Grading the Buffalo Bills 2022 draft class
The 2023 NFL Draft is coming up quickly, with teams making their selections in just over a month. The dizzying amount of mock drafts has given fans an opportunity to see the numerous possibilities for their team’s draft slot.
Before we dive into some draft evaluations for this upcoming year, it’s essential to see how teams did with their 2022 selections. The Bills had some success with their 2022 draft class, as a few players contributed to Buffalo’s 13-3 season.
Here’s how Bills Wire grades the 2022 class on their rookie contributions in 2022:
Kaiir Elam: B
KAIIR ELAM CALLED GAME pic.twitter.com/gI8GbBYbxc
— PFF (@PFF) January 15, 2023
Elam was the Bills first round pick. Brandon Beane traded up to select Elam, as the Bills felt he as the best fit to fill the second cornerback spot on the roster. Buffalo brought on Elam slowly, giving him time to acclimate himself to the pace of the NFL. After all, he was not the starting cornerback in Week 1, as the Bills opted for a combination of Dane Jackson and sixth-round pick Christian Benford to take the field agains the Los Angeles Rams. The plan worked, though, as Elam grew into the starting role opposite Tre’Davious White. Elam’s went through some growing pains, but that’s expected for a rookie in the secondary in a league that’s biased toward offenses. Elam’s physical gifts were put on display against some of the best receivers in the league. In the end, Elam recorded 41 tackles, two interceptions and four passes defensed. With his development, Elam should be the staring CB2 in Week 1 for the 2023 season.
James Cook: A-
Josh Allen ➡️ James Cook‼️
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) December 18, 2022
Cook was added to one of the most dynamic offenses in the league. His speed, ability to change direction on a dime, and flexibility were all reasons why Buffalo felt he was a great fit for this offense. Buffalo brought Cook along methodically, as the Bills had Devin Singletary and James Cook in the backfield group already. Over time, though, it became difficult to keep Cook off the field. Generally, good things happened when Cook had the ball in his hands. Cook rushed 89 times for 507 rushing yards, good for a robust 5.7 yards per carry. Cook added two rushing touchdowns as well. The Georgia product was a threat as a receiver as well, catching 21 passes for 180 yards and one touchdown reception.
Terrel Bernard: B
Terrel Bernard had was known for getting in the backfield in both the run and pass game in college… on Sunday we may get a chance to see how that has translated to the pro level. #BillsMafia pic.twitter.com/CQmAowaKNP
— Air Raid | Buffalo (@TheBillsGuys) October 8, 2022
Bernard did what the Bills needed in his first season. Bernard’s main contributions came on special teams. Bernard was saddled behind Matt Milano and Tremaine Edmunds on the depth chart, so it was difficult for him to see the field on defense. Even so, Bernard recorded 16 total tackles on defense during reserve duties. He added six tackles on special teams. Bernard started one game this season, recording seven total tackles against the New York Jets.
Khalil Shakir: B-
OMG Khalil Shakir! #SuperWildCard
📺: #MIAvsBUF on CBS
📱: Stream on NFL+ https://t.co/zCGXBeNnOK pic.twitter.com/FGbm6RWg8V
— NFL (@NFL) January 15, 2023
Shakir was fine when called upon for the Bills offense. However, he was largely a depth option for the unit, where he did not receive a great deal of looks from playcaller Ken Dorsey. Shakir could not break though and gain many snaps, even with Jamison Crowder out for a large chunk of the season. Obviously, we don’t know what goes on during practice sessions, so we don’t know why Shakir didn’t see the field much throughout the season. Shakir caught 10 passes for 161 yards and one touchdown. He added five receptions for 91 yards in the playoffs. Shakir is a candidate for a big snap upgrade next year.
Matt Araiza: F
Araiza was released ahead of the 2022 campaign after a civil lawsuit accused the punter of an alleged assault while in college. The Bills signed Sam Martin to fill the punting void.
Christian Benford: B+
christian benford, as the kids say, has “that dawg” pic.twitter.com/JxUWFw2HUh
— the secret third connor mcgovern (@dirtbagqueer) September 20, 2022
Benford was a pleasant surprise for the Bills. The sixth-round pick earned the starting duty in Week 1. For the remainder of the season, Benford was a reliable depth option at cornerback for Buffalo. In nine games (five starts), Benford recorded 17 tackles and one interception. Benford missed time due to an oblique injury. While he might not be a starter in 2023, Benford looks to have a solid reserve role locked up in Buffalo’s secondary.
Luke Tenuta: No grade
Offensive linemen Spencer Brown (79), right, and Luke Tenuta (67), left, collide on the first day of wearing pads during day six of the Buffalo Bills training camp at St John Fisher University in Rochester Saturday, July 30, 2022.
Tenuta was a sixth-round pick in last year’s draft. The Bills waived Tenuta after he did not make the 53-man roster. Subsequently, Indianapolis signed him. Midway through the season, Tenuta was waived again and signed by Green Bay.
Baylon Spector: Incomplete
Baylon Spector making a strong first impression 👏
📺: #INDvsBUF on @NFLNetwork (or check your local listings)
📱: Stream on NFL+ https://t.co/Dz9p0kOaUQ pic.twitter.com/Z5OKYElw5T
— NFL (@NFL) August 13, 2022
Spector played in six games last season, see the field mostly in a special teams role. As a seventh-round pick, there was not a high expectation that Spector would contribute a great deal last year. However, Spector could play himself in a larger role on special teams and as a depth linebacker this upcoming season. Spector recorded six tackles last year.