The 2022 NFL Draft has come and gone and the Buffalo Bills have eight new additions to their team. Who are they and what role will they fill? That will be broken down in this article.
Round One- Pick 23- Kaiir Elam, Cornerback
In a trade with the Baltimore Ravens, the Buffalo Bills moved up and selected Kaiir Elam. The Bills needed a cornerback who could come in and start day one on the defense to play opposite of Tre’Davious White. After his season-ending ACL injury White may not be 100%, so getting someone who has CB1 potential was essential. Elam is a guy who is physical to play press-man and in the Bills zone quarters heavy scheme he is extremely instinctive to play in it. Match that with his excellent arm length and speed he will cover very effectively. In the 2021 season, he was targeted 35 times and only allowed 18 receptions for 185 yards. Elam has plenty of untapped potential and the Bills should be able to unlock it.
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Round Two- Pick 63- James Cook, Running Back
With Breece Hall and Kenneth Walker off the board for running backs, the Bills then decided to draft a phenomenal one in James Cook. The Bills may not run the ball a ton but Cook offers great versatility. Not only is he an explosive runner that put up 728 rushing yards in 2021, but also he had 27 receptions and 274 receiving yards. His biggest strengths include being patient and waiting for lanes to develop, cutting on a dime, and having the long speed to take it the distance. Cook creates mismatches wherever he lines up and will be another great option on the Bills offense to complement Devin Singletary.
Round Three- Pick 89- Terrel Bernard, Linebacker
The Bills did need to add more linebacker depth at some point, but in the third round seems like a bit of a reach. That doesn’t take away from the fact that Terrel Bernard is a good player. He changes directions fluidly and has the speed to cover underneath. His sideline-to-sideline ability helped him have 103 tackles with 12.5 being for a loss in 2021, and he had 7.5 sacks. He does struggle to get off blocks at times if he can’t initially win off his speed. He can also be limited in coverage which led to him allowing an 82.9% completion percentage during 2021. With his leadership characteristics, he will be a good learner but will be more of a limited rotational linebacker to start but can develop into a starter down the line.
Round Five- Pick 148- Khalil Shakir, Wide Receiver
During his time at Boise State, Khalil Shakir was a human highlight reel. He has great body control and can make impossible catches look effortless. In 2021, he lined up mostly in the slot where he took 320 snaps and accumulated 858 yards out of his total 1,117 last season. He will be an extremely productive player in the Bills offense with a quarterback like Josh Allen. While he will be competing this season for snaps in the slot with Isaiah McKenzie and Jamison Crowder, the hard worker that Shakir is, he should see his snaps increase over time. Not to mention with his speed he should see a role on special teams.
Round Six- Pick 180- Matt Araiza, Punter
While the hope for any team is to not be punting at the end of their offensive drive, it is always great to have one of the best punters on your team. For Matt Araiza to fall to them in round six was a steal. Araiza will be able to come in and compete for the starting job with Matt Haack who struggled in 2021. In 2021, Araiza had more than 18 punts that went over 60 yards. With the weather in Buffalo, the velocity Araiza puts on his punts should have no problem in those conditions.
Round Six- Pick 185- Christian Benford, Cornerback
The best way to describe Christian Benford is a strong physical cornerback who isn’t afraid to face running backs. Benford with his 6’1, 205 lbs build, although listed as a cornerback, could also slide over to safety in the future if needed in emergency situations. He excels in zone coverage with his instincts and closing speed. With his length, he also uses it to effectively disrupt passing lanes and secure interceptions like he did seven times in 2021. While Benford will be on a loaded cornerback depth chart, he should see a good amount of snaps during his rookie season.
Round Six- Pick 209- Luke Tenuta, Offensive Line
The Bills have their offensive line solidified so Luke Tenuta will be a depth player in case they face injuries like they did last year. Tenuta is athletic but also has some areas in his technique that need refinement. He plays with a high stance causing him to lose leverage. A plus is that he can play both tackle spots and uses his 6’8, 319 lbs size decently to match up against linebackers. He also has a decent amount of power that can still be utilized more. With being able to learn from Spencer Brown and Dion Dawkins, Tenuta could truly develop over the next few years.
Round Seven- Pick 231- Baylor Spector, Linebacker
To end off the draft the Bills added more depth to their linebacker position with Baylor Spector from Clemson. As general manager Brandon Beane said in his post-draft conference, Spector is someone he thinks can play inside and outside linebacker and contribute on special teams. Spector will most likely start there on special teams and work his way onto the defense from there. He is a great tackler and makes smart moves on the field to get to where he needs to be. In 2021 he had 75 tackles and 2.5 sacks, he fits the mentality the Bills look for with defensive players with his fundamentally sound playstyle.
The Bills didn’t have many holes to fill heading into the draft and the ones they filled in the first two rounds. They executed the draft perfectly and got playmakers on both sides of the ball that will have some sort of impact during the 2022 season. The next thing to watch for this Bills team is their scheduled OTA’s which are scheduled for May 23-24, May 26, May 31, June 1-2, June 6-7, and Jun 9-10. They will also have their offseason minicamp on June 14-16. This will be the time to see just exactly how the rookies fit with the team.
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