1. Jim Kelly. 1983. No. 13 overall. His arrival lifted franchise to its Golden Era.
2. Thurman Thomas. 1988. No. 40 overall. The Bills took a chance on his repaired knee and hit a home run. There were seven running backs taken before Thomas.
3. Andre Reed. 1985. No. 86 overall. The Bills badly needed receiver help and made an all-time projection on the kid from Kutztown State. Twelve WRs were drafted ahead of him, including Chris Burkett (No. 42), by the Bills.
4. Bruce Smith. 1985. No. 1 overall. The reason he’s not No. 1 on this list is he was widely viewed as the best player overall and he filled a huge team need. You should get it right when you have No. 1 overall.
5. O.J. Simpson. 1969. No. 1 overall. Your grandmother could have picked O.J. Your grandmother could not have picked Andre Reed.
6. Tom Sestak, 1962. No. 132 overall. Yes, he was a 17th-round pick, but 132 overall is equivalent to going at the end of the fourth round today. Give Bills scout Harvey Johnson credit. Sestak went 220th in the NFL Draft. He’s on the all-time AFL team and would be a Hall-of-Famer if he played a couple more years.
7. Joe DeLamielleure, G, 1973. No. 26 overall. Hard to argue with a Hall-of-Famer at the end of the first round.
8. Fred Smerlas, DT, 1979. No. 32 overall. He went to five Pro Bowls and dominated at nose tackle. Only one of the next 17 players picked after him did anything in the NFL.
9. Darryl Talley, LB, 1983. No. 39 overall. The heart and soul of the Super Bowl defenses. And there weren’t many good linebackers in the ’83 draft.
10. Mike Stratton, LB, 1962. No. 100 overall. Even though Hall-of-Fame middle linebacker Nick Buoniconti went two picks later, this was a great pick for the Bills. The rangy Stratton started for 11 seasons, made six all-star teams and was three-time first-team all-AFL.