The Buffalo Bills have a talent-rich defensive secondary that features plenty of mix between solid young players and outstanding veterans. The latter portion of the depth chart, however, is what keeps some of the former from playing much in games—or even from making the roster.
With a talented group of starters, it’s fairly well known who is going to see the majority of the snaps when everyone is healthy and when the team needs to win games. This leaves us wondering what players are going to make the team and begin the next generation of stud defensive backs in Buffalo. The team has built quite a stable of talent through the draft, using early rounds, late rounds, and the undrafted free-agent route to build a strong secondary.
In today’s edition of “90 players in 90 days,” we discuss a player selected late in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Name: Christian Benford
Height/Weight: 6’1” 205 lbs
Age: 21 (22 on 9/21/2022)
Experience/Draft: R; selected in the sixth round (No. 185 overall) of the 2022 NFL Draft by Buffalo
Acquired: Sixth-round draft choice
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Benford begins his four-year rookie contract this season. It’s worth $3,854,276 overall, and contains $194,276 in guarantees. The latter number represents the dead-cap figure if Benford doesn’t make the club out of the preseason. If he does, he carries a cap hit of $753,569 for the year.
2021 Recap: Benford had an incredible senior year at Villanova. He made 39 tackles in his 13 games, but his coverage numbers were ridiculous. He totaled seven interceptions and broke up 18 passes, both of which led the Colonial Athletic Association. He was named First-Team All-CAA defense at the end of the year for his efforts. He didn’t score an invite to the NFL Scouting Combine, but he showed solid athleticism at Villanova’s pro day. He ran a 4.53-second 40-yard dash, showcased a 35” vertical leap, and benched 17 reps in the 225-lb bench press. His 10’4” broad jump was excellent, as well.
Positional outlook: Benford joins a corner group stocked with talent. Tre’Davious White, Taron Johnson, Dane Jackson, Siran Neal, Cam Lewis, Nick McCloud, and Olaijah Griffin return from last year, as does practice squad holdover Tim Harris. Kaiir Elam, Ja’Marcus Ingram, and Travon Fuller are the other rookies looking to make an impression.
2022 Offseason: Benford is healthy and participating in OTAs.
2022 Season outlook: While Benford will begin as a corner, it’s possible that he’ll transition to safety at some point early in his professional career. General manager Brandon Beane said as much back in May, so it will be interesting to see whether that versatility gives him a leg up in making the roster this season. Buffalo has traditionally kept five corners on the roster, which is one less than I’d like to see them keep, especially given that Siran Neal is more special teams player than he is defensive back. If we assume that White, Elam, Johnson, Neal, and Jackson are all safe, that leaves everyone on the outside looking in with a five-deep set at corner. However, White is still working his way back from ACL surgery, and Jackson was himself a seventh-round pick, so it’s not entirely out of the question for the Bills to move on should they see someone better.
I think that the team keeps six defensive backs this year whether White starts the season on the PUP list or not, as they’ll look to manage his reps regardless in the early going. Benford would be a solid choice for that last corner spot, but don’t sleep on players like Cam Lewis and Nick McCloud, either. Training camp and preseason games will offer a lot of info as to who is performing, and the back end of the corner depth chart is full of talent and big battles to watch this summer. Benford is squarely in the middle of those battles, and he’s a bubble player in every sense of the phrase this year.