Buffalo Bills NFL Draft History: Re-Drafting the first round picks since 2010

Greg Rousseau, Buffalo Bills (Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)
Greg Rousseau, Buffalo Bills (Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Buffalo Bills
C.J. Spiller, Buffalo Bills (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) /

Buffalo Bills 2010 First Round Pick:  C.J. Spiller

It’s always a fun exercise looking back on the Bills’ draft picks from this era. Taking Spiller No. 8 overall, then and now, still feels like the product of bad management and ineptitude in roster construction.

Spiller did become a Pro Bowl player as he rushed for 1,244 yards, totaled 1,703 yards from scrimmage, and scored eight TDs in 2012. But like Dareus, the Clemson product’s success was short-lived.

Spiller only had one other season with the team where he had over 1,000 yards from scrimmage and he only had one other season where he scored at least six TDs. And to make matters worse, Spiller was selected in 2010, which almost certainly was a factor in the Bills dealing Marshawn Lynch to the Seahawks.

While in Seattle, Lynch led the league in rushing scores twice, was named to four Pro Bowls and two All-Pro teams, was a 2010s All-Decade contributor, and helped the franchise play in two Super Bowls, winning one to cap the 2013 season. Ouch.

Plus the team already had Fred Jackson in the backfield. Jackson’s NFL career was far more productive than Spiller’s, even as a Division III Coe College product.

Spiller going Top 10 in the draft kind of summarizes what general manager Russ Brandon’s tenure was like; a whole lot of swings and misses.

Was this the right pick? 

No chance. Taking an RB in the first round has become a cardinal sin in the NFL. But to even consider one in the Top 10? They’ve got to be a generational talent. And as talented as Spiller was, he was not considered to be in the class of Top 10 RBs like Adrian Peterson, Todd Gurley, or Ezekiel Elliott.

Plus, again, why are you taking an RB that high when you’ve got two viable backs already? Yes, Lynch was going through off-the-field issues, but Jackson being there already should have pushed the team to want to go in a different direction anyway.

Who could the Buffalo Bills have taken?

If the Buffalo Bills were so dead set on adding an RB, they could have waited on undrafted players Chris Ivory and LeGarrette Blount. Ivory became a Pro Bowler with the Jets after productive years as a piece in New Orleans’ deep backfield. Blount, the NFL’s rushing TD leader for 2016, was a key factor on three Super Bowl teams in New England and Philadelphia.

As for other high-profile players picked after Spiller, that list includes Earl Thomas, Jason Pierre-Paul, Mike Iupati, Maurkice Pouncey, Demaryius Thomas, Dez Bryant, Bryan Bulaga, Devin McCourty, Linval Joseph, and long-time Bills player Jerry Hughes.

Other notable names selected in the mid-rounds or later include former Bills wideout Emmanuel Sanders, NaVorro Bowman, Jimmy Graham, Everson Griffen, Geno Atkins, and Kam Chancellor. Victor Cruz and  Alejandro Villanueva were also undrafted players in this class.

But the two names to stand out from the 2010 draft class were Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski. Before winning a title together in Tampa Bay, both were establishing themselves with the Steelers and Patriots, respectively.

Brown’s fall from grace has been precipitous, but people forget how special he was in Pittsburgh. The Central Michigan product had five consecutive seasons where he was named an All-Pro, as he led the league in receptions and receiving yards twice each, was the NFL’s TD receptions leader in 2018, and set a record for most consecutive 100-catch seasons with six straight from 2013 to 2018.

Even for all the hoopla around him, Brown was great enough to be named a 2010s All-Decade pick.

Gronkowski is a fellow 2010s All-Decade player, as he helped redefine the TE position as a pass-catcher and a blocker. A four-time All-Pro, with four 1,000-yard seasons and the NFL’s TD receptions lead in 2011, the Western New York native has a claim on being the most dominant tight end in history.

Not only is he like a third tackle on the field, he knows how to get into the paint. His 92 career receiving TDs are third-most all-time for a tight end, just behind Antonio Gates (116) and Tony Gonzalez (111). But Gronk has done that in 143 games, whereas Gates (236) and Gonzalez (270) played a hell of a lot more football to reach those numbers.

That just goes to show how dominant Gronk’s been. Even as an oft-injured player, the Arizona product has always been produced at the highest level. That’s what makes it worse, though, considering a Buffalo-born superstar got away and helped the Bills’ biggest rival extend its dynasty.

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Even with him being arguably the best tight end in NFL history looking back now, there’s no way the Buffalo Bills could have anticipated a Western New York native like Gronk would become the player he has. But thinking about bringing him on back in 2010 makes you think about what could have been for the team with the future Hall of Famer.