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AFC East draft grades: Jets finally get their man in Sam Darnold

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Why provide instant grades on the selections of prospects who have yet to take an NFL snap? Well, you're reading this, aren't you? Considering the makeup of every roster and the factors surrounding each pick, Gennaro Filice and Nick Shook attempt a division-by-division assessment of the 2018 NFL Draft. Below is Nick's review of the AFC East.

NOTABLE SELECTIONS

BEST PICK: Sam Darnold, QB, USC
New York Jets, Round 1, No. 3 overall

New York gave up plenty to move up, but after that whole tanking plan didn't exactly work out, the Jets still landed their presumed guy. This ends up being the best pick not because of smarts or maneuvering, but simply because -- after spending the last half-decade waffling on the quarterback position and avoiding making the decisive move at the position -- the Jets finally did it! They finally went all in on the future of their franchise. They chose the quarterback with the highest ceiling who could benefit from playing behind a wise veteran. Look at that: The Jets have Josh McCown on their roster. The future isn't now, but it's close -- closer than it's been in some time.

MOST SURPRISING PICK: Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Alabama
Miami Dolphins, Round 1, No. 11 overall

Instant reaction was more of a "Huh?" than a high five, because this was a team that definitely didn't need secondary help. No problem with bolstering a plus area with a top-level talent, though. Fitzpatrick ends up in the ideal situation, left to play to his strengths in a good secondary instead of playing with immediate All-Pro expectations. It was an initial surprise, but definitely not a bad choice.

BIGGEST SLEEPER: Braxton Berrios, WR, Miami
(New England Patriots), Round 6, No. 210 overall

Berrios is the perfect fit for the Patriots, perhaps the best prospect-team fit in this entire group. The 5-foot-9, 184-pound receiver could step in to replace the departed Danny Amendola (Lance Zierlein's pro comparison for Berrios in his NFL.com draft profile is, uncoincidentally, Amendola), fitting the mold as the latest diminutive, overlooked wideout (Amendola, Wes Welker, Julian Edelman) to make an impact in New England's offense. In a division filled with sensible higher selections and plenty of unknowns in later rounds, this one feels almost too perfect.

TEAM GRADES

NOTE: Draft classes are ranked from best to worst within the division.

RANK

T-1

DOLPHINS: B+

» Round 1: (No. 11 overall) Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Alabama.
» Round 2: (42) Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State.
» Round 3: (73) Jerome Baker, LB, Ohio State.
» Round 4: (123) Durham Smythe, TE, Notre Dame; (131) Kalen Ballage, RB, Arizona State.
» Round 6: (209) Cornell Armstrong, DB, Southern Miss.
» Round 7: (227) Quentin Poling, LB, Ohio; (229) Jason Sanders, K, New Mexico.

Fitzpatrick was a man without a position, but found perhaps his best landing spot in a secondary that was already a strength of the Dolphins. He'll be able to contribute with minimal expectations, perhaps primarily as a nickelback -- the role in which he flourished at Alabama. Miami filled a pass-catching need at tight end with Gesicki, who is essentially this draft's Evan Engram (that worked out pretty well for the G-Men) and won't be needed to flatten defenders in the run game. Raekwon McMillan must have made quite the impression before his injury because, for the second straight year, Miami selected an Ohio State linebacker. Ballage projects to form a nice 1-2 punch in the backfield with Kenyan Drake once Frank Gore's homecoming tour is finished.

RANK

T-1

PATRIOTS: B+

» Round 1: (No. 23 overall) Isaiah Wynn, OT, Georgia; (31) Sony Michel, RB, Georgia.
» Round 2: (56) Duke Dawson, CB, Florida.
» Round 5: (143) Ja'Whaun Bentley, LB, Purdue.
» Round 6: (178) Christian Sam, LB, Arizona State; (210) Braxton Berrios, WR, Miami.
» Round 7: (219) Danny Etling, QB, LSU; (243) Keion Crossen, DB, Western Carolina; (250) Ryan Izzo, TE, Florida State.

While many expected New England to go quarterback at No. 23 -- especially with Lamar Jackson still on the board -- the Patriots instead addressed an immediate need, selecting Wynn in an unusually murky year for tackles. Wynn projects for most as a guard, but his versatility adds value for a Patriots team looking to replace tackle Nate Solder. From there, New England continued to plug holes, adding Michel to replace Dion Lewis and Dawson to replace Malcolm Butler. Top to bottom, this might not be the prettiest draft in the division, but stands a good chance to end up being the most valuable. And yes, the Patriots took a quarterback, but let's not put successor weight on Etling's shoulders.

RANK

T-3

BILLS: B

» Round 1: (No. 7 overall) Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming; (16) Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech.
» Round 3: (96) Harrison Phillips, DT, Stanford.
» Round 4: (121) Taron Johnson, CB, Weber State.
» Round 5: (154) Siran Neal, S, Jacksonville State; (166) Wyatt Teller, OG, Virginia Tech.
» Round 6: (187) Ray-Ray McCloud, WR, Clemson.
» Round 7: (255) Austin Proehl, WR, North Carolina.

The top pick here generates the most buzz, but I'm in the group that thinks he doesn't end up panning out, due to multiple red flags too often covered up by a rare arm. My opinion on Allen's fate aside, the potential is still there, and Buffalo didn't have to move into the top four to take him. It was just one of many maneuvers made by GM Brandon Beane, who's attempting to quickly reshape Buffalo's roster in his image. His efforts saw their best two additions come in the next two picks: Edmunds and Phillips, who both bring Day 1-starter potential. Phillips, a 1-technique who could also slide out to the 3 in Buffalo, is the ideal replacement for Kyle Williams, who's close to retirement. McCloud is a guy who didn't get a ton of looks at Clemson, but had a solid NFL Scouting Combine workout and could end up being a late-round value guy.

RANK

T-3

JETS: B

» Round 1: (No. 3 overall) Sam Darnold, QB, USC.
» Round 3: (72) Nathan Shepherd, DT, Fort Hays State.
» Round 4: (107) Chris Herndon, TE, Miami.
» Round 6: (179) Parry Nickerson, CB, Tulane; (180) Foley Fatukasi, DT, Connecticut; (204) Trenton Cannon, RB, Virginia State.

The strength of this class relies heavily on the potential of Darnold at No. 3 overall, but is supplemented by Shepherd's value as an immediate starter on New York's defense. From there, we have more unknowns, with Herndon arriving as a raw prospect with plenty of athletic ability, enough to validate a fourth-round selection and anticipated learning year behind Jordan Leggett and Clive Walford. Eventually, he could be seen as quite a value grab, should he turn that athleticism into productivity.

Follow Nick Shook on Twitter @TheNickShook.

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