Which Buffalo Bills Rookie Will Have The Biggest Impact?

May 18, 2022
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The Buffalo Bills had a great draft. Through a lot of wheeling and dealing by Brandon Beane, the Bills managed to get eight picks in seven rounds. Each selection filled the gaps in the roster that weren’t addressed in free agency.

The Bills not only addressed essential needs on the offense and defense, but they also managed to snag the cornerback fans have been yearning for with Kaiir Elam. With all the talent the Bills added with this year’s draft class, it’s tough to say which player will have the most immediate impact, but let’s look at who has the best chance.

Specter, Tenuta, Benford. Any Impact At All

We can throw out the players that have the least chance of starting right away. That means late-round draft picks like LB Baylon Specter, OT Luke Tenuta and CB Christian Benford are out of contention. I’m not saying they won’t play or can’t become pro bowl caliber athletes but if I had to make a guess these players that have the slightest chance of starting right away.

That means late-round draft picks like LB Baylon Specter, OT Luke Tenuta, and CB Christian Benford are out of contention. I’m not saying they won’t play or can’t become solid NFL players, but if I had to make a guess this early in the season, they’re the least likely to have an immediate impact.

It’s doubtful both Specter and Tenuta will see much playing time this year and are likely destined for the practice squad unless they make big leaps in camp. Benford was seen as a shot in the dark. He’s shown brilliance in college but needs coaching to bring it out more consistently and against higher competition. The Bills have an excellent track record of coaching up their secondary, so I wouldn’t ever discount any defensive back that this organization selects.

Players like P Matt Araiza and LB Terrell Bernard are not my betting choice for an immediate impact but can’t rightly be dismissed. Matt Araiza is known for having a powerful kick, but his directional skills are desired. Matt Haack, the other punter on the team, still has a year left in his contract, but with all the hype behind Araiza, I’d be surprised if we don’t see him out there punting at some point.

Terrell Bernard was considered an odd pick for the Bills as they already had Matt Milano, but after looking more into Bernard’s pre-draft analysis, it is obvious selected him. He’s Matt Milano Jr., Similar in build and playstyle. If Bernard can take his game up a level, he’ll serve as a replacement for the departing AJ Klein and eventually Matt Milano. The only problem is Bills regularly play two linebackers so Bernard will start out on the sideline.

Can Shakir Shake Things Up?

The Bills traded up for Khalil Shakir in the fifth round in what many think was one of the steals of the draft. Shakir played all four years at Boise State and seemingly got better each year he played. He is a talented receiver who will be joining an already deep Bills WR core. While the Bills did sign solid slot receiver Jamison Crowder this offseason, Shakir’s best fit will be in the same role. The impact he will have this year depends entirely on how well Jamison Crowder plays and how much he plays.

There will not be a bunch of extra snaps to go around even with the departure of Cole Beasley and Emmanuel Sanders. We expect to see Gabriel Davis on the field more, and the Bills revamped their slot with Crowder and the resigning of Isaiah Mckenzie. Add in the addition of OJ Howard at TE, and the Bills may look to run more two TE sets, taking WRs off the field. Because of that, it’s tough to tell how immediate his effect on the team will be, but based on his college career, he’s got the potential to play really well in his rookie season.

Will James Cook?

James Cook was drafted in the second round, 63rd overall. Part of the allure of Cook to the Bills was his ability to cut quick with his feet and his ability to catch out of the backfield. Because of this, he’s seen more of a receiving running back, so he’s unlikely to get the ball handed him a lot at the start of the season. It should also be mentioned that he is Dalvin Cook’s brother. However, unfortunately for him, the Bills already have a solid runner in Devin Singletary.

At the beginning of his career, Singletary took a minute to get going in the Bills pass-first offense, but he has since stepped it up and had his best year last season, finishing out with almost 900 rushing yards. It may be seen that James could have the most significant impact on the team this year, but he likely won’t have the most immediate impact. As the season goes on, Cook could get more involved in the offense, especially in the passing game where the Bills lack a running back with his skillset.

Can Kaiir Compete?

That brings us to the number one pick Kaiir Elam. The Bills moved two spots to grab their guy, and if the pre-draft interview tapes indicate anything, this guy is motivated. But we didn’t just need to see the videos to know he’s motivated. His father and uncle both played in the NFL and by Elam’s own admission, he uses that fact to give him that extra push to be great. Elam played great through college, with his best feature being his cerebral play style and his biggest flaw being inconsistency.

Given the Bills ability to train up cornerbacks, I believe the inconsistency can be coached out of him, and his ability to read the field will have him at the number two CB position to start the season. Add the fact that Tre’Davious White is still recovering from an ACL injury, and Levi Wallace has left for the Steelers, and I think it’s safe to say that Kair Elam will have the most immediate impact on the Buffalo Bills this year.