Draft Preview: AFC East

By Luke O'Brien


Over the years, the AFC East had gotten a lot of abuse hurled in its direction as it was seen as a layup for the New England Patriots due to the general mismanagement of the Jets, Bills and Dolphins for the last twenty years. However, 2021 looks like the Divison could be the strongest it has been since 2008, with the Patriots, Bills and the Dolphins building competitive rosters. With the Jets most likely to be adding Zach Wilson to begin the rebuilding process in New Jersey, they won’t be the push-over the have been recently.


With the 2021 NFL Draft due to start on the 29th of April, (make sure to tune into the Irish NFL Show live from 11:30pm) there are plenty of mock drafts and opinions out there as to who will go where and who will trade up and who will trade back. As with all of these mock drafts, they will most likely be 80-90% wrong. And that is being kind.


Rather than add my 2 cents to the Draft narratives, maybe the best thing to do is take a breath, and re-remember who has been added, or allowed to walk away for each AFC East team over the last few months.



Buffalo Bills


In/Re-Signed

Tyrell Adams OLB (1yr $1.1m)

Matt Breida RB (1yr $1.1m)

Jamil Douglas G (1yr $1m)

Matt Haack P (3yrs $5.5m)

Bobby Hart RT (1yr $1.1m)

Jacob Hollister TE (1yr $1.1m)

Taiwan Jones RB/ST (1yr $1.75m)

Forrest Lamp OG (1yr $1.1m)

Isaiah McKenzie WR ($1.1m)

Efe Obada DE (1yr $1.5m)

Brandon Powell WR (1yr $0.9k)

Emmanuel Sanders WR (1yr $6m)

Mitchell Trubisky QB (1yr $2.5m)

Levi Wallace CB (1yr $1.75m)


Best Signing – Emmanuel Sanders

The Bills weren’t really big spenders in this Free Agency period. Sanders was the only player that they brought in that got any decent money, and at 34 years old some would question how much he still has left. However, despite not being high in the depth chart last year in New Orleans and missing two games, he still managed 61 catches for 728yards and 5 TD’s. His versatility and experience could be key if the Bills want to make another playoff run.


Out/Un-signed

Matt Barkley QB

Corey Bojorquez P

John Brown WR

EJ Gaines CB

Quinton Jefferson DT

Tyler Kroft TE

Dean Marlowe SS

Trent Murphy DE

Josh Norman CB

Ty Nsekhe RT

Del’Shawn Phillips LB

Andre Roberts KR

Brian Winters G

TJ Yeldon RB


Biggest Loss – John Brown

The Bills did a good job this offseason of moving on a lot of their older players, particularly those that missed games in 2020. John Brown would be the biggest miss of the group, but I think in Sanders they have a more than adequate replacement.


First 3 draft picks

1st round, pick 30

2nd round, pick 61

3rd round, pick 93


What are their draft needs?

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


What remaining free agent should they target?

  1. DE - John Simon – productive with the Patriots as a versatile edge player that would fit under the $2.5m available cap space that the Bills currently have.

  2. TE - Trey Burton – Burton has lost his way in the last few years. If he could regain any type of form, he is a starting Tight End.

  3. CB - Nickell Robey-Coleman – NRC was originally drafted by the Bills and is a solid NFL nickel Corner - Nominative Determinism at its finest.


Miami Dolphins


In/Re-signed

Vince Biegel OLB (1yr $1.1m)

Jacoby Brissett QB (1yr $5m)

Malcolm Brown RB (1yr $1.8m)

Adam Butler DT (2yrs $7.5m)

Cethan Carter TE (3yrs $7.8m)

Justin Coleman CB (1yr $2.3m)

Robert Foster WR (1yr $1m)

Will Fuller WR (1yr $10.6m)

Mack Hollins WR (1yr $1.1m)

John Jenkins DT (1yr $1.2m)

Michael Palardy P (1yr $1.4m)

Duke Riley OLB (1yr $1.1m)

Brennan Scarlett OLB (1yr $1.1m)

Matt Skura C (1yr $1.8m)


Best Signing – Adam Butler

Will Fuller would have been the easy choice here, but Adam Butler brings the ability to pass rush from the interior that the other Defensive Tackles on the roster do not bring. Butler is primarily a 3rd down pass rusher, and can line up anywhere on the line in a 3-4 and cause problems with his size and speed.


