AFC East 2020 NFL Draft Grades

AFC East Draft Grades
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As the first-ever NFL virtual draft has come and gone, the quarantine provided fans a glimpse into what happens behind the scenes. From the heartwarming reactions to seeing Bill Belichick’s dog guarding his notes, the draft had everything. And for the teams of the AFC East, it was the beginning of a Tom Brady-less era. Let’s take a look at the AFC East NFL Draft grades to see which team came away with the best haul as the division is up for grabs for the first time in two decades.

Divisional Draft Grades: AFC NorthAFC SouthAFC WestNFC EastNFC NorthNFC SouthNFC West

AFC East 2020 NFL Draft Grades

Buffalo Bills: B-

Players Added: DE AJ Epenesa, RB Zack Moss, WR Gabriel Davis, QB Jake Fromm, K Tyler Bass, WR Isaiah Hodgins, CB Dane Jackson

One of the most impressive teams in 2019 with a 10-6 record and playoff berth, the Buffalo Bills set out to add weapons around quarterback Josh Allen. That being said, it led them to acquire star receiver Stefon Diggs from the Minnesota Vikings in exchange for their first-round pick. Yet somehow, the Bills landed a first-round talent at 54th overall in Iowa’s AJ Epenesa. A powerful defensive end, Epenesa is going to have an immediate impact in Buffalo’s 4-3 scheme. While he lacks speed and athleticism off the edge, Epenesa utilizes the strength of his 6’5” and 275-pound frame to bully his way into the backfield. 

Come round three, the team added Utah power back Zack Moss to their backfield. Moss will step in right away into the bruiser role Frank Gore held last season. A patient back with a violent running style, he should be a great complement to Devin Singletary. However, that is assuming his running style does not lead to injury. In 2018, he suffered a season-ending torn meniscus and missed a game in 2019 with an AC joint sprain. 

Even with the addition of Diggs, the Bills prioritized adding talent in the receiver room. First came Gabriel Davis in round four, who brings a big target who can stretch the field. An outside receiver who wins with his physicality, Davis is a perfect target for Allen’s arm. However, he needs to work on his route tree and his release to become a true threat. 

The biggest surprise of the draft came in the fifth round when they took Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm. With Matt Barkley under contract up after 2020, Fromm not only provides a future backup but one with a ton of talent. It is an odd pick, given Fromm is the opposite of Allen as a game manager with limited arm strength. 

In the sixth round, the Bills added Georgia Southern’s Tyler Bass to compete in an already-crowded kicking room with Kaare Vedvik and veteran Stephen Hauschka. Joining Davis in the receiver room is Oregon State’s Isaiah Hodgins. He has below-average speed and route running, but his frame makes him a huge red zone threat. Lastly, in round seven, they added Pittsburgh’s Dane Jackson for depth, and he can play special teams. 

Miami Dolphins: A-

Players Added: QB Tua Tagovailoa, OT Austin Jackson, CB Noah Igbinoghene, OT Robert Hunt, DT Raekwon Davis, S Brandon Jones, OG Solomon Kindley, DE Jason Strowbridge, EDGE Curtis Weaver, LS Blake Ferguson, WR Malcolm Perry

The Miami Dolphins were expected to utilize their draft capital to trade to have two picks in the top five. Instead, they held their ground, adding youth and talent to their roster. It began by taking quarterback Tua Tagovailoa from Alabama. Tagovailoa has all the tools to become an elite quarterback with great accuracy, decision-making, mobility, and arm strength. His injury history is alarming and caused uncertainty in the pre-draft process, but the Dolphins are confident as they passed his physical. Tagovailoa is a once-in-a-generation talent who the Dolphins can either start out of the gate or allow to regain full strength and learn from Ryan Fitzpatrick in his first year.

After taking Tagovailoa fifth overall, the Dolphins added protection upfront in the raw left tackle from USC Austin Jackson. The fifth tackle taken, he has high upside if he can fix his footwork and become more consistent. Joining Tagovailoa and Jackson in round one is Noah Igbinoghene, a cornerback from Auburn. Even with Byron Jones and Xavien Howard, the Dolphins see a future starter once the receiver-turned-corner gets more experience at the position.

For Miami, this draft was all about adding building blocks and talent. The team added Louisiana guard Robert Hunt who the team drafted with the hope to play him at right tackle. On defense, the Dolphins snagged Alabama defensive tackle Raekwon Davis and Texas safety Brandon Jones. At 6’6” and 315 pounds, Davis can play anywhere along the defensive line and disrupt the run or pass game. Meanwhile, Jones has years of starting experience from Texas who will add versatility to their secondary and special teams.

