Thursday night, the Bills will make the most important draft pick in more than a quarter century, a choice that will shape the fortunes of this beleaguered NFL franchise for years to come. They'd better get it right this time.
The Bills haven't picked this high since taking Bruce Smith first overall in 1985. They have picked above eighth just once in that time, when Tom Donahoe made the regrettable call on Mike Williams in 2002. That was the first draft with Tom Modrak running the scouting operation. Modrak has found some hidden gems late in drafts. But the first round has been a disaster. They've reached for little guys, traded up for busts, panicked to get quarterbacks, passed on Pro Bowlers by the dozen.
That's why there are no real stars on the roster. No first-rounder in the Modrak era has been voted to a Pro Bowl as a position player. Heck, the Bills haven't drafted an impact player for their defensive front seven in the first round since Shane Conlan in 1987, or a franchise quarterback since Jim Kelly in 1983. So yes, this is a huge draft, and Modrak knows it.
"Yeah, it obviously is extremely important," Modrak said. "Certainly where we're picking, we've got to hit it and hit it on the nose. There's no way around it. We've got to get it done. We've got to hit those picks hard."