The 2001 NFL Draft class was picked as the best class for the Buffalo Bills over past twenty years.
The Buffalo Bills struggled to make the playoffs, or be competitive, for the better part of two decades. While there is multiple reasons for these struggles, like poor choices at head coach, their inability to find impact players through the NFL Draft was another reason.
However, one of those draft classes that exceeded expectations was the group of players the Buffalo Bills drafted in 2001, which was named the franchise’s best draft class since 2000 by CBS Sports.
A Pro Bowler in 2004, Nate Clements started in 168 regular season games during his career. Aaron Schobel carved out a nine-year career that saw him earn two Pro Bowl nods while tallying 78 sacks. Travis Henry, a Pro Bowler in 2004, rushed for 2,794 yards and 23
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touchdowns over a two-year span. Ron Edwards made 98 career starts over a 12-year career, while Jonas Jennings started in each of his 75 career games before injuries forced him to retire following the 2008 season. Marques Sullivan and Jimmy Williams also made quality contributions as Day 3 picks, though the latter’s came with other teams after he failed to make the Bills’ opening roster as a rookie.
A big “what if” from the Bills’ ’01 draft class is linebacker Brandon Spoon, a fourth-round pick who recorded 65 tackles, seven tackles for loss and two interception returns for touchdowns as a rookie. Spoon’s career essentially ended the following summer, when he tore his biceps before the start of the 2002 season. Spoon spent that season on injured reserve before being cut by the Bills before the start of the 2003 season. He signed with the Rams the following offseason but suffered a torn hamstring during training camp.
This was one of the biggest draft classes the Bills have had in the modern era with 12 players selected that year. As Bryan DeArdo notes, the first five picks were excellent selections with Aaron Schobel arguably the best player, playing all nine seasons with the Bills. He ended up finishing second in franchise history in sacks, behind only Bruce Smith. The former pass rusher was one of the key players on this defense and has a strong case to be added to the Wall of Fame.
However, Schobel wasn’t the only Pro Bowler in this group with Nate Clements and Travis Henry both earning selections in their careers. While Clements and Henry didn’t have the same longevity with the Bills that Schobel did, they both were key players in the early part of the 2000s.
Any NFL Draft class that can add five starters has to be considered a success.
While that 2001 class was one of the best, the recent draft classes under Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane have a great chance of surpassing this group in the coming years. The Bills already have two players make the Pro Bowl (Tre’Davious White and Tremaine Edmunds) and there are a number of players who have a great chance to join them in the coming years.