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Throwback Tuesday: Buffalo's Draft Picks by Number


(Note: Here's one last list of draft picks, done by number a few years ago. In other words, who is the best No. 1 pick in Buffalo's sports history? No. 2? And so on. This is too big for one day, so we'll split into this week and next week. Again, we'll have to update it some day.)


No. 1 – Gil Perreault of the Sabres


Taken in Round 1 in 1970


The next pick: Dale Tallon went No. 2 in that draft. He was a good player, as he played in the NHL for about a decade. However, when Tallon was playing in old-timers’ game in the early 1980s, Perreault was leading the Sabres in scoring.


Other picks in the round: The Bruins had picks No. 3 and 4 in the first round, and used them on two players who turned out to be key players in a couple of championships: Reggie Leach and Rick MacLeish. However, those Stanley Cups were won by the Flyers. Darryl Sittler had 484 goals in 1,096 games. Dan Maloney (No. 14) was a rugged left winger with Chicago.


The details: The expansion Sabres won the right to go first in the draft via a fabled spin of the wheel. Perreault was the consensus choice to be the No. 1 pick, and he proved to be the perfect starting point for a first-year team. Not only was he a great player for 17 years (putting him in the Hall of Fame), but he also was exciting and thus put people in the seats. The combination makes him the best first overall choice in Buffalo’s history.


The contenders: Buffalo has had several No. 1s over the years, and you could make the case that two of them deserve strong consideration as the best-ever from this city’s standpoint. Bruce Smith (1985) is considered one of the two best defensive ends in NFL history. He played here until 1999, and then spent four years in Washington. O.J. Simpson (1969) was the biggest star to ever play for Buffalo, and there’s something to be said for that. When he ran for 2,003 yards in 1973, he became the biggest name in sports in the country. Simpson’s relatively short career is a drawback in this competition.


Other 1s: Pierre Turgeon (1987) only spent four-plus years here, but he did finish with more career goals than Perreault. Rasmus Dahlin (2018) has displayed some potential here in three years, so we’ll see how he does long term. Injuries didn’t allow offensive lineman Ken Rice (1961) to live up to his potential. Walt Patulski spent four seasons in Buffalo – and he never got along with coach Lou Saban – and he was traded to St. Louis. Tom Cousineau (1979) signed with Montreal of the Canadian Football League rather than play with the Bills. However, Buffalo dealt his rights to Cleveland for draft choices … and one of those picks turned into Jim Kelly. Josh Byrne (2017) has played three seasons with the Bandits, and he has become a bigger part of the offense with each season. Delby Powless (2004) was part of the Bandits’ title team in 2008; he was a decent scorer during most of his six seasons in Buffalo.



No. 2 – Bob McAdoo of the Braves


Taken in Round 1 in 1971


The next pick: Dwight Davis went No. 3 to Cleveland, and the forward spent three years with the Cavs. Then it was on to Golden State for a couple of seasons. Davis only averaged in double digits in points once in his career.


Other picks in the round: LaRue Martin was tall (6-foot-11), but his pro career was short – only four seasons, all as a reserve. It was a rather weak class, in part because the American Basketball Association grabbed some of the players. Paul Westphal was a steal for the Celtics at No. 10. Julius Erving was taken at No. 11 by the Hawks even though he was already in the ABA.


The details: McAdoo already had signed with the Virginia Squires of the ABA, but the Braves took him anyway. Then it turned out that Bob had signed the deal as a minor so the contract wasn’t valid. The Braves paid the Squires a fee, and Virginia owner Earl Foreman flushed the contract down the toilet of a hotel. McAdoo needed a year to find his groove but he soon became one of the best players in basketball (MVP in 1975). The center was traded to the Knicks in 1977, and the Braves were never the same. Bob continued to play in the NBA through 1986.


Other 2s: You’d think there would be more of them in this position. Jack Eichel( 2015) has been good to excellent for the Sabres in his six seasons, but has to do more to match McAdoo’s impact. Sam Reinhart (2014) might have played his best hockey as a Sabre in 2021, as he was one of the team’s few bright spots. Ryan Powell (2000) spent three seasons with the Bandits, and went on to a long career in both indoor and outdoor lacrosse.



No. 3 – Billy Dee Smith of the Bandits


Taken in Round 1 in 2002


The next pick: Defender Travis Gillespie only played four seasons in the NLL. He was drafted by Columbus and played one season there. Then he had stops in Arizona and Calgary. Gillespie did some playing and coaching in Canada after that, and even worked to coach players in Taiwan for a while.


Other picks in that round: The Bandits had four picks eventually play for them. Jon Harasym was picked No. 2 by Columbus, Mark Steenhuis went No. 7 to Columbus, and Chad Culp brought Culp-a-Mania to the New York Saints when he went at No. 9. Patrick Merrill was the first overall pick by the Toronto Rock; he spent 12 of his 15 years in the league there.


The details: You want someone who will battle for his team and his teammates whenever he steps on a playing field? Smith was your man. He moved into the lineup for good in 2004, and stayed there through 2017. At 6-foot-3, 245 pounds, Billy could be an intimidating sight for opposing forwards. Luckily, Smith was as nice off the field as he was tough on it. He spent his final two years as a player in Rochester, retiring after 2019, and became an assistant coach in Halifax in 2020.


Other 3s: Marcell Dareus (2011) played for six years with the Bills, and made two Pro Bowls. However, he was traded to Jacksonville for a draft choice after he violated the league’s substance abuse policy twice. Ernie DiGregorio (1973) certainly was more famous than Smith, but he didn’t contribute as much to his team over the long haul. Ernie D. was taken out of Providence by the Braves, and won Rookie of the Year honors in 1973-74. But he was never the same after a knee injury in the 1974-75 season. Speaking of bad knees, Elmore Smith (1971) had two good seasons with the Braves before he was traded to the Lakers for Jim McMillian, allowing Bob McAdoo to move to center. Other Bandits to be taken in this spot were Jason Luke (1995, played three seasons), Bret Bucktooth (2006, played five seasons), and Matt Gilray (2018, has played two seasons so far). Carly Jackson (2020) stepped right into the lineup in goal for the Beauts in the abbreviated 2020-21 season. Defender Amy Dahlkemper (2015) helped the WNY Flash win a championship in 2016, and she later played for Team USA in its win in the 2019 World Cup.


She got away: Megan Keller (2018) won a gold medal with Team USA at the 2018 Olympics, but has yet to play a game with the Beauts.



No. 4 – 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.



No. 5 – Rick Martin of the Sabres


Taken in Round 1 in 1971


The next pick: The first round pick of the Los Angeles Kings in 1971 has an odd history. In 1969, the Kings traded their top picks in 1971 and 1973 to Boston for Ross Lonsberry (a former member of the AHL Buffalo Bisons) and Eddie Shack (a future Buffalo Sabre). The Bruins used the selection in 1971 to take defenseman Ron Jones. It didn’t work out for Boston, which saw him play eight NHL games for the Bruins before he was lost to the Penguins in the Intraleague Draft in 1973.


Other picks in that round: You’d have to say the top of the draft was rather stacked. Guy Lafleur and Marcel Dionne went one-two to the Canadiens and Red Wings respectively. They combined for 1,291 goals in their career. Vancouver grabbed future Sabre Jocelyn Guevremont third. The last pick in the round was Terry O’Reilly by Boston.


The details: This was an easy one. Martin had scored 71 goals in 60 games in junior hockey in 1970-71, even though he didn’t have Gil Perreault centering him any more for the Montreal Junior Canadiens. Martin became one of the most feared goal-scorers of the 1970s in a career that was sadly shortened by a knee injury. Elsewhere, Shawn Anderson (1986) never could earn a regular spot on defense for the Sabres in the 1980s.


