As we noted before this week's NFL Draft, general manager Brandon Beane set the Buffalo Bills up so he could be as flexible as possible for the event.
That was evident right from the start as they traded up in the first round to land cornerback Kaiir Elam out of Florida, traded down twice in the second round before selecting running back James Cook of Georgia and stood pat in Round 3 before taking Baylor linebacker Terrel Bernard.
They started the second day by moving up again, this time in the fifth round, to draft wide receiver Khalil Shakir of Boise State.
Going up two spots to get Elam was necessary, Beane said, because Elam was the last player with a first-round grade that they had on their board. So they wanted to make sure nobody could beat them to him at the last second.
Of the six picks they had remaining on the board after getting two extras for trading down in the second round, Beane admitted on Friday night that it's doubtful they'll use them all, hinting that he'd try to trade back into the fourth round, in which they didn't have a pick heading into Sunday.
Although they weren't able to climb back into the fourth round, they were able to get a value pick in Shakir, a sure-handed receiver who was given a 92.0 grade for his career by Pro Football Focus. That's the highest grade for any reciver in this draft class.
The strength of the Bills' roster and the length of contracts their veterans have have driven all of their selections.
Against that backdrop, we start the instant grading process of this year's picks while pointing out that it's impossible to properly evaluate any draft class until three full seasons have passed.
As they say on those football pools, this is for amusement purposes only.
Round 1 (23 overall): Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
Beane must have been reading our site here at Fan Nation, because he pulled the trigger on who we've been lobbying for since Day 1.
We always thought Elam and his long frame (6-1½), longer wingspan (6-4) and speed (4.39 in the 40) would be a great fit for their system.
Obviously they agree.
Round 2 (63 overall): James Cook, RB, Georgia
Cooke is a good player but projects as more of a complementary back who works best in the passing game and not a classic between-the-tackles runner.
Linebacker Nakobe Dean was still on the board when this pick was made. We think he would have been a better value.
Round 3 (89 overall): Terrel Bernard, LB, Baylor
After not drafting Dean, the Bills saw him go to the Philadelphia Eagles at 83. Six picks later, the Bills took Bernard, who had a terrific career.
He only lasted as long as he did on the board because of his size (6 feet, 220 pounds).
Despite that, the Bills see him being able to fill in for either of their two starters and line up wherever needed when three linebackers are required.
Bernard doesn't have great long speed, Beane admitted. He's more than fast enough in the box, however, and will compete to fill the void left when the Bills make third linebacker A.J. Klein a salary cap casualty.
Round 5 (148 overall): Khalil Skakir, WR, Boise State
At 5-11, 195, Skakir also doesn't have long arms. That's why he lasted this long.
But you know who else wasn't very long? Cole Beasley, who went undrafted and eventually made his way to the Bills for the most productive stretch of his career.
Shakir is actually taller and longer than Beasley, for what that's worth.
Round 6 (180 overall): Matt Araiza, P, San Diego State
Some may call this a luxury pick. For the Bills, it's a necessity.
Araiza was the best punter in the Draft even if he was the third to come off the board.
He also an accomplished placekicker and he's ... left-footed.
Round 6 (185 overall): Christian Benford, CB, Villanova
In going for an elite FCS player, the Bills are hoping Benford can adjust to life in the AFC East against the likes of Tyreek Hill, DeVante Parker and Patriots second-round pick Tyquan Thornton, who runs a 4.21 40.
At Villanova, he dominated with seven interceptions in 13 games as a senior.
Round 6 (209 overall): Luke Tenuta, OT, Virginia Tech
The Bills sure do like their offensive lineman tall. So Tenuta, who goes 6-8, fits right in with Spencer Brown and Tommy Doyle, who were drafted last year and are the same size.
There's a lot to like about Tenuta beyond his size, though. According to Pro Football Network, he is surprisingly athletic for his size and has excellent grip strength.
An excerpt from The Football Network's couting report: "The son of a football coach, it’s clear that Tenuta has been surrounded by football his entire life. He showcases impressive football intelligence, constantly looking for work. Tenuta’s able to recognize twists and stunts, and his ability to read those in a timely manner ensures he can nullify their impact. Furthermore, his experience of playing both left and right tackle — and his apparent equal comfort in doing so — makes Tenuta a versatile NFL Draft prospect."
Round 7 (231 overall): Baylon Spector, LB, Clemson
Like Bernard, Spector is undersized (6-1, 233). Like Bernard, he also plays bigger with good speed and athleticism that he demonstrated at the NFL Scouting Combine.
His main weakness is not being able to get off blocks at times. That could simply be a strength and/or technique issue that can be corrected, providing he has the proper raw materials.
The Bills believe he does. And so do we here at Bills Central.
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