Bills draft Georgia RB Cook, Baylor LB Bernard; Elam arrives
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Having addressed Buffalo’s key need at cornerback in the first round of the draft, Brandon Beane was comfortable playing a prolonged waiting game Friday night.
The Bills general manager not only acquired two sixth-round picks by trading back twice in the draft order, Beane filled positional depth needs on both sides of the ball for the two-time defending AFC East champions.
The Josh Allen-led offense gained a potential dynamic dual-threat with Georgia running back James Cook, chosen with the 63rd pick. Beane then used the 89th pick to add undersized but versatile linebacker Terrel Bernard of Baylor to a revamped defense, which already features the free agent addition of Von Miller, and a day after trading up to choose Florida cornerback Kaiir Elam in the first round.
“We definitely felt better after we got the corner last night,” said Beane of Elam joining a secondary which lost starter Levi Wallace in free agency and with Tre’Davious White’s status uncertain while recovering from reconstructive knee surgery.
“If you’re filling a need, one of your top needs that’s when you sleep good at night,” he added. “And so today, we just said, `Let’s let the board come to us and let’s see what’s there.’”
The patience paid off in several ways, including the Bills adding the 180th and 209th selections to make up for the fourth-round pick Beane used to trade up two spots to secure Elam. Initially scheduled to make the 57th pick, Buffalo traded back twice in the order before finally picking Cook.
He was the third running back chosen in this year’s draft and is the brother of Minnesota Vikings star running back Dalvin Cook.
He joins an unsettled running back room that includes Devin Singletary, Zack Moss and offseason free-agent addition Duke Johnson. And Cook’s skillset as both a runner and pass-catcher provides a dimension the Bills thought they had already filled in free agency in March before J.D. McKissic elected to go back on his agreement with Buffalo to return to Washington.
“Similar to McKissic, he’s a guy that’s got really good hands and very instinctive in the pass game,” Beane said of Cook’s abilities. “I watched a lot of Georgia football last year just because they were so good, saw him play live twice. You can feel his speed with a ball in his hand.”
Listed at 5-foot-11 and 199 pounds, Cook has the slashing, one-cut style of his brother, but lacks his sibling’s stocky build.
What the two have in common is an ability to find the end zone with James Cook coming off a season in which he had 728 yards rushing and seven touchdowns and added 284 yards receiving and four TDs in 15 games while helping the Bulldogs win the national championship.
In four seasons, he had 1,503 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns, and 730 yards and six TDs.
Cook said he made a good connection with Bills running backs coach Kelly Skipper during the pre-draft process, and is already friends with Singletary. Both are from the Miami area and spent this offseason working out together.
“Me and Motor are a one-two punch,” Cook said, referring to Singletary’s nickname.
The Bills offense is undergoing a transition with Ken Dorsey taking over as coordinator after Brian Daboll was hired to coach the New York Giants in January.
Bernard’s addition begins to shore up the team’s depth at linebacker behind starters Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano.
Somewhat undersized by NFL standards at 6-foot-1 and 224 pounds, Bernard earned All Big 12 first-team honors in leading Baylor with 106 tackles and 7 1/2 sacks last season. He was also named the Sugar Bowl MVP after being credited with 20 tackles and two sacks in a win over Ole Miss.
Elam traveled from his home in South Florida to Buffalo to meet with the Bills. He was joined by his parents, former NFL defensive back Abram Elam and Shayla Davis, and younger brother Aydan.
Elam was so eager to get up to speed on Thursday, he feigned disappointment the Bills didn’t have a copy of their playbook for him on the plane.
“They told me I’ll have plenty of opportunity to learn,” he said, noting he was finally handed one at the team headquarters. “Now I can strive to learn as much as I can So I can play fast, make plays and get the ball turned over for the offense to score.”
Elam has been trained by his father, who played safety, uncle Matt Elam, who spent four seasons playing safety with Baltimore last decade, and former NFL cornerback Brandon Flowers.
“I always told him, `I’m going to train you like a corner. If they ever move you to safety, you’ll be a safety with corner skills,’” Abram Elam said.
“So he took it and he’s ran with it. He’s like a sponge,” he added. “I think it’s going to be great being in the (Bills defensive back) room with Tre’Davious (White), Micah (Hyde) and (Jordan) Poyer. It told him, `If they say something, you follow it because those guys have done well in this league.’”
The Bills are scheduled to close the draft with six picks on Saturday, starting with No. 159.
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