Other 5s: Speaking of goal-scorers, Thomas Vanek (2003) was another one who came to the Sabres at No. 5. He played more than eight seasons in Buffalo. Defenseman Jim Schoenfeld (1972) was another key piece of the Sabres’ exciting teams in the 1970s, and he even came back to coach for a while. There may never have been a better goaltender in the NHL at age 18 than Tom Barrasso (1983); he was traded to Pittsburgh for 1988. Jerry Butler (1979) was an elegant receiver for the Bills for seven seasons, but injuries shortened his career. Al Cowlings (1970) started for the Bills for three years before he was traded to Houston. Terry Miller (1978) gained 1,060 yards rushing as a rookie, and then essentially disappeared from view. Dhane Smith (2012) has been a terrific offensive player for the Bandits throughout his career, winning league MVP honors in 2016.


He got away: The Vikings took Carl Eller sixth in the 1964 NFL draft and signed him to a contract. Eller became one of the best defensive ends in the game, and is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.



No. 6 – Phil Housley of the Sabres


Taken in Round 1 in 1982


The next pick: It’s fair to say the Blackhawks were hoping Housley slipped a pick. They took center Ken Yaremchuk, who had scored an astonishing 157 points in junior the year before. He was even better in 1982-83 (160 points), but his scoring touch didn’t carry over to the pros. Yaremcchuk did have some good years in Europe in the 1990s.


Other picks in that round: The Sabres also took Paul Cyr and Dave Andreychuk in that first round, so they dominated the conversation that summer. Gord Kluzak went first to the Bruins, but injuries prevented him for realizing his potential. It was a big round for brothers, as Rocky Trottier (New Jersey at No. 8), Rich Sutter (Pittsburgh at No. 10), and Jim Playfair (Edmonton at No. 20) had famous relatives in the NHL.


The details: Housley was a member of an exclusive club: a defenseman who could score. Phil’s skating ability was second to none, to the point where he even saw a little duty at center early in his career. Housley scored at least 15 goals in his eight seasons in Buffalo. Then he was traded to Winnipeg for Dale Hawerchuk, the start of a trend that led him to seven other teams. Housley is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame.


Other 6s: The Bills and Sabres have been otherwise blanked at No. 6 over the years. However, the Braves contribute Adrian Dantley (1976) to our list. He was the NBA’s rookie of the year in 1976-77 before he was traded to Indiana for Billy Knight. A.J. Shannon (2003) spent four years with the Bandits. Lynn Williams (2015) was picked by soccer’s WNY Flash, and was named the league’s MVP in 2016. Lynn is still scoring goals for the North Carolina Courage. Adrianna Franch (2013) also was taken by the Flash – the team’s first-ever draft choice. She only played in one season for the Flash, as a severe knee injury prevented her from playing in 2014.


They got away: The Bandits took Tom Marachek at No. 6 in 1992. He took a year off and signed with Philadelphia. Marachek had five 40-goal seasons and is in the NLL Hall of Fame. Gil Nieuwendyk was taken sixth by the Bandits in 1993 … even though he had retired from the game five years before that. He is in the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame. Brother Joe is in the Hockey Hall of Fame.



No. 7 – Josh Allen of the Bills


Taken in Round 1 in 2018


The next pick: Linebacker Roquan Smith of Georgia moved right into the Bears’ starting lineup in 2018, and he stayed there through 2020.


Other picks in that round: Quarterbacks received much of the attention in this draft, as usual. Baker Mayfield went first to the Browns, Sam Donald was the No. 3 choice to the Giants, Josh Rosen was taken by the Cardinals at No. 10, and Lamar Jackson became a member of the Ravens at No. 32.


The details: Opinions were divided by Allen when he came out of Wyoming. Sure he was big and strong, but could he improve his accuracy? Well, his completion average went from 52.8 percent to 58.8 to 69.2. Allen led an improved offense in 2020 that set team records for production. As one former NFL general manager said about Allen, he would have gone first overall if we had known he could improve so much.


Other 7s: Paul Seymour only played five years for the Bills as a tight end – although he was essentially an extra blocker. Not by coincidence, running back O.J. Simpson had some great years in that span. Physical problems ended his career prematurely. The Sabres were thrilled to pick Erik Rasmussen (1996), but he never did develop into a power forward. Dylan Cozens (2019) is someone to watch in the years to come. Matt Disher (1998) played goal for the Bandits in his first two seasons, and then played in five other cities across North America.



No. 8 – 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.



No. 9 – Billy Shaw of the Bills


Taken in Round 2 in 1961


The next pick: Herb Adderley went to the New York Titans, but he signed with the Green Bay Packers of the NFL. There he became one of the great cornerbacks of his era, playing in four of the first six Super Bowls.


Other picks in that round: Three of the eight players from that round were inducted into the Hall of Fame. Shaw and Adderley were joined by Cowboys defensive lineman Bob Lilly. By the way, the last pick of the first round by Houston was Mike Ditka, who also is in Canton. The rest of the second round, but did produce some useful players in Jerry Hill, Tom Goode and Keith Lincoln.


The details: Shaw played college football at Georgia Tech, and signed with the Bills instead of the Cowboys (14th round). Dallas wanted Shaw to play linebacker, but he had other ideas. Billy spent nine seasons with the Bills, and was picked for the AFL All-Star Game in eight of them. He is the only player in the Pro Football Hall of Fame who spent his entire career in the AFL.


Other 9s: Jim Dunaway (1963) was a regular for the Bills for all nine of his years in Buffalo. Haven Moses (1968) had some good years with bad Bills’ teams in the late 1960s. C.J. Spiller (2010) was part of a crowd at running back in the early 2010s, but was a Pro Bowler in 2012. Tom McMillen (1974) spent a little more than a year with the Braves before he was sent with Bob McAdoo to the Knicks. Tom played 11 years in the NBA but never averaged 10 points per game. Paul Cyr (1982) came to the Sabres with some hype after scoring 52 goals in 58 games in junior hockey. He never lived up to it, peaking with 22 goals in 1984-85. Jeremy Thompson (2010) only spent a year with the Bandits before a trade sent him to Edmonton; he’s still with that franchise. We will see how Ed Oliver (2019) turns out with the Bills.


No. 10 – Stephon Gilmore of the Bills


Taken in Round 1 in 2012


The next pick: The Chiefs selected nose tackle Dontari Poe at No. 11. He certainly came in and clogged the middle of the line with his 346-pound size. Poe played five years with the Chiefs and was picked for the Pro Bowl twice. Since then he has played for Atlanta, Carolina and Dallas.


Other picks in that round: The choices are still adding to their resumes. Andrew Luck became a wise No. 1 choice by the Colts, while Robert Griffin III didn’t work out so well for the Redskins at No. 2. Some other choices were Luke Kuechly (No. 9 to Carolina), Fletcher Cox (No. 12 to Philadelphia), Chandler Jones (No. 21 to New England), and Harrison Smith (No. 29 to Minnesota).


The details: The Bills needed a cornerback that year, and they got a good one in Gilmore from South Carolina. He was an instant starter, and spent five excellent years in a Bills’ uniform. Then it was on to New England, as the Patriots signed him to a five-year, $65 million contract. He has played in two Pro Bowls for New England, and led the league in interceptions in 2019 with six.


Other 10s: Jeff Shattler (2015) came within a game of making the “he got away” distinction. Shattler played one game with the Bandits, and then was traded to Calgary. Jeff stayed for 11 seasons, scoring 30 goals four times and winning the league MVP trophy in 2011. Kyle Clancy (2009) showed potential in his two seasons with Bandits before he was injured in an auto accident that derailed his career. Norm Lacombe (1983) did little in parts of three seasons with the Sabres and was traded to Edmonton. Williamsville native Hayley Scamurra (2016) came out of Northeastern just in time to help the Beauts win the Isobel Cup in 2017. The next season, Hayley was named the league’s rookie of the year, and then led the league in scoring in 2018-19.



No. 11 – Mike Ramsey of the Sabres


Taken in Round 1 in 1979


The next pick: Defenseman Paul Reinhart was one of the best offensive defensemen of his day. While playing for Calgary and Vancouver, he scored at least 10 goals in six different seasons. Paul may not have played for Buffalo, but at least son Sam did.


