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Bills draft Baylor's Terrel Bernard with 89th pick

Posted at 10:25 PM, Apr 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-29 23:25:35-04

Having addressed a key defensive need by selecting cornerback Kaiir Elam with their first pick in the NFL draft, the Buffalo Bills turned to offense by choosing Georgia running back James Cook with the 63rd overall pick on Friday night.

Cook was the third running back selected in this year’s draft and is the brother of Minnesota Vikings star running back Dalvin Cook.

Buffalo closed the day by selecting Baylor linebacker Terrel Bernard with the 89th pick.

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.

Bernard’s addition begins to shore up the team’s depth at linebacker behind starters Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano.

The Bills, initially scheduled to make the 57th pick, added a pair of sixth-round selections by trading back twice in the order before finally picking Cook. Buffalo acquired the 180th selection in a trade with Tampa Bay to move back to the 60th slot. And the Bills then added the 209th pick to move back another three spots in a trade with Cincinnati.

The two additional selections came a day after Buffalo dealt its fourth-round pick (130th) to move up two spots and select Elam at No. 23.

While Elam filled an immediate need, Cook and Bernard provide positional depth to the two-time defending AFC East champions.

Cook joins an unsettled running back room that includes Devin Singletary, Zack Moss and offseason free-agent addition Duke Johnson.

The Josh Allen-led offense was criticized for being too quarterback dependent last season before gaining balance once Singeltary took over the lead role in the final four games.

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.

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.

He said his father had already briefed him the raucous atmosphere of playing in Buffalo.

“He keeps singing the theme song. I’m trying to learn it,” he said of the Bills touchdown celebration song, `Shout!′ “I come from playing in The Swamp and I feel like it was an advantage for us playing there. So I just can’t wait to play here, honestly.”

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.