By Budd Bailey
J.D. Hill of the Bills
Taken in Round 1 in 1971
The next pick: Defensive lineman Richard Harris went at No. 5 to the Eagles. He spent three years before moving on to the Bears, and then was an original Seattle Seahawk in 1976.
Other picks in that round: The 1971 NFL draft was the first one in which quarterbacks went 1-2-3. In this case, the picks were Jim Plunkett, Archie Manning and Dan Pastorini. John Riggins (No. 6 to the Jets) and Jack Youngblood (No. 20 to the Rams) both ended up in Canton. Two future Bills went in the first round: Frank Lewis (No. 8 to the Steelers) and Isiah Robertson (No. 10 to the Rams).
The details: Hill was the first non-quarterback drafted that year. The problem was that by the time the Bills had someone to get him the ball, they were more concerned that the quarterback hand the ball off to O.J. Simpson. This wasn’t a bad idea, but it didn’t do much for Hill’s statistics. J.D. did catch 52 passes for 754 yards and five touchdowns in 1972, putting him in the Pro Bowl.
Other 4s: The Bills thought Sammy Watkins was the best player in the 2014 draft and traded up to get him. He only played three years in Buffalo, and still hasn’t lived up to his potential – in part because of injuries. Mike Williams (2002) was a huge man at 6-foot-6, 370 pounds, and he was a huge disappointment at offensive tackle as a Bill. Injuries also hurt center Dave Behrman (1963), but he was the starting center on the 1965 championship team. Ian McKay (2018) has time to develop as a transition player for the Bandits. Sam Mewis (2015) helped the WNY Flash win a championship in 2016. She had been a finalist for rookie of the year in 2015.
He got away: The Bills lost a bidding war to Cleveland to sign Ernie Davis (1962), the Heisman Trophy winner at running back out of Syracuse. Buffalo then had space for someone in its backfield, which is how the team came to sign Cookie Gilchrist from the Canadian Football League. Meanwhile, Davis was diagnosed with leukemia before he ever played a down with the Browns. Davis died in 1963.
(Follow Budd on Twitter @WDX2BB)