The AFC East is rapidly changing, and now the Jets are pushing all their chips in with the acquisition of future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers. The Bills are AFC Championship contenders, and two earlier-than-hoped postseason exits have them looking for changes. The Dolphins are young and hungry, and the Patriots are searching for an identity but are always a tough out.
Let’s take it East today and look at how these squads attacked the draft.
1.25: Dalton Kincaid, TE, Utah
2.59: O’Cyrus Torrence, G, Florida
3.91: Dorian Williams, LB, Tulane
5.150: Justin Shorter, WR, Florida
7.230: Nick Broeker, G, Ole Miss
7.252: Alex Austin, CB, Oregon State
Much has been made about finding a secondary target to take some of the pressure off Stefon Diggs. Gabe Davis has been inconsistent, and Dawson Knox hasn’t been the answer they hoped for at TE. Enter Utah’s Kincaid, possibly the best pass-catching tight end in the class. He emerged this last season and can run routes like a receiver. He’s got strong, sure hands. Torrence was projected by some to go in round one. He was one of the top interior offensive linemen in the class and will start immediately. Shorter was a devy darling at one point but seemed like a wasted pick, even in round five.
The defense didn’t get much love, but they do have a solid defensive unit. Williams provides much-needed linebacker depth and could challenge for a starting spot within his first few seasons. He had a phenomenal combine, showcasing athleticism to be a coverage linebacker with some serious juice.
The Bills addressed a few needs and got good value with Kincaid, especially Torrence. Williams is the only other player I can see challenging for a starting spot, and I would have rather them draft a punter than Shorter.
2.51: Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina
3.84: Devon Achane, RB, Texas A&M
6.197: Elijah Higgins, WR, Stanford
7.238: Ryan Hayes, OT, Michigan
The Dolphins have enjoyed several fruitful classes, this year was a small class, and they had to make the most of it. They addressed a need by taking Smith in the middle of the second round, and I thought he could have challenged for a first-round slot if this CB class wasn’t so deep. Smith plays with great anticipation and uses his intelligence to mask a few athletic deficiencies.
The other starter they drafted was Texas A&M speedster Achane, and he adds more speed to an offense that already has Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. Achane is undersized to handle a three-down role, blah blah blah – I get tired of the narrative. He is an accomplished inside runner, but he’s downright dangerous if you can get him to the second level. Achane has track speed and is tough to get a bead on in space.
The Fins made the most of what they had, and losing the first-rounder really hurt a team on the rise. Adding two starters helps, but the grade is reflective of poor management, which led to losing the pick.
New England Patriots
1.17: Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
2.46: Keion White, OLB, Georgia Tech
3.76: Marte Mapu, LB, Sacramento State
4.107: Jake Andrews, C, Troy
4.112: Chad Ryland, K, Maryland
4.117: Sidy Sow, G, Eastern Michigan
5.144: Antonio Mafe, G, UCLA
6.187: Kayshon Boutte, WR, LSU
6.192: Bryce Baringer, P, Michigan State
6.210: Demario Douglas, WR, Liberty
6.214: Ameer Speed, CB, Michigan State
7.245: Isaiah Bolden, CB, Jackson State
The Patriots seemed to always be on the clock for as few as the Dolphins took. And in typical Belichick fashion, there are some great picks and some head-scratchers. Let’s look at the defensive picks first, and the Pats lucked into a phenomenal potential lockdown corner by grabbing Gonzalez at 17. He’s going to be needed from Day 1 and should be up to the task. White was one of my favorites in the class, and getting him at pick 46 is great value too. He’s raw but showcased immense potential in 2022 and in the offseason process. That’s the good; then it gets downright funky.
Mapu was an interesting pick, someone I didn’t have on my boards at all. He garnered high praise from Daniel Jeremiah, and Mapu is a versatile player that can play safety or linebacker. He’s a Belichick pick and could fit in well with the defense he loves to run. Then there’s a kicker taken in the fourth round and the punter taken in the sixth. Ryland is a solid kicker but wasn’t overwhelming, while Baringer was a good punter – Michigan State was punting quite frequently. Bolden is an interesting depth pick, and a lot of experts like his chances to stick around at the next level.
Offensively, the Pats added Andrew, Sow, and Mafe, three interior offensive linemen. It’s what they do, and typically at least one works out. Taking a shot on former five-star Boutte could end up being the biggest offensive move. Maybe they can get his head on straight and resurrect what once seemed to be immense promise.
On paper, there are a bunch of odd picks that could work out but so many questions. I don’t trust Belichick as much as I once did, but he’s got a tremendous history of finding talent. I loved Gonzalez and White and taking a shot on Boutte, but the rest seem like they could be a wash. Or guys that fit what the team loves to do and offer us zero value in fantasy.
New York Jets
1.15: Will McDonald IV, OLB, Iowa State
2.43: Joe Tippmann, C, Wisconsin
4.120: Carter Warren, OT, Pittsburgh
5.143: Israel Abanikanda, RB, Pittsburgh
6.184: Zaire Barnes, LB, Western Michigan
6.204: Jarrick Bernard-Converse, CB, LSU
7.220: Zach Kuntz, TE, Old Dominion
It’s a mixed bag for me on the Jets’ draft class, but they did make the most important move of their draft cycle by trading for Rodgers. McDonald felt like a bit of a reach, but he could be a terror off the edge and provide the pass rush with more punch. He’s explosive, has the hands, and moves to be an impact EDGE rusher. Barnes and Bernard-Converse are depth pieces; neither is someone to target for IDP.
Offensively, getting some help to protect their nearly 40-year-old leader of the offense was the priority. Tippman and Warren were really good values, as most tackles were well gone by pick 43. Tippman was my top center in the class, and Warren was also good value in the fourth. Both guys could start at some point. Abanikanda won’t be a viable fantasy asset but gives the Jets a great depth piece. He’s got great vision and burst and could quickly work his way to the RB2 spot on the depth chart. I even like Kuntz, but he has some solid veterans in his way to get to meaningful tight end snaps.
Most picks are between 23 and 24 years old, giving them one of the oldest draft classes. McDonald gives the pass rush a kick in the pants; Tippman and Warren could start soon but could also be depth linemen. All in all, the Jets could realistically walk away with only one impactful starter. And Rodgers, of course.