Other picks in the round: This was the fabled draft when the eligibility age dropped to 18, thus opening up a ton of potential picks. In other words – you know it’s a good draft when Ray Bourque goes at No. 8 to Boston. Other familiar names included Mike Foligno (No. 3 to Detroit), Mike Gartner (No. 4 to Washington), Rick Vaive (No. 5 to Vancouver), Brian Propp (No. 14 to Philadelphia), Jay Wells (No. 16 to Los Angeles), Michel Goulet (No. 20 to Quebec), and Kevin Lowe (No. 21 to Edmonton). By the way, Mark Messier went to Edmonton at No. 48.


The details: The Sabres had to wait to see their first pick play. Ramsey was busy with the United States Olympic team of 1980. You know that worked out pretty well. He immediately joined the Sabres and helped them reach the semifinals that spring. Ramsey was a Sabre through 1993, and he was a very good player during that time. Mike played for Pittsburgh and Detroit at the end of his playing career, but came back to Buffalo as an assistant coach.


Other 11s: Lee Fogolin (1974) was a regular for the Sabres in the late 1970s, and Adam Creighton (1983) had a few good moments in the late 1980s. Both did better with other teams. Keith Ballard (2002) was traded to Colorado before he even got out of college. Aaron Maybin (2009) brings back nightmares to Bills’ scouts, as he started one game in a four-year career. Leodis McKelvin (2008) had some good moments on returns in his eight years as a Bill. Anthony Malcom (2015) was good for a goal per game during his two seasons as a Bandit.



No. 12 – Tyler Myers of the Sabres


Taken in Round 1 in 2008


The next pick: Defenseman Colten Teubert went at No. 13 to the Kings. Los Angeles probably was disappointed that Myers slipped past. Teubert only played in 24 NHL games, all for Edmonton in 2011-12. Otherwise, he was in the minors or Europe.


Other picks in the round: It was a strong year for players who turned in long NHL careers (some of them are still doing so). That was true at the top: Steven Stamkos of the Lightning, Drew Doughty of the Kings, Zach Bogosian of the Thrashers, Alex Pietrangelo of the Blues, and Luke Schenn of the Maple Leafs. The best choice, though, might have been Erik Karlsson at No. 15 to Ottawa. Future Sabre Cody Hodgson went 10th to Vancouver, and Buffalo took Tyler Ennis at No. 26.


The details: Everyone in Buffalo liked the idea of the Sabres taking a giant defenseman along the lines of Zdeno Chara. The 6-foot-8 Myers passed the physical, and won the Calder Trophy in 2009-10. But his play slid a bit after that, and he was dealt to Winnipeg in the Evander Kane swap. Myers has spent the last two seasons with Winnipeg.


Other 12s: Marshawn Lynch (2007) started his career with the Bills with a pair of 1,000-yard seasons. But he was crowded out of the picture at running back, and traded to Seattle for a draft pick. There he ran for four straight 1,200-yard seasons, scoring 47 touchdowns. Tony Hunter didn’t live up to the hype in two years here and was traded for Vince Ferragamo. Phil Dokes (1977) had a forgettable two years with the Bills. Mikhail Gregorenko (2012) was advertised as a big scorer when he was draft, but the Sabres never saw that. He was traded to Colorado and now is back in the NHL after four years with CSKA Moscow. Morris Titanic (1973) never could squeeze into a crowded Sabre roster. Roger Vyse (2005) had 27 goals for the Bandits in 2009. Troy Cordingley was on the undefeated Bandits’ team in 1993, and spent seven seasons here. He later came back as a coach. Amanda Leveille (2015) was the first draft pick to sign a contract with a team in the history of the National Women’s Hockey League. The Beauts’ goalie was named goalie of the year in the NWHL in 2018.


He got away: The Bills couldn’t sign defensive lineman Dick Evey after the 1964 draft. He joined the Bears and played with Chicago for six years.



No. 13 – Lee Evans of the Bills


Taken in Round 1 in 2004


The next pick: Defensive tackle Marcus Tubbs had one decent season, as he had 5.5 sacks for the Seahawks in 2004. He was out of football after the 2005 season.


Other picks in the round: Ben Roethlisberger (No. 11) is headed to the Hall of Fame for his work in Pittsburgh, and Eli Manning (No. 1 to the Chargers but then traded) and Philip Rivers (No. 1 to the Giants and then traded) may join him there. Larry Fitzgerald (No. 3 to the Cardinals) ranks with the best receivers of his generation. Steven Jackson (No. 24 to St. Louis) ran for more than 11,000 yards. Vince Wolfolk (No. 21 to New England) had a fine 13-year career.


The details: The Bills needed a deep threat, and Evans delivered. He caught 377 passes in Buffalo with 43 touchdowns. Lee had at least one 50-yard catch in all seven of his seasons here. Evans’ career ended quickly after leaving Buffalo after the 2010 season, but he had a nice run.


Other 13s: Drew Stafford (2004) had almost nine good seasons with the Sabres, peaking with 31 goals in 2010-11. The Sabres liked having Larry Playfair (1978) around so much, they brought him back in 1988 for an encore. Philippe Boucher (1991) never got off the Buffalo/Rochester shuffle, but finally landed a permanent job in the NHL in 2001 and played eight more seasons. Zack Kassian (2009) only played 27 games as a Sabre; he’s still contributing to Edmonton. Joel Savage (1998) only played in three NHL games – all with the Sabres. Chase Fraser (2017) of the Bandits) has had some injury problems, but he could be a key part of the team going forward. Justin Martin (2016) has been a regular on defense for four seasons for the Bandits.



No. 14 – Jim Kelly of the Bills


Taken in Round 1 in 1983


The next pick: Tony Eason went next to the Patriots, and he had an odd career. He helped New England reach the Super Bowl in 1985, and they made the playoffs in 1986. But the Pats gave up on Eason in 1987, and he was never a regular again.


Other picks in the round: It was a fabled year for quarterbacks, with John Elway (No. 1 to Denver), Todd Blackledge (No. 7 to Kansas City), Ken O’Brien (No. 24 to N.Y. Jets), and Dan Marino (No. 27 to Miami). But others were good too. Eric Dickerson (No. 2 to the Rams), Jimbo Covert (No. 6 to Chicago), Bruce Matthews (No. 9 to Houston) and Darrell Green (No. 28 to Washington) all made the Hall of Fame.


The details: You know the story. The Miami (Fla.) standout first jumped to the USFL before finally arriving a few years later in 1986. Kelly’s arrival gave the Bills instant credibility around the NFL, and thus is probably the most important player in the history of the franchise. Jim was picked for five Pro Bowls in an 11-year career, and the team went 101-59 in games he started.


Other 14s: Ruben Brown (1995) made seven straight Pro Bowls as a Bill, and played 13 seasons in all. He probably deserves more Hall of Fame consideration. A neck injury cut the career of defensive back Derrick Burroughs (1985) short. Ric Seiling’s (1997) biggest problem was that he wasn’t Mike Bossy, who was taken with the next pick by the Islanders. But Seiling had eight good years as a two-way forward despite suffering an eye injury that limited his effectiveness. Injuries also were a problem for Brad May (1990), but he figured out a way to play 1,041 NHL games. Jay McKee (1995) had nine fine years as a Sabres, ranking as a solid defensive defenseman. Calle Johansson (1985) spent less than two years in Buffalo before his trade to Washington; he became one of the Caps’ most dependable defenseman for more than a decade. Kevin Haller (1989) played for six different hockey teams through 2002. Zemgus Girgensons (2012) played for the Sabres for seven straight years before sitting out the 2021 season with an injury. Pat Maddalena (1999) was a regular for three years with the Bandits, and then saw his scoring totals increase during his remaining nine seasons in the NLL.



No. 15 – John Hummer of the Braves


Taken in Round 1 in 1970


The next pick: Gary Freeman went to the Bucks at No. 16, and was traded to lowly Cleveland in midseason. The forward finished his career with 67 points in his NBA career.


