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History Shows Bills Trade-Ups Have Been Disastrous

Posted on January 13, 2011 by Patrick Moran

JP LosmanThe Bills situation on the defensive line and at quarterback leaves fans with plenty to digest this offseason.  Many think with the draft coming in April the organization should target a front seven stud like Nick Fairley, Marcel Dareus or Da’Quan Bowers. A much smaller percentage are completely not sold on Ryan Fitzpatrick and want the Bills to take a chance on Cam Newton or Blaine Gabbert as the next franchise quarterback.

What I’m hearing an awful lot of lately via January fan chatter is this scenario:  the Bills take a defensive linemen with the third overall pick and then trade back into the first round later to get their quarterback.

Here’s a quick memo to Bills general manager Buddy Nix— Please don’t do it.

The Bills have traded up early in the draft for a specific player three times in the past seven years and on each occasion the result was catastrophically bad.  I don’t know Nix well, but I know him a little bit and you’d have a better chance of him appearing on Dancing With the Stars than prying extra draft picks away from him.

That’s a good thing, because here’s the recent history of the Bills moving up the draft board:

Bills Move Up For J.P. Losman (2004): After drafting Lee Evans with the 13th pick in the first round, then-general manager Tom Donahoe decided he was hell bent on landing a quarterback. With Ben Roethlisberger, the guy he coveted most, gone with the 12th pick to Pittsburgh, Donahoe turned his attention to Losman. With Dallas on the clock with the 22nd pick, Donahoe moved into their spot, giving up their second-rounder (43rd) that year and Buffalo’s first round pick in 2005, which turned out to be the 20th overall selection.

Well all know Losman’s story by now.  He broke his ankle his rookie season, stunk in his first full year in 2005, showed great potential in 2006 when he threw for 3,051 yards and 19 touchdowns, reverted back to mediocrity in 2007 and eventually lost his starting job to rookie Trent Edwards.  He was mostly a benchwarmer in 2008, was out of the league for most of 2009 (not counting the UFL) and is currently the 17th string quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks (yet still active on the sidelines and conceivably has a shot at a Super Bowl ring.)

Perhaps more than any other, the leap in faith for Losman set the organization back for years.  Precious time and resources were used on a quarterback who’s mentality never matched his skill set.  To make matters worse, Donahoe could’ve stood pat in 2004, drafted Bob Sanders in the second round (who went exactly one pick after Buffalo would’ve picked 43rd) and rode out Drew Bledsoe for another year, which they ultimately had to do anyway.  Then in 2005 they could’ve had Aaron Rodgers sitting there for the taking.  Damn you, Donahoe.

If that’s too much information to process, Donahoe could’ve simply drafted Matt Schaub in the third round, who’s been a much better NFL quarterback than Losman.

Bills Move Up For John McCargo (2006): Marv Levy took over the Bills front office in 2006, at least by title, and in his first draft selected Donte Whitner with the eighth overall pick.  Feeling he needed an anchor to the defensive line, Levy made what was then considered a gutsy move when he traded his second (42nd overall) and third round (73rd) picks to the Chicago Bears for the right to move up to 26 and tab McCargo.

Through McCargo’s “stellar” four-year playing career in Buffalo (he missed all of 2008), he accumulated two and a half sacks and 47 tackles in 33 games.  He’s been so bad that last season the team orchestrated a trade to ship him to Indianapolis, but was voided when he failed his physical.  Of course, that didn’t stop the Bills for keeping around him one more season in 2010; a campaign which saw him active exactly one time in 16 games.

One of the team’s all-time, under the radar draft busts, it’s sickening to know DeAngelo Williams, Marcades Lewis and Nick Mangold were the next three draft picks after him.

Anyone else wish Marv (team mouthpiece or not) would’ve stuck to coaching? No, well then there’s always…

Bills Move Up For Paul Posluszny (2007): Levy must’ve felt that when you fail on one dumb trade, keep going because he moved up in the draft again the very next year and although the results weren’t nowhere as bad as McCargo, it was still a move that ultimately hurt the team.  Marshawn Lynch (a story in itself since Darrell Revis went two picks later) was taken 12th overall and when the second round came calling, Levy decided he couldn’t live without Posluszny. He moved up from 43 to 34 to get his Penn State guy and gave up his second and third-rounders to get it done.

