+When I started writing this, I had to be more careful than usual, as I am not as familiar with a majority of the AFC East teams, but know some of their players and their schemes. Personally, I didn’t like many of the drafts in the AFC East, but some of the picks definitely caught my eye. It also is really hard to summarize the AFC East in a few words, as there are offenses re-creating themselves and looking for identities (NYJ and BUFF respectively); another with a third year starter who needs to step up (MIA); and the final one with the name QB we all know and love or hate, but admire given his pedigree (N.E.). Defensively, the Bills have the best secondary (4th in NFL in 2013), while the Jets ranked 22nd last season, but also added thumper Pryor in the draft (who is another Yeremiah Bell clone). While I don’t envision this division being that competitive, I’ll try to pay more attention to it this season, but I’m a spoiled NFC South fan, so we’ll see how my word holds up on that one.
Best Pick: Sammy Watkins (WR) – Much like the Falcons did in 2011 to acquire Julio Jones, the Bills traded up with Cleveland to acquire Watkins. The difference is Atlanta had a more established QB and a more stable offense. The Bills, with EJ Manuel at QB and the loss of Steve Johnson (S.F.), are rebuilding. It will be slow going for Watkins early on. Watkins is going to be front and center in Buffalo and WR1, but the front office also will be under pressure as they gave up two picks (one a 1st round pick) to acquire Watkins. Manuel should be able to progress some this season, and become more accurate, which should ease Watkins transition to the NFL. Watkins is the early front-runner for Offensive Rookie of the Year and should post 7 TDs and 950 yards this season. (Photo courtesy of Zimbio.com)
Worst Pick: Preston Brown (ILB) – Brown, out of Louisville, will enter the preseason backing up Brandon Spikes at middle linebacker (only under contract through 2015), but questions remain as to whether or not Brown will be a good system fit for the Bills under Marrone. The Bills will likely use Brown in nickel packages next to Alonso as a backer, and he could be the Bills MLB of the future, but he still needs to improve in the pass game. The main knock here is that the Bills reached for him and could have addressed their need for an ILB better with Chris Borland or Shayne Skov, who are better MLB molds and better in pass protection. Not only that, but Borland or Skov would be of more use in the nickel back packages as well. Brown will do well against the run, but with deficiencies against the pass, he could end up being another Spikes mold. He has potential, but don’t hold your breath. A move to outside linebacker could be in the cards if he can’t improve against the pass.
Sleeper Fantasy Contributor: Ross Cockrell (CB) – The Bills got an absolute steal with their first pick on Day 3 of the Draft, with Cockrell in the third round (earliest a Duke player has been drafted since 1999). His Combine numbers aren’t stand out, but his ball skills, ability to compete for the ball, and footwork from start to finish of plays is very solid. He enters Camp behind Gilmore, McKelvin, C. Graham, and Roby at corner, but the Bills will find ways to get Cockrell on the field through special teams and nickel packages. He projects as a slot corner due to his wiry frame, but if injuries strike, Cockrell will be able to step in and contribute on defense as well.
Best Pick: Ja’Wuan James (OT) – Some aren’t a fan of this pick, but given the Dolphins need for offensive line help, this is a great pick. He will open the season at right tackle, and given his ability to control defensive tacklers and perform well against size and power, will be instant help in the pass game. The Dolphins passing offense was rancid last season, and given more protection, hopefully Tannehill will stay upright more and complete more passes accurately. The Phins have the pieces to contend for a potential wildcard spot. They need Tannehill to take a step forward going into his 3rd season. (Photo courtesy of nfl.si.com)
Worst Pick: Walt Aikens (CB) – This pick is puzzling, not because Aikens isn’t a good football player, but because his game needs work; specifically, he needs to improve his reading instincts and ability to react and not get led into traps, and stay out of trouble. He has good size for a corner (6’1″), and will be given the opportunity to develop this season behind Grimes, Finnegan, Taylor, and Davis, but it remains to be seen how much foot speed and reading instincts he will develop. Look for him to be on the practice squad this season, as the Phins need to retool his game.
Sleeper Fantasy Contributor: Jarvis Landry (WR) – Landry is going to have to earn his keep in Miami with fellow receivers Brian Hartline, Rishard Matthews, and Brandon Gibson all behind Mike Wallace for passes from Tannehil. Landry’s biggest competition for looks will likely come from Gibson, who is coming off a torn left ACL. Landry is currently taking snaps with the first team in OTAs, and while it doesn’t guarantee he’ll start, Landry looks like a good bet to open the season at slot for the Dolphins. If he starts, those who nabbed him in drafts will be rewarded, as his explosiveness out of the slot, in addition to use in the return game, will give him consideration for low risk WR3/flex play most weeks. Keep an eye on him going forward.
