By: Lucas Kochevar
The AFC East is an intriguing division. The Bills resurgence is something to follow as they won the division last year. The Dolphins came in second and just missed out on the Wild Card as Tua Tagovailoa developed. The Patriots took a dramatic step back and missed the playoffs entirely. Lastly, the Jets were the Jets. The good news for the fans is that the division got better as a whole. The Bills retained their impact players, while New England spent a ton of money to improve. The Dolphins and Jets look to keep building a culture of winning. Lets take a look at each of their draft classes.
New York Jets
Notable Picks: QB Zach Wilson, OL Alijah Vera-Tucker, WR Elijah Moore, RB Michael Carter, and S/LB Jamien Sherwood
The New York Jets selected BYU QB Zach Wilson with the 2nd overall pick. The QB flew up the draft boards during the season and became the number two pick after his impressive pro day. Wilson has the type of arm that could be special and has raw talent everywhere else. His recklessness could compromise him as he works through his first year in the league, but if the coaching is stable, he has a good shot at succeeding. Next, they traded up a couple of spots to select USC OL Alijah Vera-Tucker. This guy is my favorite guard with a shot at being drafted in the top 20. He provides some good movement and adds a tough body along the O-Line. Elijah Moore out of Ole Miss was an ace pick in the second round. He was a guy teetering on the edge of the first round, so anytime you can grab talent like that in the second round its a home run pick. Moore provides a unique skillset opposite of Denzel Mims, who is much more physical. The Jets run game was an absolute mess last year so the addition of Carter and Tevin Coleman from free agency should help improve that. The Jets goal was obvious. Draft the QB and load the offense up with talent. The only concern I have is the lack of defensive players they drafted. New HC Robert Saleh is a defensive coach, so it seems weird that they didn't even chose one guy on that side until the 5th round. This season should be a developmental year for many of these young guys as they build chemistry.
Notable Picks: WR Jaylen Waddle, DE Jaelan Phillips, S Jevon Holland, OT Liam Eichenberg, TE Hunter Long
The Miami Dolphins had two first round picks from the Laremy Tunsil trade and with their first pick at sixth overall they selected Alabama standout WR Jaylen Waddle. He was a jet on the field and flew by everyone when he played. Last year he was limited due to an ankle injury, but there are plenty examples out there of him burning his man. He should provide an explosive element to an offense that needed a second gear. Tua and Waddle reunite from their days at Alabama. Their next pick was Miami (FL) DE Jaelan Phillips, who possesses many valuable traits that a DE needs. He was my favorite edge rusher in this draft and should develop into a nice player under Brian Flores. Their second round pick went back to the defensive side of the ball with Oregon S Jevon Holland. The safety class wasn't that crazy, but Holland was one of the hot names for the draft in his position group. He isn't a big thumping safety, but could be a good safety for playing the ball. Once again, a developmental player that could be a long-term solution for Brain Flores. In my opinion, the best pick they had was Liam Eichenberg out of Notre Dame. Notre Dame is worthy of having the distinction as a school that produces great linemen. Eichenberg was a strong and physical tackle in college and it won't change at the next level as he should translate. They succeeded in the business of adding a couple more players to help out Tua, while adding to the defense.
New England Patriots
Notable Picks: QB Mac Jones, DT Christian Barmore, DE Ronnie Perkins, RB Rhamondre Stevenson
New England spent a ton of money and Bill Belichick sent a message to the conference and the division. They are back to trying to compete for championships in the post-Tom Brady era. They re-signed Cam Newton to a one-year deal. He was okay at the start of last year, but he was never a long-term solution. The Patriots found that solution in this draft at pick 15 with Mac Jones. The Alabama QB will look to sit back and learn OC Josh McDaniels' system. Jones may or may not play this year, but he does have a great situation to walk into with a Hall of Fame HC. Jones has a solid arm and great anticipation on throws. With some seasoning in training camp and preseason, Jones could be ready to play this year once Cam Newton fizzles out. Barmore was the best DT in this weak class, but fell down the board due to concerns with his character. Taking a second round flyer on him is smart here. Perkins is a good fit in the New England scheme, but isn't as big as he should be for the position. Stevenson comes in as a goal line back and fits the New England mold for a big, power back. The Patriots have players returning on both sides of the ball and they should be improved from an experience standpoint. With their additions and better QB play, the Patriots could win the division or fight for a wild card spot.
Notable Picks: DE Gregory Rousseau, DE Carlos Basham Jr., OT Spencer Brown, WR Marquez Stevenson
The Bills are coming off an AFC title game appearance and they didn't have many holes to fill. The offense was an unstoppable force last season and they return a lot of their core players and offensive coordinator. This gave them some leeway to select some projects on defense. They decided to invest heavily into the trenches with their first two picks and put pressure on the QB. Before last season, Rousseau was touted as the best edge, but concerns to his lack in technique pushed him nearly out of the first round. He has a massive frame and is an athletic monster. Where Rousseau is big and athletic for his size, Carlos Basham Jr. is a large, powerful edge rusher. Basham Jr. and Rousseau are both good players that could play their way into the edge rotation after some time in the league. Spencer Brown is a mammoth of a man at tackle. Stevenson is a speedster WR and will likely be a special teams player. Buffalo didn't have to do much here in the draft, but their next order of business should be extending Josh Allen. He will get a massive deal and the expectations will be high for this squad. With a tougher division, the Bills won't be able to skate by on defense and rely heavily on the offense. Sean McDermott and co. will look to keep building on the success they have already had.