AFC East Draft Grades
Buffalo Bills: B-
The hourglass of Doug Whaleys tenure with the Bills is losing sand by the minute. The 2nd-year GM might be out of a job next spring if Buffalo’s new ownership cleans house. With the win-now pressure that comes with a potential 15-year playoff drought, Whaleys hand was forced into over-paying for Sammy Watkins, the most well regarded offensive weapon in the draft. All the eggs are in the Sammy Watkins basket this year as Buffalo gave up 2015’s first round pick and a 4th rounder which they eventually recouped in exchange for dealing Stevie Johnson to the 49ers.
Buffalo added more depth to their sparsely talented offensive line when they drafted Cyrus Kouandjio. The 6’7’’ 325 Ib. behemoth of a tackle will most likely start on the opposite side of anchor Cordy Glenn. Kouandjio has a huge amount of upside but with him also comes the potential of being a bust. His knees are rumored to be bad and it seems to show in the way he moves his feet while in pass protection. Kouandjio also blocks in an upright position, which allows defensive lineman to get leverage and easily knock him off balance.
Seantrel Henderson is a 7th round steal; he’s big, physical, and maybe the most talented pass blocker in the entire draft. Henderson had scouts concerned as his career in Miami was riddled with off-the-field issues. In August 2012, Henderson was involved in a car accident in which the Chevy Impala he was driving ran a red light and crashed into a car, injuring members of a family of six. His biggest on–field struggles occur when he tries to pick up rushers in a disguised blitz package. Another knock on him is his speed—it’s not easy to be quick when you’re 6’7’’ and 331lbs.
Down The Road Starters:
Randell Johnson : This linebacker is smart, athletic, he can hit, but he didn’t exactly go up against NFL-talent competition during his time at FAU. He possesses above average speed and plays a bit like Nigel Bradham—someone who he will be in direct competition with for starting reps during training camp. He definitely has a good chance to make an impact with the Bills. Buffalo could use all the help they can get at linebacker, which is why they also added inside linebacker Preston Brown in the third-round.
Preston Brown : Louisville’s defensive talent was showcased in this years draft when two of their products came off the board in the first round. Brown was the last member of the Louisville defense to get grabbed in the 2014 draft when he was drafted the 73rd pick. The inside backer is a hard nosed run stopper, who’s game models that of new teammate Brandon Spikes, who the Bills signed to a one-year deal over the off-season. Brown makes plays on a consistent basis; he’s an absolute wiz at stripping running backs while they’re in the hole. He also displays above average tackling ability in open space.
Ross Cockrell : This four-year starter was drafted in the fourth round, making him the highest player drafted from Duke in the past 15 years. What made this pick exceptionally negligent is that Safety, Mo Alexander, was taken off the board a pick later by the Rams (a position the Bills desperately needed to add depth to). At 6’ Ross Cockrell is undersized as he weighs in at 190 pounds. This allows wide receivers to effortlessly move him while blocking. His aggressiveness and tackling aptitude are as non existent as Blake Griffins love for this Golden State Warriors fan.
New England Patriots: C-
The Patriots needed to add explosive players to the interior of their defensive line and to their wide receiving core. They addressed one of those needs early as Bill Belichick passed on Minnesota defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman in favor of Florida’s Dominique Easley. The two are completely different defensive tackles, Hageman is a mammoth at 6’6’’ 315 pounds and excels at plugging up holes. In contrast, Easley is 6’2’’ and 285 pounds and uses his strength and speed to get off the line quickly and disrupt plays before they even happen. Easley’s two ACL injuries resulted in him being discounted in the NFL draft, so it was a pretty big surprise when Belichick and the Pat’s took him off in the first round. Belichick probably knows what he’s doing, Easley will terrorize the young second and third year quarterbacks of the AFC East if he can stay healthy.
The Patriots didn’t shy away from controversy with their second pick either, as they added QB Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round. New England needed to add a big name playmaker at wide receiver, and even though they drafted Jeremy Gallon in the 7th round, it won’t be enough. The Patriots could have added a dynamic wide-out in Davante Adams if they traded up in the second round, but instead Adams will join Aaron Rodgers, Eddy Lacy, and Randall Cobb and form the NFL’s version of Voltron.
Jeremy Gallon : At Michigan Gallon held the program record for receiving yards in a single season (1,373 yards). He also holds the Big Ten record for receiving yards in a single game (369). With all the great wide receiver prospects in this year’s draft it’s not hard to understand why Gallon fell all the way to the seventh round. As a seventh round pick, Gallon still has a great shot at making the 53-man roster. He possesses above-average hands and the ability to make defenders miss in the open field after the catch. Gallon could turn out to be one of Brady’s favorite targets this season behind Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski.
Down The Road Starter:
Bryan Stork is a versatile offensive lineman who excels in picking up blitzes. At Florida State Stork started 34 games at center and six at guard. He’s an anchor in pass protection and is athletic enough to make blocks downfield in the run game. He’s going to need to get stronger if he wants to make it in the NFL, he lacks physicality when blocking against the run and will often latch on to defenders instead of driving them back.
