Edited by Matt Hicks, Staff Writer
The AFC East is a division that’s been dominated by the Patriots for the last 17 years; in that time span the Patriots have won the division 15 times, and have won every year since 2009. The Dolphins are quietly the toughest contender to the title, and they increased their chances with an excellent draft. The Bills and Jets are both focused on long term rebuilds in an attempt to make a Game of Thrones-esq power play when King Tom is finally dethroned (retires) in 2-3 (or 5-10) years.
I said the Bills had the most pressure going into the draft and I was not impressed. Outside of Edmunds at 16, which was a phenomenal pick, Buffalo didn’t do anything to address their lack of offensive firepower. They may have gotten a franchise Quarterback in Josh Allen, but they did him no favors in ignoring the need for offensive weapons. For that, they get a C.
The Bills were more patient than expected, waiting until 7 to trade up for Allen; still they gave up two second round picks to move up twice in the first. With Allen and Edwards, though, they could have the best offensive and defensive players in the draft when we look back on it in 3 years. With a year to learn, Allen can excel in Buffalo and could be the face of their franchise for the next decade. Past that, Phillips is a great value but defensive tackle is one of the only positions the Bills already had depth. Two late round dart throws at wide receiver isn’t going to give Allen (or McCarron) the pieces he needs to succeed. They get an “A” for the first round but a low “C” after that.
I think the Dolphins had the best draft in the AFC East. To get Fitzpatrick at 11 is a steal; since we mocked him going as high as 4. Gesicki was my 2nd best tight end behind Goedert and will start right away. The addition of Ballage gives them another promising running back to go along with Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams, plus they will all be learning from consummate professional Frank Gore.
The Dolphins showed good patience and got great value in return; in both Fitzpatrick and Gesicki. Fitzpatrick easily could’ve gone in the top 5 but instead will give the Miami secondary a big boost and will be haunting AFC East quarterbacks for years to come. Gesicki gives Tannenhill his first legitimate tight end option in since he played in College Station. Ballage in the 4th gives them a running back with huge upside; his combination of size and speed will give Drake a serious run for his money.
New England Patriots:
I think New England did a phenomenal job in the first round. They got an offensive lineman in Isaiah Wynn who offers flexibility due to his experience at tackle and guard. He should have every chance to win the left tackle job after allowing 5 total pressures throughout his entire collegiate career in the SEC at Georgia. Sony Michel has been billed as a bigger, stronger Dion Lewis. Georgia has been a running back factory for the past few years and Michel is an elite weapon for McDaniels to incorporate. Beyond that, the pats looked towards the 2019 Draft by adding the Bears 2019 2nd round pick and the Lions 2019 3rd round pick. You also need to take into account the addition of Jason McCourty, Danny Shelton, Cordarrelle Patterson and Trent Murphy who were all traded for in exchange for 2018 draft picks and that is why I really liked what New England did.
The Pats get an “A” for their first round; Wynn and Michel are a fantastic combo that both address the loss of Solder and improves the RB position compared to the departing Lewis. Dawson helps fill another free agent void but after that their choices are questionable; Etling doesn’t give them a legitimate successor to Brady and Berrios isn’t a replacement for Cooks. Still, they addressed major needs and have filled holes in the defense while improving their offensive potential; a scary thought for every other team in the league.
New York Jets:
The Jets get a B based solely on the fact that they may have gotten their franchise quarterback in Sam Darnold, who could arguably be the best quarterback in the draft. I was bummed they didn’t take more offensive talent outside of 4th round tight end Chris Herndon and 7th round running back Trenton Cannon. They still have a lackluster offense in terms of wide receivers and running backs, which means no Darnold this year. He MUST sit for the entire season and learn behind Josh McCown.
The Jets were thrilled to have Sam Darnold fall into their laps at 3rd overall. They arguably landed the quarterback with the best potential in the class. Still, they gave up a lot to get to that draft position and it showed in the rest of their selections; they focused on giving the defense young pieces instead of giving Darnold more weapons to work with. They missed a great opportunity to bring in weapons at running back, tight end, or wide receiver for Darnold to grow with.