In his season-ending press conference, Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane said the team would be counting on rookie cornerback Kaiir Elam a lot more next year.
It had been a turbulent year for Elam, who came with high expectations after the Bills traded up in the first round to land him. The Bills were missing All-Pro cornerback Tre’Davious White to start the season and Elam was expected to move into a starting role, but ended up splitting time with fellow rookie Christian Benford and even found himself a healthy scratch for a key game late in the season.
Now, Buffalo News insider Jay Skurski wrote that Elam could have a lot to prove going into his second season as he faces pressure to rebound.
Bills Hint at Bigger Role for Kaiir Elam
Speaking to reporters in January, days after the Bills suffered a disappointing playoff loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, Beane singled out Elam when talking about that year’s class of rookies.
“Without going through them all, I think that most of [the Bills’ rookies] helped us in some way, and we’ll be counting on them even more. Whether it’s – Kaiir rotated some this year, started some. We’ll be counting on him more,” Beane said.
Though he was an expected starter when he was drafted, Elam struggled to win the job outright. Fellow rookie Benford, a sixth-rounder, ended up starting five games, making 24 tackles with one interception. Elam started six games last season, making 41 tackles with two interceptions.
In a mailbag published on May 27, Skurski wrote that the Bills will need Elam to step up more in his second year in the NFL.
“The Bills absolutely need Elam to turn into a quality starter,” Skurski wrote. “The same can be said of any player chosen in the first round. It will be true of Dalton Kincaid soon enough. It’s true of defensive end Greg Rousseau, who is entering his third season.”
Still, Skurski believes Elam could face more pressure given his struggles in 2022.
“It’s hard not to look at Elam’s rookie season as a bit of a disappointment,” Skurski wrote, noting that Elam was inactive for a key divisional game against the Patriots in December and ranked No. 96 among cornerbacks by the analysis outlet Pro Football Focus.
“The Bills will say it doesn’t matter where a player is drafted, and that’s the right approach, but there is a reality that comes with being a first-round draft pick,” Skurski added. “That reality is, anything less than that player developing into a quality starter is a disappointment. Elam has a lot to prove in his second season.”
Bills Not Moving Christian Benford
After the conclusion of last season, Bills head coach Sean McDermott discussed the idea that Benford could move to safety for the coming season. But since then, the Bills made a somewhat unexpected move by re-signing safety Jordan Poyer and also added fellow safety Taylor Rapp in free agency.
When McDermott spoke to reporters at the NFL Combine in March, he said that Benford wouldn’t be changing positions just yet.
“I would say that our plan right now is to start Christian at corner, and we’ll see where it goes from there,” McDermott said, via the Buffalo News.