize that he was selected two spots ahead of Thurman. I tried to find a list of players whose longest rush went for more yards than their career total, but it's so impossible that I couldn't put one together. Yeah, we won that one.
4-133: Pittsburgh selects DT Orien Harris
5-134: Buffalo selects DT Kyle Williams
I tried to keep this focused on the early rounds, but this one just really jumps out at me. Harris played for two teams, neither of which were Pittsburgh, and started one game in three years. Williams has started 125, and is considered by many to be one of the better defensive tackles of the last decade. The later rounds really can be a crapshoot, so it's good to know we can come out on the winning side once in a while.
Round 2, Pick 33: New England selects DB Ras-I Dowling
Round 2, Pick 34: Buffalo selects DB Aaron Williams
This last one isn't much of a stretch, but I did want to show that the current regime (more or less) can hit on these as well. Dowling is still active in the NFL, but he's been a complete non-factor as a pro, with two starts and 11 total tackles to his name. Williams was a decent corner who came into his own after being converted to safety. He's not a world-beater by any means, but he's miles ahead of Dowling's career at this point, and should only separate himself more over the coming years.