Best Pick: Dominique Easley (DT) – Easley could have challenged for top defensive player taken off the boards in April, had he not torn his right ACL in September at Florida and his left ACL in 2011. When he’s healthy, Easley is incredibly disruptive and unstoppable at times. Not even centers can contain him, as Easley is too physical and quick off the line. Given his injury history, the Patriots will progress with him very slowly to make sure his knees are fine going forward. If he stays healthy, Easley will help establish more of a defensive line presence in New England and help them get to the QB better in 2014. There’s a lot of risk here, but the upside is an unstoppable DT/DE hybrid. (Photo courtesy of Bleacherreport.com)
Worst Pick: Jimmy Garoppolo (QB) – The signing of Garoppolo (third Eastern Illinois QB in NFL after Christensen (1983) and Romo) likely spells the end of Mallett talk as the patriots QB of the future, but Garoppolo may not fit either. Jimmy is no doubt a practice squad player and Brady understudy this season, with the biggest concern being him reliant upon first read option, frazzled in the pocket with pressure, and passing on the run accuracy. He was one of the most accurate QBs in the Draft, but also played for a mid major school, which could be another knock against him. Garoppolo has potential and a good foundation upon which to build his NFL QB skill set, but he is a work-in-progress, and may sit for up to 3-4 years behind Brady. Some see him as the Patriots future QB; I don’t.
Sleeper Fantasy Contributor: Zach Moore (DE) – It is unlikely Moore will see the field a ton as a rookie out of Concordia St. Paul, but given his athleticism and quickness around the edge, don’t be surprised if he winds up seeing significant time in 2015. Moore is underdeveloped in his instincts and can lose track of the ball carrier occasionally, thus he will require some seasoning, but given his main competition is Michael Buchanan for snaps at backup defensive end, Moore could see some time this season on the Patriots line, especially if Buchanan continues to flounder. He’s not a finished product, and he may not get a ton of sacks or tackles this season, but keep an eye on him for 2015 and beyond as the upside is intriguing.
Best Pick: Calvin Pryor (S) – Pryor has all the makings of an elite safety in the NFL: Great route reads, hands, ability to complete hits, and read the QBs eyes. The Jets are rumored to move Dawan Landry to a more situational role as run supporter, but don’t be surprised if the Jets keep Landry at strong safety and have Antonio Allen as a third safety in their defensive scheme. Bets are on Pryor playing Cover 1 in New York, given his advanced ball instincts and technique, and if so, you will want to invest in Pryor as your S2 in fantasy leagues as he has Yeremiah Bell nastiness attached to his name. He will be the cause of some big plays ion the Big Apple. (Photo courtesy of complex.com)
Worst PIck: Dexter McDougle (CB) – With the departure of Antonio Cromartie in free agency, the Jets need for a corner was obvious. They ended up with undersized McDougle, who honestly is more of a slot corner. The problem is, McDougle may not fit in New York as a slot corer as he lacks the physicality, and he has poor tackling technique, leading to injury questions (played in only 3 games in 2013 at Maryland). McDougle will not see the field much this season as the Jets will work on his technique and finding his fit in New York. The Jets are still weak at corner with Millner, Patterson, and Wilson all having cover issues, but if McDougle improves this season, he could make for a quality starter against the pass in 2015 as their top cover corner. If the jets wanted a surefire starter this season, they should have gone with a more polished product like Pierre Dessir.
Sleeper Fantasy Contributor: Jace Amaro (TE) – Amaro might have been the best pure pass-catching tight end in the Draft. With 106 receptions last season at Texas Tech, it appeared he played more like a receiver, but that’s because he was by far the best option the Red Raider’s had. In New York, Amaro will be featured in 2 TE sets, with Cumberland the inline TE and Amaro playing either as the slot, or playing out wide opposite Eric Decker. The downside to Amaro is he sucks in the pass game, thus his upside will be curbed somewhat, as he won’t play often in run plays. The Jets got the best receiving TE and Amaro will look more like a wideout in the Jets offense, but the Jets still need a true WR2 to go opposite Decker (Hill is an interesting, yet raw option going into 2014). Next season guy, next season. Now the question is how far Geno Smith can progress, or if Vick will once more be relied upon as a veteran to start large chunks of the season (although oft injured, he is a good NFL QB). I got Amaro down for 5 TDs this season, and I see Geno coming along very slowly.
Collectively, the drafts by the AFC East teams were considerably weaker than those of most NFC teams, but there were still some great picks. The Patriots have the division in a death lock, and will for the foreseeable future, but don’t sleep on the Bills or Dolphins going forward. The Jets will seek to re-establish Ground and Pound with Chris Johnson, but the addition of Amaro and Decker vastly opens the playbook. The time is now or never for Tannehill, as he enters his third season; the Dolphins have the offensive weapons to make a potential playoff push, but will be held back if Tannehill proves not to be the QB of the future. Overall, the East is going to be largely interesting to watch as all the offensive rookies look to make their mark. When the Jets and Patriots square off, grab yo’ seat at the bar, it’s brawling time!
Once more, thanks for tuning in for this week’s edition of Draft Recap, and don’t forget to read the other articles on here. If you’re going to be a troll, don’t say anything, as we on this site mean business and don’t need any unnecessary trolling (See reddit). Also, tune in for the MLFS segment on Sports Palooza Talk Radio for entertaining and engaging sports talk.