Other picks in the round: This turned out to be one of the great drafts in history. The top four players were Bob Lanier, Rudy Tomjanovich, Pete Maravich and Dave Cowens. Sam Lacey, Geoff Petrie, John Johnson and Jim McMillian weren’t bad either. More to the point for the Braves, they could have had Calvin Murphy (No. 18) and Tiny Archibald (No. 19) instead of Hummer.


The details: Hummer was a good defensive forward who had a six-year NBA career. The problem was that he wasn’t an exciting player to watch, and the Braves needed a little of that as a first-year expansion team. Hummer went to Chicago in 1973 in the deal for Gar Heard and Kevin Kunnert, so that worked out. John went on to do very well in the world of finance.


Other 15s: Maybe there’s a curse on this spot. The Bills have never had a No. 15 pick in a draft, and the Sabres only had one. Butch Deadmarsh (1970) never played more than 34 games in a season for Buffalo. Chris Corbeil (2009) made great strides on defense in his two years as a Bandit. Then he was dealt to Edmonton/Saskatchewan, where he became one of the league’s best players. Jeff Cornwall (2011) didn’t play much in his year in Buffalo, but also found a home in Edmonton/Saskatchewan. Mitch Wilde (2013) was a defender for the Bandits for four seasons before he was dealt to Calgary.


He got away: This pick is worth a scream of agony from Bandits’ fans. John Grant Jr. was taken by Buffalo in 1995. He instead went to college. Grant reentered the draft in 1999, and went to Rochester first overall. He scored 668 goals and 778 assists in 238 career games, ranking with the league’s best in every offensive category. The agony is that, in theory, he could have been playing with John Tavares for more than 10 of those seasons in a long career.



No. 16 – Dave Andreychuk of the Sabres


Taken in Round 1 in 1982


The next pick: Murray Craven was drafted by Detroit at No. 17, but didn’t stay long. The Red Wings sent him to Philadelphia in the Darryl Sittler deal. Craven played for four other teams in a career that stretched through 2000. He finished with 1,071 games played.


Other picks in the round: Wow – seven players from that first round played at least 1,000 games. The list in order: Brian Bellows, Ron Sutter, Scott Stevens, Phil Housley, Andreychuk, Craves, and Ken Daneyko.


The details: Andreychuk was a center, but soon was moved to left wing. He wasn’t particularly fast, but had magic hands around the net. That explains his 640 career goals. Dave peaked with the Sabres with 41 goals in 1991-92, and was a consistent point-a-game scorer in Buffalo. Andreychuk reached 50 goals with Toronto in 1993-94, and won a Stanley Cup in Tampa Bay after leaving Buffalo for a second time after the 2000-01 season.


Other 16s: Jim Ritcher (1980) was a great college center. It took a move to guard in 1983 to get him into the starting lineup. Once he did that, it was tough to get him out of the position. Ritcher stayed through 1993 and finished his career in Atlanta. Tremaine Edmunds’ career (2018) is off to a promising start as a middle linebacker. Ronnie Harmon (1986) carved out a niche as a pass receiver over 12 years, with four of them coming here. James Williams (1990) was a Bill for the Super Bowl years but was a disappointment. E.J. Manuel (2013) regressed after a decent rookie season. Martin Biron (1995) essentially was the Sabres’ goalie between Dominik Hasek and Ryan Miller. He did well, and his upbeat personality has served him well in broadcasting. Nikita Zadorov (2013) was a regular in 2014-15 on the Sabres’ blue line, and then was dealt to Colorado in the Ryan O’Reilly transaction.



No. 17 – Bob Sauve of the Sabres


Taken in Round 1 in 1975


The next pick: You really know your hockey if you recognize the name of Alex Forsyth. The center was the last pick in the first round by the Washington Capitals. Forsyth was stuck in the American Hockey League for almost all of his first two years. But he came up to play one game for the Caps in 1976-77. Then it was back to the minors, and he was done with pro hockey in 1978.


Other picks in the round: This was not a great class of players. Mel Bridgman was the first pick overall, and he at least played 977 games in the NHL. But the next four picks were Barry Dean, Ralph Klassen, Rick Lapointe and Don Ashby. Robin Sadler, the ninth pick in the first round, went to Europe instead of playing in the NHL or WHA.


The details: Most goalies need time to work their way into the NHL, and that was true for Sauve. He splayed for Providence, Charlotte, Hershey and Rhode Island before reaching Buffalo in 1976-77. He arrived with the Sabres for good in the 1978-79 season. Bob stayed in Buffalo through 1985 (except for part of a year in Detroit), and is best remembered for two straight shutouts of the Canadiens in the playoffs. Sauve finished as a New Jerseey Devil in 1989.


Other 17s: This won’t take long. Wayne Primeau (1994) finished his junior hockey career and turned pro. He arrived with the Sabres during the 1996-97 season and stayed through a trade to Tampa Bay in 2009. Wayne played through 2010, but he never had 10 goals with a single team in a season. (He did reach 11 with San Jose and Boston combined in 2005-06.)


He got away: The Bills and Vikings both took halfback Jim Lindsey of Arkansas in the second round in 1966. He stayed with the Vikings as a reserve running back for seven seasons.



No. 18 – Mario Clark of the Bills


Taken in Round 1 in 1976


The next pick: Kim Bokamper had a nice nine-year stay with the Dolphins, splitting his time between linebacker and defensive end. He averaged three official sacks per game once the NFL started counting them in 1982.


Other picks in the round: Tampa Bay started things off well by taking Lee Roy Selmon, a future Hall of Famer. The same could be said about New England, which took Mike Haynes at No. 5. The Jets took a quarterback from Alabama at No. 6 – Richard Todd. Two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffith went at No. 24 to the Bengals.


The details: Mario Clark, who played at Oregon in college, stepped right into the lineup on Opening Day in 1976. He essentially stayed there for the next eight seasons. Mario saw the down days of the late 1970s and better times under Chuck Knox. Clark ended his career by winning a Super Bowl ring with the San Francisco 49ers in the 1984 season.


Other 18s: Dmitri Kalinin was surprisingly available when the Sabres took him in 1998, staying through 2008. Reuben Gant spent six seasons as a rarely utilized tight end for the Bills in the late 1970s. Art Baker led the Bills in rushing in 1961, but was out of work less than a year later. Mikael Andersson (1984) never did show much of a scoring touch in Buffalo, but was good enough as a fourth line forward to play in the NHL through 2000. Jamie Batley (1995) was a Bandit in ’95 and ’99. He’s better known as a coach of several NLL teams. Maddie Elia was drafted in 2016 by the Beauts; she had grown up in Lewiston and played at Nichols High School. In 2018-19, Elia led the National Women’s Hockey League in goals and was named the league’s MVP.


He got away: Joe Walters (2006) never played with the Bandits. However, he’s remembered for the eight years he played in Rochester.


He got away, sort of: Brad Self was drafted by the Sabres in 1999 and by the Bandits in 2001. Brad stuck to lacrosse, joining Ottawa in 2003. He spent five seasons in Rochester before he was traded to Buffalo before the 2017 season. Family matters forced him to request a trade to Colorado in midseason of 2017, and he’s now the GM of the Mammoth.



No. 19 – Craig Ramsay of the Sabres


Taken in Round 2 in 1971


The next pick: If the Sabres knew then what we know now, they might have taken the next player. Larry Robinson turned out pretty well for the Montreal Canadiens. He was a cornerstone of the Canadiens’ dynasty in the late 1970s, did everything well, etc. Then again, many other teams would have taken him earlier had they had the chance too.


Other picks in the round: Rick Kehoe (No. 22 to Toronto) was third among the players picked in the round in games played with 906, and he scored 371 goals with 396 assists. Tommy Williams (No. 27 to the Rangers) had a good career with the Rangers and Kings.


The details: Ramsay learned two-way hockey from one of the best possible teachers, Roger Neilson, in Peterborough in junior hockey. Craig spent part of his first pro season in Cincinnati, and then came up for good. Ramsay was a player until 1985, when he won the Selke Trophy as his last season. Then he moved into the front office, working as a coach for several teams through 2015.


