ORCHARD PARK, N.Y (WIVB) – Drafting Kaiir Elam was Brandon Beane’s favorite kind of pick as it addressed a need and had a first-round value.
“It just felt like it was within striking distance,” Bills general manager Brandon Beane said.
The Bills moved up to draft the cornerback out of Florida with the 23rd overall pick and in doing so addressed their biggest need. The Bills traded the 25th overall pick and a fourth-round pick (130th overall) to the Ravens. In doing so Buffalo moved up two spots to get Elam by getting in front of Dallas picking at 24.
“If I’m gonna get aggressive it’s usually when there’s a value there and it fills a need. If it wasn’t more of a stronger need for us I probably would have just waited and see what happens and just take the best player on the board,” Beane explained.
“I’m super excited, I’m super excited to go to work. I told them to put the playbook on the plane, I’m trying to learn as much as I can right away and just get better and contribute to the team and try to strive for an immediate impact right away,” Elam said on a zoom call Thursday night.
The way the draft was going, things were trending in the direction of the Bills taking a corner. The top two went off the board quickly with Derek Stingley Jr. going to the Texans third overall and the Jets taking Sauce Gardner with the next pick at fourth overall. After those guys went, a cornerback wasn’t taken until the Chiefs traded with the Patriots to move up to the 21st overall pick. Kansas City selected Washington corner Trent McDuffie with that pick.
Beane mentioned Elam was the last player they had with a first round grade left on the board and that’s why they moved up to get him along with the McDuffie pick.
“I was worried more about someone trading in in front of us knowing that a lot of people had us pegged for potentially as a corner,” Beane explained.
While they ended up trading up two spots, it was never a possibility they would move up significantly as Beane said they didn’t talk to a team with a pick above 20.
“He was sitting out there and we really feel like he’s gonna be a great fit in our defense. He’s got some versatility in the sense that he can play off, he can play press, gives us a little size, a little length. He’s got speed if we’re in press man or anything like that so I think it will give Leslie [Frazier] more options at what he can do with him.”
Addressing the cornerback position was huge because Tre’Davious White is still recovering from a torn ACL he suffered on Thanksgiving night in New Orleans last year. While White seems to be on track as far as his rehab goes, it’s still tough to pinpoint when he’ll be ready to go.
“It’s not a concern it’s just it’s an unknown of exactly what his timeline will be. It’s still too far out, I mean he’s hitting everything, he’s done a great job but yeah, we want depth there,” Beane said.
The Bills also lost their other starting cornerback from last season as Levi Wallace left in free agency.
But Elam is excited to play alongside a guy like White and even got to meet him when he came for his pre-draft visit.
“I’m coming in to compete, I don’t think anything’s gonna be given to me. But the ability to play and to learn from Tre White and the other guys in the secondary is something I look forward to, you know pick their brains, try to learn as much as I can,” Elam said.
“But also on the field I want to compete right away, right away, for everything. I just want to prove that I will have an immediate impact that I’m gonna strive to win a Super Bowl.”
Last season at Florida, Elam started ten games and had 29 tackles, six pass breakups and one interception. Throughout his career with the Gators he finished with six interceptions, 79 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 26 pass breakups and a fumble recovery in 35 games.
While his play was obviously a big factor in why the Bills wanted to draft him, it seemed like his pre-draft visit really put him over the top by not only the answers he provided the Bills but the questions he asked as well.
“He said what does Tre White do, what has he done to be so good? Like what do you guys see? And just what do you see in my game that you like and what do you think I need to get better at? Just some really good questions, a guy that’s serious and focused and driven to be really good at his craft is what I took from it,” Beane said.
And that visit really had a lasting impact on Elam as well.
“I was just so grateful because once I got to Buffalo and did my visit I just felt something special. I didn’t know what it was, I didn’t know what it could be but I just felt something special and I felt like it was an environment I could go in and try and compete and learn as much as I can and try to have an immediate impact right away. I think it was a sigh of relief I would say because I strive to be the best,” Elam said.
Check out our prospect profile on Kaiir Elam leading up to the draft here.