Josh Allen's presence felt during Bills draft weekend
By JONAH BRONSTEIN
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) Josh Allen's presence is apparent no matter where you turn in Buffalo these days. The NFL draft this weekend was no different.
While Allen spent Friday night watching the NHL Buffalo Sabres' season finale in a suite with several teammates, including first-round pick Kaiir Elam, the quarterback's influence was felt a 20-minute drive away at the Bills' headquarters.
General manager Brandon Beane said he slept better after addressing the Bills' biggest need by selecting Elam out of Florida with the 23rd pick. As for the remainder of the draft, secure in having Allen locked up to a long-term contract, Beane felt a lot more comfortable while dismissing the number of quarterbacks falling down the draft order to address other positional depth needs.
And that included the selection of San Diego State punter Matt Araiza in the sixth round.
"I'm glad that we have Josh, and I look forward to having him for many years," Beane said. "If you've got your quarterback, and you've got your head coach, that's the two most important things. You've got to be really good there if you want to be championship level."
Call it "The Josh Allen Effect." Four years after trading up to draft the Wyoming player with the No. 7 pick, Allen has not only blossomed into one of the NFL's top quarterbacks, he's elevated the entire franchise.
In March, Allen played a role in luring Von Miller from Los Angeles to Buffalo, making one of the season's biggest splashes in free agency.
This weekend, Georgia running back James Cook immediately referenced Allen when asked what he knew about he Bills.
"I really wanted to play with Josh Allen," the second-round pick said. "That's a good fit for me. He's a great quarterback coming up in the league."
The Bills added another weapon for Allen on Saturday, trading up in the fifth round to select Boise State receiver Khalil Shakir. Buffalo moved up 20 spots to No. 148 in a trade with Chicago, also giving up the 203rd selection in the sixth round.
Buffalo had a need at receiver behind starters Stephon Diggs and Gabriel Davis after Cole Beasley was cut for salary cap reasons. The 6-foot, 196-pound Shakir brings speed and versatility, having been utilized as a runner and kick returner in college.
Shakir is excited to join Allen's arsenal.
"He's a guy who's shown that he's one of the best in the league," Shakir said. "He can do it all from a quarterback standpoint. I'm just excited to get up there, get to work, earn his respect, first of all, and just make sure that I go ahead and leave a good first impression."
The Bills also drafted Villanova cornerback Christian Benford and Virginia Tech offensive tackle Luke Tenuta in the sixth round, and Clemson linebacker Baylon Spector in the seventh.
The Bills opened the sixth round by making Araiza the third punter selected in the draft.
The left-footed player, nicknamed "Punt God," is a field-flipping weapon and touchback machine on kickoffs. He set the major college football record with a 51.19 yards-punting average punt last season.
The selection raises questions about the status of punter Matt Haack, who was inconsistent during his first season in Buffalo. Haack has two years remaining on his contract.
"Matt had a down year," Beane said. "He's a better punter than what he just played last year. He's got a new focus. So it's competition."
Beane praised Haack as "an elite holder" for placekicking, and Araiza's inexperience in that role could affect his chances of beating out Haack.
"We'll just say I'll have a lot of motivation to dominate this season," Araiza said.
CORNERING THE MARKET
Beane didn't hesitate in doubling down on cornerback in drafting Benford with the 185th pick in the sixth round.
Elam addressed Buffalo's immediate need at the position after losing starter Levi Wallace in free agency and Tre'Davious White's recovering from reconstructive knee surgery.
Benford has special teams experience and provides versatility in having played safety. The fourth-year senior was an All-American last season in leading the FCS with 18 pass breakups to go along with seven interceptions.
Beane acknowledged, perhaps, learning his lesson after selecting Virginia Tech's Tenuta with the 209th pick.
The pick brought back memories of the Bills drafting Hokies lineman Wyatt Teller in the fifth round in 2018. Beane ran out of patience with Teller a year later and traded him to Cleveland, where he's earned second-time All-Pro honors in each of the past two seasons.
Perhaps, the 6-foot-8 Tenuta's selection will work out better.
"I screwed it up, but we found a good player there," Beane said. "Not to say this kid is going to be Wyatt, but we're excited about him."
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Updated April 30, 2022