The AFC East is as open of a division as it gets with only one team cementing itself as a favorite to win the division coming in the form of the Bills. The other teams are filled with question marks which isn’t a particularly bad thing.
On paper Buffalo upgraded considerably during the offseason, shipping off its first round draft pick and other assets to acquire one of the league's premier receivers in Stefon Diggs, a gift that Josh Allen should be grateful to receive.
For the Patriots, we saw Tom Brady depart, along with the majority of the team's linebacking core. With no real answers for who will step into the shoes that Brady filled for years in New England, it’s hard to really predict where the team will finish. It might be a hot take, but there's a realistic chance that New England is the worst team in the AFC East next season.
Miami showed glimmers toward the end of last season, but I don’t think the team should be a considerable contender just yet. Lastly, there’s the wildcard in New york as the Jets and Sam Darnold could turn heads if it gets rolling early. The draft could really change the makeup of a tightly contested division with only one team looking like an early front-runner.
Draft analysis in order of the strongest draft class to the weakest:
Buffalo Bills (10-6): The Bills may not have drafted in the first round, but that didn’t stop it from getting a first round talent with defensive end A.J. Espensa out of Iowa. It addresses the team's need for youth on the defensive line, and placed the second best defensive end in the class into the Bills hands, making its defense even stronger than before which is scary to think about for a team that had the sixth ranked defense last season.
Buffalo also made Josh Allen’s job a lot easier, giving him new deployable threats, by drafting receiver Gabriel Daivs who had team-leading numbers for yard production in his final two seasons at UCF. It also got Isaiah Hodgins, who might not give the Bills blazing speed or precise routes, but should become one of Allen’s favorites when it comes to 50/50 passes.
A more surprising pick that is hard to not like was the Bills selecting Jake Fromm with the 167th pick. Fromm shouldn’t be asked to fight for the starting job, but he is an option to call upon if Allen goes down injured. He has an immense amount of ingame knowledge and is what they call a game manager quarterback who can learn in the shadows of Allen for a couple of years. At pick 167 it isn’t likely that you will find a quarterback even remotely close to the talents the Bills get in Fromm. If it wasn’t for a weak arm, Fromm likely would have been drafted either in rounds one or two. This was a solid class for an already good team that is hoping to now make the step toward becoming the division's best team week in and week out.
New York Jets (7-9): The Jets’ first two picks of the draft scream one thing, set up Sam Darnold for success. Mekhi Becton is an absolute beast, and though there are concerns with his weight, the 6-foot, 7-inch and 364-pound tackle ran an unbelievable 40-yard dash at 5.1 seconds and should be starting week one whenever next season begins.
New York also got a serious threat out of Baylor when it drafted Denzel Mims, who’s a deep threat with the complete package of height and speed. Mims caught 12 touchdowns in 2019, and will hope to line up out wide next year for the Jets.
It came with no surprise that the Jets then focused on drafting players on the defensive side of the ball, but the quality of players it got was quite surprising. The team snagged Ashtyn Davis of Cal and Jabari Zuniga of Florida in round three, before making the worthwhile risk of drafting Bryce Hall, a cornerback out of Virginia that fell mainly due to injury concern. The Jets also surprised many by taking a QB to back up Darnold, but it was not an obvious choice taking James Morgan out of Florida International who struggled with accuracy throughout his time in college. The pick was questionable with Jake Fromm still on the board and boasting a stronger track resume. If the Jets are to challenge this season it will require instant impact out of Becton and Mims.
Miami Dolphins (5-11): Miami stayed true to the philosophy of taking the best player off of the board when it selected Tua Tagavaiola. A year ago it looked certain that Tua would be the first quarterback off of the board and likely the first pick of the draft. Instead, a season-ending hip injury derailed the prospect’s status as the consensus No. 1 pick.
Though it’s unknown whether Tua will ever be the same quarterback, he was medically cleared by doctors and clearly Miami is still confident in what he brings to the table. If Tua is healthy, this pick could go down as a great move for Miami as it would find its franchise quarterback to set it up for the foreseeable future.
The Dolphins drafted three offensive lineman by the end of the draft, as it hoped to protect Tua and prevent the quarterback from even more injuries. With pick 18 the Dolphins took a tackle who turned some heads when it drafted USC’s Austin Jackson, a somewhat raw prospect whose athletic ability allowed his stock to rise on draft day. The pick is a risk, but could prove to be the right choice down the line similar to the Tua situation. Miami rounded out its draft by taking multiple defensive players off the board including a slight reach with Noah Igbinoghene at the end of round 1. It’s a decent class for a team that is rebuilding, but it could be awhile before we see impact from either Tagavaiola or Jackson.
New England Patriots (12-4): The Patriots are in a peculiar situation, needing to find a new heir to the throne at quarterback, but failed to draft one. Instead, Bill Bellicheck and company took some defensive specialists, drafting a division II player in Kyle Dugger who could become a standout for the Patriots.
The Patriots also took a project in Josh Uche who only started in his senior year but showcased his talents in a big way as he had 8.5 sacks and 35 tackles, as well as two forced fumbles. Anfernee Jennings was drafted in round three by the Patriots, who will have high hopes for him, as it looks like he will be the long term replacement for Kyle Van Noy.
What makes no sense about the Patriots draft was the decision to pass on Jake Fromm in round five, only to take a kicker instead. Justin Rohrwasser was a great kicker in 2019 for Marshall, but the Patriots need a quarterback option that isn’t named Brian Hoyer or the unproven Jarett Stidham. This draft class has potential to be great defensively, but does nothing in the present to improve an offense that is currently in shambles.