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All-time Buffalo Bills greats fantasy draft

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Former Bills GM Bill Polian will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this weekend. To honor that achievement, Tim Graham (The Buffalo News) joined us for a fantasy draft featuring exclusively Buffalo Bills players. These are the results.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Bill Polian, the architect of the Buffalo Bills' historic Super Bowl run in the early 1990s, is heading into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In honor of Polian's work as a general manager with the Bills - he'll be inducted this Saturday, August 8 for that, plus stellar stints with the Carolina Panthers and Indianapolis Colts - we at Buffalo Rumblings put together a special project to honor the many greats he drafted that show up throughout Bills history.

Six of our staff writers and one Tim Graham of The Buffalo News convened last week for a fantasy draft wherein only players from Bills history were selected. The goal: constructing the strongest possible lineup only of Bills greats.

The Rules

Each person had to draft a full set of offensive and defensive starters. They could adjust their personnel packages within reason, as long as they drafted enough core players. That means each team was drafting a minimum number at each position:

  • QB (1)
  • RB (1)
  • WR (1)
  • TE (1)
  • OL (5)
  • RB/WR/TE (2)
  • DL (2)
  • LB (2)
  • CB (2)
  • S (2)
  • DL/LB/CB/S (4)

Once a player was drafted, no other team could draft him. The team was acquiring that player at his peak year of performance as a Bills, as well; that means that if someone drafted O.J. Simpson, they could have his 2,000-yard season, but if Terrell Owens was the selection, they'd be drafting the 2009 version that spent one season in Buffalo.

That's it. Pretty straightforward. Now that you understand the rules, let's view the results.

The Results

These are the seven All-Time Bills Teams that Tim Graham and our staff writers picked, with some thoughts on the outcome to accompany the individual team breakdowns.

Matt Warren - Socialites Helmet
The Socialites
Matt Warren (@MattRichWarren)
MattWarren

Matt was in it to win it, making a strong case for the top team with a roster studded with stars from Buffalo's earlier days. It features an award-laden offensive line that includes a Hall of Fame guard. That group is perfect to protect the immobile Drew Bledsoe, who has no shortage of productive receiving targets, and it should keep Cookie Gilchrist clean to run for big yardage.

The defense is a big play waiting to happen. Matt's linebackers combined for 16 interceptions in their best seasons, and the secondary adds 14 more (plus three return touchdowns courtesy of Terrence McGee). The defensive line also holds up, with Ron McDole (the original Dancing Bear) and Jim Dunaway forming half of a defensive line that held opponents without a rushing touchdown for 17 straight games in 1964-65. One question that remains, however: where is the pass rush coming from? Especially with Matt running a more coverage-oriented set of defenders.

Tim Graham - Twitter Trolls Helmet
The Twitter Trolls
Tim Graham (@ByTimGraham)
Tim Graham

Graham definitely made a strong case for outclassing the Rumblings staff with his impressive lineup. He has an outstanding rushing attack, pairing Thurman Thomas with Jim Braxton, the fullback who blocked for Simpson. On the passing side, he has Joe Ferguson throwing to Elbert "Golden Wheels" Dubenion (whose 1962 season ranks second all-time in yards per reception), along with Frank Lewis and the lynchpin of the "K-Gun," Keith McKeller.

Defensively, Graham's squad is a force to be reckoned with. He combines the other half of that historic 1964 defensive line with "Gentle" Ben Williams and a modern-day Marcell Dareus. Backing them up are Takeo Spikes and Shane Conlan, two players I would never want to meet on a football field simultaneously. Graham also receives accolades for drafting a multi-purpose defensive back in Billy Atkins, who hauled in 10 interceptions while also punting 85 times for an average of 44.5 yards per punt during his 1961 AFL All-Star season.

Jeff Hunter - Hunters Helmet
The Hunters
Jeff Hunter (@Hunteriffic86)
JeffHunter

Drafting No. 1 overall is never an easy decision, especially when the stakes are this high. In my opinion, Jeff made the right call with Jim Kelly, grabbing the franchise's best player at the game's most important position. It wouldn't be fair to draft Kelly without giving him prime receivers to work with, and Jeff went with a no-brainer for his second pick, taking Eric Moulds. I do have to subtract some points for drafting one of the franchise's all-time biggest busts, however; Mike Williams may have joined the league with all sorts of talent, but he has no place representing the best of the Buffalo Bills.

If you look up the definition of the word "ballhawk," there will be a picture of Jeff's defensive roster next to it. He combined the franchise interception leader in Butch Byrd with the peak seasons of three more defensive backs to build a secondary with a peak output of 33 interceptions. He has a scary pair of linebackers in six-time AFL All-Star Mike Stratton and the legend of Kiko Alonso, who themselves would contribute seven more interceptions in their best years.

