By Budd Bailey
Shane Conlan of the Bills
Taken in Round 1 in 1987
The next pick: Jerome Brown was on his way to a superb career. The Eagles defensive tackle was a first-team All-Pro in 1990 and 1991. However, he died in an auto accident in the summer of 1992.
Other picks in that round: Rod Woodson was the only Hall of Famer in the group, as he went at No. 10 to Pittsburgh. The draft began with the selection by Tampa Bay of Vinny Testeverde, who played until 2007. The second choice was a linebacker from Alabama named Cornelius Bennett, who couldn’t agree to terms with the Colts and was traded to the Bills. Haywood Jeffires had a nice run with the Oilers, and Bruce Armstrong was a good tackle for the Patriots.
The details: It didn’t hurt that Conlan was born and raised in Frewsburg in the Southern Tier of New York State. But he would have been a good choice no matter where he was from. Conlan was a starter for six seasons in Buffalo, and was a Pro Bowler in 1988, 1989 and 1990 Shane finished his career with the Rams and Cardinals.
Other 8s: Donte Whitner (2006) is a close second in this competition. He had five good years at strong safety for the Bills before leaving for San Francisco. Another player who has time to move up is Rasmus Ristolainen (2013), who has been a Sabres’ defenseman for seven seasons. Elsewhere, Jim Davidson (1965) was signed but never played a down for the Bills. Alexander Nylander (2016) never could crack into the Sabres’ lineup and was traded to Chicago. Casey Mittelstadt (2017) and Jack Quinn (2020) have yet to write their stories.
They got away: Loren Gael was a top player at Clarkson when she was drafted by the Beauts in 2018. Gael played one more year in college (where she won two NCAA titles), and then chose not to come to Buffalo and instead play with the PHWPA because of a disagreement in collective bargaining negotiations. We’ll see what her future holds. Mike Dennis (1966) didn’t sign with the Bills, but he didn’t play a game with the Atlanta Falcons either. He popped up for two seasons on the Rams’ roster starting in 1968.
(Follow Budd on Twitter @WDX2BB)