Here's a pick-by-pick look at how each player Buffalo selected will fit.
Round 1, No. 23 overall: Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
My take: This pick makes all the sense in the world for the Bills. Cornerback was the biggest area of need on the roster after losing Levi Wallace in free agency and with Tre'Davious White coming off a torn ACL in his left knee. Buffalo also had to trade up only two spots to get the last player with a first-round grade on their board. Elam will turn 21 years old in May and general manager Brandon Beane described him as having a “high ceiling.” Elam will have the opportunity to quickly earn the starting job and make an immediate impact on the Bills defense.
Adding speed: The hurdle the Bills have struggled to clear in back-to-back postseasons is the Kansas City Chiefs. In the past two drafts, Buffalo has invested highly in players to try and correct the woes that have cost the team in the consecutive losses to the Chiefs. Adding Elam gives the Bills needed speed at the cornerback position to help keep up with the wide receivers in the division and the conference. The 6-foot-1, 191-pound corner ran a 4.39 40-yard dash at the combine and Beane noted his ability to keep up with quick wide receivers. "You want to see their transition, their ball skills, their tackling, but what are they going to do when they're facing a speed guy," Beane said. "Their recovery speed, how do they hang with them, and it was not an issue with him."
Expectations at cornerback: White is on pace to recover from the ACL injury, and Beane said he's hopeful White will be ready to play at the beginning of the season. But when he'll be ready to return is still an unknown. Elam is the first cornerback the Bills have drafted on Day 1 or 2 of the draft since White in 2017. There's a significant chance he competes for a starting role in his rookie season, although 2020 seventh-round pick Dane Jackson will also be in competition. Elam allowed only one passing touchdown as the primary defender last season. Beane also did not rule out addressing the position later in the draft.
Round 2, No. 63 overall: James Cook, RB, Georgia
My take: The Bills have their J.D. McKissic replacement. While the free-agent running back ended up re-signing with Washington after initially agreeing to terms with the Bills, Buffalo has now found a dynamic rusher who can help the passing game. Cook -- the third running back selected and the brother of Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook -- had 27 catches without a drop last season and his four receiving touchdowns were tied for the most among running backs in FBS. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound back had only two fumbles in his college career and averaged 6.5 yards per carry and 10.9 yards per catch.
The Bills have invested two third-round picks in the running back position in the last four years, but have failed to find a go-to No. 1 back. While Devin Singletary ended the 2021 season on a positive note, he is entering the final year of his deal and has not shown an ability to consistently be "the guy." Cook's abilities as a versatile back will add an element to this offense that was previously missing.
Round 3, No. 89 overall: Terrel Bernard, LB, Baylor
My take: This isn't the splashiest pick for the Bills, but drafting Bernard adds depth to the linebacker position and provides help on special teams. General manager Brandon Beane said that they like Bernard's versatility and feel that he can play inside and outside. He replaces backup linebacker A.J. Klein, who was cut in the offseason for cap reasons.
The undersized 6-foot-1, 224-pound linebacker has dealt with different injuries throughout his college career, but put together a strong season to end his time at Baylor, including being named the 2022 Sugar Bowl MVP. He finished his senior season with a career-high 7.5 sacks.
Bernard, who will soon turn 23, will provide versatility to a talented Bills defense that already has most starters set heading into Day 2.
Round 5, No. 148 overall: Khalil Shakir, WR, Boise State
My take: After parting ways with Cole Beasley in the offseason, the Bills traded up 20 picks to grab a receiver who has primarily played in the slot. Receiver was a position of need for Buffalo coming into the draft, and Shakir gives the offense a strong route runner who can be used in a variety of ways. Throughout his senior season at Boise State, Shakir, a two-time All-Mountain West first-team selection, didn’t have a game in which he had either fewer than 70 yards or fewer than four receptions. Shakir is yet another solid weapon to pair with quarterback Josh Allen and the rest of the Buffalo offense.
Round 6, No. 180 overall: Matt Araiza, P, San Diego State
My take: The Bills needed to come out of the draft with a punter after Matt Haack struggled throughout the 2021 season, averaging the second-worst yards per punt average last year (42.1). Araiza "Punt God" gives the Bills the biggest leg in the draft after averaging 51.2 yards per punt in 2021, which set an FBS single-season record. He also set records with 39 punts of 50-plus yards and 18 punts of 60-plus yards in 2021. The Bills won't need him as a placekicker with Tyler Bass already in place, but Araiza's ability to hold and perform as a holder will be paramount in the punter competition. Getting Araiza with the first pick in the sixth round is a big win for a Buffalo team that has addressed most of its needs.
Round 6, No. 185 overall: Christian Benford, CB, Villanova
My take: The Bills added additional depth to the cornerback room by selecting the 6-foot-1, 205-pound defensive back. Benford had 137 tackles, 14 interceptions and 47 passes defensed during his college career. He was the first Villanova player taken in the draft since two were selected in 2017. Buffalo came into the draft with cornerback as the biggest position of need, but Benford will also be a strong candidate to compete for a role on special teams, an area that he "loves."
Round 6, No. 209 overall: Luke Tenuta, OT, Virginia Tech
My take: Tenuta adds some needed depth and size to the Bills' offensive line. The 6-foot-8, 319-pound lineman played two seasons at right tackle in college and one at left tackle, and will provide Buffalo with depth at both positions. The past three offensive tackles selected by the Bills have all been 6-foot-8 with adding size clearly a priority. Tenuta will have to fight for a shot at a roster spot, but rounds out the offensive line room.
Round 7, No. 231 overall: Baylon Spector, LB, Clemson
My take: A two-year starter at Clemson, Spector gives the Bills more depth at linebacker and on special teams. The former safety had 210 career tackles, including 22 for loss, and is viewed by Buffalo as a versatile player who can help both inside and outside. He will compete with fellow draft pick Bernard and veterans Tyrel Dodson and Andre Smith for opportunities at backup linebacker and on special teams. Linebacker and cornerback were the only positions the Bills addressed twice in the draft, highlighting the lack of depth that existed at those spots.