Josh Rawdin - Red Mambas Helmet
The Red Mambas
Josh Rawdin (@JoshRawdin)
JoshRawdin

How do you stop a two-headed running attack that features Simpson and Travis Henry in their primes? If you can think of something, let me know. Leading the charge is Jack Kemp, the only championship-winning quarterback in Bills history. He may well be the only man capable of leading a team with Simpson and Henry's personalities, especially when Stevie Johnson is also thrown into the mix as the top receiver, and Lonnie Johnson (who once caught a pass on a fake punt, only to wind up pummeled because he forgot the punt returner was still in front of him) as the starting tight end. Josh was smart in taking two members of the Electric Company to block for his running backs, and AFL All-Star tackle Stew Barber to pair with his teammate Kemp.

The big weakness of this team is the pass rush. The best seasons of Josh's front seven combined for only 21.5 sacks. That's not to downplay the skill that Phil Hansen, Fred Smerlas, and Marcus Stroud can bring to the game, but they're best paired with a dynamic edge threat. The secondary holds up well, with Nate Clements and Steve Freeman generating plenty of turnovers. Sam Cowart and Kawika Mitchell both offer a strong presence behind the defensive line.

Kent Dickerson - Doctors Helmet
The Doctors
Kent Dickerson (@Doctork44)
KentDickerson

The people's champion, Doug Flutie, makes his presence felt as the starting quarterback for Kent. His wide receiver group also has plenty of talent, and I love the choice of Steve Tasker as one of the backups. The offensive line is hit-or-miss; we have Hall of Fame guard Billy Shaw playing next to... long snapper Garrison Sanborn? The rest of the line is a group of solid starters, and at least they have Marshawn Lynch running behind them. Yes, that's Robert Royal starting at tight end. I had some bad flashbacks, too.

Kent's running a 2-3-6 dime defense, for which I'll award creativity points. You'll be hard-pressed to find a more intimidating pair of defensive linemen than Mario Williams and Ted Washington in their primes. Bryce Paup brings a ferocious pass rush, Mark Kelso's dangerous roaming the defensive backfield, and Antoine Winfield is just as effective defending the rush as he is defending the pass. This defense just feels right with Paul Posluszny as the middle linebacker. One questionable selection: defensive back Marlon Kerner, who logged four mostly forgettable seasons with the Bills in the late 1990s. A better choice may have been Chris Kelsay, who went in the last round and would have given this defense a third solid lineman.

Tom Mitchell - Fighting Neck Rolls Helmet
The Fighting Neck Rolls
Tom Mitchell (@TomMitchell31)
TomMitchell

You might as well call Tom's front four Dante's Inferno, because once they enter the game, you abandon all hope. It sees Bruce Smith in his terrifying prime playing opposite Jerry Hughes, who just had a career year when paired with a similar freak of an edge rusher. In between you have two excellent tackles in Pat Williams and Ron Edwards, who anchored a top rushing defense in the 2003 season. Backing them up are three linebackers who each had short but productive stints with the Bills in the last decade. The secondary is dangerous as well, headlined by Jairus Byrd's 2012 Pro Bowl season.

The offense manages to hold its own, with three Pro Bowlers on the line. Ryan Fitzpatrick is actually a decent quarterback in Bills lore, and with Peerless Price, Jerry Butler, and familiar target Scott Chandler, he's in line to have an even more impressive season. Joe Cribbs adds a dangerous rushing/receiving threat.

Anthony Marino - Comeback Kid Helmet
The Comeback Kids
Anthony Marino (@AnthMarino)
AnthonyMarino

This team is called The Comeback Kids, and if you sleep on them, you might find yourself the victim of a late fourth-quarter touchdown drive. Obviously, the offense is led by perhaps the greatest backup in Bills history (and a legend in his own right), Frank Reich. The running back core includes two players who cannot be counted out - Willis McGahee, who overcame a serious college injury to have a strong 10-year career, and Fred Jackson, who needs no introduction. The receivers also set the standard for toughness; Andre Reed and Terrell Owens could fight through a defense like few in NFL history.

Anthony's 3-3-5 defense has plenty of heart, and it has plenty of talented players who can win one-on-one matchups. Nose tackle Sam Adams and the dangerous Kyle Williams are paired in their primes, while Kelsay makes a token appearance. Cornelius Bennett and Darryl Talley are reunited in the linebacking corps. He adds five playmaking defensive backs, including Wall of Fame member Booker Edgerson, to round out the group.

Alright, Bills fans: which lineup is the strongest? And are there any players stored in your memory banks who didn't make any of these teams that surprise you?