April already and the 2021 NFL draft is edging closer. Now that free agency is pretty much over and the bulk of the trading is out of the way we can now have a look at how the AFC East. Will the Patriots bounce back, or are The Bills set to dominate? Are the Dolphins sticking with Tua, and will the Jets win more than a handful of games? With the picks now pretty much set we have a look at what to expect on draft day.
After too many years in the doldrums, the Bills have finally made the breakthrough last year winning the AFC East for the first time since 1995! They have been busy in free agency adding veteran WR Emmanuel Saunders to the roster. This effectively serves as a swop of such as they lost Andre Robers & John Brown so a Wide Receiver is going to be high on their draft shopping list.
They are sorted at QB as Josh Allen stepped up massively last year and their OL is pretty solid. They have also added Matt Breida so they have a bit of depth at Running Back too.
So What Could They Do In The 2021 NFL Draft?
Well despite having a decent defense overall they could use a bit more pass rush and there is not a whole lot of depth at Corner. Also, their Wide Receiver corps, although talented, are getting on a bit so injecting some youth here is an option.
The good news is that they have their original picks in the first three rounds and although they don’t have a fourth-rounder they still have seven overall. Their first pick is at 30 so to a certain degree this pick will be dictated by how the board lies, and someone like CB Greg Newsome out of Northwestern or maybe Gregory Rousseau, DE, Miami would make sense here. We doubt a WR with a 1st round grade will still be on the board here, but you never know. Overall we will be surprised if they don’t add to at least two of these three positions with their 1st four picks.
The Dolphins had a pretty good 2020 finishing 10-6, and 4 of those losses were by one score. Given they were supposed to be in rebuilding mode it was arguably the surprise of the season. They only just missed out on a post-season place last year and could make it in 2021.
They did ok in free agency adding a couple of nice offensive targets to Tua in Will Fuller & Cethan Carter, and of course, they have swapped Fitzmagic for Jacoby Brissett at QB so they still have a serviceable back up should Tua go down.
Overall the roster doesn’t have too many holes, meaning they can draft for depth rather than need. They are loaded here too with two first-rounders, picks 6 and 18 and two seconds and a third. They are lacking thereafter and we can see them trading one of the 2nds for picks in the 5 & 6th.
So What Could They Do
We expect the early picks to be QB’s so they are going to be spoiled for choice. They could do with a bit more pass rush, however, there will be plenty of options still around at 18 so they can take whichever is left of the two outstanding non QB talents – Tight End Kyle Pitts or OT Penei Sewell. Either would be day one starters and Pitts would be our choice. They could also grab one of the top Wide Receivers potentially teaming Tua Tagovailoa up with one of his old Alabama colleagues. However, if they go WR we think they would take Ja’marr Chase out of LSU.
New England Patriots
The post Tom Brady era got off to a slow start last year and the Patriots ended up posting their first losing season since 2000. They have made a huge splash in free agency adding 18 players and although they lost a couple of starters they look well placed going into the draft. Picking up two quality Tight Ends will help whoever ends up playing QB no end. They also added Wide Receive Nelson Agholor who will give them options in the slot.
Losing Joe Thuney will leave a hole in the OL, however, they can find his replacement later in the draft. So the big question for them is whether they stick with Cam Newton at QB or look to grab his successor with one (or a bundle) of their 10 picks. They have four picks in the fourth round so could probably move up a few spots in the first if one of the main Quarter Backs slides a bit.
So What Could They Do In The 2021 NFL Draft?
It’s always hard to fathom how the Patriots will play the draft, however, we are pretty confident that they have their sights set on a QB. Cam is still a serviceable QB so they could take a development project in the later rounds. later however sitting at 15 with the ammunition we think they will either sit tight and see who slides or depending on how the early picks pan out trade up. They will probably need to target Carolina’s No 8 Pick if they are trading up though as the Broncos could well take the best one left at No 9.
If they decide to how with a development project and we think there are 14 QBs in this draft worth taking, then grabbing one of the top Wide Receivers or adding some depth at Line Backer are options. Someone like Kyle Trask or even Ian Book might be worth a late-round flyer especially if given a season or two to learn.
New York Jets
The jets had a pretty forgettable 2020 season and only the most pollyanna of fans will expect much this year too. Still, they have begun the rebuilding and with a slew of free agents added and the No2 pick they are well placed to move on from the Sam Darnold era. Adding Carl Lawson & Sheldon Rankins means their starting DL is not too bad, however an upgrade all over the team is called for and the most obvious starting point is QB.
So What Do They Have To Do In The 2021 NFL Draft?
Simple, fill the holes that exist all over the roster! This might not be as hard as it sounds as their free-agent splurge has at least given them the foundations of a starting line up, however, depth is lacking. Fortunately for them, they have 10 draft picks to play with, including Five in the first 86 picks. The silver lining here is that when you have a roster full of holes you can upgrade it by picking the best available as the draft unfolds. They will almost certainly take a QB at No2 (Zac Wilson) and it would be wise to give him some protection or another weapon with their other 1st round pick.
Thereafter they can focus on deepening their Line Backer corp or grabbing the player who slides. The Jets could come out of this well placed going forward if they play their cards right.
AFC East 2021 Prospects.
This is shaping up to be a competitive division in 2021 with the Patriots looking set to bounce back and both the Bills and Dolphins looking like potential playoff candidates. Sadly this leaves the jetsb as favourites for the wooden spoon and overall they look at least another decent draft away from competing.