Other 19s: Shaq Lawson (2016) saw his sack totals improve during his four years with the Bills. He then jumped as a free agent to Miami. Perry Tuttle (1982) ranks with the all-time bad choices by the Bills, catching 24 passes in two seasons in Buffalo. He did win two championships in six years in Canada. Tom Ruud (1975) held out after he was drafted and never caught up. The linebacker was gone after three years. Fred Hilton (1971) never saw a shot he didn’t like during his two seasons with the Braves. The streak shooter was never consistent during his brief time in the NBA.



No. 20 – Will Wolford of the Bills


Taken in Round 1 in 1986


The next pick: Tim McGee played nine years in the NFL, most of them with the Bengals. The wide receiver peaked in 1989 with 65 catches for 1,211 yards and eight touchdowns.


Other picks in the round: Bo Jackson is the most famous name in the group. He went first overall to Tampa Bay, but injuries cut his career short. Jim Everett (No. 3) was drafted by Houston but traded to the Rams, where he put up some good numbers at quarterback. Jim Dombrowski came out of Williamsville South High School to become the No. 6 overall pick with the Saints. He spent 11 years with New Orleans. Leslie O’Neal (No. 8) had 132.5 career sacks from his spot at defensive end, most of them with the Chargers.


The details; Will Wolford walked into the Bills’ training camp in 1986, and following him was quarterback Jim Kelly. That worked out well for both men. Wolford stayed in Buffalo through 1992 and made a couple of Pro Bowls. Then it was on to Indianapolis and Pittsburgh. Will played 191 games in the NFL, and started all 191 of them.


Other 20s: The Sabres gave Steve Patrick (1980) all sorts of chances to break through, but he couldn’t capitalize. He was dealt to the Rangers for Dave Maloney in 1984. Daniel Paille (2002) needed five years to break into the Sabres’ lineup. He peaked with 35 points in 2007-08, but was traded to the Bruins in 2009.



No. 21 – Steve Priolo of the Bandits


Taken in Round 2 in 2009


The next pick: Michael Evans of Johns Hopkins was taken by the Orlando Titans. He did not play for the team in 2010, and didn’t have another chance to do so. The Titans folded in the summer of 2011. Evans did play in an outdoor pro league.


Other picks in this round: Matt Beers went to Washington as the first pick in the second round. He’s part of the furniture for that franchise, as he made the move from the Seattle area to Vancouver. Holden Vyse was taken by Rochester at No. 18, but was ruled ineligible after the fact. Two years later, the Bandits took him in the fourth round. He never played in Buffalo either. It’s safe to assume Holden was related to Bandits’ forward Roger Vyse.


The details: This turned out to be one of the great draft picks in Bandits’ history. Priolo needed a year to earn everyone’s trust, and then seemed to get better with every game. What’s more, he has maintained that high level of play for several years. Priolo has been a finalist for the award as the NLL’s top defenseman a few times. He’s not only big, tough, and rugged, but he can help out on offense if the situation permits.


Other 21s: For the non-lacrosse fans in the audience, Nate Clements (2001) is the pick here. The cornerback had six good seasons with Buffalo, and then left as a free agent for San Francisco. His one Pro Bowl was in Buffalo in 2004. Mika Noronen (1997) never could get past Ryan Miller, and after a few years with the Sabres’ organization he was traded to Vancouver and then headed to Europe. Jamie Rooney (2013-15) had a few nice moments with the Bandits as a forward.


He got away, sort of: Tracey Kelusky was a Bandits’ fourth-round pick in 1995. He never signed, playing college lacrosse at Hartford, and then popped up as the first overall pick in the 2000 draft to Columbus. From there, he spent a year in Montreal and eight great seasons in Calgary. Tracey then was dealt to the Bandits, but concussion problems didn’t allow him to play at full effectiveness. Kelusky will coach the new expansion team in Fort Worth.



No. 22 – John Pitts of the Bills


Taken in Round 1 in 1967


The next pick: Tom Regner was an All-American guard for Notre Dame, and the Oilers thought he could be a part of the offensive line for years to come. Regner was a starter for the 1968 and 1969, but it looks if injuries cut short his career after six seasons.


Other picks in the round: Let’s start with the Hall of Famers: Bob Griese (No. 4 to Miami), Floyd Little (No. 6 to Denver), Alan Page (No. 15 to Minnesota) and Gene Upshaw (No. 17) to Oakland. The first pick belong to the Colts, who took defensive end Bubba Smith of Michigan State. Steve Spurrier (No. 3 to San Francisco) had much more success as a college coach than as a player. George Webster’s career (No. 5 to Houston) started with three straight Pro Bowl appearances, but he had trouble staying on the field after that.


The details: Pitts was the Bills’ first pick in a draft after the merger between the AFL and NFL. He was a strong safety, and he probably thought he was joining a very good team. After all, the Bills had lost in the AFL championship game that winter. Pitts spent six-plus seasons in Buffalo, just went the Bills were crashing. John moved on to Denver in 1973 – missing some fun here, and finished his career in Cleveland in 1975.


Other 22s: The Bills gave up a future first-round pick to take J.P. Losman, who they hoped would slide into the job held by Drew Bledsoe. Losman was merely OK in 2006 when he started all 16 games. Then Trent Edwards grabbed the starting job, and Losman’s days were numbered. Jiri Novotny (2001) needed almost four seasons in Rochester before getting a shot in Buffalo. The chance lasted a little more than a year before he was traded. Brad Miller was the pick after Pierre Turgeon by the Sabres; he saw a lot of the Thruway driving between Buffalo and Rochester. Kevin Brownell has spent eight seasons with the Bandits as a transition player; he’s quietly put together a good career here.



No. 23 – Willis McGahee of the Bills


Taken in Round 1 in 2003


The next pick: Dallas Clark worked out well for the Colts. The tight end stayed for nine years, and caught 100 passes in the 2009 season alone. Clark finished his career with 505 catches.


Other picks in the round: The discussion starts with Carson Palmer, who went No. 1 with the Bengals and was a good choice. Andre Johnson (No. 3 to Houston) caught more than 1,000 passes. Terrell Suggs (No. 10 to Baltimore) played in seven Pro Bowls. Troy Polamalu (No. 16 to Pittsburgh) already is in the Hall of Fame. Mark Pysyk (2010) couldn’t quite hold on to a starting job with the Sabres. He was traded to Florida and found a home for four years, and now is with Dallas.


The details: McGahee might be the most surprising draft pick in Bills history. He had suffered a severe knee injury at the end of his college career, and everyone knew that he would have to sit out his first season with the pros. The Bills took a big gamble that he could completely recover. Once McGahee got on the field, he produced. He ran up 3,365 yards in three seasons with 21 touchdowns. But he wore out his welcome to some extent with some comments about the city, and the Bills traded him to Baltimore for draft picks. Willis had two more 1,000-yard seasons, but it could be argued that he didn’t quite live up to his potential.


Other 23s: McGahee or Antoine Winfield? It’s one of the toughest calls of this series of articles. Winfield was a reserve as a rookie in 1999, and then started for most of the next four seasons. He signed a rich deal with the Vikings as a free agent. Antowain Smith had two good seasons in Buffalo but fell out of favor before moving on to New England in 2001. Mike Hasen played most of four seasons with the Bandits. He moved on to Rochester for a long tenure as a player and then as a coach.



No. 24 – Eric Moulds of the Bills


Taken in Round 1 in 1996


The next pick: Offensive lineman Jermane Mayberry was grabbed by Philadelphia. He played nine years with the Eagles and one with the Saints.


Other picks in the round: The name after Mayberry on the draft list does jump out: Ray Lewis. He’s in the Hall of Fame for his work as a linebacker with Baltimore. Marvin Harrison (No. 19 to Indianapolis) and Jonathan Ogden (No. 4 to Baltimore) also are enshrined in Canton. Keyshawn Johnson went first to the Jets, and had more than 10,000 yards receiving. Lawrence Phillips went sixth to the Cardinals, despite a troubled past. He only played three seasons in the NFL.


