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Draft Review: AFC East

Did anyone improve enough to challenge the Patriots in 2014? Greg Gabriel

May 17, 2014
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The goal of every team in the AFC East is to catch the New England Patriots. After a quick look at the drafts of Miami, Buffalo and the New York Jets, I’m not sure they have done that. In fact, when you throw in free agency, the Patriots may have pulled away a little.

New York Jets

Going into the draft, the rumor mill suggested the Jets wanted to trade up to select LSU receiver Odell Beckham. We will never know if that is true, as the Giants selected Beckham at the #12 slot.

The Jets had strong needs at corner and wide receiver. They didn’t begin to address those positions until the third round. In the first round, they chose Louisville safety Calvin Pryor who was, without a doubt, the most physical safety on the board. He is a downhill run support player who has good cover skills. Some have described him as a Rex Ryan type of player and that may well be true.

Second round pick, tight end Jace Amaro, is really more of a big wide receiver. At Texas Tech, he seldom played in tight and his blocking can be described as average at best. As a receiver, he is fluid and can get in and out of cuts quickly, He has great hands and will be a red zone threat.

Some felt that Maryland corner Dexter McDougle was a reach going in the third round. I can’t agree. Dexter injured his shoulder early in the season, but based off of early tape, he looked as if he was going to have an outstanding season. He certainly has the skills.

The Jets took two receivers with their next two picks. Oklahoma’s Jalen Saunders is a tough little slot receiver who plays bigger than his listed size, UCLA’s Shaq Evans is a Notre Dame transfer who came on strong in the 2013 season. He can be a very capable outside receiver for the Jets.

Tackle Dakota Dozier from Furman is a raw IAA player with upside. He will be a tackle/guard reserve while he develops. Getting Tajh Boyd late is a potential steal. Boyd played a lot of football at Clemson and was very productive. He may not have potential starter traits, but he can be a very solid backup.

Buffalo Bills

I have already written that trading away next year’s first round pick for a receiver was/is a mistake. You make that trade when you are one player away from a Super Bowl run, not many players away from challenging for a possible playoff spot.

Still, Sammy Watkins was the class of this year’s wide receiver class. He is perhaps the best receiver to come into the NFL since A.J. Green and Julio Jones. He has great hands, and is a physical runner with the ball in his hands. He still needs some route running development.

There is no question that huge tackle Cyrus Kouandjio is a talent. On tape, he looks like a first round pick. Still, he has a bad knee and many teams had him off their boards. The question is not if he can play, it’s how long will he play? When you compare tape from his freshman year in 2011 to 2013 tape, there is a noticeable drop off in his movement skills. It will only get worse.

Preston Brown is a solid pick. He can come in and play Mike or Sam linebacker and allow last year’s rookie sensation Kiko Alonzo to move to Will. Duke corner Ross Cockrell is an excellent fourth round pick. He has very good size and speed to go along with top ball skills. He will earn playing time as a rookie.

Early this past season, the draftnik community thought Cyril Richardson was going to be a premium round pick. Richardson played too heavy at Baylor and got his weight down for the combine and his pro day. If he can keep his weight in the 320’s, he has the talent to be a solid starting guard in the NFL.

There is no denying seventh round pick Seantrel Henderson’s talent. Coming out of high school, he was the most highly recruited tackle in his class. The big question is does he really “want it”. While he was at Miami, he had a hard time staying clean. If that carries over to the NFL, his career will be short lived.

Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins had a big need to upgrade their offensive line, especially at the tackle position. When the top four offensive linemen all came off the board before the Dolphins pick, they reached for Tennessee tackle Ja’Wuan James. Yes, James has the talent to be an NFL starter, but he is a right tackle only with medical issues. Many clubs had him red flagged. The Dolphins may have been able to trade back to the top of the second round and still get him.

Before the combine, many felt that LSU receiver Jarvis Landry was going to be a first round pick, He ran poorly and his measurable drill work was average at the combine. That carried over to his pro day. Still, Landry is a quality receiver who knows how to get open and has great hands. The player he reminds me of coming out of college is Anquan Boldin. If you recall, Boldin couldn’t break 4.0 when he ran.

North Dakota State tackle Billy Turner dominated IAA competition but struggled when he played top IA players at the Senior Bowl. He has a lot of upside but just needs some time and coaching. Liberty corner Walt Atkins started his college career at Illinois. He has the traits to be an eventual starter in the league, perhaps late in his rookie year. A quality pick.

Arthur Lynch is an old fashioned “Y” tight end. He can block with the best of them and is a solid short-to-intermediate range receiver. Montana’s Jordan Tripp has top instincts to go along with very good athleticism. He just needs to get a little bigger and stronger. Tripp has tremendous upside.

New England Patriots

Had Dominique Easley not had two ACL injuries, no one would question this pick. When healthy, Easely is a dominant inside player with quickness and power. Obviously, the Patriots medical staff was good with his knee.

Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was one of the most talked about small school quarterbacks in years. Garoppollo put up some huge numbers at Eastern Illinois and had, perhaps, the quickest release of any quarterback in the draft. It will be great for him to sit and learn for a few years behind Tom Brady.

Florida State’s Bryan Stork has position versatility in that he can play guard or center. This is a solid pick and a player who will become an eventual starter for the Pats. James White was used to playing in a rotation while at Wisconsin. That’s what he will do in the NFL. He is a quick, instinctive, inside runner with patience. He is also a very reliable receiver. He will fit in well with the Pats' offense.

The Patriots next two picks were quality selections. Stanford’s Cam Fleming can play right tackle or guard and Florida’s Jon Halapio is a guard/center. Having that position versatility gets you on the field faster and both have eventual starter traits.

Last pick, Michigan receiver Jeremy Gallon is very interesting. He does not have good size, but he is fearless and has excellent quickness. He can be an ideal slot receiver in the Patriots' offense. Gallon also has return skills.

Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe

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