The Buffalo Bills addressed a variety of positions during the 2022 NFL Draft including adding a pair of cornerbacks and linebackers who could make a strong defense even better moving forward.
Kaiir Elam could start immediately at cornerback and the Bills added playmakers at running back and receiver with the selections of James Cook and Khalil Shakir.
Some of Buffalo’s best picks in recent years have come on the final day of the draft and time will tell if they hit on some of their late-round selections. With the NFL picks viewing Buffalo as a legitimate championship contender, it remains to be seen how much playing team the rookies will receive.
The Bills signed three offensive linemen, two receivers and two cornerbacks as undrafted rookie free agents.
According to the Vegas NFL odds, the Bills (-200) are the favorites to repeat as AFC East Division champions. The Bills currently have the best odds at +650 to win the Super Bowl.
Here’s a look at Buffalo’s 2022 draft picks.
Pick 23 Kaiir Elam | CB, Florida
Buffalo led the NFL in passing defense during the 2021 season and now they added one of the better cornerbacks in the draft.
The 6-foot-2 Elam ran the 40-yard dash in 4.39 seconds at the NFL Scouting Combine, which solidified his place as a first-round pick.
The 2021 season wasn’t his best as he did receive some criticism when playing against receivers who were in the first two rounds of the 2022 NFL Draft. He had only one interception and five pass breakups but has all the physical attributes to be a top-notch cornerback.
Elam could slot in immediately at the cornerback spot across from Tre’Davious White. All the other teams in the division have quarterbacks taken in the first round in either 2020 or 2021 so there will be a need to have a strong secondary, especially with the Miami Dolphins trading for Tyreek Hill and the New York Jets drafting Garrett Wilson.
The Bills gave up a fourth-round pick to move up two positions to make sure they got Elam.
According to the sportsbook, Elam (+1800) has the fourth-best odds among cornerbacks to be named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.
- Kaiir Elam Profile.
Pick 63 James Cook | RB Georgia
The Bills don’t lack options at running back with the return of Zach Moss and Devin Singletary and the acquisition of Duke Johnson.
With Singletary and Moss being drafted in the third round in the 2019 and 2020 drafts, this is the third time in four years that Buffalo used a second-day pick on a running back. Cook has everything the NFL is looking for in a running back. The 200-pound Cook ran the 40-yard dash in 4.42 seconds at the combine to go with a 33-inch vertical jump and mark of 10-4 in the broad jump. It doesn’t hurt that his brother Dalvin is one of the top running backs in the NFL.
After having only 117 carries in his first three seasons at Georgia, he had an expanded role during the Bulldogs’ national championship run. Cook averaged 6.4 yards on 113 carries and 10.5 on 27 receptions.
— James Cook (@thegreat__4) May 13, 2022
It remains to be seen how things shake out in a crowded backfield. The Bills wouldn’t have targeted Cook if they didn’t want to upgrade the running back position so keep an eye on Cook in the early part of the season.
Only five players taken outside of the first round have better NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year odds than Cook.
- James Cook Profile.
Pick 89 Terrel Bernard | LB, Baylor
A good linebacking unit that signed Von Miller in the offseason added another playmaker when they landed Baylor’s leading tackler.
Terrel Bernard did a little bit of everything during the 2021 season for the Big 12 champions. He had 12½ tackles for loss, 7½ sacks, and four pass breakups along with his 103 tackles. He finished his college career by being named the MVP of the Sugar Bowl after recording 17 tackles and two sacks.
At 6-foot-1 and 224 pounds, Bernard isn’t the biggest linebacker but he has the potential to be a key part of a very good Buffalo defense.
- Terrel Bernard Profile.
Pick 148 Khalil Shakir | WR, Boise State
With Stefon Diggs, Gabriel Davis, and Isaiah McKenzie being joined by former New York Jets pass catcher Jamison Crowder, receiver didn’t seem to be the biggest need for the Bills. However, when Shakir slipped a bit in the draft, Buffalo was happy to pick him up.
Shakir was a productive receiver for his final three seasons at Boise State with his best season coming in 2021 with 1117 yards on 77 catches.
He ran a 4.43 in the 40 at the combine and tested well there. The Bills are in the position of taking the best player available and that was what they did in this case.
- Khalil Shakir Profile.
Pick 180 Matt Araiza | P, San Diego State
Buffalo was second to last in the NFL in yards per punt a season ago so grabbing a top punter like Araiza makes a ton of sense.
Araiza led the country with an average of 51.2 yards per punt. He also had 62 touchbacks on 73 kickoffs for San Diego State during the 2021 season.
Araiza missed 10 of his 28 field goals in 2021 so it is uncertain if he will be asked to compete with Tyler Bass for the place kicking duties.
- Matt Araiza Profile.
Pick 185 Christian Benford | DB, Villanova
Add another cornerback to the equation. Benford had seven interceptions as a senior at Villanova and broke up another 18 passes so the 6-foot, 195-pound Christian Benford has good ball skills.
There are some questions about his recovery speed when he gets beaten on the initial move but at this point of the draft, a productive and physical cornerback is worth the risk at this point in the draft.
- Christian Benford Profile.
Pick 209 Luke Tenuta | OL, Virginia Tech
The taller the better seems to be the Bills’ philosophy when drafting offensive tackles. After drafting the 6-foot-8 Spencer Brown in the third round in last year’s draft, Buffalo added another 6-foot-8 tackle in Tenuta.
Luke Tenuta started 15 games at right tackle and another 10 at left tackle at Virginia Tech so he has the potential to be a swing tackle for the Bills.
His 40-yard time of 5.41 seconds and 26-inch vertical jump at the NFL Scouting Combine might have pushed him down the draft boards a bit.
- Luke Tenuta Profile.
Pick 231 Baylon Spector | LB, Clemson
Buffalo went back to defense for its final pick of the draft. Spector was Clemson’s second-leading tackler as a senior. He had 181 tackles, 21 tackles for loss, and nine sacks over the last three seasons.
Baylon Spector ran the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds at the combine to go with a 10-2 broad jump and 36-inch vertical leap so he is athletic enough to play at the next level.
A productive player from one of the nation’s elite programs is never a bad way to go in the seventh round.
- Baylon Spector Profile.
Grading the draft
The Buffalo Bills reached into the SEC to add playmakers at cornerback and running back with their first two selections and both seem like solid picks.
The Bills were able to get players who fell a little further than expected on the final day of the draft. There were no picks made by the Bills that were of the head-scratching variety.
Buffalo made the moves that they hope will allow them to take that next step and bring home the franchise’s first Super Bowl title.