Out/Un-signed

Matt Breida RB

Julie’n Davenport LT

Isaiah Ford WR

Kavon Frazier S

Ryan Fitzpatrick QB

Davon Godchaux DT

Kamu Grugier-Hill OLB

Matt Haack P

Ted Karras C

Elandon Roberts MLB

Jake Rudock QB

Kyle Van Noy OLB

DeAndre Washington RB

Isaiah Wilson LT


Biggest Loss – Kyle Van Noy

The Dolphins did well either retaining or replacing the players they lost this offseason, everyone except Kyle Van Noy. The versatile edge player is as comfortable dropping back into coverage, stopping the run, or rushing the Quarterback. Whilst the contract he signed with the Dolphins was for a lot more than he is worth as a mid-level starting edge player, his play and veteran presence will still be missed. There is also the added issue that Van Noy has stayed in the division with the Patriots.


First 3 draft picks

1st round, pick 6

1st round, pick 8

2nd round, pick 36


What are their draft needs?

  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 remaining free agent should they target?

  1. SF – Kenny Vaccaro – Career starter and a former first round pick, he slots in as an instant upgrade.

  2. RB – Todd Gurley – Regardless of the condition of his knees, Gurley can still play.

  3. LB – De’Vondre Campbell – Campbell is one of many productive Linebackers that are still available. He would step in as an instant upgrade.



New England Patriots


In/Re-Signed

Montravius Adams DE (1yr $1.1m)

Nelson Agholor WR (2yrs $22m)

Henry Anderson DE (2yrs $7m)

David Andrews C (4yrs $19m)

Justin Bethel CB/ST (3yrs $6m)

Kendrick Bourne WR (3yrs $15m)

Carl Davis DT (1yr $1m)

Cody Davis FS/ST (2yrs $4.3m)

Nick Folk K (1yr $1.6m)

Davon Godchaux DT (2yrs $15m)

Lawrence Guy DT (4yrs $11.5m)

Hunter Henry TE (3yrs $37.5m)

Matt Judon OLB (4yrs $54.5m)

Ted Karras C (1yr $3m)

Marcus Martin G (1yr $1.1m)

Raekwon McMillan MLB (1yr $1.1m)

Jalen Mills SS (4yrs $24m)

LaRoy Reynolds MLB (1yr $1.1m)

Devin Smith WR (1yr $1m)

Jonnu Smith TE (4yrs $50m)

Kyle Van Noy OLB (2yrs $12m)

James White RB (1yr $2.5m)

Deatrich Wise DE (4yrs $22m)


Best Signing – Hunter Henry

Take your pick here! The Patriots have either signed or re-signed 23 veteran free agents so far this season. I could have sat on the fence and named both Tight End’s but I have removed the splinters and given Henry the nod. Henry has his injury issues, and has yet to play 16 games in his 5 seasons so far, but the addition of Jonnu Smith should make sure the Patriots will continue to get production from the position. It might not be possible to have less production from the Tight End position as the Patriots had last year, (20 catches for 254 yards, 1 TD, from Izzo, Asiasi and Keene) so anything they added this offseason is going to be an improvement.


Out /Un-signed

Beau Allen DT

Michael Barnett DT

Adam Butler DT

Terrance Brooks FS

Rex Burkhead RB

Damiere Byrd WR

Shilique Calhoun OLB

Brandon Copeland OLB

Julian Edelman WR

Jermaine Eluemunor G

James Ferentz C

Brian Hoyer QB

Marqise Lee WR

Jason McCourty CB

Michael Pinckey LB

Ross Reynolds G

Justin Rohrwasser K

John Simon DE

Joe Thuney G

Dustin Woodard C


Biggest Loss – Julian Edelman

Anybody that watched Julian Edelman play last season, or heard the rumours coming from the Patriots beat reporters that he had been playing through multiple injuries the last two seasons wont have been surprised to hear of his retirement. Whilst he may not have been as productive playing with Cam Newton, his infectious work ethic, enthusiasm, and competitiveness is a monumental loss for the Patriots, the likes of which they haven’t seen since….Tom Brady.