James White : It was really tough not to knock the Pat’s for taking Jimmy Garoppolo in the second, but this pick made it easy. Belichick and the rest of the Patriots organization really blew it on this one, especially because of the other running backs available when they selected him. Watch the tape of White and it will immediately bring you back to the Pop Warner days when nobody tackled. Seriously, on the majority of his runs it seems like the defense is actually trying to get him into the end zone; like one of those collaboration plays where a youth football or basketball teams gives the manager a shot at being the hero. There weren’t more than a handful of times when White made a defining play in a big game that didn’t involve a second level defender tripping over his own shoelaces. This running back might have telekinetic powers because he seems to just wish the defense out of his path, and it works! But in the NFL? Unlikely.
New York Jets: B+
With 12 picks in this year’s draft the Jets could do no wrong. They drafted Calvin Pryor with the 18th overall pick; with Pryor they get a fearless safety that can line up in a multitude of different spots. He has better coverage skills than most give him credit for and he’s exhibited unbelievable closing speed during his time at Louisville.
The Jets upgraded their offense in the second round when they took Jace Amaro, the tight end from Texas Tech. Amaro is a polished route runner with great hands who effortlessly finds the seams in coverage. He had some off-field issues during college as he was arrested in 2012 for credit card fraud. On the field Amaro is a pass catching split end who will definitely help Geno Smith progress; he isn’t quite on the level of Eric Ebron or Austin Seferian-Jenkins, but he does something that neither of them do—block.
Geno will also be playing with an upgraded wide receiver core this year as the Jets added Eric Decker to the mix in the off-season. They followed that up by adding three diverse playmakers at wide receiver: Jalen Saunders, Shaq Evans, and Quincy Enunwa.
Quincy Enunwa : This 6th round wide receiver is big, physical, and has great mitts. He’s a little bit of a work in progress—his route running needs to be crisper if he’s going to play in the league. Enunwa’s biggest strength is his size; it allows him to shield off defensive backs when going up for the ball. He’s also an asset as a blocker on screens and runs. The former high school high jumping stand-out also has a knack for making unbelievable plays in the biggest moments.
Down The Road Starters:
Jalen Saunders : The Fresno State transfer is one of the smallest wide receivers in the draft—goodness, is he fast though. Once Saunders arrived at Oklahoma he made an immediate impact on offense and special teams. In his two seasons at Oklahoma Saunders amassed 1,558 receiving yards with 11 touchdowns as well as 3 punt return touchdowns. At about 165 pounds Saunders is actually one of the most physical receivers in the draft. He matches his speed and physicality with hairpin cuts that form a trifecta of embarrassment for would be tacklers.
Dexter McDougle : The Jets got great value with the 80th pick in the third round. McDougle matches decent size with unbelievable speed and ball skills. While at Maryland, McDougle showed us that his skill set is well rounded. He anticipates routes, plays at a high speed, has great hands, and isn’t afraid to tackle either.
Jeremiah George : When the Jets took George in the 5th round they passed up on a lot of good players—and a lot of good linebackers for that matter. Lamin Barrow and Ronald Powell are two physical SEC outside linebackers that were available when they took George. The Jets could have also drafted Marquis Spruill who would have been a more viable option for the Jets at inside linebacker. The knock on George is that he’s undersized. Since he’s smaller than most inside linebackers, he’s not very stout when going up against the run. He continually runs around blocks and isn’t a great open field tackler.
Miami Dolphins: C
The Dolphins allowed 58 sacks last year, ranking them worst in the NFL. The Dolphins seriously needed to improve the offensive line and they waited no further than the 19th pick of the first round to do so. They drafted Ja’Wuan James, a versatile lineman who can play ether guard or tackle. It seems that the Dolphins had James as the fifth best lineman in the draft (behind Robinson, Martin, Mathews, and Lewan) as they were confident enough to use their first round pick on him. The Dolphins were dead set on taking a lineman, and it showed as they stretched for a player who could have definitely been available when they were on the clock in the second round.
Instead the Fins picked wide receiver Jarvis Landry in the 2nd. Landry could fill the #2 receiver spot—The LSU star is exceptionally talented and makes circus catches look routine.
Billy Turner : North Dakota’s Billy Turner is an excellent left tackle with good size and quick feet. One of the only reasons that he was still on the board in the third round is that he played at an FCS school. His footwork and strong arms make him a great addition to a Miami Dolphins offensive line that is filled with holes. There’s a good chance that both Turner and Ja’Wuan James could find themselves starting week 1.
Down The Road Starter:
Matt Hazel : The Dolphins drafted yet another FCS player in the sixth round. Matt Hazel from Coastal Carolina is a possession receiver who can play on the outside or in the slot. Hazel catches almost everything that comes his way—he made a ton of acrobatic catches in traffic—something that really excited NFL scouts. At 6’1’’ and 200 pounds Hazel is a prototypical receiver and with a little work he could become a productive NFL wide out.
Arthur Lynch : With the 15th pick in the fifth round the Dolphins took tight end Arthur Lynch. Lynch was known primarily for his blocking ability at the University of Georgia. Though in his senior season Lynch proved he could do more than just block as he had 30 catches for 459 yards and 5 touchdowns. With the emergence of Charles Clay at tight end last season the Dolphins had more pressing needs. AJ McCarron was still available in the 5th round and the Dolphins can definitely use a viable back-up (not named Matt Moore) who will push Ryan Tannehill.