NFL Draft Grades: AFC East

Dalton Kincaid was the first pick of the Bills in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News

The 2023 NFL Draft is now in the books, so it’s time for the annual NFL Draft Grades by Simon Shortt. Today we will be discussing the: AFC East.

Buffalo Bills – A

Team Needs: Pass Catcher, LB, OL

Days 1 and 2 in the NFL Draft for the Bills almost couldn’t have gone any better. A small trade up for Dalton Kincaid in the first round is a great move. Kincaid is essentially a big slot receiver, so he can be on the field with TE Dawson Knox, and provide enough dynamism to help open things up for QB Josh Allen and WR Stefon Diggs.

On Day 2, my A+ score would have been reserved for LB Drew Sanders at 59. Sanders fits the exact mold of Tremaine Edmunds who left in free agency this offseason. So he would be a good fit to drop in to that existing defense, but also have the youth to lead the next group. But instead O’Cyrus Torrence falls into the Bills’ laps, and that’s just too hard to pass up.

In the third round they are still able to address the LB position with Dorian Williams. Williams has the athleticism and skills to play next to Matt Milano, and eventually take his role. I don’t love the two smaller linebackers (did you know Matt Milano used to play safety?), but it’s still a good player at a position of need.

Miami Dolphins – C-

Team Needs: OL, TE

I have a hard time grading this class. Miami had just four selections in the draft – not great. BUT for the most part that’s because they traded for Tyreek Hill, Bradley Chubb and Jalen Ramsey – that is great. Another pick they didn’t have was from the tampering penalty – not great.

Based on the last year, the talent on the roster, and the development of young defenders, my team needs were offensive line and tight end. Austin Jackson is a liability at RT, and even a Liam Eichenberg fan like me can say he might not be a starting-level NFL lineman. With picks 51 and 84, I was convinced you could find better players on the line at those spots.

If you had told me that O’Cyrus Torrence and Dawand Jones would be available at those two picks respectively I wouldn’t have believed you. And the fact that both were passed on has me lost.

The other position of need, tight end, also was not addressed. Despite the deep and talented class of players at the position.

However, at 51 they took CB Cam Smith. And while they Xavien Howard and just traded for Jalen Ramsey, it’s hard to knock them for that. Smith might’ve been too good to pass at that point. But at 84 they picked an undersized running back in Devon Achane with have holes on the offensive line isn’t great. Especially when you have a room with a couple of veterans who can play.

For Miami to not address offensive line until the seventh round, considering everything that has happened with QB Tua Tagovailoa’s concussions and the struggles at that position, I am perplexed. And on top of that to take a small running back instead – that’s really not good.

New England Patriots – B

Team Needs: T, DB Depth, DL Depth

Could we have a bigger swing in the perception of first round picks for New England from last year to this year? 2022: a little-known guard who was a borderline third round prospect. 2023: a consensus top 10 player and CB1 on many analysts’ boards. Yes, not only did the Patriots draft CB Christian Gonzalez all the way in the teens, but they traded BACK to get him. And in doing so picked up a fourth round pick.

On Day 2 they got good value and very “Patriots” players in DE Keion White and LB Marte Mapu. Both should fit well in what NE wants to do defensively. I like White’s size and athleticism and think he’ll have success in New England.

On Day 3 the Patriots had 10 selections and were off to a hot start. They went center, kicker, guard, guard, *former high profile and highly recruited wide receiver*, punter. Does it get more Bill Belichick?

I would have liked for them to swing for an OT early, but who knows. One of these multiple Day 3 IOL could turn into a starting tackle for all I know.

New York Jets B-

Team Needs: OL, DL

It was a fine draft for the New York Jets. Let’s start by remembering they turned a second round pick in this draft into Aaron Rodgers. The first two picks I was a fan of. Will McDonald IV might’ve been a tad early, but they also weren’t getting him at 43. Adding more youth to a vet-laden defensive line was the right move after missing out on the first wave of tackles.

Then in the second round going C Joe Tippman was perfect. Perhaps an even bigger need this year than offensive tackle. They didn’t have a third round pick because they used it and Elijah Moore to get an extra second round pick to make the Rodgers trade.

So now in the fourth round they take a swing on a tackle, which I don’t mind. Between Mekhi Becton, Duane Brown, Max Mitchell, and now fourth round pick Carter Warren, that should be a decent tackle room even with injury concerns.

The rest of Day 3 was a letdown. They went with a MID ROUND RUNNING BACK who will likely be number three on the depth chart, and a seventh round tight end who will be behind C.J. Uzomah, Tyler Conklin (both making real money) and Jeremy Ruckert (last year’s third round pick). I don’t like the overlap there in those spots.

If they were going to reach on someone at 15, I would’ve preferred T Anton Harrison to Will McDonald, but I still like the pick fine. I wish they didn’t need to send that third rounder just to trade Moore for another second. And I wish they used those fifth and seventh round picks somewhere else.

The AFC East has gone through some major changes over the last few years. And now with Aaron Rodgers in the fold it’s looking to get even more competitive. The 2023 NFL Draft was just another step in making this one of the most fun divisions in the league.

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