2023 NFL Draft: Assessing Buffalo Bills Draft History Injury Trends

Brandon Beane Sean McDermott
Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott (left) and general manager Brandon Beane (right), talk prior to the game against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Rich Barnes)

The 2023 NFL Draft is days away and the crescendo of all the research, analysis, and concerns will be realized beginning Thursday night. 

Over the past five seasons, the Buffalo Bills have shown a definitive pattern when determining their Day 1 and 2 draft picks. Injury history plays a significant factor in who they select and it has panned out for them pretty well in terms of availability. The Bills select at pick #27 this year but could move up or down the board based on what assets they can use which will dictate who is available. 

As this is Brandon Beane’s sixth draft, there are five years of players selected equaling almost 40 players. To see the injury histories for the 2018-2021 drafts, please click here. Check out the analysis below and look for the draft tendencies when it comes to injury history.

2022 NFL Draft

Pick #23 Florida CB Kaiir Elam

High School

2018 — Hamstring strain, side not specified. Suffered during senior year in the regional semifinal game against American Heritage-Delray.


2021 — Right knee sprain. Elam sustained the injury against Alabama on 9/18 and missed the following three games (Tennessee, Kentucky, Vanderbilt).

Pick #63 Georgia RB James Cook


2019 – Right ankle injury, possible high-ankle sprain. Cook missed the team’s Sugar Bowl game with this injury possibly suffered in practice, later opting for surgery. He returned to spring practice in April.

2020 – Rib injury vs Baylor. Cook left the Sugar Bowl game early and didn’t return.

2020 – Right shoulder injury vs Auburn. Cook missed one game, on 10/10 vs Tennessee with this injury.

Pick #89 Baylor LB Terrel Bernard

2017 – Right foot fracture, required surgery, season-ending, missed ten games; played in two games before the injury.

2018 – Missed two games late in the season (Texas Tech, TCU). There are no records that he suffered an injury, but he did not play in these games; played in 11 games.

2019 – Played in all 14 games, suffered a broken right hand in November that required surgery, and did not miss any games.

2020 – Left shoulder injury resulting in shoulder dislocation, labrum tear, humeral avulsion of the glenohumeral ligament, glenoid fracture, season-ending injury; missed four games, appeared in five games.

2021 – Meniscus tear, possibly left knee, required arthroscopic knee surgery; missed one game.

Pick #148 Boise State WR Khalil Shakir

2018 – Left Knee Sprain – 11/9 vs Fresno State. Shakir missed the final three games of his freshman season with this injury.

2020 – Left Hamstring Strain – 12/19 vs San Jose State. Shakir was injured in the Mountain West Championship game, limping off, favoring his left leg.

2021 – Foot Fracture, fifth metatarsal (surgery) – Spring. Shakir played through a foot injury originally suffered in Week 2, side not specified, before opting to have surgery in the spring to address it. He missed a portion of spring practices.

2021 – Leg Injury – 9/2 vs University of Central Florida. Shakir hurt his leg and was seen working on the sideline when he wasn’t playing. He played through the pain and missed zero games.

Pick #180 San Diego State P Matt Arazia

No publicly reported injuries.

Pick #185 Villanova CB Christian Benford

2018 – Ankle injury, side not specified – Benford missed two games (Maine, James Madison) with an ankle injury mid-season, with no additional details available.

2019 – Unknown – He missed three games towards the latter half of the season (James Madison, Stony Brook, LIU) for unknown reasons.

Pick #209 Virginia Tech OL Luke Tenuta

2020 – COVID-19 – Missed two games (UNC, Boston College) due to “COVID-related issues” according to reports.

2021 – Lower-body injury – Tenuta missed one game (Georgia Tech) due to a lower-body injury, side not specified.

Pick #231 Clemson LB Baylon Spector

2020 – Right shoulder injury: Spector wore a shoulder harness during most of the 2020 and 2021 seasons, having off-season shoulder surgery after the 2020 season.

2021 – Knee inflammation: Missed Georgia Tech game due to knee inflammation, side not specified.

