AFC East – Post Draft Analysis 2021


With the 2021 NFL Draft now in the books, the focus from fans and media members alike now turns from excitement to analysis of the picks. With the best will in the world, the average NFL fan may have been aware of the top-10 players with a few more names sprinkled in for good measure. To be fair to most Irish and European fans, the hard-core nature of our fandom often results in late night spread sheet compiling and film watching so we can immerse ourselves fully in the sport we love.


Even so, once the draft heads beyond the 3rd round on Saturday, each selection is met with an unknowing nod and shrug as we come to realise, ‘actually I haven’t heard of this guy before’. So rather than me telling you how each team did, René Bugner came up with an NFL Draft grade table from most of the noteworthy Draft analysts and organisations.



Image courtesy of René Bugner, (@RNBWCV)


It is worth stating that these grades are subjective and are by no means empirical, but they are a decent guide of what the experts think, before we see any of the players pull on the jersey of their new team. Another point to add is that teams don’t always draft for need and will often take the best available player regardless of position.


As a division the AFC East scored the highest average GPA (Grade Point Average) of any division (3.47) compared to the worst performing which was the NFC West (2.44). I think coupled with last season, it shows a trend in the right direction for the divisions’ competitiveness. The Bills and Dolphins are legitimate playoff teams, the Patriots should be back in the mix and the Jets would probably have been a better team had their coaching operations not been a Gase-Williams cocktail of incompetence.


Buffalo Bills

Grading

Draft Grade – 2.99/5

Draft Division Ranking – 4th

Draft NFL Ranking – 21st

Best Grade – A-

Worst Grade – C+

Who they drafted

Round, Pick, Name, Position, College, PFF Projected draft position

R1.30. Gregory Rousseau, DE, Miami (1.32) R2.29. Carlos Basham Jr., DE, Wake Forest (1.29) R3.29. Spencer Brown, OT, Northern Iowa (4.12) R5.17. Tommy Doyle, OT, Miami (OH) (5.04) R6.19. Marquez Stevenson, WR, Houston (6.01) R6.28. Damar Hamlin, S, Pittsburgh (4.15) R6.29. Rachad Wildgoose, CB, Wisconsin (PFA) R7.08. Jack Anderson, OG, Texas Tech (7.0)


What they needed (according to the pre-draft article)

  1. Defensive End - The Bills ranked 24th in team sacks this season

  2. Tight End - Dawson Knox and Tommy Sweeney are fine as 2nd and 3rd options.

  3. Cornerback – White and Johnson are outstanding, but a young third option is required as the drop off after those two is precipitous.


What did they do?

Brandon Beane clearly agreed with the assessment of the Bills Defensive End situation and doubled down at the position at the top of the draft bringing in Rousseau and Basham who should walk into starting roles.


The Bills then drafted a pair of Offensive Tackles in the middle of the draft who will battle for backup positions as they recently gave big contracts to Dion Dawkins and Daryl Williams so it is unlikely that they will be displace them any time soon. The lack of Tight End depth in this draft outside of Pitts and Freiermuth probably contributed to inaction at that position. Whilst they needed a Corner Back, Rachad Wildgoose, (great name) at the end of the 6th round, does not solve this issue.


Overall Bills fans should be fairly happy with the needs that were addressed and the players picked in the higher rounds.


Miami Dolphins

Grading

Draft Grade – 3.64/5

Draft Division Ranking – 2nd

Draft NFL Ranking – 5th

Best Grade – A+

Worst Grade – C+

Who they drafted

Round, Pick, Name, Position, College, PFF Projected draft position

R1.06. Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama (1.10) R1.18. Jaelan Phillips, DE, Miami (1.17) R2.04. Jevon Holland, S, Oregon (2.20) R2.10. Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame (2.31) R3.17. Hunter Long, TE, Boston College (3.17) R7.03. Larnel Coleman, OT, UMass (7.0) R7.16. Gerrid Doaks, RB, Cincinnati (PFA)


What they needed (according to the pre-draft article)

  1. Safety – Bobby McCain and Eric Rowe are the current starters.

  2. Running Back – Gaskin, Brown, Ahmed and Laird don’t strike fear into the hearts of anybody.

  3. Linebacker – Baker, McKinney, and Eguavoen are solid but could do with an upgrade.


What did they do?

The Dolphins played the opening rounds of the 2021 draft board like Paganini played the violin. The trade out from pick #3 to acquire three 1st round picks and a 3rd rounder was outstanding. They then managed to turn one of their existing picks into Jaylen Waddle which really was a no brainer, but also made their Wide Receiver core from a good group to a potentially great group with Waddle, Fuller, Parker, Williams, Grant, Hurns & Bowden now vying for catches.


