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2022 NFL Draft: Pure smoke behind Breece Hall first-round rumors

There’s not always fire when there’s smoke...

The days, weeks, and months leading up to the annual NFL Draft can often be referred to as the lying season. Everything that is leaked to the media has to be taken with a grain of salt because rarely is anything as it seems when it comes to the reports coming out about a team’s reported interest in this player or that prospect.

General managers, coaches, and front-office executives have no reason to be truthful when it comes to what direction their teams could go with their valuable draft picks, and for good reason.

After all, why would teams tip their hand and give a competing franchise an idea of who they like and who’s rising up their draft board?

As is the case every year, the rumors swirling around One Bills Drive were pretty hard to miss earlier in the week. From respected draft analysts to NFL pundits and local beat reporters, it seemed the widespread sentiment around the league was that Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane was looking to add talented Iowa State running back Breece Hall to the Bills with the first-round pick (No. 25 overall).

NBC Sports’ Chris Simms went so far as to say “I’ve heard through the grapevine that there’s a love affair with the Bills and Breece Hall,” before sending Hall to Buffalo with pick No. 25 in his latest mock draft.

As it turns out, sometimes smoke can be just that: smoke.

During Thursday night’s first round of the draft in Las Vegas, Beane traded up two spots from No. 25 to No. 23, but used the pick on athletic and toolsy cornerback Kaiir Elam out of the University of Florida instead of Hall.

Beane told the media afterwards that those rumors linking the Bills to Hall were just that: rumors and they originated from outside of One Bills Drive.

“I definitely heard about [the Hall rumors],” Beane said. “We tracked what, locally, it seemed to be more receiver or corner [as the pick]. Nationally it was definitely Breece Hall, and I’m assuming a lot of people are kind of studying what other people are saying, too. Whatever reason it picked up a trend, and so maybe that’s what happened. I’m not sure, but we don’t really get into trying to put out smoke screens, I think it’s a waste of time.”

Beane also revealed he did not assign a first-round grade for Hall, but said that when Elam was available, the Bills leaped at the chance to acquire the cornerback, since he was their last available player with a first-round grade.

“We had a good grade on Kaiir and we were down to one player in the first round on our board,” Beane said. “At that point it just made sense. Not sure what those teams would have taken but there was a lot of trade action going on too. ... I was worried more about someone else trading in in front of us knowing that a lot of people had us pegged for potentially as a corner.”

No running backs were selected in Thursday’s first round, though it’s apparent the Bills did have an interest in Hall, as the team brought the running back in for a Top 30 visit. But when the time came for Beane to turn in his draft card during round one, he opted to address one of Buffalo’s few remaining pressing needs: CB2.

The Bills could still draft Hall (or another running back) in Friday’s second and third rounds of the draft. Barring any more trades, Buffalo picks 57th (second round) and 89th (third round) when the draft resumes.