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Florida’s Kaiir Elam selected by Buffalo Bills in first round of 2022 NFL Draft

The Gators’ cover corner goes to a team on the verge of a title.

NFL Combine Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

Florida Gators cornerback Kaiir Elam’s NFL Draft stock was a topic of debate for much of the 2021 season — and the run-up to the 2022 NFL Draft. But Elam was drafted before the end of this Thursday’s first round, and he’s heading to the Buffalo Bills, a team that has championship contention in its near future and thought enough of his chances to help in that effort to trade up to select him.

The Bills drafting Elam at No. 23 overall in the first round would have been a strong endorsement of him even without the trade they swung, sending the No. 25 overall pick and a fourth-round pick to the Baltimore Ravens to move up two spots. While that might also reflect the Bills’ fear of the Dallas Cowboys picking Elam at No. 24, it certainly suggests they thought more highly of Elam than many working in sports media, who had generally predicted Elam would slip to the second round despite beginning 2021 as a consensus first-rounder that had some top-10 buzz.

A relatively unremarkable season for a Florida team that struggled after its promising start was surely a significant reason for that declining hype. But Elam’s coverage skills, good physical traits (including a 4.39-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine), and pedigree — his father, Abram, and uncle, Florida standout Matt, also played in the NFL — did not vanish with the Gators’ fortunes last fall.

And the Bills have drafted smartly in recent years, with general manager Brandon Beane arraying talent around Josh Allen and building a team that took the Kansas City Chiefs to overtime in an instant-classic playoff game in January. It seems possible that they forecast Elam fitting into their secondary across from Tre’Davious White — and possibly becoming his eventual replacement.

Elam is the first Florida player the Bills have ever selected in the first round of the NFL Draft.