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Buffalo Bills All-Drought team: Cornerback 1

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This team had several great cornerbacks during the new millennium.

If there was one position that never lacked for talent during the Buffalo Bills’ playoff drought, it was cornerback. The Bills were always adding promising prospects to cover receivers, and we’ll be choosing at least two of the best for our All-Drought squad.

Note that several of these players were also gifted kick returners. Don’t let that color your decision for best cornerback, as we’ll have a separate poll for Punt Returner and Kick Returner later. Tre’Davious White was also eligible for this list, but was ultimately not chosen because too many other candidates had longer resumes.

Antoine Winfield

Winfield was a first round pick by the Bills in 1999, a former All-American at Ohio State. Despite only measuring at five-foot-eight and 180 pounds, Winfield would become one of the greatest run defenders to ever play cornerback. He played for the Bills through the 2003 season, and during the drought era he started 56 games in Buffalo. Winfield intercepted four passes and defended 30 during that span, but also demonstrated outstanding tackling prowess. He set his career high with 107 combined tackles in 2003. The Bills and Winfield parted ways in free agency after that season, and he played the remainder of his career for the Vikings.

Nate Clements

Not satisfied with their first round investment in Winfield, the Bills spent a first round pick on Clements, also a Buckeye cornerback, in 2001. Clements took the starting role from Ken Irvin midway through his rookie season (coincidentally, Antoine Winfield had the same trajectory to his career start), and would go on to log 91 starts for the Bills over six seasons. Clements had a rare nose for the ball; he ranks second in franchise history for passes defended (87), seventh in interceptions (23), and fifth in forced fumbles (12). A dynamic playmaker, he returned five of his interceptions for touchdowns. Clements also made the Pro Bowl in 2004.

After franchise-tagging Clements in 2006, the team moved on in 2007. He would sign the richest contract for a defensive player in NFL history for the time, an eight-year, $70 million deal with San Francisco.

Terrence McGee

The Bills drafted McGee in the fourth round of the 2003 draft, but his talent stood out from the beginning. He intercepted two passes and forced a fumble as a part-time player in his rookie season. From there, McGee developed into a starting cornerback as well as Buffalo’s starting kick returner. McGee played in 122 games, all for the Bills, and started 90. Another outstanding playmaker, he holds the franchise record for passes defended (99), and he also logged 17 interceptions. For a five-season stretch, McGee was an excellent starter. In the later part of his career, McGee struggled to stay healthy, and he only started nine games over his final three seasons.

Jabari Greer

As a slightly undersized cornerback out of Tennessee, Greer went undrafted in 2004, signing with the Bills. For the first three years of his career, Greer was a slot cornerback or reserve, but he became a starter in 2007. Greer showed some impressive coverage skills for the next two seasons, intercepting four passes while defending 21 of them. In 2008, he returned both of his interceptions for touchdowns. He ultimately played in 70 games for the Bills, starting 26. The Bills let him depart in free agency after the 2008 season, and he started the next five seasons for New Orleans before his career ended in 2014.

Leodis McKelvin

The Bills had seen great success earlier in the decade by spending first round picks on cornerbacks, and they went back to the well in 2008 with the speedy McKelvin. A great athlete but a raw defender, McKelvin’s career was a series of ups and downs. He showed promise as a backup in his rookie year, with a two-interception game in a win against Kansas City, but a terrible decision to return a kickoff late in the 2009 season opener led to a Patriots comeback win over the Bills.

During his career, McKelvin had a reputation as a player who could handle the first 90 percent of the play effectively, but couldn’t effectively stop passes at the catch point. That led him to be yanked in and out of the starting lineup over the course of his career. He did log 13 career interceptions for the Bills, and defended 65 passes.

McKelvin played eight years in Buffalo, with 98 game appearances and 60 starts. The Bills released him in 2016, and he played one more year with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Drayton Florence

With Greer’s departure in 2009, the Bills signed a 29-year-old Florence to a three-year free agent deal. He started 45 games for Buffalo, and they were some of the best years of his career. He defended 38 passes and intercepted seven, and made the cover of Sports Illustrated when his interception touchdown return helped spark Buffalo’s streak-ending win over the Patriots in 2011. Toward the end of his time with the Bills, Florence’s lack of speed began to stand out, and he bounced around the league for the remaining two seasons of his career.

Stephon Gilmore

The Bills added one more first round cornerback in 2012, selecting Gilmore out of South Carolina. He became an immediate starter for Buffalo, but the story with Gilmore was always one of unrealized potential. His athletic talents were apparent on the field, but he didn’t develop into a top-tier cornerback in five years with the team. Gilmore did make the Pro Bowl in 2016, and he had a season worthy of recognition in 2015 when he defended 18 passes and intercepted three. Gilmore started 66 games for the Bills, with 14 interceptions and 62 passes defended. He signed a major deal with the Patriots as a free agent in 2017.


That was quite the list. And it didn’t include some others worthy of recognition, like Tre’Davious White and Ronald Darby! Cast your vote for the best cornerback of the playoff drought below. We’ll vote on at least one more before this is all over. Next time, we’ll start looking at safeties.

Poll

Who was the best cornerback of the Buffalo Bills playoff drought?

This poll is closed

  • 26%
    Antoine Winfield
    (327 votes)
  • 49%
    Nate Clements
    (606 votes)
  • 19%
    Terrence McGee
    (237 votes)
  • 0%
    Jabari Greer
    (5 votes)
  • 1%
    Leodis McKelvin
    (20 votes)
  • 0%
    Drayton Florence
    (3 votes)
  • 2%
    Stephon Gilmore
    (32 votes)
1230 votes total Vote Now