First 3 draft picks

1st round, pick 15

2nd round, pick 46

3rd round, pick 96


What are their draft needs?

  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.


What remaining free agent should they target?

  1. QB – AJ McCarron – Realistically they shouldn’t sign any available free agent Quarterbacks as none are an improvement on Newton, but McCarron is the best of a bad bunch.

  2. WR – Damiere Byrd – Bit of a boring one but Byrd was solid last year and would be even better if he was the 4th/5th option rather than the 1st /2nd he was last year.

  3. OT – Eric Fisher – Bill Belichick has a habit of taking a look at former first round picks, not sure a veteran Tackle is what they need this year though.


New York Jets


In/Re-signed

Josh Andrews C (1yr $1m)

Keelan Cole WR (1yr $5.5m)

Tevin Coleman RB (1yr $1.1m)

Vinny Curry DE (1yr $1.3m)

Corey Davis WR (3yrs $37.5m)

Jarrad Davis MLB (1yr $5.5m)

Pat Elflein G (3yrs $13.5m)

Dan Feeney G (1yr $3.5m)

Justin Hardee CB (3yrs $6.8m)

LaMarcus Joyner FS (1yr $3m)

Tyler Kroft TE (1yr $2m)

Carl Lawson DE (3yrs $45m)

Del’Shawn Phillips LB (1yr 0.8k)

Sheldon Rankins DT (2yrs $11m)


Best Signing – Tevin Coleman

The New York Jets have quietly gone about making some big improvements to their roster from last year. Elflein at Guard, Davis & Cole at Wide Receiver, and Lawson & Rankins on the Defensive Line are instant upgrades. However, Tevin Coleman on a 1 year $1.1m deal could be the bargain of the season. Coleman struggled with injuries and the form of Raheem Mostert in San Francisco, but if he can recover his Atlanta form as a dual threat passing and rushing the Jets could have a viable replacement for Le’Veon Bell for a fraction of the price.


Out/Un-signed

Henry Anderson DE

Tarell Basham OLB

Daniel Brown TE

Trevon Coley DT

Matthias Farley SS

Frank Gore RB

Neville Hewitt MLB

Joe Flacco QB

Harvey Langi MLB

Bryce Hager MLB

Jordan Jenkins OLB

Frankie Luvu LB

Arthur Maulet CB

Bradley McDougald SS

Patrick Onwuasor MLB

Breshad Perriman WR

Brian Poole CB

Ross Travis TE


Biggest Loss – Brian Poole

Poole isn’t a household name, he’s not in fact a particularly outstanding player, but he is a solid starting Corner Back, which is something that the Jets have not replaced so far this season. Henry Anderson is arguably the best player that the Jets lost, but in Carl Lawson they have actually upgraded the position. The only Corner Back that has been brought in so far is Justin Hardee from the Saints, a depth option with only 1 career interception.


First 3 draft picks

1st round, pick 2

1st round, pick 3

2nd round, pick 34



What are their draft needs?

  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 remaining free agent should they target?

  1. Quarterback – Matt Moore – Hear me out. Moore would be signed to be a backup to help develop Wilson. He is a veteran who can step in if required and not embarrass himself, but he would not put any pressure on Wilson. He is very familiar with the AFC East too having spent 6 years with the Dolphins.

  2. Literally Anybody (Part 1) – Kwon Alexander – Still only 27 years old, Alexander could form a formidable partnership with a returning CJ Mosley. They have the cap room to do it.

Literally Anybody (Part 2) – Stephen Gostkowski – “Ghost” had a poor start in Tennessee last season but quietly improved missing only one kick after Week 9. McLaughlin and Ficken have proven they aren’t the answer.