Midway through the first round they added Jaelan Phillips at Defensive End to bolster their pass rush. At the top of the second they solved their #1 need at Safety by taking Jevon Holland. In fact, since the draft the Dolphins have released Bobby McCain meaning that Holland should slot right in. A couple of picks later Notre Dame’s Liam Eichenberg was selected and he should challenge Jesse Davis for the starting Right Tackle role over the coming months.


New England Patriots

Grading

Draft Grade – 3.57/5

Draft Division Ranking – 3rd

Draft NFL Ranking – 6th

Best Grade – A+

Worst Grade – B

Who they drafted

Round, Pick, Name, Position, College, PFF Projected draft position

R1.15. Mac Jones, QB, Alabama (1.11) R2.06. Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama (1.29) R3.32. Ronnie Perkins, DE, Oklahoma (1.32) R4.15. Rhamondre Stevenson, RB, Oklahoma (3.30) R5.33. Cameron McGrone, LB, Michigan (4.15) R6.04. Joshua Bledsoe, S, Missouri (5.25) R6.13. William Sherman, OT, Colorado (7.15) R7.14. Tre Nixon, WR, UCF (PFA)


What they needed (according to the pre-draft article)

  1. Quarterback – Cam Newton is not the answer.

  2. Wide Receiver – Agholor and Bourne are welcome additions, but they are Robin’s that require a Batman.

  3. Offensive Tackle – Wynn and Brown are only under contract through this season. With Wynn’s injury history, it’s not a guarantee his option is picked up. [Update – his option has been picked up].


What did they do?

What did the Patriots do? Oh not much, just made one of the more controversial picks in the draft taking Alabama’s Mac Jones at 15. Jones is the marmite of this years Quarterback class – coaches seem to love him, draft analysts and fans less so. What is for sure though is that Jones most likely has a higher floor than the other four first round Quarterbacks but how high is his ceiling? Bungalow-esque?


In the second round the Patriots capitalised on the falling Christian Barmore and traded up to take their Adam Butler replacement as the pass rushing Defensive Tackle. They then bolstered an already strong area of their roster by taking Ronnie Perkins as an Edge player. The Patriots already have Anderson, Judon, Winovich, Wise, Uche & Van Noy filling this role so watch this space for maybe a surprise trade, (I’m guessing Winovich).


Whilst the Patriots did draft an Offensive Tackle in William Sherman and a Wide Receiver in Tre Nixon in the 6th and 7th rounds respectively, I don’t believe these picks count as fulfilling the needs and they will be focussing on making the roster rather than starting.


One thing to point out about any Patriots draft is that analysts are very slow to give Bill Belichick a bad draft grade for fear of being wrong. This has been borne out again this year as you can see there is a much lower degree of deviation between the best and worst grade compared to all the other teams.


New York Jets

Grading

Draft Grade – 3.69/5

Draft Division Ranking – 1st

Draft NFL Ranking – 4th

Best Grade – A+

Worst Grade – D

Who they drafted

Round Pick, Name, Position, College, PFF Projected draft position

R1.02. Zach Wilson, QB, BYU (1.09) R1.14. Alijah Vera Tucker, OL, USC (1.15) R2.02. Elijah Moore, WR, Ole Miss (2.20) R4.02. Michael Carter, RB, North Carolina (2.25) R5.02. Jamien Sherwood, S, Auburn (4.08) R5.10. Michael Carter II, S, Duke (PFA) R5.31. Jason Pinnock, CB, Pittsburgh (PFA) R6.02. Hamsah Nasirildeen, S, Florida State (3.30) R6.16. Brandin Echols, CB, Kentucky (6.15) R6.23. Jonathan Marshall, DT, Arkansas (6.15)



What they needed (according to the pre-draft article)

  1. Quarterback – Welcome to the bright lights of New York Zach Wilson

  2. Literally Anybody – It would be hard to find anybody in the first three rounds that wouldn’t make this roster better.

  3. See Point Two


What did they do?

Of the four teams in the division, I think the Jets had the best draft, with one important caveat – Zach Wilson being the next Joe Namath and not another notch on the bedpost of the Jets’ inept Quarterbacks.


Trading up for Vera-Tucker, a player considered a blue-chip Guard was a very good pickup for a team that has struggled at the Guard position for a number of years. Kicking off the second round with Elijah Moore adds some speed and explosiveness to their receiving core and a player that Wilson can “grow up” with in the organisation as a receiving target. In Michael Carter they managed to get a good, well-rounded back that can instantly challenge for a starting role that is an open competition.


It’s worth pointing out that the Jets drafted two players called Michael Carter (in the 4th and 5th round) from North Carolina and Duke respectively, which is a nice place to end.


Luke O’Brien

@lukeobrienNFL