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Buffalo Bills: Best and worst draft picks

  • By Patrick Crawley NFL.com
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In the days leading up to the 2013 NFL Draft, NFL.com will allow users to determine the best and worst draft picks for every team. We continue the proceedings with the team that owns the No. 8 overall pick in this year's draft, the Buffalo Bills.

Top picks

Jim Kelly -- 1983 (No. 14 overall)
Though he was drafted by the Bills in 1983, Kelly didn't emerge on the scene in Buffalo until 1986 thanks to a stint in the USFL with the Houston Gamblers. When he did finally take the field, it was the beginning of an unparalleled high point in Bills' history. With his cannon arm and pinpoint accuracy, Kelly quickly made Bills fans forget the mediocrity that preceded him.

Along with Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed and a historically underrated offensive line, Kelly led one of the most exciting offensive squads the NFL has ever seen. Four Super Bowl appearances later, the ultimate prize eluded Kelly. But the first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterback's legacy lives on in the form of his "K-Gun" no-huddle offense -- a style Bills coach Doug Marrone is rumored to be re-implementing this season.
» 1983 NFL Draft | Photos: Kelly through the years

Bruce Smith -- 1985 (No. 1 overall)
There's one truth that Bruce Smith made abundantly clear throughout his 19-season Hall of Fame career: the man was a menace. To quarterbacks, running backs, anybody in the back field who was wearing the opposing jersey. Smith was going to find them and tackle them. Hard. And with flair.

Two hundred sacks later, Smith is the all-time NFL sack leader and the pillar of a Bills defense that took the field with Super Bowl glory on the line four times. His ferocity and surprising agility still haunts the dreams of quarterbacks spanning three decades. He is the embodiment of a No. 1 overall pick who didn't just meet expectations, he obliterated them.
» 1985 NFL Draft | Photos: Smith through the years

Thurman Thomas -- 1988 (No. 40 overall)
Drafted in 1988 out of Oklahoma State, where he shared the back field with the legendary Barry Sanders, Thomas turned out to be the missing piece that put the Bills on their path to Super Bowl immortality -- hey, who else can claim four consecutive appearances?

A nimble, shifty runner, Thomas was a master at locating holes in the defense and cutting and dodging his way to the open field. He was also a prolific pass catcher -- the perfect foil to fellow Hall of Fame dynamo Jim Kelly. After 12 seasons with the Bills, and one forgettable stint with the Dolphins, Thomas is among the all-time leaders in both rushing and all-purpose yards.
» 1988 NFL Draft | 'NFL Films Encore': Thurman Thomas

'Photos: Thomas through the years

Andre Reed -- 1985 (No. 86 overall)
Reed is the most forgotten member of the great 1990s Bills -- the third partner in the law firm of Kelly, Thomas and Reed. His exclusion from the Hall of Fame is Exhibit A to this point. A fourth-round gem out of little-known Kutztown University, Reed thrived in the Bills' "K-Gun" offense. The seven-time Pro Bowler seemingly shared a brain with quarterback Jim Kelly, using his elusiveness and sneaky breakaway speed to punish any defense that dared leave him in single coverage. His impressive career spans 16 seasons. He is Buffalo's all-time leader in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.
» 1985 NFL Draft Photos: Reed through the years

O.J. Simpson -- 1969 (No. 1 overall)
Say what you will about O.J. Simpson, and you undoubtedly will in the comments section of this article, the man could run the football. A product of USC, Simpson went on to be the crown jewel of a Bills team that, let's face it, achieved well below its main attraction's talent. Even in Simpson's best years (2,003 yards rushing in 1973 and 1,817 yards rushing in 1975) the Bills went 9-5 and 8-6, respectively. Despite the franchise's shortcomings in his era, Simpson is regarded as a top-tier all-time running back. His 11,236 yards rushing ranks 18th all-time in the NFL record books.
» 1969 NFL Draft Photos: Simpson through the years

Worst picks

Mike Williams -- 2002 (No. 4 overall)
In the last 30 years the Bills have had just three top-five picks in the draft. They burned one of them on Williams, the behemoth offensive tackle out of the University of Texas who quickly became defined by a poor work ethic. After multiple position changes along the line, he cemented his bust status when the Bills cut him in 2006. In hindsight, the Bills probably should have picked Bryant McKinnie, who recently helped the Ravens win a Super Bowl.
» 2002 NFL Draft

Aaron Maybin -- 2009 (No. 11 overall)
The Bills' flirtation with Penn State defensive standouts started with Paul Posluszny in 2007 and continued with Maybin in 2009. Neither worked out, but Maybin's stint in Buffalo was particularly ugly. After recording just 18 tackles in his rookie season, he was relegated to the bench before being released in 2011. Maybin enjoyed a brief career resurgence with the Jets in 2011, but he'll forever live in the minds of Bills fans as a mega bust.
» 2009 NFL Draft

Tom Cousineau -- 1979 (No. 1 overall)
Cousineau was positioned to be a game-changer for the Bills. A product of Woody Hayes' system at Ohio State, the standout linebacker likely would have rescued a Buffalo defense that allowed 22.1 points per game in '78. Instead, he was wrested away from the Bills by the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL, who doubled the Bills' offer.

The situation ended up working in the Bills' favor though. When Cousineau re-entered the league in 1982, the Bills traded him to the Browns for a 1983 first-round pick, which they used on Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly (see above).
» 1979 NFL Draft

J.P. Losman -- 2004 (No. 22 overall)
Where to begin in the saga of J.P. Losman? As the first Bills quarterback drafted in the first round since Jim Kelly, expectations were extremely high for Jonathan Paul. For a season he lived up to them, too. In 2006, Losman came into his own, completing 62.5 percent of his passes and throwing 19 touchdown passes -- for a while, he even tricked fantasy owners into believing Lee Evans was a bona fide star.

Unfortunately, shaky offensive line play, fluke injuries and a number of regime changes ultimately derailed Losman's career -- the Bills let him walk in 2008 when his contract ended in favor of equally-disappointing starter Trent Edwards. Losman has bounced around since -- including a one-year stint in the UFL. Could he have been a stronger-armed Alex Smith under different circumstances? Possibly. But we'll leave the "what ifs" to the N if L. In reality, Losman was one of the biggest disappointments in Bills history.
» 2004 NFL Draft

James Hardy -- 2008 (No. 41 overall)
The 6-foot-5 Hardy was supposed to be the perfect red zone complement to budding star Lee Evans. Instead he led a two-year campaign of suckitude the likes of which hadn't been seen in Buffalo before, and hopefully won't ever be matched again. How busty was Hardy? After his two-season stint with the Bills no team even wanted to take a flyer on him. He finished his career with less than 200 yards receiving.
» 2008 NFL Draft

Follow Patrick Crawley on Twitter @pecrawleynfl

Best and worst draft picks
April 3: Chiefs | Jaguars
April 4: Raiders | Eagles
April 5: Lions | Browns
April 8: Bills | Cardinals
April 9: Jets | Titans
April 10: Chargers | Dolphins
April 11: Bucs | Panthers
April 12: Rams| Saints
April 15: Cowboys | Steelers
April 16: Bears | Giants
April 17: Bengals| Redskins
April 18: Colts | Vikings
April 19: Packers | Seahawks
April 22: Broncos| Texans
April 23: Falcons| Patriots
April 24: 49ers| Ravens

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