Draft Grades

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AFC East draft grades: Jets all in on Zach Wilson; Bills double down on D-line

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 Dan Parr attempt a division-by-division assessment of the 2021 NFL Draft. Keep in mind that these grades are based on draft hauls alone -- picks traded for veteran players were not taken into account. Below is Dan's review of the AFC East.

NOTABLE SELECTIONS

Best Pick:

Miami Dolphins
Miami Dolphins
Jaelan Phillips
Miami · EDGE

Draft slot: Round 1, No. 18 overall


We heard it repeatedly leading up to the draft: If not for some durability concerns, Phillips likely would have been a top-10 pick this year. So yes, there’s some risk here, but the talent is undeniable -- his pro day performance was something to behold -- and I absolutely love the fit. Brian Flores will find a way to get the most out of his rare ability, and I won’t be surprised if he’s posting double-digit sack seasons sooner rather than later. I’m a big fan of getting the top edge rusher in the draft at No. 18 overall.

Most Surprising Pick:

Miami Dolphins
Miami Dolphins
Jevon Holland
Oregon · SAF

Draft slot: Round 2, No. 36 overall


NFL.com draft analysts Daniel Jeremiah, Bucky Brooks and Lance Zierlein each had TCU’s Trevon Moehrig ranked as the top safety in the draft. In fact, Jeremiah rated the former Horned Frog the No. 16 player in the entire draft. The Dolphins didn’t see things the same way. They made Holland, a 2020 opt-out, the first safety off the board with the 36th overall selection after the Broncos dashed their hopes of choosing North Carolina RB Javonte Williams one pick earlier. There’s a lot to like about Holland, Jeremiah’s 49th-ranked prospect, but this was a pick that caught a lot of folks off guard.

Biggest Sleeper:

Miami Dolphins
Miami Dolphins
Larnel Coleman
UMass Amherst · OT

Draft slot: Round 7, No. 231 overall


I’m going all the way to the third pick of the seventh round to find a deep sleeper out of UMass to keep an eye on for the next few years. Don't just take my word for it -- at least one person paid to study and develop these players thinks he has the potential to work his way into the starting lineup. "He's one of those guys you kind of start to like and you fight for him in your draft meetings and then he's starting for you in a couple of years," an offensive line coach for an AFC team told Zierlein in the months leading up to the draft. Sounds pretty sleeper-like to me. Plus, Brian Flores’ kids were fired up about the selection.

TEAM GRADES

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

Grade
A-
New York Jets
New York Jets
Total picks: 10

Round 1:

Round 2:

Round 4:

Round 5:

Round 6:


The decision to trade Sam Darnold and draft Wilson will make or break Joe Douglas’ tenure as general manager. I have my doubts about whether the BYU QB can live up to the absurd level of hype he has inspired in the past few months, but there’s no denying he’s an exciting talent. Get ready for some juicy off-platform throws, Jets fans! No one will remember this if Wilson doesn’t become a star, but Douglas did some really nice work after making the No. 2 overall pick. In fact, he landed three of Daniel Jeremiah’s top 26 prospects with his first three selections. He parted with a third-round pick to move up nine spots in the first round, but did so to acquire one of the draft’s safest players in Vera-Tucker, a plug-and-play guard. The Jets’ focus on improving the talent around Wilson continued with the selections of Moore -- a dynamo in the slot -- and Carter, an excellent fit for Mike LaFleur’s offense as a complementary back. You could argue the team should have addressed the need at cornerback earlier, but I’m not mad about any of those first four picks. Douglas did his job by making a concerted effort to avoid repeating the Jets’ mistake of failing to give their young QB adequate help.

Grade
A-
Miami Dolphins
Miami Dolphins
Total picks: 7

Round 1:

Round 2:

Round 3:

Round 7:


The dream of landing Ja’Marr Chase or Kyle Pitts at No. 6 was foiled (as was the plan to pick Javonte Williams at No. 36, apparently), but GM Chris Grier still managed to walk away with a highly enticing haul. Miami had to add more juice on offense after ranking near the bottom of the league in explosive play rate last season. There might not be a better way to accomplish said goal than by adding Waddle, a player who drew a comparison to Tyreek Hill last month from NFL.com senior analyst and Pro Football Hall of Famer Gil Brandt. The Dolphins continued to boost Tua Tagovailoa’s supporting cast on Day 2 with the selection of Long, who can team with Mike Gesicki to give the offense a pair of seam stretchers. Eichenberg could easily be the starting right tackle from Day 1, and don’t sleep on the chance for Coleman, the team’s penultimate pick, to develop into a starter down the road. As for Brian Flores’ stout defense, nabbing Phillips was a home run. I raised an eyebrow at the Holland selection with Trevon Moehrig still on the board (which says absolutely nothing about how Holland will fare as a pro). All in all, coming out of the draft with four potential immediate starters is excellent work.

Grade
B-
Buffalo Bills
Buffalo Bills
Total picks: 8

Round 1:

Round 2:

Round 3:

Round 5:

Round 6:

Round 7:


GM Brandon Beane isn’t going to rest until he has a championship-caliber defensive line. The Bills have now spent their top draft pick on D-linemen in each of the last three years, but they haven’t yet seen the results they were hoping for out of Ed Oliver (ninth overall pick in 2019) and A.J. Epenesa (54th overall pick in 2020). After those experiences, they were willing to gamble in Round 1 on Rousseau, who has some boom-or-bust qualities. It will be interesting to see how much he’s used inside, where he made a lot of his hay in his one year of production at Miami. I would have diversified a bit more early on -- addressing needs like cornerback, running back and tight end -- but the Bills took a double-down approach off the edge and at offensive tackle. Basham was getting buzz as a potential surprise first-rounder last week, so finding him at Pick 61 was a nice value. The new twin towers at tackle (Brown 6-foot-8, 311 pounds; Doyle 6-6, 320) are intriguing, with Brown’s upside particularly tantalizing. This draft class might require some patience, but Buffalo is in position to provide it with a roster that was already built to win now.

Grade
B-
New England Patriots
New England Patriots
Total picks: 8

Round 1:

Round 2:

Round 3:

Round 4:

Round 5:

Round 6:

Round 7:


I would have been in favor of the Patriots, coming off an aggressive free agency period, staying on the attack and trading up to land Justin Fields, since I think the drop-off between him and Jones is significant. Instead, the Bears moved up to No. 11 to crown the former Ohio State QB as their new savior, while New England stayed put. Perhaps Jones is a perfect fit as an accurate pocket passer who can efficiently execute Josh McDaniels’ offense, but to slightly alter a quote from another famous MJ, the ceiling doesn’t seem like the roof here. Bill Belichick ended up taking Daniel Jeremiah’s 32nd-ranked prospect with the 15th overall pick. The Patriots found better value later, adding Barmore and Perkins to upgrade the defensive line. Perkins, Jeremiah’s No. 44 prospect, fell into the team’s lap at No. 96, and Barmore showed he could be a dominant force down the stretch last season. However, New England didn’t pick a WR until the final round and failed to address its need for a cornerback. Nixon could be a guy who outperforms his draft slotting, though, and I look forward to watching Stevenson’s formidable brand of power football at the next level.

Follow Dan Parr on Twitter.

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