Who are the top five Bills of all-time?
There are a few names that will come up on every list, but the last spots can be challenging to fill out. Elliot Harrison gave us his list as part of an ongoing segment on NFL Now discussing the top five players in each team's history. He breaks down the names in his video, but here's the list he came up with.
- Bruce Smith
- Jim Kelly
- Thurman Thomas
- O.J. Simpson
- Mike Stratton
The first three names are almost universal, and the order Harrison has them in is a pretty common one. Bruce was easily the most talented and productive player in team history, Jimbo ran the offense to perfection, and Thurman did everything a running back was supposed to do and more.
Simpson is a fairly common pick for fourth place. Setting aside his transgressions after his playing career ended (which is very difficult to do), he was the team's first hall-of-fame player and had one of the most memorable seasons in league history in 1973. During his peak from 1970 to 1975, he ran for almost 2,500 yards more than any other player in the league.
The fifth spot is where the real debate begins in earnest. Stratton was a key figure of the AFL-era Bills, the player whose "Hit Heard 'Round the World" on Keith Lincoln in 1964 set the tone for the first of two AFL championships for the team.
There are a few other names to consider, though:
- According to Pro Football Reference's Approximate Value metric, Stratton ranks as the ninth-best Bills player ever. Some obvious names above him include Andre Reed and Kent Hull, who were both mentioned by Harrison in his video.
- A few of Stratton's teammates deserve consideration as well. Tom Sestak was a first-team all-time AFL defensive tackle, and Billy Shaw was a first-team guard and the only player in the Pro Football Hall of Fame who never played a down in the NFL (he retired prior to the merger). Stratton was a second-teamer, joined by Ron McDole, Butch Byrd, Stew Barber, Art Powell, and Cookie Gilchrist.
- Joe DeLamielleure, George Saimes, and Brian Moorman all earned multiple first-team All-Pro nods. Ruben Brown, Steve Tasker, Fred Smerlas, and Cornelius Bennett were all named to five or more Pro Bowls.
So, Bills fans, how do you feel about the list? Are the top three in the right order? Does O.J. merit inclusion? How about the fifth spot, should it go to Stratton, someone I named, or someone I failed to mention?