NFL DRAFT REVIEW: AFC EAST
By Simon Carroll
The NFL Draft is in the books. And whilst it is far too early to assign grades to these draft classes we can look at how they have affected team’s rosters ahead of the upcoming season.
We continue this series with a look at the AFC East:
|6||188||Tyler Bass||K||Georgia Southern|
|6||207||Isaiah Hodgins||WR||Oregon State|
The AFC East, for the first time in two decades, is up for grabs. And after three seasons of careful, clever and methodical roster building from Brandon Beane, the Bills are primed for a run at it. The blockbuster addition of Stefon Diggs in the offseason left them short of a day one pick, but it was worth it. As good as this receiver class was there was no guarantee that any of them are as good as Diggs, one of the best route runners in the NFL.
Beane definitely targeted team needs early in this draft, and got value too. AJ Epenesa was built for the frozen North – 280lbs of brute strength and surprising speed off the edge. In Buffalo’s fluid defense he’ll be on the field in an odd or an even front. The pick of the physical Zack Moss means that Frank Gore is likely not coming back, but paired with Singletary they have a run game they can lean on.
After giving Josh Allen more weapons in the mid-rounds, the Bills went off-script. Jake Fromm is under-appreciated and will be an elite backup with potential starter ability in this league. He’s the complete opposite to Allen – an accurate, safe quarterback but has a weak arm & isn’t an athlete. The Bills got a good one with this pick, but the playbook may need to be re-written if he ends up on the field.
|5||154||Jason Strowbridge||IDL||North Carolina|
|5||164||Curtis Weaver||EDGE||Boise State|
There was a lot of pressure on the Dolphins this draft to deliver, and I’m not sure that they quite hit the heights expected. Chris Grier deserves a ton of respect for all the smokescreens and misdirection he put out there to ensure they got their quarterback. If Tua Tagovailoa is fit and can stay on the field, he’s a home run hit.
After that, the weekend delivered some highs and lows. Austin Jackson will be seen as a reach at 18 and for good reason – he’s got all the measurables you’d want but none of the aggression or dominance. He’ll have a steep learning curve as he’s pencilled to start at left tackle from day one. Igbinoghene is a wonderful prospect but again, needs development. And with all the money spent on Byron Jones in free agency, did they really need to hit corner so early?
Things got better the next two days. Robert Hunt is a beast with positional versatility. Brandon Jones will be a chess piece for Brian Flores in the secondary. And getting Curtis Weaver in the 5th was good value. But no real weapons for Tua? Still plenty of questions to be answered in South Florida.
New England Patriots
|3||101||Dalton Keene||TE||Virginia Tech|
|6||195||Justin Herron||OT||Wake Forest|
Accusing Belichick of doing anything wrong is career suicide, but if I’m honest I did not like this draft. In years past the Patriots have always done things differently, and seeing them take unheralded prospects across draft weekend isn’t unusual. But this is the first time there is doubt in this organisation. So much talent has left, not least their star quarterback who helped bring six Super Bowls to Boston. This wasn’t a draft to get cute.
That being said, you can see value in some of their selections. Dugger and Jennings are extremely versatile and cerebral footballers which Belichick covets. Josh Uche is a pass-rushing specialist much in the mould of Kyle Van Noy. And Michael Onwenu may be the most disrespected prospect in the entire class. If nothing else, there is a consistent approach to the madness that, in the past, has yielded results.
But will two tight ends, one who I had to go look up, replace Gronk? What is the plan at quarterback if Stidham flops? And don’t even get me started on the kicker. Sometimes you get the impression that Belichick revels in being obscure; thinking differently, working with less and delivering more than the rest. His coaching acumen is going to be tested to the full if the Patriots are to maintain their dominance of this division.
New York Jets
|4||125||James Morgan||QB||Florida International|
|6||191||Braden Mann||P||Texas A&M|
Fair play to Joe Douglas; Being the GM of The New York Jets is no mean feat, but I think he hit his first draft out of the park. After focusing on the o-line in free agency with mid-tier guys, he delivered the jewel in the crown with Mekhi Becton. Is he the full package? No. His footwork in pass pro is clumsy. But he’s a beast in the run game, and if he reaches his potential he’ll be the best tackle in this class. Sam Darnold should be much better protected this season.
He’ll also have a nice shiny toy too. Value was the theme the rest of the draft, and getting Denzel Mims at the bottom of the second was a steal. He’s already WR1. Similarly, Ashtyn Davis in the third and Bryce Hall in the fifth was daylight robbery. Both of those guys, if healthy, are starter quality in the NFL.
The one head scratcher was going for James Morgan in the fourth round. No slight on the prospect – Morgan has all the traits to be a high backup/potential starter in the league. But taking him at the top of day 3 tells us Douglas really wanted him. Regardless, this was a very solid haul. Now it’s over to Adam Gase to see just how he decides to burn the house down in 2020.
previously the founder of nfl draft uk, simon has been covering college football and the nfl draft since 2009. based in manchester, simon is also co-creator & weekly guest of the collapsing pocket podcast.