NFL.com has ranked all the top overall picks in modern NFL Draft history, and the Buffalo Bills have had the spot four times. Bruce Smith (1985) and O.J. Simpson (1969) are in the Hall of Fame but Tom Cousineau (1979) and Walt Patulski (1971) are not. Let’s break it down.
Coming in at number two on the overall list, Smith was a transcendent player for the Bills. He holds the NFL record for career sacks and was twice named Defensive Player of the Year. The guy is on two different All-Decade teams. But he couldn’t get past Peyton Manning at the top spot. Arguably the greatest quarterback of all-time, Manning’s five MVP awards give him the nod over Bruuuuuuuuuuce.
Was Bruce Smith a better player than Peyton Manning?
This poll is closed
The top five is filled with Smith and four quarterbacks, but O.J. Simpson is sixth. He was the first to rush for 2000 yards in an NFL season and led the NFL in rushing for four seasons in the middle of the 1970s. He would be a more revered football player if not for his off-field legal problems. Should Simpson be ahead of Troy Aikman? Probably. But Aikman has three Super Bowl titles.
At the other end of the spectrum, Buffalo has Tom Cousineau at 40 on the list. Ralph Wilson didn’t want to pony up for the linebacker so he went to the CFL to play for a boatload of cash. The Bills were able to trade him to the Cleveland Browns for first, second, and third-round selections in 1983. As luck would have it, Buffalo used that first round pick on Jim Kelly who also chose not to sign with the Bills over money.
The number 41 player on the list, Walt Patulski played four seasons in Buffalo at defensive end but never got close to his draft status. Ultimately he never really got along with Bills head coach Lou Saban and was out of the league after five years. Patulski enjoyed some notoriety a year ago when Bills head coach Rex Ryan used his name as an alias during a press call.
There are two other names on the list worth discussing. Drew Bledsoe is number 14 on the list and his 4000-yard season in Buffalo is cited as a sign of his talent. Former Bills defensive end Mario Williams is 24th, and two of his four Pro Bowls and his only All-Pro nod came while a member of the Bills.