Let’s be honest, the Patriots can make the AFC East a bit of a damp squib of a division. Aside from 2008, New England have won the division every year since 2003 and the Bills, Dolphins and Jets have rarely threatened to make a splash from the Wild Card spot either!
However, change is afoot, change in the form of two new franchise Quarterbacks. Before the draft, the Jets paid a heavy price to get up to 1.03 and the Bills made an equally expensive trade to jump to 1.07 once we were underway in Texas. Were they the right decisions? Keep reading for my two cents.
New England Patriots – Grade C
The Pats had a needed a Left Tackle with Nate Solder heading to the Giants and they filled it with their first pick. Georgia’s Isaiah Wynn is one of those ‘does what it says on the tin’ style players, technically sound and friends with current New England Center David Andrews, it wasn’t flashy but this was a solid way for the Super Bowl finalists to start this year’s draft.
If Wynn gets the nod straight away from Bill Belichick, he’ll be teaming up with former Bulldogs teammate and fellow first rounder Sony Michel. I’m dubious about Michel, 12 fumbles offset 3,613 rushing yards for Georgia in a manner that doesn’t seem to adhere to the Patriot way. Director of Player Personnel, Nick Caserio, said in a press conference that he wasn’t concerned by Michel’s ball security but he has to say that, right? Michel will start in a committee backfield, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see Rex Burkhead emerge as the go to guy rather than the Rookie in 2018.
Florida Cornerback Duke Dawson clearly made an impression on his visit to Foxborough- the Sunshine State native went with pick 56 as a potential day 1 starterto replace Malcolm Butler. With 81 tackles in the SEC across a four year College career, Dawson clearly isn’t afraid to get stuck in, garnering All-SEC honours in his senior year.
Best of the rest: Braxton Berrios had the Pats all over him, having watched a lot of him at The U. I know he’s a threat and has the potential to grow into a new Wes Welker if and when he gets a chance. Danny Etling promises ball safety, which Bill B loves, but is he Brady’s replacement? I’d wager not.
Buffalo Bills – Grade B
All the hype about the four QBs going with the first four picks quickly fell on its face when the Giants took Barkley before the Browns, Broncos and Colts decided that they didn’t fancy moving back down the board. This meant the Bills got their man with the 7th pick, paying a hefty premium to Tampa Bay for the privilege. But, it could be well be worth the cost. The Bills clearly think that Josh Allen has got the attributes to make it on the big stage- his mobility, arm strength and experience under center all made him more appealing than Josh Rosen. Some worries about footwork and accuracy are there, but the big Wyoming prospect should be aiming to take A.J McCarron’s job by week 8 of the season.
Young Linebacker Tremaine Edmunds was another first round pick which the Bills thought was worth trading up for. Combining size and athleticism ability he’s a fantastic prospect, and all at the age of 20. The Bills had a strong need at the position, with Tanner Vallejo and Matt Milano the projected starters before the draft. Whether Edmunds will remove either of these is yet to be seen but if he puts in the graft he’ll be a fixture in Buffalo’s secondary for a good few years to come.
With career starter Kyle Williams likely in the dying days of his career the Bills used their 3rd rounder on Defensive Tackle Harrison Phillips out of Stanford. Not viewed as the greatest athlete, Phillips was still a dominate force in college, making 103 tackles as a junior in 2017. He’ll likely develop behind Williams and Adolphus Washington this season, but expect to see him starting in 2019.
Best of the rest: Taron Johnson isn’t the largest in stature, but he has the footwork and athleticism to slot into the nickel role. Ray-Ray McCloud will operate mainly as a kick returner for the Bills this year but may develop as a decent option in the slot for Allen if he can improve on his explosiveness.
Miami Dolphins – Grade A
I’m slightly biased when it comes to my Dolphins, but I was pleased with the eventual decision not to give up the earth to move up for a Quarterback. It had been a pretty bleak off-season in Dade County, Jarvis Landry and Ndamukong Suh amongst the high profile departures but this draft will have gone some way to rectifying the inevitable worries.
Minkah Fitzpatrick has got rookie defensive player of the year all over him, a star in a loaded Crimson Tide team- he can line up on the edge, in coverage against move tight ends and as an effective safety option. It’s not yet entirely clear where the Fins will use him predominately but he’s a huge boost to a secondary alongside Reshad Jones and Xavien Howard.
The best move of the Fins draft for me was the additions at tight-end. First, Adam Gase went with Mike Gesicki, a stellar pass catcher out of Penn State in the second round before adding old school blocker, Durham Smythe from Notre Dame in the fourth. Gesicki immediately improves the weapons at Ryan Tannehill’s disposal and offers a red zone threat that just wasn’t provided by Julius Thomas. Smythe will be in the league for a long time if he can stay healthy, he isn’t much of a threat in there air but his presence will solidify the offensive line and provide gaps for last season’s breakout star Kenyon Drake.
Best of the rest: Kalen Ballage once scored eight, yes eight, touchdowns in one game, he’s got the potential to challenge Drake and Frank Gore for carries straight away. Cornell Armstrong offers decent potential at cornerback, he’ll push Cordrea Tankersley for the CB2 role straight away.
New York Jets – Grade A+
What a scoop. The Jets took a punt on moving up to number 3 before the draft, rumour had it they loved Sam Darnold but didn’t see a way that he’d end up falling to them. Well he did, and the green half of New York has a real talent on their hands. Darnold’s strong arm, accuracy and mental strength make him a tantalising prospect and he’ll do well to learn from seasoned veteran Josh McCown in the few weeks he doesn’t start. As a franchise changer, this selection alone is worth the A+ for me.
The Jets traded a lot of capital to get up the board for Darnold, that meant their next pick came in round 3 where they decided to bolster the defensive line with Nathan Shepard. He has the raw ability and will learn from the experienced partnership in front of him this year, but he won’t be making a splash immediately.
Best of the rest: With only four more picks in the draft the Jets didn’t have a chance to add many weapons for Darnold, but Chris Herndon could certainly be one. The tight-end out of Miami adds threat after the catch as well as reasonable ability as a blocker. Expect to see him line up almost immediately with Austin Seferian-Jenkins moving down to Jacksonville.
Make sure you continue to check back here on acrossthefantasypond.com as we continue to break down each divisions success and failures in this years’ draft.
By Andy Moore – @AJMoore21