The details: The Bills went looking for a deep threat at wide receiver, and Moulds (from Mississippi State) soon turned into a great one. He became a full-time starter in 1998, and went on to have four 1,000-yard receptions between 1998 and 2004. Eric caught 100 passes in 2002, his third Pro Bowl season. Moulds spent his last two seasons with Houston andTennessee.


Other 24s: Jay Thorimbert probably was the best faceoff specialist in Bandits’ history. He was drafted by Buffalo in 2006, but didn’t actually play here until 2011. Jay had six productive years here. Randy Mearns suited up for the Bandits in 1993 and 2002, and is still around the team as its radio analyst. Cornell Warner played about 20 minutes a game in the first two seasons as a Brave at strong forward.


He got away: Al Atkinson was a third-round pick of the Bills in 1965. He was cut in traning camp without playing a game. Al landed with the Jets, and was the middle linebacker of the team that won Super Bowl III.



No. 25 – Butch Byrd of the Bills


Taken in Round 4 in 1964


The next pick: Defensive lineman Ed Lothamer from Michigan State spent eight years with the Chiefs, usually as a reserve.


Other picks in the round: Jon Morris wasn’t just a local pick out of Holy Cross by the Patriots. He played 15 years, and was 7 for 7 in Pro Bowls for Boston. The Chargers took wide receiver Dave Parks, but he signed with San Francisco after going first in the NFL draft.


The details: The Bills couldn’t have asked for more out of a fourth-round draft choice. He immediately won a starting job at cornerback in 1964, and remained in that spot through 1970. Byrd played seven seasons, appeared in five All-Star games, and had at least four interceptions in all seven of those years. Injuries got in the way from there, but it was a great run.


Other 25s: The Bills used Stew Barber at linebacker in his rookie season, and then moved him to offensive tackle. The move worked; Barber played in five straight All-Star Games and stayed through 1969. Larry Carriere spent two and a half seasons on the Sabres’ blue line before he was traded to Atlanta for Jacques Richard. Jerome Thompson, part of one of the great families in lacrosse, spent two seasons with the Bandits.


He got away: The Bills couldn’t sign offensive tackle Randy Jackson in 1966. We went to the Bears and played eight seasons there.



No. 26 – Joe DeLamielleure of the Bills


Taken in Round 1 in 1973


The next pick: The Chiefs took tight end Gary Butler out of Rice. He played every other year – 1973, 1975 and 1977 – and caught a total of 25 passes in his career.


Other picks in the round: John Hannah was the most successful choice of the rest of the first round. He’s in the Hall of Fame and probably is in the argument as the greatest offensive lineman in history. Ray Guy (No. 23 to Oakland) is the only punter to be taken in the first round. At least he’s a Hall of Fame punter too. Bert Jones (No. 2 to Baltimore) was a fine quarterback until injuries reduced him to part-time status. John Matuszak (No. 1 to Houston) was one of the great characters in football in the 1970s. Joe Ehrmann (No. 10 to Baltimore) was a Buffalo native who played at Syracuse. Dave Butz (No. 5 to St. Louis) played 216 games at defensive tackle.


The details: When Lou Saban searched for new blockers for O.J. Simpson, he couldn’t have found a better one this this guard. DeLamielleure walked right into the starting lineup in 1973, and spent the rest of the 1970s as a standout for Buffalo. He played in six straight Pro Bowls. Joe D. then was traded to the Browns, where he stayed for four years, before finishing his career back in Buffalo in 1985.


Other 26s: Henry Jones was a great fit at safety for the Bills in the 1990s, leading the league in interceptions in 1992. Greg Bell had a couple of good seasons for the Bills at running back, and was traded to the Rams as part of the Cornelius Bennett deal. Erik Flowers and John McCargo were major disappointments for the Bills on the defensive line. Tyler Ennis spent seven seasons with the Sabres in the 2010s, peaking in 2010-11 with 49 points. The Sabres had some high hopes for defenseman Greg Brown in the late 1980s, but he never could win a regular job in the NHL.



No. 27 – Reggie McKenzie of the Bills


Taken in Round 2 in 1972.


The next pick: Defensive back Ralph McGill also returned punts during his eight-year career, mostly in San Francisco.


Other picks in that round: It was a good year and a good round for running backs. The list includes Lydell Mitchell of the Colts, Robert Newhouse of the Cowboys add Jim Bertelsen of the Rams, and Cornell’s Ed Marinaro of the Jets. Chester Marcol proved memorable, because kickers usually don’t go in the second round.


The details: Bills coach Lou Saban was determined to build the team’s offensive line to provide blocking for O.J. Simpson. McKenzie was a great choice. He turned into the emotional center of the group, dubbed “The Electric Company” because “they turned on the Juice.” McKenzie started 147 games as a Bill, finishing his career in 1983-84 in Seattle.


Other 27s: Tre’Davious White might be on his way to taking this spot over if he continues his level of play at cornerback in years to come. He’s been in two Pro Bowls in four seasons. John Fina spent 10 years playing offensive tackle for the Bills; most of them were in the 1990s. Jeff Burris played 10 years in the NFL, the first four coming in Buffalo. Doug Allen was a linebacker for two years (1974-75), and then spent 25 years working for the NFL Players Association. Bill Enyart was supposed to play fullback to O.J. Simpson’s halfback whe they were drafted together, but it didn’t work out. Cory Sarich was considered a top prospect for the Sabres. He was traded to Tampa Bay in the 2000 deal for Wayne Primeau, and then won a Stanley Cup with the Lightning in 2004. He played hockey through 2014. Scott Self broke in with the Bandits in 2001, and then returned 10 years later for three good seasons.



No. 28 – Eric Wood of the Bills


Taken in Round 1 in 2009


The next pick: Hakeem Nicks became a good wide receiver for the Giants. He peaked with thousand-yard seasons in 2010 and 2011, and played seven years in all.


Other picks in that round: The Lions got it right by taking Matthew Stafford first overall that year. The other quarterbacks taken in the first round that year were Mark Sanchez (No. 5) by the Jets and Josh Freeman (No. 17) to the Buccaneers. Defensive back Malcolm Jenkins (No. 14) played in three Pro Bowls after leaving New Orleans for Philadelphia. Clay Matthews (No. 26) had a nice run with the Packers before leaving for the Rams. Wide receiver Percy Harvin (No. 22) spent two seasons as a reserve with the Bills.


The details: Buffalo had two picks in the first round in 2009; this is the choice that worked out well. Wood spent two years at offensive guard, and then moved to center through 2017. Eric played in 120 games as a member of the Bills, and started every single one of them. He was forced to retire early because of a neck injury, and eventually moved into the Bills’ radio booth to serve as an analyst.


Other 28s: Thomas Smith was a good defensive back for the Bills throughout the 1990s. He finished his career with the Bears and Colts. Booker Moore was a first-round pick in 1981, but missed his first year when he was diagnosed with Guillain–Barré syndrome. He played for three seasons after that, but chances to carry the ball were few.


They got away: Realistically, the Bills weren’t going to outbid the Browns for Paul Warfield’s services in 1964. Cleveland’s top pick was a simple elegant wide receiver who played in eight Pro Bowls (seven of them in a row). Warfield is in the Hall of Fame. Tom Woodeshick was a pesky halfback who spent 10 years in the NFL, mostly with Philadelphia.



No. 29 – Danny Gare of the Sabres


Taken in Round 2 in 1974


The next pick: Montreal took Gary MacGregor at No. 30, but couldn’t sign him. He landed with the Chicago Cougars, and played with five different World Hockey Association teams before his career ended. The center was the only player from the second round who never played a game in the NHL.


