Following the 2022 NFL Draft, analysts across the league graded each team for their selection choices and how their new rookies will boost the team overall. While the Buffalo Bills received a few A grades, the team was continuously docked at least half a grade for their third-round selection.
When the Bills used their No. 89 overall pick to select linebacker Terrel Bernard, the moment was initially overshadowed by Kyle Brandt, who delivered a boisterous, over-the-top presentation before announcing him as Buffalo’s third-round pick.
However, once the dust settled, numerous analysts were quick to point out that the Baylor alum is an undersized linebacker at nearly 6-foot-1 and 224 pounds, noting how he would’ve still been available on Day 3, and likely taken in Round 5, per NFL.com.
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ESPN‘s Mel Kiper Jr. gave the Bills a B grade and wrote, “The pick of undersized linebacker Terrel Bernard (89) was a reach on my board, even if it was a need. I like Brian Asamoah and Leo Chenal, who were both available, more than Bernard, who does have some read-and-react ability.”
USA Today’s Nick Wojton offered each of the Bills’ eight draft picks a specific grade and gave Bernard, the Sugar Bowl MVP, a C+. Wojton wrote, “Bernard was the most-questioned selection the Bills made. The reasoning is because Buffalo could’ve probably continued to trade back and landed him. Instead, they opted to use their Round 3 pick on Bernard.
“On the player, Bernard fills an important backup role behind Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano left behind by the departed AJ Klein. Maybe on special teams, too. Bernard will hopefully turn out to prove everyone wrong, but even days later this pick feels like it could’ve been something… more.”
As for Pro Football Focus, their NFL staff gave the Bills an overall B+ grade, but were apprehensive of Bernard’s selection:
Bernard is fast and plays fast. At the same time, he’s firmly undersized… and comes with serious tackling issues. Bernard owns a 14.8% missed tackle rate for his career and is teetering toward safety territory. He doesn’t let the lack of size get in the way of his mindset, and he does have quality instincts and athleticism. Still, Bernard should have been a Day 3 pick.
Despite the criticism of when he was picked, Bernard’s elite talent is evident. A two-time, second-team All-Big 12 selection, who ran the 40 in 4.59 seconds, received an incredibly high analytical score. During his senior year, Bernard recorded 103 total tackles, 7.5 sacks and four passes defended, per Bills Wire.
As for his size, Bills’ general manager Brandon Beane doesn’t see it as an issue. On May 2, Beane said on the One Bills Live, “He’s instinctive. He’s smart. Guys like him make up for the lack of prototype size.”
Bernard’s Extensive Injury History Also Gave Analysts Pause
SB Nation‘s Kyle Trimble did an extensive deep dive on Bernard’s lengthy injury history, noting how it’s “red flag” that the 22-year-old missed 17 games during his collegiate career due to a long list of differing injuries.
Since 2017, Bernard, who played football at the University o Houston before transferring to Baylor, has dealt with a right foot fracture that required season-ending surgery, a broken hand, a complex left shoulder injury that tore his labrum, and a meniscus tear.
Trimble clarified, however, that Bernard was medically cleared by the Bills, and if the young linebacker can stay healthy, he could become a great asset to Buffalo’s defense:
I have strong reservations about his durability as Bernard enters the NFL. If he can acclimate his body early on, limit his snaps to special teams, and play in a reserve role on defense, then he could be a fine player. I hope he doesn’t get injured, I never want that, but if he begins to miss time due to injuries, there is plenty of information to support why his body may not withstand the rigors of playing in the NFL.
Beane Saw Something Special in Bernard
Following the extreme criticism Beane received in 2018 after drafting quarterback Josh Allen as their No. 7 overall pick, doubters should tread carefully. Beane clearly sees something special in Bernard. “Super instinctive. You can blitz anybody, but he’s got a feel for it — a knack for it,” Beane said. “He’s fun to watch.”
During his post-draft interview, Bernard appeared grateful to be heading to Buffalo, noting how he models his game after Bills linebacker, Matt Milano. “Having an opportunity to learn from guys like him is going to be amazing,” Bernard said.
The Baylor alum wrote on Instagram, “Blessed is an understatement. ‘The reward for work well done is the opportunity for more’ LFG!! #billsmafia.”