In honor of the Buffalo Bills finally breaking their 17-year playoff drought, we decided to recognize the heroes of the era. In a two-part series, we will examine which players will assemble our “All-Drought” ultimate roster.
Despite the franchise’s inability to get over the hump for all of those years, the organization certainly wasn’t devoid of talent. So without further adieu, let’s take a look at the offensive side of the ball.
Quarterback: Tyrod Taylor
First, let us preface this by saying Doug Flutie was not included in the pool of drought-era players we selected from. That being said, despite all of the criticism he faced during his time in Western New York, Tyrod Taylor was the best quarterback during that stretch. While his short-comings as a passer have been well documented, Taylor’s ability to extend plays and create offense with his legs gives him the edge.
Over the course of his three-year stint as the starter in Buffalo, the mobile signal-caller amassed over 10,000 all-purpose yards. His 1,575 rushing yards in that span were second only to Cam Newton among quarterbacks. Taylor was recently dealt to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for a third-round pick in the upcoming draft as the Bills re-adjust ther focus at the position.
Honorable Mention: Drew Bledsoe
Though Bledsoe’s final season with the Bills signalled the end of his decorated career, his inaugural campaign was the best single-season performance behind center during the drought. He came ever so close to ending the drought in 2004. All he had to do was defeat a 14-1 Pittsburgh team that fielded a smattering of third stringers on defense, and we all know how that ended.
Runningbacks: Lesean McCoy, Fred Jackson
Not only is McCoy best running back the Bills have had over the past 17 years, he may just be the best player overall. Since coming over from Philadelphia in exchange for Kiko Alonso in 2015, he has served as the cornerstone for everything the team has done on offense. Over the past three years, the 29-year-old has rushed for 3,300 yards while serving as a key receiving target out of the backfield with 141 receptions.
As soon he arrived at One Bills Drive, McCoy immediately became the face of the franchise. As the team prepares itself to field a new-look offense with a different quarterback at the helm, fans can expect the offensive to revolve around McCoy’s elite play-making ability.
Aside from Kyle Williams, Fred Jackson is the biggest fan-favorite of the entire playoff drought. Though at times he was forced to play second fiddle to players like C.J. Spiller and Marshawn Lynch, he could always be relied upon to jump into action when needed.
During his eight-year career with the Bills, Jackson amassed 5,646 yards on the ground. His skill set as a receiver shouldn’t be ignored either. With 322 receptions and over 2,600 yards during his tenure, he was a big help to check-down heroes like Trent Edwards.
Honorable Mention: Travis Henry
Despite Henry’s issues off the field, he sure did have a great run in Buffalo. In 2002 he finished fifth in the NFL with 1,438 rushing yards. Though an argument can be made for Marshawn Lynch in this spot, he did his best work with the Seattle Seahawks. While Lynch certainly had the better career overall, Henry did more damage to opposing defenses while wearing a Bills uniform.
Wide Receivers: Eric Moulds, Stevie Johnson, Lee Evans
Younger fans often forget just how dominant and consistent Eric Moulds was during his time in Buffalo. After the team selected him 24th overall in the 1996 NFL draft, he forged a storied career that would get him selected to three Pro Bowls, and earn him a spot on the All-Rookie team.
Not only does he rank second in franchise history with 9,096 receiving yards over his 10-year career in Western New York (Andre Reed), he is also the only player to eclipse 100 receptions in a single season. Even though the Bills fielded seven different starting quarterbacks during his career, Moulds always found a way to get open and make plays. During the Bills’ 50th anniversary season, he was named to the organization’s all-time roster.
Stevie Johnson burst onto the scene in 2010 after spending his first two years in a reserve role. In Ryan Fitzpatrick’s first full season under center, Johnson quickly became his favorite target, hauling in a career-high 82 receptions. Surprisingly enough, he was also the only receiver in franchise history to post back-to-back seasons with over 1,000 receiving yards, a feat he accomplished three consecutive times from 2010-2012.
Known for his laid-back, showman-like demeanor both on and off the field, fans fell in love with the former seventh-round draft pick. Even though the Bills posted an abysmal 35-51 record during his time in Buffalo, he is still remembered as possibly the greatest route-runner in team history, often getting the best of all-pro corners like Darrelle Revis.
The final wide receiver spot was a tough selection. When looking at the Bills’ statistical leaders from the drought, Lee Evans edges out Peerless Price and Sammy Watkins, mostly due to his longevity and consistency despite catching passes from a smattering of some very forgettable names at quarterback.
Known best for his straight-line speed, Evans served for years as a dangerous deep threat for the Bills, averaging just under 850 receiving yards per season during his tenure with the team. Though he never lived up to his pedigree as a high first-round pick, he still carved out a nice career for himself, where he managed to stay relatively healthy despite his smallish frame.
Honorable Mention: Peerless Price
Though Price wasn’t a primary receiving threat in all six of the seasons he spent with the Bills, his 2002 campaign cannot be ignored. His 94 catches that season places him in a tie for second all-time on the Bills single-season leaderboard. Amazing what a receiver can do with a legitimate quarterback (Bledsoe). An argument can also be made for Sammy Watkins in this spot. Had he been able to stay healthy during his time here, he probably would have received the nod, given his incredible talent.