Other picks in that round: A couple of names sort of jump out at the reader. Bryan Trottier (No. 22) was merely the centerpiece of the Islanders’ teams that won four straight Stanley Cups. Mark Howe (No. 25) never played for the Bruins. Instead Howe joined dad Gordie and brother Marty in Houston of the WHA. Dave “Tiger” Williams (No. 31) of the Maple Leafs and Ron Greschner (No. 32) of the Rangers had long careers.


The details: Scoring 68 goals in 65 games in junior hockey is a good way to get attention from scouts, and the Sabres grabbed him. Gare took a starting job on a line with Don Luce and Craig Ramsay in 1974-75, and it was a phenomenal combination. The trio helped Buffalo reach the finals. Gare stayed through 1981, and scored 50 goals in two different seasons. Then Danny was traded to Detroit, and he finished his career in Edmonton.


Other 29s: Joe Cribbs had three 1,000-yard seasons at halfback in four years before jumping to the United States Football League. He wasn’t the same upon returning, but he was a big part of some good Bills teams under Chuck Knox. Nate Odomes was a fixture in the Bills’ secondary for seven years, including the Super Bowl era. Offensive lineman Mark Traynowitz played five years in the NFL (1985-1989) without starting a game. Tight end Jan White averaged about a catch per game as a tight end in 1971 and 1972.



No. 30 – Dennis Shaw of the Bills


Taken in Round 2 in 1970


The next pick: The Oilers grabbed Lee Brooks, a defensive tackle from Texas. He played 79 games in Houston and St. Louis, and started about half of them.


Other picks in that round: A couple of tight ends jump out: Jim Mandich (No. 29) for Miami, and Rich Caster (No. 46) for the Jets. The Browns added a couple of good defensive linemen in Joe Jones (No. 36) and Jerry Sherk (No. 47). Everyone missed the first pick in the third round – Hall of Fame defensive back Mel Blount, who was selected by Pittsburgh.


The details: With Jack Kemp retired and off to Congress, the quarterback job of the Bills was wide open. Shaw ended up winning the job as a rookie in 1970, and did well enough to give the team hope for the future at the position. But he suffered from the sophomore jinx in 1971, throwing a league-leading 26 interceptions. Shaw didn’t improve in 1972, so rookie Joe Ferguson took the job away from him the next year. Dennis finished his career as a reserve in St. Louis.


Other 30s: It’s a slim list. Jens Johansson, in fact, is it. He was a defenseman taken by the Sabres in 1982. He opted to stay in Sweden, and never played for the Sabres. We’ll see how Greg Rousseau (2021) does on the Bills’ offensive line.


He got away: This is complicated. Spencer Haywood played for the U.S. Olympic team in 1968, and then jumped as an underclassman to Denver of the American Basketball Association in 1969. Then Haywood challenged the rule that was keeping him out of the NBA because he wasn’t old enough, and won that court fight to play for Seattle. The Braves, who had three second-round picks in 1971, decided to use the last of them on Haywood in case the rules were changed. It didn’t work; he never played here.



No. 31 – John Tucker of the Sabres


Taken in Round 2 in 1983


The next pick: Yves Heroux is in an odd club. He is in the ranks of those who played exactly one game in the NHL; it came for Quebec in 1986-87. Heroux played through the end of the century, and even spent three summers in Roller Hockey International.


Other picks in that round: The Sabres had two picks in the second round that year; Richard Hajdu (No. 34) didn’t work out. Buffalo eventually had the No. 39 pick, Wayne Presley, who was taken by Chicago. Some veterans who were taken in that round were Claude Lemieux (No. 26 to Montreal), Sergio Momesso (No 27 to Montreal), Frank Musil (no. 38 to Minnesota, and now a Sabre scout), and Peter Zezel (No. 41 to Philadelphia).


The details: There was plenty of excitement among Sabres’ scouts that Tucker slipped to them at No. 32. He had scored 60 goals with 80 assists in 70 games in junior hockey. Tucker rarely displayed that sort of touch in the NHL, but he did have 31 goals in 1985-86 fro Buffalo. John finished his NHL career with four seasons in Tampa Bay through 1997. Eventually he laded in Japan.


Other 31s: Brendan Lemieux never played for the Sabres, as he was dealt to Winnipeg in the Evander Kane swap. Ryan Johnson, a first-round pick by the Sabres in 2019, has arrived here from college yet.



No. 32 – Fred Smerlas of the Bills


Taken in Round 2 in 1979


The next pick: Greg Roberts went to Tampa Bay at No. 33. He was the Outland Trophy winner at Oklahoma as the nation’s best interior lineman. Greg spent four years with the Bucs and finished his football career with Memphis of the USFL.


Other picks in that round: You can look up Jim Haslett at No. 51 for details of that round. It’s interesting that Mike Stensrud was taken by the Oilers in the pick before Smerlas. The nose tackle wasn’t bad - playing 11 seasons in the NFL – but he was no Smerlas.


The details: It took a season, but eventually Smerlas was a fixture of the Buffalo defense in the 1980s. He started 150 games in that decade, only missing four games in 1987. Fred unluckily missed the glory days of the Bills, as he finished his career with San Francisco and New England. Smerlas was named to five Pro Bowl teams.


Other 32s: Lindy Ruff has a case for this number, particularly if his contributions as a coach factor into the debate. Ruff played left wing and defense during his career in Buffalo, which encompassed most of the 1980s as well. Derek Roy is in the argument too after nine good years in Bufalo between 2003 and 2012. Tony McKegney had five good seasons in Buffalo, and then played for six other teams through 1991. Defensive lineman Dee Hardison spent three seasons as a reserve in Buffalo, and stayed in the NFL for eight more years.



No. 33 – Bill Hajt of the Sabres


Taken in Round 3 in 1971


The next pick: The Kings took Vic Venasky from the University of Denver. The center played 430 games in the 1970s, all with the Kings. Vic had 18 goals in 1975-76.


Other picks in that round: Hajt and Venasky are the two leaders in NHL games played in the round. Richard Lemieux (No. 39 for Vancouver) became an original member of the Kansas City Scouts. Goalie John Garrett started his pro career in the WHA, and then moved to the NHL in 1979. He frequently turned up at the Aud as he played for Hartford, Quebec and Vancouver in the 1980s.


The details: Bill didn’t turn pro for a year after he was drafted, but then spent most of the next two seasons in the minors. But the defenseman came up for good in 1974, becoming a part of the Sabre team that reached the finals in 1975. Bill stayed through 1987 – a steady, soft-spoken defenseman who rarely scored but usually made the correct play on the ice.


Other 33s: Bobby Burnett had a very good rookie year with the Bills in 1966, but then had a severe knee injury the next season and his football career was essentially over. Defensive back Roland Mitchell was a reserve for Buffalo as a rookie in 1987. He spent the majority of his NFL career in Green Bay. Joe Kowal couldn’t crack the Sabres’ powerful lineup in the mid-1970s. Rasmus Asplund had some good moments for the Sabres during the 2020-21 season.



No. 34 – Paul Posluszny of the Bills


Taken in Round 2 in 2007


The next pick: Arron Sears moved right into the starting lineup of the Bucs at guard, and stayed there for two years. But the story turned sad after that, as Sears came down with various neurological problems that left him unable to even take care of himself. Arron often was taken into protective custody by police.


Other picks in that round: You might remember Kevin Kolb, a quarterback who signed with the Bills in 2013. Kolb suffered a concussion in training camp and never played football again. Eric Weddle (No. 37 to San Diego) played in 201 games in his NFL career, and was a five-time Pro Bowler. Ryan Kalil (No. 59 to Carolina) also played in five Pro Bowls at center.


The details: Posluszny was billed as something of a tackling machine coming out of Penn State. He grabbed a starting job immediately, but broke his forearm as a rookie and only played three games in 2007. But Paul bounced back to play for Buffalo for the next three years. Free agency beckoned after that, and Posluszny felt he wouldn’t be a good fit under incoming coach Chan Gailey. So left for Jacksonville, and played there through 2017.


