A couple of weeks ago I broke down the AFC East, pre draft to get an idea how our Dolphins stacked up in what should be a very competitive AFC East division. I can tell you this, our rivals in this division caught up nicely by adding a significant amount of talent via the draft, especially the New York Jets. The Jets were loaded with draft capital, and parlayed that into a very nice draft haul. They came into the draft with two first round and two second round picks and then with a bold move traded back into round 1 to select their THIRD pick in the first round. The Bills had a decent draft adding a couple of prospects loved by some of our FMU brethren. The Patriots had an odd draft, to put it mildly. Our Dolphins were bereft of any high picks due to the trade for WR Tyreek Hill and the Dolphins chose not to trade by using any future draft capital, despite being armed well next year with two 1st round and two 2nd round picks. Our first selection this year was a very late, compensatory pick at #102.
NEW YORK JETS
As I alluded to, the Jets came into the draft with two picks in the top 10, #4 and #10. Their first pick reflects the necessity to be able to cover elite receivers as the AFC East has a few, with the Bills having Stefon Diggs and Gabriel Davis, the Dolphins having both Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, and the Patriots with DeVante Parker and Kendrick Bourne. The Jets took CB Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner at #4. Gardner, a brash, confident, lengthy CB out of Cincinnati didn’t allow a TD to a receiver last season. Well, welcome to the AFC East, where it will become commonplace. At #10, the Jets selected Ohio St. WR Garret Wilson. Two very strong picks so far and then a trade back into the first round at #26 netted the Jets the pass rusher they need in Florida St. DE Jermaine Johnson. The Jets first selection in RD 2 was another favorite here on FMU, RB Breece Hall. Four excellent picks should infuse this Jets with talent to compete. Robert Saleh must be pleased, as the Jets had already upgraded the O-line in free agency by adding OG Laken Tomlinson and a couple of TE’s in C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin. If their 2nd year QB Zach Wilson can get on track with his new WR Garret Wilson, and the O-line can create holes for new RB Breece Hall, their offense will be better and the defense should improve as well with Sauce and Johnson. How quickly though will be the key.
The Bills were not lost on the talent infusion at WR in the AFC East either, with the Dolphins adding Tyreek Hill and already having Jaylen Waddle, along with the Patriots getting DeVante Parker to the Jets drafting Garret Wilson. The Bills first pick was CB Kaiir Elam from Florida, another taller, fast CB. In RD 2, probably earlier than expected, the Bills took another FMU fave RB James Cook. That Bills offense just keeps adding pieces. In RD 6, the bills broke many hearts here as they snagged the best punter in the universe, Matt Araiza. The Bills were already a strong team and their draft should help them stay that way. As was pointed out here, does a team that scores over 28 PPG need the best punter?
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
I wouldn’t say Bill Belichick’s genius was ever considered to be present in his drafting ability, and this year’s draft was no exception. Their first pick at #29 in round 1 was Strange. Literally, the Patriots selected OG/C prospect Cole Strange of Tennessee-Chatanooga. To be fair, I liked Strange as a pick for our Dolphins, he’s a nimble footed, smart OL who can play any inside position on the line, although he has never actually played C and therefore has never snapped in gameplay. He was pretty much rated as a 3rd RD pick but Bill Belichick pulled the trigger and got his guy. In RD 2, possibly another pick in which he drafted a player expected to be taken later. The Patriots grabbed speedy WR Tyquan Thornton from Baylor, the tall lanky WR ran a blistering 4.28 40 at the combine. Nevertheless, he was expected to be a late 3rd round or 4th round pick. The Patriots added a CB who will likely be a ST’s player in the 4th RD.
Our Dolphins, as previously mentioned didn’t have much draft capital left after the Tyreek Hill trade, but the Dolphins remained patient and stayed pat with they had. At pick #102, the Dolphins took Georgia LB Channing Tindall. Tindall is a very athletic LB who is a dept at blitzing which really fits this defensive style, and he has exceptional closing speed, which is really evident when you watch any reels available on the kid. He was a part time player on a very talented Georgia defense, with Nakobe Dean being the best known LB. With Elandon Roberts, a bit stockier fireplug of a LB in place, Tindall will most likely still be a part time player in ’22, but if he shows up quick, as Zach Thomas did back in ’96, perhaps he’ll be inside next to #55 Jerome Baker all season. The Dolphins second pick was Texas Tech WR Erik Ezukanma (Eh-zoo-comma). Ezukanma is a big WR similarly sized to DeVante Parker at 6’2 220, and displays some similar traits as an aggressive catcher of the football who will go up and get the football. Definitely nice value in RD 4. We used the first of remaining 7th RD picks on OLB/DE Cameron Goode from California. We need depth there but Goode will have a fight on his hands to make the 53. More than likely he’s a PS candidate at best. With our last pick, we took QB Skylar Thompson from Kansas St. The Dolphins currently have 4 QB’s, with Tua Tagovailoa, Teddy Bridgewater, Chris Streveler and now Skylar Thompson. With the injury histories of our top 2 QB’s, it’s not crazy to add some depth. Regardless, both QB’s will likely be on the PS.
So after the draft, my initial impression is the Jets easily improved the most after the draft. They were set up nicely to add lots of talent and GM Joe Douglas didn’t disappoint. We’ve seen teams improve quickly, think LA Rams with a young HC Sean McVay. Can HC Robert Saleh get this young squad to mesh together quickly as McVay did with the Rams? That remains to be seen, but on paper, the Jets improved the most. The Patriots seemed to tread water if you ask me, I don’t see this team making any great strides this season due to the talent infusion in ’22. They may even take a step back, although it’s hard to bet against Bill Belichick. The Bills added an important piece to the secondary if CB Kaiir Elam can show he’s NFL ready and a nice piece to their run game with RB James Cook. The Bills are already the class of the AFC east but they better have eyes in the back of their head. Our Dolphins did the heavy lifting in free agency and via the trade, adding LT Terron Armstead and WR Tyreek Hill. We also added slot WR Cedrick Wilson, added a couple of RB’s in Raheem Mostert and Chase Edmonds as well as a very good FB in Alec Ingold. Just as important, we basically brought back our entire defense intact by re-signing everyone whose contracts were up, a nice job by Grier and a promising sign that everyone wanted to come back. I think our division just got a lot more competitive, but the Bills are at the top until someone knocks them off. Hope it’s us!