The Buffalo Bills and general manager Brandon Beane, along with the team’s college scouting department, sought to add talent to an already excellent roster during the 2022 NFL Draft. After the selection meeting ended, it appears that the team was able to do just that—addressing several areas of need while adding depth to one of the league's best squads.
The Bills needed to add an athletic cornerback, a complementary running back, and depth at linebacker. They did all of that while also adding to a deep receiving corps and providing competition at punter. Most experts saw Buffalo’s draft in a positive light, and their draft grades reflected just that.
Chad Reuter at NFL.com gave the Bills an “A” for their efforts, noting that Kaiir Elam is the “cornerback they needed” in what was already one of the best pass defenses in the NFL. Reuter graded each day of the draft, and the lowest score Buffalo earned was an A- on Day 2—otherwise, the team earned solid A-grades all throughout the process. Reuter was complimentary of running back James Cook, linebacker Terrel Bernard, and punter Matt Araiza, whom Buffalo drafted in the second, third, and sixth rounds, respectively.
Vinnie Iyer at The Sporting News gave Buffalo a “B” for their draft. He liked the Elam pick, but he noted that either Trent McDuffie (who was picked by the Kansas City Chiefs at No. 21 overall) or Andrew Booth Jr. would have been “more ideal” than Elam. Iyer liked the Cook pick for his ability as a receiver, and he also noted that the team made a solid value pick by selecting wide receiver Khalil Shakir in the fifth round.
ESPN’s Mel Kiper gave Buffalo a “B,” as well, accurately mocking Elam to the Bills in the final version of his Round 1 mock draft. He thought that Bernard was a reach in Round 3, noting that he liked linebackers Brian Asamoah and Leo Chenal more. Kiper liked Buffalo’s second corner, Villanova’s Christian Benford, a player Buffalo chose in the sixth round. In all, he felt that the Bills did a great job addressing needs, noting that it could be one of the better classes upon a five-year retrospective regrade if some of the players break out.
Old friend Chris Trapasso, writing for CBS Sports, gave the Bills a “B” on the draft. Maybe he was trying to hide some of that Buffalo bias? I digress (and kid). Trapasso wrote that “it’s typically hard to get amped about a team’s draft when it feels like most of the picks won’t be instant-impacts because of the veteran talent already on the roster,” which is a sensible way to look at most of Buffalo’s selections. Of their group, only one player (Elam) is going to be expected to contribute right away in a large capacity, with the other players filling in as accents on a championship-caliber roster. Trapasso was also hyped about Araiza, whose “Punt God” moniker has made him a sensation already.
Eric Edholm at Yahoo! Sports gave Buffalo a B- for their draft, praising the Elam pick and knocking the Cook pick. He wrote that Elam “has a very good chance to step in early” in terms of starting and contributing on defense. While he wrote that Cook was his least favorite choice, he did so with a caveat—it was indicative, he wrote, of “how good each pick felt” that Buffalo made. He called Cook a “specialist” with a “small build” who “had immature moments in the past.” At the same time, though, he noted that Cook gives Buffalo’s high-octane offense a true home-run threat.
Conor Orr at Sports Illustrated also gave Buffalo’s draft a B-, but he had a different view of the James Cook pick. He referred to the running back as the “real pearl” of the Bills’ overall haul. The second pick that Orr praised quite a bit was Shakir, whom he called “one of the few weapons picked after the second round who could become an immediate contributor.” Orr also noted that Gary Gramling compared Shakir to Cooper Kupp based on his ability to gain yards after the catch.
Nick Goss at NBC Sports Boston gave Buffalo’s draft an A-, calling the Bills “the best team on paper” in the AFC. He was high on James Cook and Kaiir Elam, but he also thought that Buffalo nabbed the best punter in the draft in Matt Araiza.
Finally, the staff at Pro Football Focus gave Buffalo’s draft a B+ overall. They wrote that Elam was a solid athlete who could help immediately, though they do have concerns about his overly physical ways leading to penalty yardage. They liked the Cook pick, as well, calling him a “scat-back type with great play speed.” They thought that Terrel Bernard was a reach in Round 3, however, pointing to his 14.8% missed-tackle percentage as the main reason why.