The Buffalo Bills moved up two spots in last night’s first NFL draft round to draft Florida Cornerback Kaiir Elam. The move cost the Bills their fourth overall pick in addition to their original first-round selection at 25 in the first round. However, the Bills could get the last player on the board who they gave a first-round grade.
This is Brandon Beane’s fourth trade involving a Bills first-round pick since the 2018 NFL draft. While Beane seems to always hit the right spot between being aggressive and intelligent, he always is determined to get players that Buffalo’s front office likes. In this case, he could get Elam and sure up the second cornerback spot for the future.
Kaiir Elam College Career
Kaiir Elam may have a familiar last name. His uncle Matt Elam had a solid NFL career after being drafted in the first round in 2013. Elam’s father also played in the NFL for seven years after playing for Notre Dame and Kent State in college. His father’s lone career pick-6 was against the Buffalo Bills 14 years ago.
Elam was a highly touted recruit out of high school. He lived up to his hype, starting five games as a Freshman at Florida, and was eventually named to the SEC All-Freshman Team at the end of the season. Elam’s success continued in 2020 when he led the SEC in passes defended with 11. In his last season at Florida, Elam led the Gators’ pass defense to be the 25th best in college football. Elam had an excellent college career that was consistent enough for the Bills to be confident in his abilities translating to the NFL.
Kaiir Elam is a very long and athletic cornerback. He stands 6-2, 191 pounds, and he notably ran a 4.39 40-yard-dash and had a 37.5-inch vertical at the combine. Elam has the prototypical size for a player you would want to be physical at the line of scrimmage, and he is just that. Elam projects really well as a corner who can play on the line of scrimmage, pressing wide receivers. Additionally, Elam can drop back 10 yards and play zone in either Cover 3 or Cover 4 defenses.
While Elam may not be the best straight-up man coverage corner in this draft, he will not have to be for the Bills. The Bills will be able to primarily play Elam in zone and let him use his eyes and instincts to make plays on the ball.
However, this does not mean that Elam will be a liability in man coverage. As a matter of fact, most of his Interceptions came from being in man coverage. Elam will struggle with man coverage in the NFL because he has a habit of getting really handsy and will grab receivers when not in the ideal position to make a play. This was shown by his seven penalties just last season. In the NFL, using your hands is called stricter than in college making Elam’s habit a concern. The Bills will unlikely put Elam in situations where he is vulnerable and could be penalized. Elam will have to work on using his body, locating the football, and making plays on the ball instead of almost using his hands on a receiver to make plays.
Fit With The Bills
What Elam will do best is be a really high-end zone coverage cornerback. Elam’s best skills align well as a zone corner in the Bills defense. His length and ability to keep the ball in front so he can attack as opposed to recovering will highlight his solid ball skills and instincts to make plays. Elam also shines on defense because of his aggressiveness and competitiveness. Although it shines on the field and in pass coverage, if Elam could channel some of that into becoming a better tackler, he could become the complete package. Luckily just last season, Elam showed he was much more willing to physically attack the football and ball carriers.
Where Elam projects in the lineup are challenging to say. It is clear that, like any other Bills rookie, Elam will have to come into training camp and earn his playing time. Tre’Davious White is still recovering from his torn ACL and may not be ready for training camp. This gives Elam an advantage at first, considering that both boundary corner spots will temporarily be up for grabs until White comes back. However, Elam will be battling with Dane Jackson for the spot across from White when he returns. Elam has much better physical traits than Jackson. Still, Jackson has two years of NFL experience and several starts under his belt. I guarantee that Elam will be starting by the end of the season but do not be surprised if Buffalo trots out Jackson across from White for the first couple of weeks.
Elam projects as White’s long-term partner regardless of the first couple of weeks. White and Elam are under contract with the Bills for at least four seasons. The Bills hope Elam is the long-term piece to fit next to White and slot corner Taron Johnson.