Other 35s: Aaron Williams joined the Bills in 2011, and found a home at safety by 2013. However, he suffered neck injuries in both 2015 and 2016 that ended his career. Bob Tatarek played defensive tackle for some dreary Bills teams between 1968 and 1972. Andrew Peters was drafted in 1998 by the Sabres, but didn’t join the Sabres until 2003. Once here, he stayed for five seasons.



No. 35 – Jason Dawe of the Sabres


Taken in Round 2 in 1991


The next pick: Center Jeff Nelson (Capitals) was a classic tweener - a very good minor league player who couldn’t stick at the next level. Jeff finished with three goals in 52 NHL games.


Other picks in that round: San Jose got the best player with the first pick of the round at No. 23. Ray Whitney played 1,330 games and scored 1,064 points. Zigmund Palffy (Islanders) averaged almost a goal every two games in his career. Steve Staios played 1,0001 NHL games. Jassen Cullimore (Vancouver), Sandis Ozolinsh (San Jose) and Jozef Stumpel also stayed in the NHL for a long time.


The details: Dawe first arrived in Buffalo in the 1993-94 season, and had his best year in his first time around as a regular in 1995-96 (25 goals, 25 assists). Jason was traded to the Islanders in March, 1998. The right winger never scored 10 goals in an NHL season after that.


Other 36s: Benoit Hogue (1985) had three-plus seasons in Buffalo before he went to the Islanders in the Pat LaFontaine trade. The forward had 75 points with the Islanders twice. He won a Cup with the Dallas Stars in 1999. J.T. Compher never played a game for the Sabres after he was drafted in 2013. He went to Colorado in the Ryan O’Reilly deal, he’s been a good fit as a two-way center ever since. Ken Breitenbach (1975) spent parts of three seasons in Buffalo in the late 1970s.


He got away: The Bills drafted quarterback Norm Snead in the fifth round in 1961. However, Washington in the NFL took him second overall, and he signed with that franchise. Snead played 16 years and made four Pro Bowls. Snead might have changed some Bills’ history involving Jack Kemp had he opted to play for the Bills.



No. 36 – Josh Reed of the Bills


Taken in Round 2 in 2002


The next pick: The Cowboys probably were happy that Andre Gurode fell to them. The team made him the first rookie ever to start for it at center on Opening Day. He played nine seasons on the Dallas offensive line, and qualified for the Pro Bowl in five of them. Gurode spent his final two seasons in Baltimore and Oakland.


Other picks in that round: Two very good wide receivers were the bookends of the round: Jabar Gaffney of the Texans and Deion Branch of the Patriots. Others from this round are listed for Ryan Denney at No. 61. Langston Walker (Oakland) is considered one of the Bills’ biggest mistakes in free-agent signings.


The details: Reed wasn’t a great addition to the roster, but he made his share of contributions. Josh was a regular at wide receiver in three different seasons, and caught at least 50 passes in each of them. Reed finished with 311 receptions for 3,575 yards and 10 touchdowns.


Other 36s: Tim Edwards was a top lacrosse player at Canisius, which caught the eye of the Bandits at draft time in 2017. It took this terrific athlete time to find a niche, but eventually he became a faceoff specialist here and Colorado. Kristen Hamilton was the 36th and last player taken in the National Women’s Soccer League draft, going to the Western New York Flash. Kristen has won three championships in the NWSL, including one with the Flash, and she also plays soccer in Australia.



No. 37 – Zay Jones of the Bills


Taken in Round 2 in 2017


The next pick: Forrest Lamb needed two years to adjust to the NFL, but he grabbed a starting spot for the Chargers at offensive guard in 2020.


Other picks in that round: We have covered this round with Dion Dawkins at No. 63. However, JuJu Smith-Schuster certainly is worth noting with the other top names. He has caught 308 passes for the Steelers, including 111 in 2018.


The details: The Bills hoped Jones could step in at wide receiver as a rookie. He caught 27 passes in 2017, and more than doubled it (56) a year later with seven touchdowns. But Zay started slowly in 2019 and was traded to the Raiders for a fifth-round pick. Jones saw limited duties with Las Vegas in 2020.


Other 37s: The pickings are slim. Bandits fans might remember Brenden Thenhaus, a third-round pick in 2006. He left after his rookie season, but came back in 2011 to score 17 goals.



No. 38 – Hannu Virta of the Sabres


Taken in Round 2 in 1981


The next pick: Dean Kennedy played defense with a number of teams starting with the Kings. He spent the 1989-90 and 1990-91 seasons in Buffalo.


Other picks in that round: After the Virta and Kennedy selections, the Canadiens took another defenseman in the No. 40 slot. Chris Chelios turned out to be a Hall of Famer once he was done playing … and it took until 2009-10 until he played his last game of 1,651. Future Sabre Scott Arniel was the first choice in that round, while Jan Erixon and Gord Dineen also had good-sized NHL careers.


The details: This is the one pick by the Sabres in 1981 that worked out reasonably well, at least for a while. Virta, a native of Finland, came over late in the 1981-82 season to play a few games. He then stayed for the next four seasons. Hannu wasn’t a scorer, but he was rather dependable. Virta then returned to Finland to play for TPS Turku until 1996-97. He did some coaching in Europe after that.


Other 38s: Cody Ford only has played two seasons with the Bills, and the 2020 version was cut short by an injury. He may take over this numerical distinction from Virta in a year or two. Ken Charles turned out well for the Braves, spending three seasons mostly as a third guard during their best years. Scott Hutchinson was a backup defensive lineman for the Bills in the late 1970s/early 1980s for four years. Denis Tsygurov was the first player drafted by the Sabres in 1993. He didn’t show much in the NHL, and went back to Europe for a few years of play during the rest of the 1990s.



No. 39 – Darryl Talley of the Bills


Taken in Round 2 in 1983


The next pick: Offensive tackle Rich Strenger played a few seasons with the Lions as a reserve. His career lasted 49 games.


Other picks in the round: There were no Hall of Famers in this group, but several significant players popped up here. They include Henry Ellard of the Rams, Dave Lutz of the Chiefs, Leonard Marshall of the Giants, Roger Craig of the 49ers, Ray Horton of the Bengals, and Bill Pickel of the Raiders.


The details: Talley needed a little time to settle into the Bills’ defense, but once he did he was the heart and soul of the Buffalo teams that reached four straight Super Bowls. Darryl started every game from 1989 to 1994, and made two Pro Bowls along the way. Talley ended his career in Atlanta and Minnesota, but he remains a beloved member of the Bills.


Other 39s: Sam Cowart was a tackling machine three seasons in the late 1990s, but he tore his Achilles tendon in the opener in 2001 and really was never the same. Cowart signed with the Jets in 2002, and finished his career in Minnesota in 2005.



No. 40 – Thurman Thomas of the Bills


Taken in Round 2 in 1988.


The next pick: Dallas grabbed linebacker Ken Norton Jr. at pick No. 41, and he was a starter for 12 of his 13 seasons for the Cowboys and 49ers.


Other picks in the round: A total of 19 players from the round appeared in at least 100 games. There were two Hall of Famers among them – Thomas and center Dermontti Dawson of the Steelers. Ex-Bill Chris Spielman went at No. 29, and some of the other famous names were Eric Allen of the Eagles, Ickey Woods of the Bengals, Jumbo Elliott of the Giants, Vincent Brown of the Patriots, Fred Strickland of the Rams, Brian Blades of the Seahawks, Michael Dean Perry of the Browns, and Brett Perriman of the Saints.


The details: There were questions about Thomas entering the draft due to a knee injury. When he was finally taken by the Bills, the TV cameras showed a man with a chip on his shoulder. It didn’t take him long to become the best all-around running back in Bills history. He had eight straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons, caught as many as 62 passes in a season, and was picked for five straight Pro Bowls.


He got away: Since Thomas was in a class by himself as a player, it’s only fitting that he’s the only significant Buffalo player to be taken at No. 40. The Bills drafted Dave Simmons in that spot in 1965, but he signed with the Cardinals. The linebacker was a reserve with three teams in a four-year career.


(Follow Budd on X.com Via @WDX2BB)

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