1 – Corner early allowed draft to flow
Bills GM Brandon Beane joked after night one of the draft that everyone from his neighbors to his kids were telling him Buffalo had to get a corner in this draft. With Tre'Davious White still recovering from an ACL injury and Levi Wallace signing with Pittsburgh in free agency, refortifying the position was a no brainer. The fact that Buffalo's personnel boss was able to address that position with his first pick in round one allowed Beane to let the rest of the draft come to him.
"I really came into the draft saying I know early -- it doesn't have to be (a corner) -- but I counted them after the second round. I think nine corners went if I remember correctly. You work hard to get your value right, but that's one of those positions, we talked about it as a staff that if you start looking back historically, we were looking at some of the names that were going in the first round, in the second round and early in the third, and we were like, 'Man, some of these guys that got taken, we weren't necessarily as high on.' I was like, 'The guys we really want, we better put them up here, because they're going to go.'"
Beane even moved up two spots in round one to secure the last player he had with a first-round grade in CB Kaiir Elam.
I did feel a lot better after Thursday night," he said. "I felt like, at this point, we don't have to force anything."
2 – Speed a focus
A week prior to the draft, head coach Sean McDermott was asked about how pressing it was to add speed to his offense. This was his response.
"There's no substitute for speed," he said. "I think we do have speed on the offense and our team, but I don't think you ever turn down speed. So, we're always going to look to add good players, whether it's a speed player or other types of good players to our offense in this case, or our defense or special teams. I think you've seen the value of speed and what it can do."
Buffalo didn't turn down speed, they sought it out. It may not have been the top quality in every player they drafted, but when it came to their top three skill position players it unquestionably did.
Cornerback Kaiir Elam clocked a 4.39 40-time at the NFL Combine. Running back James Cook, a 4.42 and receiver Khalil Shakir a 4.43.
As McDermott said, the Bills were by no means a slow team before, but after elite speed was part of the reason they lost the AFC Divisional playoff at Kansas City, they sought to raise their roster's speed quotient. That was accomplished this weekend.
3 – Position versatility
During the Beane-McDermott era, the Bills have put an emphasis on taking players that offer position versatility. WR Khalil Shakir has the smarts and the ability to line up all the across the formation at all the receiver spots.
"He kind of fits what we call the No. 4 role, a guy that can play inside and play out," said Beane. "His No. 1 role would probably be, if you just said you were going to put him in one spot, he's probably more of an inside guy, but we think he's got enough outside speed. We'll get him with (offensive coordinator Ken) Dorsey and (receivers coach) Chad Hall and let him compete with all the other guys we have."
Top pick Kaiir Elam may not only be a matchup answer for tall receivers, but could be deployed on playmaking tight ends like Kansas City's Travis Kelce. Sixth-round CB Christian Benford has played corner, nickel and safety in his college career at Villanova. Beane said he'll start at corner.
Both linebackers taken in the draft in Terrel Bernard and Baylon Spector have lined up at both linebacker spots and RB James Cook can line up outside like a receiver.
4 – Run after catch pieces
In 2021, the Bills had the fifth-best offense in football and the third-highest scoring team in football. But they ranked 20th in yards after the catch, with just 1,757 yards. Kansas City led the league with almost 1,000 more yards with 2,700.
QB Josh Allen said his offseason focus was to throw his passing targets open to create more yards after the catch opportunities for his receivers. GM Brandon Beane also assisted in this area when he selected RB James Cook and WR Khalil Shakir.
"I think that RAC piece that he brings – and listen, he can run the ball," said Beane of Cook. "But just having that guy to get the ball in his hands, make one guy miss and get a chunk play. I think we helped ourselves."
Cook has a chance to significantly enhance the versatility of Buffalo's passing game.
Beane feels Shakir also presents run after catch ability.
"He's got some straight-line speed," said Beane. "I think if he gets the ball and has a step, he's not going to be the easiest guy to track down."
Cook led the Georgia Bulldogs in all-purpose yards thanks in part to his 10.9 yards per catch average as a receiver with a total of 1,012 yards in 15 games. Shakir had over 1,100 receiving yards in just 12 games. Those totals aren't possible if they don't bring the ability to create after the ball is in their hands.
5 – More captains
Almost without fail, the Bills have gravitated toward prospects who demonstrate leadership in their college background. Often times Buffalo will draft players who have served as team captains and this year's class was no different.
Three of Buffalo's seven draft choices were captains in Khalil Shakir, Terrel Bernard and Baylon Spector. Christian Benford, though not a captain, was an unquestioned leader on his Villanova squad as well.
More often than not the Bills have benefited by drafting prospects that are capable of leading others because it often means they are model professionals themselves.
6 – Trades aplenty
Armed with eight picks going into the draft, Buffalo remained flexible with respect to moving up or down the board as needed. The Bills made a total of four trades over the three days of the draft.
The dwindling number of players with first round grades on Thursday prompted Beane to move up two spots to secure Elam.
On Friday with their pick not matching up with the value on their board, the Bills traded back twice for a total of six spots to 63 and acquired an extra pair of sixth-round picks that became P Matt Araiza and OT Luke Tenuta.
Then on day three, Buffalo used their extra draft capital to move back up the board to acquire receiver talent in the form of Khalil Shakir parting with a fifth and a sixth-round pick.
"The first night we had some opportunities to go up and back. We ultimately went up," said Beane. "Round 2 we went back a couple times. Round 3 there wasn't as much action, people calling either way. Saturday, we had too many things on the board that I thought could help us so I wasn't going to be overly aggressive. One team called in the fourth called but it was going to cost too much for some things that we wanted. We had two picks there within five of each other I thought we'd get a couple good players."
Those picks were Araiza and Benford.
Buffalo effectively blended board value and draft capital to seize opportunities and remain patient when necessary.
Scroll to see photos from inside the Buffalo Bills Draft Room during the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft.
7 – Linebacker depth
For the first time since the 2017 draft, Buffalo took more than one linebacker in their draft class. The Bills took Terrel Bernard on day two and Baylon Spector on day three.
"I liked the depth that we've added in that linebacker room," said Beane.
What's attractive about Buffalo's newest linebackers is Bernard can slip blocks and make plays in the offensive backfield. As a blitzer he finished with the third-most sacks in Baylor history with 16.5. And Spector is a hitter that brought an edge to the Clemson defense.
For a linebacking unit that has largely relied on Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano and filled in the rest of the roster with free agents and undrafteds, the Bills invested draft capital in their second line of defense.
With the 2022 NFL Draft underway, scroll through to keep track of Buffalo's newest players. Presented by Caesars Sportsbook