In this series, the Last Word on Sports NFL department will be selecting the best players in each division by position. Taking a look at the AFC East offense, let’s take a look at the best of the best in the division…
2021 AFC East All-Division Team: The Offense
Quarterback: Josh Allen, Bills
Looking across the division, the New York Jets will have rookie Zach Wilson under center, the Miami Dolphins enter year two of Tua Tagovailoa, and the New England Patriots have a competition between Cam Newton and rookie Mac Jones. In other words, there is a lot up in the air as to the production potential for each team’s quarterback.
As for the Buffalo Bills, quarterback Josh Allen is entering year four as an MVP hopeful. After posting elite numbers in 2020, there is no reason to expect anything less of the former first-round pick. Buffalo made all the right moves in retaining all of Allen’s weapons, blockers, and coaches from last season. Chances are, Allen will not only be in the MVP conversation but lead the Bills deep in the playoffs
Running Back: Damien Harris, Patriots
Here lies arguably every AFC East team’s worst position group. No team in the division has a definitive starting running back who will play every down. Rather, each one is likely to utilize a committee backfield.
New England’s Damien Harris enters 2021 as the best back. In his second year out of Alabama, Harris quietly broke out with 691 rushing yards and an average of five yards per carry. While he did not have the biggest impact in the passing game, Harris has the upside to establish himself as a lead back for the Patriots this season.
Wide Receiver: Stefon Diggs, Bills
As previously mentioned, the Bills bring back Allen’s entire supporting staff, including the best receiver in the AFC East, Stefon Diggs. In his first year with Allen, Diggs led the league in receiving yards (1,535) and in receptions (127). There is no question the Maryland product is the leader in the receiver clubhouse. There is even an argument to be made he is a top-three receiver in the entire league.
Wide Receiver: Corey Davis, Jets
This was an interesting spot, ultimately going to Corey Davis for two reasons. The first is he is coming off a career year, where he averaged 15.1 yards per reception on his way to 984 yards receiving. The second is he enters an offense with New York that has him as their number one receiver. At only 26-years-old, if Davis can stay healthy, he can firmly establish himself below Diggs as the second-best wideout in the division.
It is also worth noting the potential of other receivers who barring a breakout season could overtake Davis’ spot. The Dolphins have a trio of receivers in DeVante Parker, Will Fuller V, and Jaylen Waddle who have high upside. Meanwhile, the Patriots hope someone can lead their unit after a disappointing 2020 season in the passing game.
Slot Receiver: Cole Beasley, Bills
Cole Beasley was an easy pick here at slot receiver. After all, he has consistently been among the top slot targets in the game for years now. Last year, Beasley posted career highs with 82 receptions and 967 yards. Beasley will continue to be a playmaker for Buffalo in 2021, even though he is now 32 years old.
Tight End: Mike Gesicki, Dolphins
This off-season, the Patriots brought in tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry, who are two talented targets. Then again, Miami’s Mike Gesicki remains one of the more underrated players in the NFL today.
Coming out of Penn State, Gesicki was compared to Rob Gronkowski, and for good reason. He is a phenomenal athlete who is more than just a red zone threat. Gesicki is dangerous all over the field and has improved each year. As he enters his fourth and final year of his rookie contract, he is going to be hungry to prove he deserves to be considered one of the position’s youngest stars.
Left Tackle: Mekhi Becton, Jets
In the AFC East, there are two great left tackles – Bills Dion Dawkins and Patriots Isaiah Wynn. Both are excellent blindside protectors who are criminally underrated.
At the same time, neither has the potential of Gang Green’s Mekhi Becton. As a rookie, “Mount” Becton quickly proved that he is more than just a 6’7” and 364-pound beast. Becton blows through opposing defenders with ease, and at one point led tackles AFC Pro Bowl voting. As long as he can stay healthy in his second season, there is no reason why he cannot turn that Pro Bowl upside into a reality.
Left Guard: Michael Onwenu, Patriots
Every year, there are rookies who come out of nowhere and perform at an elite level. This past season, Patriots Michael Onwenu did exactly that.
Taken in the sixth round out of Michigan, Onwenu played 92% of offensive snaps across 16 starts. Onwenu’s 84.3 overall grade from Pro Football Focus ranked eighth among 79 qualifying guards. Already, the Patriots had an elite offensive line, but with Onwenu’s play, the team was comfortable letting Joe Thuney, one of the top guards in the game, walk in free agency. No team does that unless they are confident their guy to maintain his level of performance. And if 2020 was any indication, Onwenu is going to be a staple along that line for a very long time.
Center: David Andrews, Patriots
Speaking of long-time Patriots offensive lineman, David Andrews seemingly has been around for years but is only entering his sixth season. After missing the 2019 season with a pulmonary embolism, Andrews returned playing at a high level. Andrews started 12 games for Bill Belichick in 2020 and reminded everyone why he has set the standard in the AFC East for centers.
Right Guard: Shaq Mason, Patriots
If anyone is surprised that the Patriots have three offensive linemen on this All-AFC East team – don’t be. Belichick has done an amazing job turning this unit into a consistent powerhouse that continues to develop talent no matter what. However, Shaq Mason is currently the longest-tenured of the Patriots starting lineman.
Since 2015, the former fourth-round pick has started 83 of 88 games. Like his former teammate Joe Thuney, the fact he has not made a Pro Bowl is ridiculous. For the past five years, Mason has ranked among the top ten guards in football according to PFF. If that is not crazy enough, he will only be 28 years old in 2021. Simply put, Mason is easily the division’s best offensive lineman, regardless of position.
Right Tackle: Daryl Williams, Bills
Truth be told, the AFC East has three solid right tackles. New England’s Trent Brown is an absolute mauler, and New York’s Morgan Moses comes from the Washington Football Team having never missed a game in his career.
Nevertheless, Buffalo’s Daryl Williams is the pick here at right tackle. The former Carolina Panther had an excellent 2020 campaign and earned a three-year extension with the team this off-season. Between Wiliams and Dawkins, the Bills have a great tackle duo long-term to protect Josh Allen.
Be sure to check out the AFC East All-Divison Defensive Team.
Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images