Tight End: Charles Clay
Say what you will about Clay’s cap hit versus his overall production, but he doesn’t have a whole lot of competition for this spot. The Bills have trotted out some forgettable names at tight end over the years, so in reality, Clay is the obvious choice here.
Last season he was the leading receiver in Buffalo, reeling in 49 catches for 558 yards. Again, his stats certainly won’t blow anyone away, but considering how many times he went unnoticed running wide-open down the middle of the field last year, his pedestrian production wasn’t entirely his fault. With a new offensive coordinator in Brian Daboll, it will be interesting to see how his role continues to evolve moving forward.
Honorable Mention: Jay Riemersma
Like I said, not a whole lot to choose from here. Riemersma acquitted himself well in an offense that didn’t focus on the tight end as a primary receiving threat, however, his career quickly fizzled after leaving Buffalo in 2003.
Offensive Tackle: Jason Peters, Cordy Glenn
Who could forget Jason Peters, everyone’s favorite contract holdout? Though his time in Buffalo was ultimately clouded by his ever-increasing contractual demands, the tight end turned left tackle was simply dominant as a blocker. In his five years anchoring the Bills’ offensive line, he was selected to two Pro Bowls. Not too shabby for an undrafted free agent from Arkansas.
After leaving the team via trade to Philadelphia, Peters career continued to flourish, garnering All-Pro status in 2011 and 2013 with the Eagles.
When the Bills selected Cordy Glenn with the 41st pick of the 2012 NFL draft, fans were elated. Leading up to the draft, several pundits mocked Glenn to the Bills with their first-round selection (10th overall), however, after tumbling down the draft boards due to uncertainty about his projected position at the NFL level, Buddy Nix swooped in and nabbed him in the second round.
Glenn served on the left side of the line for six years, protecting Tyrod Taylor and Ryan Fitzpatrick’s respective blindsides. After battling injuries over the past two seasons, and the emergence of Dion Dawkins as a viable starter, Glenn was traded to the Cincinnati Bengals this month.
Honorable Mention: John Fina
Fina spent nearly a decade as the Bills franchise left tackle, and from a talent standpoint, an argument can be made that he should have made the starting lineup here over Glenn. Skill level aside, Fina spent most of his time with the team prior to the drought, leaving for Arizona in 2002. For that reason, Glenn has the edge.
Guard: Ruben Brown, Richie Incognito
Ruben Brown is not only the best lineman of the era, but he may very well be one of the best in franchise history. The stalwart left guard was named to eight consecutive pro bowls during his time with the Bills from 1996-2003. Brown was also named to the Associated Press All-Pro roster four times in his decorated career. After spending nine seasons in Buffalo, he went on to play four more years in Chicago.
Though he hasn’t been inducted into the Bills Wall of Fame yet, he should garner consideration in the near future.
Richie Incognito is one of the great redemption stories in recent memory. After the whole “bullying” ordeal in Miami, the all-star left guard was blackballed in league circles. In 2015, the Bills gave him a chance to resurrect his career, and boy, has he delivered. In his first season with the team, he was named to the NFL All-Pro roster, and he’s made three consecutive Pro Bowls as a Bill.
Interestingly enough, this is Incognito’s second stint in Western New York. In 2009 the team signed him off of waivers from the St. Louis Rams. He would only spend nine games with the team in a reserve role that year before signing a free agent deal with the Dolphins.
Honorable Mention: Andy Levitre
The Bills selected Levitre with their second-round pick in 2009. After being named to the NFL All-Rookie team, he spent four years with the organization before signing a mega-deal with the Tennesee Titans in free agency. Though he didn’t spend a ton of time in Western New York, he was still a dominant force on the offensive line.
Center: Eric Wood
Much like Clay, Wood didn’t have a whole lot of competition for this spot. Despite their relative success over the past few years, the Bills haven’t always fielded a formidable offensive line. That being said, during his nine years calling out Mike linebackers and snapping balls, Wood was the epitome of consistency. After suffering a season-ending injury during his rookie season, he bounced back the next year en route to an incredible career.
To the dismay of Bills fans everywhere, Wood announced his retirement following the conclusion of the 2017 campaign. Though his skill level certainly hadn’t deteriorated, his health did. Under the advisement of his doctors, he was forced to call it a career in order to avoid worsening a chronic neck issue.
Honorable Mention: Trey Teague
The Bills consistency at center starts and ends with Wood, however before he arrived on the scene, Teague spent four years as the starter in Buffalo. While he may not be a big name, he edges out guys like Melvin Fowler and Geoff Hangartner for longevity alone.
Make sure to tune in next Friday to check out our all-drought defensive team!
Editor’s babble: Thanks to Anthony Sciandra for his contributions to our blog. Let us know who you think should be added to the “All-Drought” team in the comment section. You can follow Anthony on Twitter @SciandraSports.