Eyes On the Competition : AFC East


The Patriots could find themselves in a tricky position if they start slow this year.

The Patriots could find themselves in a tricky position if they start slow this year.

NEPD Staff Writer CJ Sousa

If you’re tired of reading about the dreaded ‘deflategate’ and how New England cuts another cornerback once a week, you have come to the right place.  Eyes On The Competition returns post-draft to breakdown the AFC East, and how things could wind up next year after the draft makeover.

The Tom Brady suspension is still up in the air, but it is safe to assume he will at least miss SOME time.  One game?  Two games?  Personally that’s how I think it will fall.  But who knows, four games is still in play with Captain Touchback hearing the appeal.

My point is New England has been known to start slow with the four time Super Bowl champion quarterback, so how will they look without him?  I was very impressed with Jimmy Garoppolo as he looked great at times last pre-season, however it was PRE-season.  Who really knows what the Patriots will get out of the second year man from Eastern Illinois when the bright lights are on.

If the Patriots start out…gasp… 2-2 or 1-3 per say, the road to their seventh straight division championship and 12th in the last 13 years may be more difficult than usual.  Linked to the team names are my previous articles highlighting the team’s offseason.

New York Jets

Drafted : DE Leonard Williams (USC), WR Devin Smith (Ohio State), OLB Lorenzo Mauldin (Louisville), QB Bryce Petty (Baylor), OG Jarvis Harrison (Texas A&M), DT Deon Simon (Northwestern St.)

My Favorite Pick:  Come on, it must be Leonard Williams.  He was my #1 player on my Patriots big board for a reason.  It was an absolute perfect storm of how Williams fell into the Jets’ lap.  Two quarterbacks to two quarterback needy teams.  The Jaguars electing an explosive pass rusher over the sturdier, solid Williams.  Oakland giving their young gunslinger some playmaker help.  Washington finally decided to bolster their offensive line and BOOM. Best player in the draft falls to #6.  Williams should be a great rotation guy for one of the best defensive fronts in the league from the get-go.

My ‘What the heck are they doing’ pick:  I won’t kill the Jets for a fifth round misfire in my eyes, but Jarvis Harrison wouldn’t have been my play.  At times he looks like an NFL type of a NFL blocker, at times he doesn’t look like he belongs.  Nonetheless, speaks to the strength of the Jets draft when a fifth round pick is the first head scratcher.

Immediate Impact:  Leonard Williams and Devin Smith figure to be in the fold right away.  Williams will bolster an already solid group up front, playing a variety of roles.  Smith will be fun for Chan Gailey.  With Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker as the teams #1 & #2, Smith will be able to do what he does best: be an explosive deep threat without having to carry an offense throughout the game.  Smith could explode next year for the offense, or could be an afterthought.  It all comes down to Geno Smith.

Miami Dolphins

Drafted: WR DeVante Parker (Louisville), DT Jordan Phillips (Oklahoma), OG Jamil Douglas (Arizona State), CB Bobby McCain (Memphis), RB Jay Ajayi (Boise State), S Ced Thompson (Minnesota), CB/WR Tony Lippett (Michigan State)

My Favorite Pick:  DeVante Parker is going to be a star, but anyone could have made that pick at #14.  What got my attention was grabbing Boise State RB Jay Ajayi at #149.  Yes, he has injury concerns.  So did Eddie Lacy, among many others.  He may not play into his late 30s, but I view Ajayi as a threat right away who will be a legitimate contributor.  Expect him to be the Dolphins’ third down back as he is great out of the backfield catching the ball and consistently has great vision.  Not bad for a fifth round guy.

The Headscratcher: Jamil Douglas.  As the third player taken for the Fish, I would’ve looked for a more impact guy.  Douglass played LT at Arizona State last year, but I don’t see a way he survives there in the NFL.  He could develop into a starting OG someday, but I don’t see him as a long term contributor.  I thought Miami could have done better with this selection.