From the fourth round on, the Dolphins focused on depth, adding Georgia guard Solomon Kindley. A gritty and powerful guard, Kindley helps bulk up the interior of the Dolphins offensive line. Along the edge, Jason Strowbridge (North Carolina) adds a stout run defender and disruptor, while Curtis Weaver (Boise State) could be a steal in the sixth round with his pass-rushing ability. The Dolphins also got their long snapper for the foreseeable future in Blake Ferguson from LSU. To close out a deep draft class, the Dolphins took a swing on Navy’s Malcolm Perry. A phenomenal athlete, Perry adds versatility as he can line up as a wildcat quarterback, running back or wide receiver.

New England Patriots: C+

Players Added: S Kyle Dugger, LB Josh Uche, EDGE Anfernee Jennings, TE Devin Asiasi, TE Dalton Keene, K Justin Rohrwasser, OG Michael Onwenu, OG Justin Herron, LB Cassh Maluia, C Dustin Woodard

Head Coach Bill Belichick was never going to panic in filling out his roster in the post-Tom Brady era. Having lost his Hall of Fame quarterback, Belichick played the draft by the book, making trades and drafting players he can make the most of. It began with safety Kyle Dugger from Lenoir Rhyne. The physical small-school safety is going to be a weapon in New England, with the ability to play in the box, make plays in coverage, or even in the return game.

The next two picks for New England saw Belichick double down along the edge of his defense. Josh Uche from Michigan gives New England a talented outside linebacker who can pressure the quarterback, as well as use his athleticism to make plays all over. His instincts are not the greatest, but never doubt Belichick when it comes to getting the most out of a player. As for Anfernee Jennings from Alabama, he never gives up on a play. He knows how to get after the quarterback or stop the run. Both make great fits in the Patriots defense.

Meanwhile, New England also added two different types of tight ends in the third round. UCLA’s Devin Asiasi is a vertical receiving tight end who could be a day-one starter and make an immediate impact in the Patriots pass offense. Then came a shocker — a trade with the Jets. The Patriots traded back into round three to draft Virginia Tech’s Dalton Keene. A swiss army knife who can line up at tight end, H-back or fullback, Keene is a solid blocker who can form a dangerous duo with Asiasi going forward.

The sixth player drafted by the Patriots was Marshall kicker Justin Rohrwasser, who now is the team’s lone kicker. Taking players at the same position back-t0-back again, the Patriots take guards Michael Onwenu (Michigan) and Justin Herron (Wake Forest). Linebacker Cassh Maluia was also taken in the sixth round, adding depth and a likely special teams contributor. And to close out the draft is Memphis center Dustin Woodard as the team’s second natural center.

New York Jets: B+

Players Added: OT Mekhi Becton, WR Denzel Mims, S Ashtyn Davis, EDGE Jabari Zuniga, RB La’Mical Perine, QB James Morgan, OG Cameron Clarke, CB Bryce Hall, P Braden Mann

Prior to the draft, General Manager Joe Douglas promised to protect quarterback Sam Darnold. That being said, taking Louisville offensive tackle Mekhi Becton at 11th overall was a no brainer. At 6’7” and 360 pounds, Becton is a ridiculous athlete who can start right away at left or right tackle for Gang Green. Teams were concerned about his weight, but Becton’s ceiling is too high for the Jets to pass up. 

In round two, Douglas managed to trade down and still land a top wide receiver. Denzel Mims was a late riser who was expected to go round one. Mims possesses an out of this world combination of size and speed as shown at the combine. That is without having a fully-developed route tree or the best release though. Either way, Mims has wide receiver one upside and gives Darnold a new target.

In the third round, the Jets focused on the defensive side of the ball. With the future of safeties Jamal Adams (trade rumors) and Marcus Maye (final year of rookie contract) unknown, the Jets add California’s Ashtyn Davis. Davis is a versatile and athletic defensive safety who can play deep, nickel corner or in the box. He also has experience in the return game too. Then, the Jets took Florida edge rusher Jabari Zuniga, who has the traits to be a consistent pass rusher. He could use more bulk to his frame, nevertheless, he can be an early contributor. 

From there, the Jets, like their division foes, focused on depth. In the fourth round, the Jets took Florida running back La’Mical Perine. In head coach Adam Gase‘s committee backfield approach, Perine should get plenty of touches. Not to mention, the team needed a primary backup to Le’Veon Bell with Bilal Powell a free agent. Florida International quarterback James Morgan was a bit of a reach in round four, but his accuracy and big arm make him a strong addition, especially given the poor quarterback play when Darnold got hurt last season. Charlotte tackle Cameron Clarke gives the Jets a versatile lineman who will kick inside to guard in the NFL. Virginia cornerback Bryce Hall could be the steal of the draft. Falling to the fifth round because of injury concerns, Hall is a big, boundary corner who on pure talent is a day-two prospect. If healthy, Hall has starting corner written all over him. Lastly, the Jets closed out the draft in round 6 by drafting punter Braden Mann from Texas A&M. Without a proven NFL punter on the roster, Mann is the favorite to get the job.

Divisional Draft Grades: AFC EastAFC NorthAFC SouthNFC EastNFC South

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