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The Buffalo Bills, the NFL Draft, and the absence of a Round 1 pick

If the Buffalo Bills don't end up making a first-round draft pick this spring - they don't currently have one - it'll be the fifth time that's happened in franchise history.

RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports

Assuming there aren't any trades made between now and the end of the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft, this will be just the fifth time in Buffalo Bills history that the team didn't make a first-round selection. (That's compared to eight times that the team has used two first-round picks.)

How has that worked out for them in the past? Well, they've obviously had their hits and misses. I decided to take a look at those years to figure out how much better off the Bills would have been if they had stayed in the first round.

1988 (No. 14 overall)

What happened with the pick? It was sent off to the Los Angeles Rams as part of the three-team deal that sent Eric Dickerson to Indianapolis and brought Cornelius Bennett to Buffalo. The same trade also sent 1989's first- and second-rounders to the Rams. L.A. used the pick on UCLA running back Gaston Green, who totaled just 451 rushing yards in three seasons with the Rams, but did make a Pro Bowl as a member of the Broncos.

What did the Bills do? With their first pick, No. 40 overall, the Bills selected Oklahoma State running back Thurman Thomas. Perhaps you've heard of him. Just for a point of reference, Thomas topped 451 rushing yards every season until his age-32 year of 1998. Oh, he also won an MVP award, set the Bills' career rushing mark, and earned entry into the Hall of Fame in 2007.

The rest of the draft turned up some solid players, but nothing close to Thomas. Eighth-rounder Jeff Wright was a solid nose tackle for the Super Bowl squads, and ninth- and tenth-rounders Carlton Bailey and Martin Mayhew had good careers, albeit mostly for other teams.

Verdict: The trade was a home run for the Bills. Bennett made five Pro Bowls and a first-team All-Pro with the Bills, and having Thomas over Green speaks for itself.

1989 (No. 26 overall)

What happened with the pick? Along with the '88 first, this season's first- and second- rounders went to the Los Angeles Rams. The Rams used the first-rounder on Miami running back Cleveland Gary (apparently already disenchanted with Green). Gary had a short career, but was fairly productive. He scored an NFL-high 14 touchdowns in 1990, and finished tenth in rushing in 1992.

What did the Bills do? This was the only time that Bills fans had to wait until the third round for the team to make their first selection. They used the No. 82 overall pick on Chadron State wide receiver Don Beebe, who was never all that productive (his highest yardage total with the Bills was 554), but still brought a lot of fight to the team, not to mention the top highlight of the Bills' Super Bowls.

Nobody else from this draft class had much of an impact on the team. One notable selection was seventh-rounder Brian Jordan, who never played for the Bills but went on to enjoy a long career in the MLB. Round 11 pick Richard Harvey started 75 games over an 11-year career, although none of those starts (and only 27 of 143 games) came with the Bills.

Verdict: Considering the Bills had Thomas in tow by this point, Gary wouldn't have been a major factor. They missed out on a few notable names, such as Steve Wisniewski and Wesley Walls, but nobody that would have been a deciding factor in the seasons to come.

1998 (No. 9 overall)

What happened with the pick? In one of the most-loathed moves in team history (in retrospect), the Bills moved the ninth pick in the draft, along with a fourth-rounder, to Jacksonville in exchange for quarterback Rob Johnson. The Jaguars used the pick on Florida running back Fred Taylor, who somehow only made one Pro Bowl despite running for over 1,000 yards seven times and finishing his career ranked No. 15 all-time in rushing yards. Johnson was, of course, a complete bust.

What did the Bills do? With the No. 39 pick in the draft, the Bills selected Florida State linebacker Sam Cowart, who was a solid player in parts of four seasons with the team. He even made second-team All-Pro in 2000, but left the team in 2001 after missing most of the season with an Achilles tear.

The rest of the draft was unremarkable. The only player who made any impact was fifth-rounder Jonathan Linton, who led the team in rushing in 1999 with 695 yards. He was out of football after 2000, along with three of the other six Bills picks; the only one, aside from Cowart, who stuck around was Fred Coleman, who played nine games with New England in 2001 and 2002.

Verdict: This one was rough. Seven players selected between Taylor and Cowart made All-Pro teams, including Takeo Spikes. Even some of the players who didn't led solid careers, such as Vonnie Holliday and Donovin Darius. On top of that, this year brought us Johnson. This was about as bad as it could get.

2005 (No. 20 overall)

What happened with the pick? Buffalo shipped this one, along with second- and fifth-round picks, to Dallas in 2004 so they could move back into the first round and take J.P. Losman. We all know how that worked out. Dallas used this pick on LSU defensive end Marcus Spears, who started 89 games with the Cowboys before moving to Baltimore for last season, which was likely his final campaign. He was never a great player, finishing his nine-year career with 10 sacks, but did stick around for a long time. Of course, if that had you feeling any better, just remember that Aaron Rodgers was still on the board at this point.

What did the Bills do? Their first pick came in at No. 55, and they used it on Miami receiver Roscoe Parrish. He never made his mark as a receiver, but did lead the league in return average in consecutive seasons. It was a decent return for a second-round pick.

Again, most of the remainder of the draft class had little impact, although this draft has a much sadder spin. Third-rounder Kevin Everett was beginning to show promise as a tight end before his horrific spinal injury ended his career when he was only 25. Fourth-round pick Duke Preston started 20 games at center over four seasons, but those were his only seasons in the NFL.

Verdict: Who knows what would have happened if the Bills had ignored the temptation of Losman, kept their top pick this season, and rolled the dice on Rodgers? Would he have become the world-beater he is today if he had been thrown into the fire without three years on the bench, or would he have ended up alongside Losman on the scrap heap? I don't think he would have busted... but maybe that's just wishful thinking on my part.