Here at Pats Pulpit, we focus primarily on the New England Patriots. However, this also means that we will have to look beyond the Gillette Stadium parking lot every now and then and try to capture the bigger picture. This is especially true when it comes to the club’s division rivals.
In this latest installment of the AFC East Report, we will therefore analyze the 2021 NFL Draft with a focus on the Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins and New York Jets.
Before taking a look at each of the individual draft classes, though, let us take one moment to talk about the AFC East as a whole. Because even though the Jets were one of the worst teams in football last year, and three out of the four clubs failed to qualify for the playoffs in 2020, the division is shaping up to be an exciting one.
The reigning champion Bills remain one of the best teams in the NFL; the Dolphins made five top-100 selections continue to trend in the right direction; the Patriots invested considerable resources this offseason and still have the best head coach in football; the Jets added their new quarterback of the future and arguably the top head coaching candidate on the market in the offseason. Add it all up, and you get a division that is possible one of the three deepest in the league at the moment.
Time will obviously tell if it will live up to this praise, but the AFC East projects as a fun division in Year 2 after Tom Brady.
With that said, on to the draft classes!
|1||30||Gregory Rousseau||DE||Miami (FL)|
|2||61||Carlos Basham Jr.||DE||Wake Forest|
|3||93||Spencer Brown||OT||Northern Iowa|
|5||161||Tommy Doyle||OT||Miami (OH)|
|7||236||Jack Anderson||G||Texas Tech|
After using their first-round pick a year ago to acquire wide receiver Stefon Diggs via trade, Buffalo was back on the clock in Round 1 this year. The selection made already set the tone for the draft: Buffalo has no major needs, and instead went on to address the few weaknesses its roster showed last year by bolstering the defensive front seven early. Gregory Rousseau and Carlos Basham Jr. may not have been the sexiest of picks, but the Bills don’t need sexy at the current stage in their development.
What Buffalo Rumblings thinks: “I feel pretty good about what Buffalo did in the draft. ... All in all, I feel like this is one of those draft classes where, if you trust the process, if you trust Beane and you trust McDermott, and you sprinkle in a little bit of patience, I think you’ll get rewarded with what this draft class can bring to the table.” — John Boccacino
|2||42||Liam Eichenberg||OT||Notre Dame|
|3||81||Hunter Long||TE||Boston College|
Reunited and it feels so good? After drafting Tua Tagovailoa last year with the expectation of turning him into the face of their franchise, the Dolphins added his former Alabama teammate Jaylen Waddle sixth overall. While Waddle is the most prominent pick, Miami also brought some potential impact players in with its other selections: Jaelen Phillips was arguably the best pure edge rusher in the class, Jevon Holland a tier-1 safety, and Liam Eichenberg a possible Day 1 starter.
What The Phinsider thinks: “The Dolphins made impact picks that set this franchise up for the next few years. And that’s what I think will be a hallmark of a Flores and Grier draft. They’re always thinking about the next few years while also, naturally, caring very much about the present. Their stubbornness when it comes to certain positions is almost at the point of being respected. I enjoy their arrogance at times. The confidence they have in their vision will not waver. That’s what I love about the direction of this franchise. They don’t really care about filling needs that appear like gaping holes on the team. They want their kind of guys with that secret sauce called versatility who they can plug right in and expect nothing less than that player doing their job with no excuses. And if you can’t do the job, they will not hesitate to find your replacement the following year.” — Sern342
New England Patriots
We have said a lot about New England’s draft class already here at Pats Pulpit, but the gist is this: whether or not it will be considered a success will depend almost entirely on Mac Jones and his ability to establish himself as a viable franchise quarterback.
What Pats Pulpit thinks: “The Patriots picked up not only their QB of the future, but also a potential game-wrecking defensive lineman in the second round. Perkins and Stevenson are rotational players that can contribute right away and should be able to play through their rookie contracts. The Patriots are confident they can turn Mac Jones into an elite pocket passer in an era where QBs have developed more scrambling abilities and stronger arms.In four years, we will be revisiting this draft class and see if the players were able to live up to the draft day grades. If these picks pan out, especially their first and second round guys, we may be seeing at least one championship for the franchise this decade.” — Michael McDermott
New York Jets
|2||34||Elijah Moore||WR||Ole Miss|
|4||107||Michael Carter||RB||North Carolina|
|5||154||Michael Carter II||S||Duke|
|6||186||Hamsah Nasirildeen||S||Florida State|
The Jets’ first draft since hiring head coach Robert Saleh was all about bolstering the offense: New York’s first four picks all were invested in offensive players, with quarterback Zach Wilson at No. 2 obviously the biggest selection among them. As is the case with the Patriots’ draft class, his development will decide whether or not the Jets’ draft can be seen as a success. The team also made another first-round pick, though, by trading up to No. 14 to select offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker. The trade and selection, plus the team’s next two picks, show that New York is already trying its best to build around Wilson.
What Gang Green Nation thinks: “The Jets spent the first half of the draft building up that supporting cast on offense, and came away with some quality, explosive talent. They then pivoted to the defense, spending the last half of the draft accumulating a large number of athletic players with interesting traits and upside, defensive backs and linebackers. This attempted to address the primary areas of weakness on the defensive side of the ball. In the end the Jets clearly upgraded the offense and continued to build what has the potential to eventually be the most explosive Jets offense in recent memory, while throwing a large number of athletic prospects at the defense and hoping some stick.” — MacGregor Wells