2021 – Right-hand fracture: Missed the Cheez-It Bowl against Iowa State due to a fracture that required surgery, and played in the East-West Shrine Bowl with a cast on his hand.

Draft Analysis

The Buffalo Bills continued their trend in 2022 of avoiding major injury in the first two rounds, only allowing for minor sprains, contusions, broken bones, and soft tissue if it was not a recurring or recent issue. 

After the third round begins, it appears to be more relaxed, going for talent despite injury concerns. Specifically, the third round is where players drafted have had some type of major injury or multiple injuries that hurt their draft stock. The only exception here was RB Devin Singletary in 2019 as he did not have any publicly disclosed injury history.

Their trend of drafting injury-adverse guys has continued to pan out in the first two rounds. Every player has dealt with some type of injury at some point, but most have missed minimal time. Cody Ford was the only one in the group that struggled with injuries and missed extensive time after he was drafted. 

While injuries can’t be predicted and prevented, the hope is that past injury history does impact availability later. Players like Ed Oliver and Greg Rousseau missed time due to high-ankle sprains this past season, affecting their production. But generally, they have not missed extensive time due to soft tissue or ligament injuries. These players and others have performed for the most part with their talent only limiting their potential.

Of the 39 players taken over the past five years, 20 are still on the roster. Last year, only Luke Tenuta was picked up off waivers during the cut-down day last year and Matt Arazia was released due to sexual assault allegations. Of the 19 players selected not on the team anymore, only Arazia, Jake Fromm, Vosean Joseph, and Austin Proehl are currently not on NFL rosters.

The 15 remaining players have been traded, their contracts expired, picked up off waivers, or hit free agency to find a new home.

It seems like nearly every position on the roster other than quarterbacks and specialists could use an infusion of youth. The Bills have a deep roster but would benefit from top-end, cheap talent.

To understand their process, certain criteria were used to identify players who could be a target based on the above-mentioned draft tendencies. 


-I used The Athletic’s Dane Brugler’s “The Beast” draft guide for research I had not done on my own.

-Using the trends observed by the Bills, a safe pick in Round 1 or 2 is someone graded out at that position that has minimal injury history such as fractures, minor sprains, contusions, or overall minimal missed time.

-If a player is not expected to be there when the Bills pick, Top-20, they are excluded from this exercise. 

-If there is a player not listed that is a potential target at the range the Bills are picking, then they have injury concerns. This would not stop the Bills, but it bucks the trend. 

-A risky pick is projected as a Round 3 player or beyond. The Bills tend to go traits in this round regardless of injury. 

-Risky picks will have a brief injury history attached.

-Nearly every position will have safe and risky picks.

Below are potential NFL Draft targets at every position other than quarterback and specialist.

Running Back

Safe pick: Rounds 1 & 2

Devon Achane

Tank Bigsby

Roscon Johnson

Risky pick: Round 3

Tyjae Spears- torn ACL, meniscus 2020, hamstring spring 2022.

Israel Abanikanda- concussion, undisclosed injury 2021, hamstring during combine 2023. 

Zack Evans- turf toe 2021, hip/concussion 2022, left hamstring during combine 2023.

Wide Receiver

Safe pick: Rounds 1 & 2

Jordan Addison

Zay Flowers

Josh Downs

Tyler Scott

Marvin Mims

Risky pick: Round 3

Jayden Reed- foot injury, left hip injury, and back laceration in 2022.

Cedric Tillman- tightrope ankle surgery 2022.

Rasher Rice- turf toe 2022.

Jonathan Mingo- stress fracture left foot 2021, required two surgeries to correct.

Nathaniel Dell- hip pointer 2018, shoulder 2021, left leg injury 2022.

Tight End

Safe pick: Rounds 1 & 2

Michael Mayer

Dalton Kincaid 

Luke Musgrave

Risky pick: Round 3

Sam LaPorta- meniscus tear, required knee surgery in 2022.

Luke Schoonmaker- left AC joint sprain, right shoulder injury 2022, right leg injury during pro day 2023.

