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A Look Back At Drafts Of The Past
The Bills were very busy in the 80s
by Bob Lamb
April 23, 2004

As the 2004 NFL draft steadily draws closer, the present day hoopla bears no resemblance to what used to be a boring, and tedium filled event. The NFL marketing machine of the 2000’s certainly continues to take this annual event to seemingly higher entertainment levels every year. In the age of reality TV, can “fan” based voting on different issues be that far behind ? The campy ESPN polls are just video fluff - but can American Idol “type” voting be so far removed ? Don’t say it can’t happen .

Through the 1992 NFL draft there were 12 rounds - and after the first two or three selections, only die-hard homers knew the players. The Internet was in in its’ infancy and home PC’s were virtually non-existent. The local news ran a story or two about a home town favorite and the college town media covered the fate of their gridiron heroes.

Everything in the NFL evolves. When the current labor contract was initially installed, the “Franchise Player” was almost a badge of honor. Seven years later it is a curse. A few years ago - conventional wisdom said that major player trades were a thing of the past - today they are becoming more common.

All of this weekends’ focus will be on the only seven rounds - and some trades. Over the last several years, NFL trades have been few and far between except for some maneuvering on draft days. Trades today are most often dictated by the affordability and cap consequences. One may look no further than the Buffalo Bills acquisition of Drew Bledsoe for all the possible benefits and costs of such a transaction.

In olden days - draft day trades were much more common - even with division foes - and some of the trades were quite convoluted.

The Bills have made their share over the years - for better or worse:

1976 - The Bills trade the their All-Time #1 bust (apologies to Erik Flowers) Walt Patulski (1972) - to the St. Louis Cardinals for a #2 draft choice which is turned into OT, Joe Devlin. - “The Juice Is Loose”

In 1980, the Buffalo Bills swapped first picks with the Seattle Seahawks. The Bills gave up the #10 pick for Seattle’s #16 and an additional 3rd round choice. The Seahawks took DE, Jacob Green who had a great NFL career. The Buffalo Bills took guard, Jim Richter who figured rather prominently for quite a few years. Chuck Knox labeled Jim a “bust” but later (post Buffalo) apologized by saying, he didn’t realize what a player he had (sic). The throw-in third round choice (after TE Mark Brammer- 3A) was (G) John Schmeding from Boston College - who is known for being Fred Smerlas’s roommate at one time. He also appeared on the roster of the Boston Breakers (the nomad team) of the USFL in 1985.

Also, in 1980, running back Joe Cribbs (2a) was a choice from the San Francisco 49ers for OJ Simpson from 1978.

In one of the most involved train of events, the 1979 Bills #1 draft choice, Tom Cousineau, also obtained in the OJ trade to San Fran gets packaged along with future draft choices of no account but end up with the Bills getting Cleveland’s #1 pick in 1983 - for some Miami QB - Jim Kelly.

In 1984 The Bills actually swapped #1’s with Miami who used the acquired #4 to select Jackie Shipp. The Bills used the #26 pick to select Greg Bell who would figure huge in a future trade while also acquiring two additional #3 choices - which became Sean MacNanie and “Speedy” Neal.

In 1985, The Bills acquired some of the key players for the teams of the late “80’s and the Super Bowl years. Chris Burkett (2B) was acquired from a swap of first round position with the Green Bay Packers. Derrick Burroughs was also a bonus second round pick from Green Bay (via Cleveland). LB, Hal Garner (3B) joined the Bills as a payoff for the Browns getting Bernie Kosar in the supplemental draft.

Additionally in 1985 - a three year veteran TE, with 27 career catches was acquired from Seattle for Byron Franklin - Pete Metzelaars came to Buffalo.

In 1986, the Bills Super Bowl roster was added to. GM, Patrick McGroder died somewhat suddenly and Bill Polian was hired. Between the two men, Mark Pike (7B) was a draft choice from Joe Ferguson going to Detroit. Butch Rolle (7C) was a draft choice acquired when John Borchardt was sent to Seattle in 1985. Wil Wolford (1-A) was a result of second and third round picks going to San Francisco in 1986.

In 1987 the Bills swapped #1 picks with the Houston Oilers. The Oilers got Alonzo Highsmith while the Bills got Shane Conlan and an additional #2 which was turned into Nate Odomes after a trade with Tampa Bay that also included a #4 draft choice that became Leon Seals.

Jamie Mueller (3B) in 1987 was also a payback for the original Joe Cribbs trade.

The on Halloween, 1987 - the trade that rocked the NFL and has probably never been more meaningful for all teams involved - Cornelius Bennett to Buffalo, Greg Bell and draft choices to Indianapolis, and the Colts sent everything to LA for Eric Dickerson. Everyone survived except the LA Rams.

Those were the wild a woolly days of the NFL Draft Day Deals - and Buffalo did their share, particularly in the late 80‘s.

Good drafting and some decent trades worked hand-in-hand to build the four Super Bowl teams.

Free agency did a lot to kill the trade market but it seems to be slowly creeping back. There’s that whole RJ trade with Tampa Bay and Drew certainly came without a player consequence. Then - there’s that Willis McGahee ? - via Peerless Price.


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