The Bills came painfully close to the AFC Championship before falling to the Chiefs in an instant classic in the divisional round last year. With Josh Allen leading the franchise, it will be Super Bowl or bust for the foreseeable future, and in a constantly improving AFC, this draft was uber-important to rounding out the roster. Buffalo did a great job finding value and attacking its most significant needs this year. This draft recap article will highlight their draft selections and provide analysis and a grade for each draft pick.
Buffalo Bills Draft Picks 2022
Round 1 No. 23 CB Kaiir Elam
Round 2 No. 63 RB James Cook
Round 3 No. 89 LB Terrel Bernard
Round 5 No. 148 WR Khalil Shakir
Round 6 No. 180 P Matt Araiza
Round 6 No. 185 CB Christian Benford
Round 6 No. 209 OT Luke Tenuta
Round 7 No. 231 LB Baylon Spector
Overall Draft Grade: B
Analysis: The Bills were frequently linked with the top cornerback prospects in this draft, and they addressed that position of need with their first-round pick. In the second round, they found a running back which offers a different dimension in the rushing and passing game to their high-octane offense. The rest of the draft landed high-upside talent, although a couple of their picks were likely reaches. Nonetheless, this solid draft class for the Bills helps lay the foundation for continued success for years to come.
Buffalo Bills Draft Grades 2022
Round: 1 Pick: 23 / Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
Cornerback has been a significant need for the Bills for a while now as they’ve been rotating in different players next to Tre’Davious White without finding consistent high-level success. With White’s timetable unclear as he recovers from an ACL injury, cornerback was even more of a pressing need. Elam has elite press coverage traits with his length, speed, and verticality. While he needs to keep his penalties in check and refine his technique overall, it will help to be protected by the best safety duo in the NFL in Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer. When White returns from injury, the Bills will likely have one of the best secondaries in the NFL.
New #Bills CB Kaiir Elam took out his notes during his pre-draft meeting with Buffalo and wanted the playbook on the plane once he got drafted by them. He's a grinder.
Some great content here.
(via Bills/YouTube) pic.twitter.com/Ei8NKHf3rs
— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) May 1, 2022
Round: 2 Pick: 63 / James Cook, RB, Georgia
I understand the idea here for the Bills – James Cook offers a dynamic element to their offense as the best pass-catching running back in the draft. Buffalo attempted to sign J.D. McKissic over the offseason before returning to Washington, and Cook will fill a similar role. However, I don’t foresee Cook ever being a three-down runner in the NFL, and I don’t love spending valuable second-round draft capital on a part-time player. Cook will undoubtedly make some big plays this season, and he helps round out a solid running back corps, but this was a luxury pick that felt like a reach at this point in the draft.
Round: 3 Pick: 89 / Terrel Bernard, LB, Baylor
Terrel Bernard has an excellent speed profile with a 4.59-second 40-yard dash, but he’s very undersized at 6’1”, 224 lbs, and is nearly verging on safety territory. He also struggled with tackling with a 14.8% missed tackle rate per Pro Football Focus, and he struggles with timing his movement and angles properly. Bernard’s fit in the Buffalo defense is confusing given their talent in the front seven, and I would have preferred an interior offensive lineman here for them with Mitch Morse, Rodger Saffold, and Cody Ford, all free agents after this season. Bernard was a Day 3 player for me, and even if they wanted a linebacker, there were better options.
Round: 5 Pick: 148 / Khalil Shakir, WR, Boise State
The Bills made up for losing some value with Bernard by taking Khalil Shakir here. I see Shakir and Wan’Dale Robinson as very similar prospects, and Robinson went three rounds earlier than Shakir. Unlike Robinson, Shakir has a decent enough size profile that suggests potential playing on the perimeter as a Z receiver, even if his best role is in the slot. With an elite 4.43-second 4-yard dash and impressive elusiveness after the catch, his athleticism should help him get playing time as soon as this season. Shakir struggled with drops at Boise State, but coaches raved about his work ethic and commitment to improving, so he should be able to rectify that somewhat.
#Bills Khalil Shakir will make many LBs look silly on space.
— Greg Vorse TV (@GregVorse) April 30, 2022
Round: 6 Pick: 180 / Matt Araiza, P, San Diego State
I’m not typically a fan of taking special teams players in the draft, but Matt “Punt God” Araiza garners a bit of an exception as he set an NCAA record with 36 punts of 50+ yards in 2021, including 17 that went at least 60 yards and two that traveled 80+ yards. The Bills’ punting was below-average last year, so the need makes sense. However, Araiza doesn’t get the hang time or accuracy on his punts that some teams covet, and it’s why you saw Jordan Stout come off the board two rounds before him. Araiza is a rare talent, but it’s hard to give Buffalo much more than a C grade for drafting a special teamer.
Round: 6 Pick: 185 / Christian Benford, CB, Villanova
Despite being an FCS player, Christian Benford landed inside NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah’s top 150 prospects list at #145. Benford’s ball production was impressive despite the small-school competition – he had 25 pass breakups and seven interceptions in his senior year in 2021 to bring him to 47 PBUs and 14 INTs for his career. Benford will be a special teams contributor right away for Buffalo with the upside to become a contributing safety or cornerback over time.
Round: 6 Pick: 209 / Luke Tenuta, OT, Virginia Tech
A longtime starter for Virginia Tech, Tenuta has experience at both right and left tackle. He has a massive frame at 6’8” and with 10 1/2” hands, but he needs to pack on some more weight to his 319 lbs to stick at tackle in the NFL. That’s concerning for a player who already tested with poor athletic numbers and had a final Relative Athletic Score (RAS) of 4.74. Without any standout attribute in athleticism or strength, it’s hard to imagine Tenuta becoming even a long-term swing tackle despite his big frame.
Round: 7 Pick: 231 / Baylon Spector, LB, Clemson
As a former two-year starter at Clemson, Baylon Spector has been through some big games, and he totaled 15 tackles for loss and seven sacks over 23 games in 2020 and 2021. At 6’1”, 233 lbs, he’s undersized and often got washed out in run defense at Clemson, but he has the mentality to hang around this roster for a while, and it’s hard to ask for more than that with this pick. Spector is a phenomenal athlete with a RAS of 9.13. Pair that athleticism with work ethic, and you have a player who should make the final 53-man roster off special teams contribution alone.