Here at Pats Pulpit, we focus primarily on the New England Patriots. However, this job also includes looking beyond the Gillette Stadium parking lot every now and then, and at the bigger league-wide picture — especially as it relates to the club’s division rivals. In this latest installment of the AFC East Report, we will therefore analyze the 2020 draft classes of the Buffalo Bills, the Miami Dolphins, and the New York Jets.
One thing stands out right away: all three of the teams are actively trying to bolster their offenses. While the Bills had traded away their number one draft choice to acquire wide receiver help, the Jets drafted their potential franchise left tackle. Miami made the biggest move of them all, meanwhile, by going quarterback with the fifth overall selection before adding a stalwart tackle themselves just 13 draft positions later.
Time will tell if all those investments pay off for their respective teams, though, especially with the Patriots pretty much appearing to be in a transitory state. With that all said, let’s dive into it.
2019 season: 10-6
Bills 2020 draft class
|2||54||A. J. Epenesa||DE||Iowa|
|6||188||Tyler Bass||K||Georgia Southern|
|6||207||Isaiah Hodgins||WR||Oregon State|
As noted above, the Bills entered the draft without a first-round pick after having used it to acquire star wide receiver Stefon Diggs vis trade from the Minnesota Vikings. Nevertheless, Buffalo was still able to add a player who many experts viewed as a potential first-round talent in edge defender A.J. Epenesa. Most of the team’s other selections again went to the offensive side, though, with sixth-round kicker Tyler Bass a notable exception.
What Buffalo Rumblings thinks: “Given the fact that Buffalo didn’t have a first-round pick (thanks to the Stefon trade), Bills fans have to be happy with the fact that the Bills wound up with physical defensive end A.J. Epenesa with their first pick (no. 54 overall). Epenesa is a gifted talent who was projected to go to the Bills with the No. 22 overall pick back at the beginning of the offseason.” — John Boccacino
2019 season: 5-11
Dolphins 2020 draft class
|5||154||Jason Strowbridge||DE||North Carolina|
|5||164||Curtis Weaver||DE||Boise State|
The highest profile pick not just from the Dolphins’ perspective but the AFC as a whole is Tua Tagovailoa, who was drafted fifth overall by Miami to become the team’s new franchise quarterback. His selection will ultimately determine the overall success of the team’s draft class, but he is far from the only possible future cornerstone to be picked: with six total selections within the first 70 overall picks, the Dolphins also added some serious depth to their roster beyond the most important position.
What The Phinsider thinks: “The Miami Dolphins, led by general manager Chris Grier, went on an absolute rampage during the 2020 NFL draft a few days ago, leaving many of their fans, myself included, more excited and optimistic about the team’s future than they’ve been in, literally, decades. Over the course of three days and seven rounds, the Dolphins identified and filled need after crying need, summoning a bumper crop of strong, fast hungry young players to South Florida, to participate in the team’s almost inevitable march back up the NFL mountain in pursuit of their return to competence, relevance and redemption.” — Craniator87
New York Jets
2018 season: 7-9
Jets 2020 draft class
|4||125||James Morgan||QB||Florida International|
|6||191||Braden Mann||P||Texas A&M|
New York continues to build around quarterback Sam Darnold by adding two possible offensive starters in the first two rounds: the Jets selected stalwart tackle Mekhi Becton with the 11th overall selection, and later added wide receiver Denzel Mims in Round Two. The team also bolstered its defensive front seven in the third round before joining the other three AFC East teams by selecting a specialist — punter Braden Mann, in this case — on the last day of the draft.
What Gang Green Nation thinks: “I think any discussion of likes has to start with the offensive line. After years of ignoring the trenches in the early stages of the Draft, the Jets used the eleventh pick and another top 130 pick on offensive line prospects. They also added additional picks during the value stages of the Draft. These were among my likes. What about dislikes? The addition of Denzel Mims feels like a great value, but only adding one receiver in a deep class at the position feels like a missed opportunity. What is a general thought? The Jets clearly valued measurables in this Draft. Whether that will ultimately prove to be a successful approach is unclear.” — John Butchko