Offensive Line

Safe pick: Rounds 1 & 2

Darnell Wright

Anton Harrison

Matthew Bergeron

Cody Mauch

Steve Avila

Risky pick: Round 3

Carter Warren- left knee meniscus tear 2022.

Chandler Zavala- finger, ankle fracture 2015, knee injury 2017, back injury/surgery 2021.

Anthony Bradford- undisclosed injury missed 5 games in 2021, missed 1 game in 2022.


Safe pick: Rounds 1 & 2

Myles Murphy

Felix Anudike-Uzomah 

Will McDonald

Derrick Hall

Risky pick: Round 3

Nick Hampton- undisclosed injury missed 2 games in 2020, undisclosed injury missed 3 games in 2022, right toe issue during the combine, unable to perform some testing in 2023.

Defensive Tackle

Safe pick: Rounds 1 & 2

Calijah Kancey

Mazi Smith

Gervon Dexter

Keeanu Benton 

Risky pick: Round 3

Cameron Young- torn ACL 2019.


Safe pick: Rounds 1 & 2

Jack Campbell

Drew Sanders 

Trenton Simpson 

Risky pick: Round 3

Demarvion Overshown- knee injury 2018, foot sprain, vertebrae stress reaction, ankle injury 2019, right shoulder torn labrum requiring surgery, concussion, left turf toe 2021.

Daiyan Henley- season-ending knee injury 2019.


Safe pick: Rounds 1 & 2

Emmanuel Forbes

Clark Phillips

Risky pick: Round 3

Darius Rush- undisclosed injury 2018, shoulder surgery 2021, lingering hamstring strain 2022.

Cam Smith- leg injury 2020, head 2021, concussion 2022.

Tyrique Stephenson- torn labrum and ligaments right shoulder, shaved collarbone 2021, concussion 2022.

Julius Brents- lingering right knee injury, missed nearly the entire season in 2019.

Corey Trice- high ankle, left ACL tear 2021, groin injury 2022.


Safe pick: Rounds 1 & 2

Brian Branch

Antonio Johnson

Risky pick: Round 3

JL Skinner- torn left pectoral 2023.

Marte Mapu- torn right pectoral 2023.

Player Visit Analysis

Of the players listed above, the Bills have had some type of contact with the following players during the draft process. These include Top-30 visits, Zoom calls, and private workouts. Credit to Ryan Talbot of NYUp.com for curating this list.


WR Jordan Addison

WR Zay Flowers

TE Luke Musgrave

OT Darnell Wright

EDGE Will McDonald

EDGE Derrick Hall

DT Mazi Smith

DT Gervon Dexter

CB Clark Phillips

S Brian Branch


RB Tyjae Spears

WR Nathaniel Dell

TE Sam LaPorta

TE Luke Schoonmaker

S Marte Mapu

The Pick Is In

So who will the Bills select? It will depend on how the board falls and what the positional needs are. If the draft trends continue, those 10 players in the safe range are very likely to be in the mix in the first two rounds.

Two players I wanted to highlight are TE Luke Musgrave and Darnell Washington. Musgrave had a season-ending MCL tear and those repairs have minimal issues once surgically addressed. In comparison, Darnell Washington had a foot fracture, another foot injury with very little information, and an ankle injury. It would be easy to think that Washington would be the smarter pick due to the fracture alone, but I had concerns about his availability seen here at Cover 1.

The Bills appear to appreciate a player with an injury history that is unlikely to linger, maximizing the chance for availability and production.

The five risky players may be an option as well in the third round or beyond. The team could have brought them in or spoken to them to better understand their injury history or to rule in/rule out on their draft board. 

The Bills could deviate altogether too and select someone like Jaxon Smith-Njigba despite his hamstring, Bryan Bresee with his ACL and shoulder, or even Darnell Washington with his foot injuries. Their past history suggests they will avoid those players, but anything can happen.

This is far from a perfect exercise, but this may help shed light on what the Buffalo Bills consider when putting together their draft board every spring.

Top Photo Credit: Rich Barnes/AP