As only Buffalo fate always seems to have it, Posluszny has battled injuries for most of his career and while his tackle totals have been good, has rarely been the impact player the organization gambled on him evolving into.

Meanwhile, had the Bills simply stood pat at 43 they might’ve gotten him anyway or had to “settle” for either LaMarr Woodley or David Harris, two future stud linebackers still on the board when Buffalo picked, even if they hadn’t moved up for Posluszny.

Plus, Buffalo would’ve kept their third round pick and perhaps in that spot they take Charles Johnson, who happened to have 12.5 sacks for Carolina this season.

Look, I’m aware hindsight is 20/20 and there’s not a team in the NFL that gets it right every time.  You could go through every team annually and say they should’ve taken this or that guy.  The problem is arguably, there’s not a franchise in the league who gets it wrong more than Buffalo.

In all, we’ve lost a second-rounder and a pair of thirds to move up for the honor of drafting our franchise quarterback, anchor defensive tackle and game-changing middle linebacker.

This organization historically and especially over the past decade has a hard enough time getting the pick right when it doesn’t cost them additional selections.  See Erik Flowers, Mike Williams, Whitner, Lynch, James Hardy and Aaron Maybin as well as potentially Leodis McKelvin and C.J. Spiller down the road as examples.

If Nix really likes a quarterback, defensive end or any player for that matter and is close to the end of the first round, I advise someone on his staff to kidnap him until the Bills are on the clock with the 35th pick.  Maybe that guy falls to him anyway and if not, pick the next guy rated on the board.

Plus, I really don’t think Nix wants to move up in the early part of the draft. I felt the same when many suggested he should try to move up to number one to get Andrew Luck before he decided to stay in school.  He values his draft picks too much to surrender any now or in the future unless it’s an offer he can’t confuse.

The first time he stepped to the podium at One Bills Drive he said this team would be built mainly through the draft.. and I believe him.

Don’t waste future valuable draft picks to move up for “your guy” because as history shows us in Buffalo, it’s been a recipe for disaster.

**Update** We have to note, thanks to a reader, of a recent trade-up that actually has worked out decently for the Bills.  In 2009 Buffalo packaged their third (75th) and fourth (110th) picks for the right to move into the late second round (51st) and select guard Andy Levitre.  He’s been the starting left guard since his arrival.  We didn’t include Levitre in the article due to him not being picked until the late second round, but certainly he’s worth talking about.

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2 Comments on History Shows Bills Trade-Ups Have Been Disastrous

  1. Chris T

    Good warning article. If anything, I’d like the Bills to trade down out of that third pick if Fairley and Bowers are gone. Is Dareus really worth the 3rd pick?

  2. Carl Burton

    Don’t forget also in 2004 the Bills gave up their 5th rounder as well, which could have been used on RB Michael Turner. Can’t imagine the Bills having Schaub, Turner and Rodgers in 2005; they could have traded Schaub in 2007 for the 2 second rounders that Atlanta got for him and still could have had Posluszny as well as either LBs David Harris or LaMarr Woodley. I agree on McCargo but I still believe the bigger issue is Whitner @ 8. Had they used the 8th pick for Haloti Ngata (a true d-line anchor) as they should have, they then could stayed put in the 2nd and drafted LT Marcus McNeill and picked LB/DE Elvis Dumervil in the 3rd with the pick that was also traded. Their biggest problem since John Butler left has been the lack of a true organizational philosophy when it comes to football in general. Donahoe would not know a good o-lineman if he tripped over one (let us not forget him taking Duke Preston and Justin Geisinger respectivley instead of Jason Brown and Chris Kemoeatu in the 4th & 6th rounds of ’05) and Jauron would only draft those that “fit the system” and any DB he could find. The Jets showed in week 17 that a strong front 7 can make an average secondary look good, a great secondary does not impact an average front 7 in the same manner. Big talent always wins out over small talent (the single biggest reason Vincent Jackson should have been drafted over Parrish in ’05) and when given the choice the last 10 years this team has gone for small talent. At least Nix admittedly addressed this problem last year; let us hope that he sticks to it in following years.

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