Draft Grades

AFC East draft grades: Jets snagged Jamal Adams ... and what?

Former NFL player/scout Bucky Brooks and Around The NFL's Conor Orr are performing a division-by-division assessment of the 2017 NFL Draft, spotlighting notable picks and handing out grades for each team. Below is Conor's review of the AFC East.


BEST PICK: Charles Harris, DE/OLB, Missouri
Miami Dolphins, Round 1, No. 22 overall

Head coach Adam Gase and the entire Dolphins personnel department seemed interested in layering the team with badass after badass in this year's draft, beginning with Missouri defensive end/outside linebacker Charles Harris. Demonstrating an intimate knowledge of the club's defensive goals, Miami is getting another pocket closer for Ndamukong Suh. He can also learn under the wonderful and ageless Cameron Wake. All of a sudden, this defense has taken on a 2000s Steelers feel, in the best possible way.

MOST SURPRISING PICK: Marcus Maye, S, Florida
New York Jets, Round 2, No. 39 overall

I realize the Jets are shopping former first-round pick Calvin Pryor and might cut ties with 28-year-old Marcus Gilchrist at some point soon because he's coming off knee surgery and due to make $6 million in each of the next two seasons, but this pick just confused me a bit. If they are not able to recoup value for Pryor, what is the plan and who suffers? Why punish Gilchrist, who might have been the team's second-best defensive player outside of Leonard Williams last season (he was just that, according to Pro Football Focus)? Building a Legion of Boom is a fine idea if you're one or two players away, but as NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah said on the air during Thursday's first round, the Jets might have the worst roster in professional football right now. Is sitting on your hands while two of the better offensive linemen -- Cam Robinson and Forrest Lamp -- go just a few picks in front of you a good idea? Is passing on a top corner prospect like Sidney Jones the right way to go? This pick has a ton of boom-or-bust potential, of course. Strengthening a strength is how talent-deficient teams can close the gap and maybe the Jets' plan is to match up well with teams like the Patriots and hope they can grind it out on the other side of the ball.

BIGGEST SLEEPER: Zay Jones, WR, East Carolina
Buffalo Bills, Round 2, No. 37 overall

I know what you're thinking: How brave to put a second-round pick as a sleeper ... But in the context of this receiver class, how much more did we hear about the players who ended up going before Jones? In watching a few of his games from last year, I enjoyed the ruggedness. Buffalo needs a lot of help, and this is a player who, at least to me, isn't scared to fight cornerbacks as a blocker even if he's not as strong. He also didn't give up on balls where he was about to get crushed. I don't think Tyrod Taylor has had this type of all-purpose option -- a guy who can do a little bit of everything well -- during his time with the Bills.


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

» Round 3: (No. 83 overall) Derek Rivers, DE, Youngstown State; (85) Antonio Garcia, OT, Troy.

» Round 4: (131) Deatrich Wise, DE, Arkansas.

» Round 6: (211) Conor McDermott, OT, UCLA.

If you include Brandin CooksKony Ealy and Dwayne Allen -- three guys New England landed via trade earlier this offseason, in exchange for the Patriots' picks in Rounds 1, 2, 3 and 4 -- this draft becomes insane and unfair for the Patriots. That said, I think we all understand the Pats are dealing from a different deck. Bill Belichick can now traffic almost exclusively in already-developed, in-prime NFL players. I can't imagine this draft had any particular meaning to him, given the window his team is currently in. As for the players he did draft, Belichick acquired what he seems to like in Rivers and Wise -- two versatile, front-seven defenders who can shift throughout a defense. He also selected two massive offensive linemen -- Garcia (6-foot-6) and McDermott (6-8) -- and handed them over to offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia to put in the pipeline. What kind of grade do you give to someone who does the same thing every year and ends up making the playoffs? (And yes, I am factoring the trade acquisitions into this grade.)

» Round 1: (No. 22 overall) Charles Harris, DE/OLB, Missouri.

» Round 2: (54) Raekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State.

» Round 3: (97) Cordrea Tankersley, CB, Clemson.

» Round 5: (164) Isaac Asiata, OG, Utah; (178) Davon Godchaux, DT, LSU.

» Round 6: (194) Vincent Taylor, DT, Oklahoma State.

» Round 7: (237) Isaiah Ford, WR, Virginia Tech.

As we noted above, the Dolphins are importing attitude by the truckload. Gase won a stare down during his first season with a notoriously cavalier roster and then added some pop with Harris and McMillan (an all-over linebacker who, to me, seems pretty competent against the pass and fights well against the run). If they're able to bring Asiata up to speed technically and have him compete for a guard spot this summer, that's a pretty impressive haul. 

» Round 1: (No. 27 overall) Tre'Davious White, CB, LSU.

» Round 2: (37) Zay Jones, WR, East Carolina; (63) Dion Dawkins, OG, Temple.

» Round 5: (163) Matt Milano, LB, Boston College; (171) Nathan Peterman, QB, Pittsburgh.

» Round 6: (195) Tanner Vallejo, LB, Boise State.

The Bills are in a strange spot here. Doug Whaley played the long game a bit by trading back 17 spots in the first round -- and picking up another 1 for next season -- theoretically putting them in a position to strike in 2018. Chiefs general manager John Dorsey told the team's official website that he was speaking to Whaley daily for about a week. But alas, the stockpile of picks was not enough to save Whaley's job. So we're now left with a team that had a very safe, foundational draft -- Mike Mayock talked about first-round pick White in the same ho-hum manner one might use to describe Ritz crackers -- but no star players who could immediately elevate Sean McDermott's defense. On the bright side, the Bills seem to be auditioning swing linebackers and secured a player in Dawkins who, as McDermott said, will compete at a couple of places on the offensive line.

» Round 1: (No. 6 overall) Jamal Adams, S, LSU.

» Round 2: (39) Marcus Maye, S, Florida.

» Round 3: (79) ArDarius Stewart, WR, Alabama.

» Round 4: (141) Chad Hansen, WR, Cal.

» Round 5: (150) Jordan Leggett, TE, Clemson; (181) Dylan Donahue, DL, West Georgia.

» Round 6: (188) Elijah McGuire, RB, Louisiana-Lafayette; (197) Jeremy Clark, CB, Michigan; (204) Derrick Jones, CB, Mississippi.

If the double-safety maneuver works and Todd Bowles forms the base ingredients of a nasty, versatile defense, then this draft could be exceptional. General manager Mike Maccagnan is in a tough spot partially of his own doing. With such a threadbare roster, he was never going to satisfy a fan base convinced it needs an upgrade at nearly every position save for defensive line -- especially if Jamal Adams doesn't excel from Day 1. Also: Who is playing wide receiver and tight end for this team in 2017? 

Follow Conor Orr on Twitter @ConorOrr.

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