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Top Rookie Cornerbacks: Where’s Bills’ Kaiir Elam? – Sports Illustrated

While offense may get the headlines, defense wins championships.
The hallmark of nearly every successful football team is a defense which is solid at all three levels: the defensive front, the linebacker and the secondary.
Widely considered to be among the marquee positions on the gridiron, cornerbacks continue to be sought after, both in free agency and via the NFL Draft. The 2022 rookie class will feature four first-round cornerbacks, along with eight selected in the Top 50.
Though their defensive backfield already boasts one of the game’s top playmakers in cornerback Tre’Davious White, the Buffalo Bills selected cornerback Kaiir Elam at 23 overall in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Prior to the draft, Elam was consistently mentioned among the top cornerbacks in the class. As such, CBS Sports recently provided their rankings of this year’s draft class, with Elam ranking third among his peers.
CBS Sports Analysis:
3. Kaiir Elam, Bills
Buffalo's defense has been in the top 10 in interceptions in the first five years of the Sean McDermott era, and it added Von Miller to give the pass rush a jolt it needed, which always has a ripple effect on how opportunistic back seven players can be.
As the No. 2 cornerback with the Bills, former undrafted free agent Levi Wallace gave the team amazing return on investment with 30 pass breakups and six interceptions across four regular seasons. Now Elam steps into that luxurious role opposite Tre'Davious White, who is returning from a torn ACL.
Strictly based on pure athleticism, Elam is the most impressive specimen McDermott's had to mold in his scheme. On a Buffalo team that should hold plenty of leads, Elam is in line for a glorious transition from the SEC to the AFC East.
Elam’s resume was certainly impressive to Buffalo’s brass. He demonstrated a readiness for the pro game since the moment he stepped on a football field for the Florida Gators. As a true freshman for the Gators, Elam started five games, intercepting three passes (four total passes-defensed) while making 11 tackles in 13 games. During his sophomore season in 2020, he started all 12 games, logging 39 tackles and two interceptions. He also led the team with 11 passes-defensed; earning him first-team All-SEC honors from league coaches. Despite missing three games with a knee injury in 2021, Elam made 10 starts, logging 29 tackles, 1.5 for loss, one interception, five pass breakups.
The former Florida Gator has great length and plays with a physical and aggressive style, especially when challenged. He is at his best in zone and press coverages. Still, he can play adequate man coverage, and can be quite effective when he has the opposite to match up with his targets at the line of scrimmage. Originally projected as a day-two target, the Bills found his toughness to be an appealing trait, thus selecting him in round one. As such, he is expected to compete for the role of Buffalo’s second perimeter corner, opposite White.


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