Former NFL player and scout Bucky Brooks is performing a division-by-division assessment of the 2016 NFL Draft, spotlighting notable picks and handing out grades for each team. Below is his review of the AFC East. (NOTE: Click on the tabs to see other divisional breakdowns.)
The ultra-athletic edge blocker was rated as the No. 1 overall prospect on most draft boards heading into Thursday night, but an epic, surreal social-media sabotage caused Tunsil to fall out of the top 10. While the vivid image of Tunsil apparently taking a bong hit in a gas mask brought his character into question, there are few concerns about his ability to thrive as a franchise tackle in the NFL. He exhibits rare balance and body control on the edges, which means few pro defenders will be able to blow past him on speed rushes from the corner. In addition, Tunsil flashes the lower-body strength to anchor against bull rushes and power maneuvers. Considering the Dolphins' sack woes and offensive-line issues over the past few years, the risk-reward gamble on the No. 1 tackle in the draft could pay off handsomely for Mike Tannenbaum and his staff.
It's not surprising the Jets snagged a quarterback in this draft, but few expected the team to opt for a traditional dropback passer with accuracy issues to potentially step right into the franchise quarterback role. While Hackenberg's supporters will point to his promising freshman season under Bill O'Brien in a pro-style system as a harbinger of his potential, the skeptics wonder if a quarterback who has never completed 60 percent of his throws in a season can become a pinpoint passer at the highest level. Considering his slow trigger and penchant for taking sacks (104 in three college seasons), the Jets are hoping coordinator Chan Gailey can work his magic on a naturally gifted developmental QB who needs plenty of work on his footwork and fundamentals.
The emergence of the "move" tight end as a matchup weapon has prompted more NFL teams to take chances on hybrid pass catchers (tight end/receivers) with crafty route-running skills and sticky hands. Duarte fits the mold as a sleek pass-catching tight end with polished routes and exceptional ball skills. He is an ideal TE2 in the red zone, and his pass-catching prowess could remind Dolphins fans of the work Charles Clay put in during his time in Miami.
NOTE: Draft classes are ranked from best to worst within the division.
Risk management is always a part of the draft process, but the Dolphins might've snagged the top prospect in the entire class in the middle of Round 1. Laremy Tunsil is a freakish athlete who not only possesses the balance, body control and lateral quickness of a true franchise tackle, but he also flashes the power and anchor-ability that coaches covet in a premier edge blocker. Although he might start his career at right tackle or inside at offensive guard, Tunsil could give the Dolphins an elite blind-side protector for the next decade. The Dolphins also upgraded the offense with the additions of Kenyan Drake and Leonte Carroo on Day 2. Drake, in particular, is a dynamic playmaker with potential to create explosive gains as a runner-receiver out of the backfield. Jakeem Grant is an electrifying return man with a spectacular combination of speed and open-field running skills. He could emerge as a difference maker for the Dolphins in the return game. GRADE: A-
The Bills entered the draft intent on rebuilding a defense that failed to live up to the hype in Rex Ryan's debut season. The team's first three picks were designed to improve a front seven that needed a little juice. Shaq Lawson and Adolphus Washington are energetic defenders with hand skills and agility. Lawson should set the edge against the run and provide a spark as a polished pass rusher. Washington is a sack-hungry interior defender with the quickness to press the pocket on finesse moves. With Reggie Ragland also adding some thump as a downhill player with outstanding instincts and awareness, the Bills' defense should return to prominence in 2016. On offense, the Bills scooped up a couple of wild cards with the selections of Cardale Jones and Jonathan Williams on Day 3. Jones is a talented gunslinger with a big arm and sneaky athleticism. If he diligently works on his craft and masters the mental side of the position, "12 Gauge" could emerge as a potential starter down the road. Williams missed all of 2015 with a foot injury, but scouts believe he has the tools to be an RB1 in the right environment. Kolby Listenbee is a sleeper pick to watch. The track star has speed to burn and adds a big-play element to a run-first offense that creates one-on-one chances on the perimeter. GRADE: B+
Despite serious questions surrounding the quarterback position, the Jets elected to fortify their defense in Round 1. Darron Lee is a sideline-to-sideline chaser with the cover skills and pass-rush ability to be a monster as a "dollar" backer in sub-packages. The Ohio State product adds much-needed speed, athleticism and playmaking ability to the Jets' linebacking corps. Jordan Jenkins gives Gang Green a rock-solid defender on the edges. He isn't the most explosive pass rusher, but his workmanlike approach should produce a few disruptive plays. On offense, the Jets took a chance on Christian Hackenberg in Round 2. The selection could be viewed as a reach, based on Hackenberg's spotty play over the past two seasons, but his physical dimensions, arm talent and football aptitude could help him improve his production as a pro. Keep an eye on Charone Peake as a sleeper. The explosive pass catcher has the potential to contribute as a WR4 in Year 1. GRADE: B-
It is hard to take shots at the Patriots' draft-day work, given their dominance of the AFC East for the past 15 years, but their acquisitions are sometimes difficult to comprehend when assessing team needs. New England often bypasses seemingly pressing needs to select players who fit specific roles that Bill Belichick envisions. In this class, the Pats collected a number of two-phase playmakers capable of making contributions as traditional players and special teams demons. Cyrus Jones is an exceptional nickel-corner prospect with outstanding feet, ball skills and instincts. The 'Bama product is well-schooled in the fundamentals, and his disciplined approach is a perfect fit in New England. In addition, Jones is arguably the best punt returner in the draft -- his presence on the roster gives New England yet another option in the return game. Malcolm Mitchell is a talented pass catcher with big-play potential. He is an ascending wide receiver, but also offers versatility and special teams value based on his previous experience as a collegiate defensive back. The selection of quarterback Jacoby Brissett raised some eyebrows, based on the presence of Jimmy Garoppolo and the general value of a top-100 pick. Although the N.C. State product is an intriguing developmental prospect, the quarterback room could have an interesting dynamic with a pair of young gunslingers vying for the No. 2 spot behind Tom Brady. GRADE: C