We know in the past the Buffalo Bills have a history of not drafting great; however, having just had a stellar draft where three of the players would go on to be selected for a pro-bowl, the Buffalo Bills had high expectations in 2002. Unfortunately for them and the rest of the league the 2002 daft class would be one of the biggest disappointments in history. Producing only one Hall of Fame caliber player (Ed Reed) and less than a dozen pro bowl players, 2002 proved not just to be a disappointing year for the Bills but the league in general. Taking a closer look at the players selected by the Bills will show just how much of a letdown the draft was.
Mike Williams was selected fourth overall in what some analysts consider one of the biggest busts of all time. While in college Williams was selected for First Team All Big-12 and All-American. Going into the draft he was considered one of the top prospects, specifically for an offensive tackle. Williams is proof that no matter how good you may be in college, some players just don’t transition well to the NFL. Playing for the Bills from 2002-2005, Williams was shifted around to every position on the offensive line in the hopes of finding the right spot to utilize his talents.
Ultimately, he lost his job to then free agent Jason Peters who would go on to be considered one of the best tackles in NFL history, who retired last year. Williams would was signed by the Jaguars in 2006 but never saw playing time and would become a free agent for three years before Washington would pick him up in 2009. Injuries and an inability to get back in shape hindered his comeback. Williams retired in 2010 citing health issues.
Arguably the most successful round of the 2002 draft for the Bills. Wide receiver Josh Reed was selected 36th overall. Reed was considered one of the best receivers to play college ball having won the coveted Fred Biletnikoff award that has been won by NFL greats such as Randy Moss, Larry Fitzgerald, and Calvin Johnson (to name a few). While he did transition to the NFL better than his first-round predecessor, he never reached the heights he attained in college and was let go by Buffalo in 2009 and has never had a season over 600 yards receiving.
Ryan Denney was a defensive end selected 61st overall. His name might seem familiar to older Bills fans as the lineman who on two separate occasions caught a touchdown pass from Brian Moorman on some fake field goal plays. Those would be the highlights of his playing career as he spent seven years with the Bills being an average player at best. The Bills would elect not to bring him back in 2010 which was also the year he retired.
First-team-All-Pac-10 selectee Coy Wire was the only third-round pick for the Bills in the 2002 draft. Drafted to help the pass defense, he played strong safety for the Bills his rookie season only to be moved to special teams after the Bills picked up Lawyer Milloy in free agency. Probably the best pick of the draft for the Bills, he would go on to be labeled as Buffalo’s Special Teams Player of the Year twice and was a team captain in 2005. An all-around good guy he was a Walter Payton man of the year nominee for Buffalo and during his stint with the Atlanta Falcons was also selected as team captain and recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award. Wire would retire in 2010 having a successful but unremarkable career in the NFL.
Having traded their only fourth-round pick to San Francisco, the Bills drafted defensive tackle Justin Bannan 139th overall. While he played better than first-round pick Mike Williams, he is likely the most disappointing pick of the draft. Bannan had an average career in the NFL playing for five different teams from 2002-2013. He would make headlines in 2019 as he was involved in a shooting in Colorado that ultimately ended up with him getting sentenced to 16 years in prison in 2022.
Cornerback Kevin Thomas was a beloved, top player for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas but never transitioned well to the NFL. He would only play for the Bills from 2002-2005 before retiring with only one interception and 63 tackles to his name. He was inducted into the UNLV Hall of Fame in 2012.
In the final round of the draft, the Bills had four picks. First was guard Mike Pucillo, having played college ball at Auburn he was part of a great offensive line that helped produce over 350 yards a game in 2000. He played for the Bills from 2002-2004 before jumping to the Cleveland Browns and then Washington before retiring in 2007.
Rodney Wright was a wide receiver for the Bills that was selected 249th overall. He would spend his tenure with the Bills on the practice squad before being released in 2003. Rodney would go on to have a career in the Arena Football League being a part of the San Jose SaberCats team that won the Arena Bowl in 2007. He hung up his cleats in 2014.
Running back Jarrett Ferguson would be drafted just two spots later at 251 but ultimately never make the team. He now is director of strength and conditioning for Virginia Teach. Linebacker Dominique Stevenson was the second to last pick of the 2002 draft. He made the roster but only played for the Bills in 2003 and Washington in 2004 before leaving for a career in coaching.
The 2002 NFL draft was the last draft to be specially altered due to the addition of an expansion team (Houston Texans) who received the first overall pick in compensation. With that pick Texans would go on to draft David Carr who would only play for them for four years, another disappointment. David Garrard would ultimately be the most successful quarterback from that class but not the longest lasting, that award would go to Josh Mccown who would be the last player from the 2002 draft to play in the NFL retiring in 2020. I’m sure many teams would like to forget that draft, the Bills chief among them.
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