Immediate Impact: DeVante Parker could turn out to be the best receiver in this draft, and could be a candidate for OROY honors.  Pairing a legitimate #1 presence with Parker to the likes of Greg Jennings and Kenny Stills forms a brand new and potentially lethal WR combination for 2015.  DT Jordan Phillips was one of my favorite picks in this draft as well.  Let’s be clear: if you’ve seen Phillips tape you either love him or you don’t.  I view Phillips as a guy who can develop into a future star in this league.  He is a massive body who will plug in nicely with the prized free agent signing Ndamukong Suh, and should be in the fold early in 2015.  I also view Memphis CB Bobby McCain (#145 overall) as a guy who can play right away.  He fits the heavy zone scheme in Miami nicely and fills a need.   McCain will be fine in pass coverage, and will come up and hit you in run support.  As previously mentioned, Jay Ajayi should fill in right away for at least third down duties and can potentially be a real impact rookie.  Two really nice fifth round finds in McCain and Ajayi.

Buffalo Bills

Drafted: CB Ronald Darby (Florida State), OG John Miller (Louisville), RB Karlos Williams (Florida State), OLB Tony Steward (Clemson), TE Nick O’Leary (Florida State), WR Dez Lewis (Central Arkansas)

My Favorite Pick:  Dez Lewis.  Lewis was on my All-Underrated team for good reason.  It’s tough to judge small school guys, but I think Lewis will eventually translate into on field success at the highest level.  A big target at 6’4 215 lbs with good enough speed, Lewis has all of the tools to develop into a WR #1 at some point in the future.  A seventh round flier on a player with as much upside as Lewis is always a good move in my book.  Look for the former Central Arkansas stud to potentially surprise some people, early.

C’mon fellas!:  This was a loaded middle round draft.  For a team without a first round pick, I was looking for more potential production here.  John Miller from Louisville didn’t do it for me.  The Bills needed offensive line depth, but Miller may not ever become a full time consistent starter in this league.  He is poor in pass protection and isn’t all that great against the run either.  I had a sixth round grade on Miller.  Some will disagree, I just wasn’t a fan of this pick.

Immediate Help: Rex Ryan took a cornerback high in the draft (first pick of the Bills at #50).  It’s like saying Bill Belichick took a guy in the 2nd round who wasn’t projected to be…oh never mind.  Anyway, Darby is a guy who is one of the better pure cover guys in this class.  He should fit nicely into Rex Ryan’s scheme and will be in the fold immediately.  If junior year Karlos Williams shows up instead of senior year Karlos Williams, the Bills could be on to something and see some production right away from the former Seminole as well.  Nick O’Leary has a chance to get on the field with his overall toughness and wittiness, I just have questions about his ceiling based on his limited athletic ability.  My first bold prediction of this article : Dez Lewis will catch 6 touchdowns next year.  Boom.

Overall Outlook

Make no bones about it: the AFC East is improving.  In my eyes the Jets absolutely nailed their draft.  They only had six selections, but filled needs and could possibly hit a long term home run with a low risk quarterback.  Jets fans should be keeping their eyes on the QB class next year.  Cardale Jones maybe!?  Then they’re in business.

Buffalo, for not having a first round pick, did ok in my eyes.  One thing is clear – they attended Florida State’s pro day.  The haul of three Seminoles was interesting, and could pay some dividends down the line.  I’m a big fan of Dez Lewis, which is probably why I like their draft so much.  Take him away and I may have a slightly different opinion.

Miami’s big move this offseason was already made pre-draft.  Nonetheless, they added quality guys who can contribute immediately, and may have a potential super star in DeVante Parker.  It will be interesting to see how the newly paid Ryan Tannehill does with his makeover at wide receiver.  If he can’t get it done now, Miami just wasted a king’s ransom of cash.

I still believe New England will take the division, but it will not be a cake walk like in recent years.  Patriots’ fans need to wrap their head around playing meaningful divisional games late in December, because that may be an all too real reality this year.

Next up on Eyes on the Competition – Philadelphia

Previously : Colts, Bills, Texans, Chargers, Ravens, Dolphins, Broncos, Jets



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One Response to “Eyes On the Competition : AFC East”

  1. Jack says:

    Yes, the division is really starting to look formidable. Revis and Comartie were great pickups. Maybe even Geno Smith will be able to do something with those receivers – but then again, the Jets O-line is on the decline. Also, new coaching staff, who know what will happen? Buffalo – great defensive line, but Ryan FitzPatrick? I’m not buying it. Miami is potentially the biggest threat, with Suh.

    I really wish the Pats had hung onto Revis and Brown. Much more than I care about Deflategate, except screwing us out of the first rounder.

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