With The exception of the rebuilding NY Jets, this was a strong division in 2021 with two making the postseason and one just missing out despite having a 9-8 record. new England bounced back from their poor (by their standards) 2020 and seems set at QB, while the Bills look real close to being a Super Bowl team. With the Jets having another raft of 1srt round picks and the Dolphins having virtually none it will be interesting to see if the balance has changed.
2021 Finishing Order
Buffalo Bills 11-6
New England Patriots 10-7
Miami Dolphins 9-8
New York Jets 4-13
Only two games separating 1-3 but can the Jets close up any?
Draft picks (8)
Florida CB Kaiir Elam (No. 23 overall)
Georgia RB James Cook (No. 63 overall)
Baylor LB Terrel Bernard (No. 89 overall)
Boise State WR Khalil Shakir (No. 148 overall)
San Diego State P Matt Araiza (No. 180 overall)
Villanova CB Christian Benford (No. 185 overall)
Virginia Tech OT Luke Tenuta (No. 209 overall)
Clemson LB Baylon Spector (No. 231 overall)
If the Bills had any needs going into the draft it was at Corner and running back and they filled these nicely with their first two picks. They had to trade up to secure Kaiir Elam but despite suffering an injury impeded 2021, he looks worth the cost. He left Florida with first-team All-SEC honours and although not a CB1 or even CB2 at this stage will add depth.
Georgia Running Back James Cook is a slimmer version of his superstar brother Dalvin and although not built for the tough yards he can make catches in the backfield and is elusive enough to make plays on the ground.
They even did well in the late rounds picking up Punter Matt Araiza with the first pick of round six and a decent backup Line Backer in round seven. Araiza is a field position changer and looks like one of the best punters to come out of college in a while. We can see him starting for the Bills this year and a place on the PFA All-Rookie Team is a strong possibility if he remains fit. Check out some of these punts!
Overall Grade A
The Bills needed a good draft to stay ahead of the resurgent Patriots and improving Miami and they pretty much nailed it!
- Georgia ILB Channing Tindall (No. 102 overall)
- Texas Tech WR Erik Ezukanma (No. 125 overall)
- California OLB Cameron Goode (No. 224 overall)
- Kansas State QB Skylar Thompson (No. 247 overall)
Miami pretty much gave up on this year’s draft thanks to the Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle trades which will give Tua every chance to finally prove himself this year. However, we are looking at how the actual draft picks affect the team here and with only four it’s hard to see much impact. Their first go was when using a third-round compensatory pick acquired from the 49ers last year and used it well picking up Georgia Inside Linebacker Channing Tindall. He will be a decent backup and may fill in on situational packages.
Their next two picks were spent on more backup players including a likely special team’s WR and another linebacker. We were a little perplexed at this given the Hill move and the fact that they are a bit thin at Center. Both Luke Wattenberg & Doug Kramer were still available before pick two and the option of trading back to grab either might have made more sense.
Skylar Thompson was decent value towards the end of round seven and had he not had injury problems he could have gone higher. He should compete for the backup job with Teddy Bridgewater.
Overall Grade C
This may seem a little mean, however, we can’t see any of their picks making an impression this year.
New England Patriots
- UT-Chattanooga OG Cole Strange (No. 29 overall)
- Baylor WR Tyquan Thornton (No. 50 overall)
- Houston CB Marcus Jones (No. 85 overall)
- Arizona State CB Jack Jones (No. 121 overall)
- South Dakota State RB Pierre Strong (No. 127 overall)
- Western Kentucky QB Bailey Zappe (No. 137 overall)
- South Carolina RB Kevin Harris (No. 183 overall)
- Northwest Missouri State DT Sam Roberts (No. 200 overall)
- LSU C Chasen Hines (No. 210 overall)
- Michigan OT Andrew Stueber (No. 245 overall)
The Patriots did their usual trade down routine and surprised many by picking Cole Strange out of FCS college UT-Chattanooga. This may look like a bit of a reach however Strange tested well at the combine running a 5.03 4oyard dash and pushing out 31 reps in the bench press. Only Zion Johnson had more (32) and he went at pick 19. Cole Strange could easily hold down the Left Guard spot for many years.
Their trading down meant that they had 10 picks overall and they used these to add depth all over including a nice RB tandem of speed and raw power in Strong & Harris. Both should get some carries in 2022.
QB Bailey Zappe had 5,967 passing yards and 62 TDs for Western Kentucky in 2021 setting an NCAA single-season record in both. He was C-USA MVP and also MVP at the Boca Raton Bowl, where he also threw for 422 yards and six TDs! With Only Bryan Hoyer on the depth chart behind Mac Jones, the pick made sense and if he can make the jump from G5 football to the NFL then he could be Tom Brady Mk 11. Not likely but still worth a punt in the 4th round.
Overall Grade B+
The Patriots have a habit of finding hidden gems and we think there are a few solid starters lurking in their haul. A couple may have been stretches but who cares if they work out.
New York Jets
- Cincinnati CB Sauce Gardner (No. 4 overall)
- Ohio State WR Garrett Wilson (No. 10 overall)
- Florida State Edge Jermaine Johnson II (No. 26 overall)
- Iowa State RB Breece Hall (No. 36 overall)
- Ohio State TE Jeremy Ruckert (No. 101 overall)
- Louisiana OT Max Mitchell (No. 112 overall)
- Texas A&M DE Micheal Clemons (No. 117 overall)
The Jets did a bit of trading around but still ended up with three solid first-round picks including who we thought was the draft’s top CB. Their secondary was not good in 2022 and grabbing Sause will go a long way towards solving that. They also needed to give Zac Wilson some weapons in his sophomore year and they did a great job of that too adding a speedy WR and a top RB in Breece Hall, who could easily have gone in round one.
They also traded up again to get a third 1st rounder and Jermaine Johnson will give them some badly needed oomph in their pass rush. As will Micheal Clemons who looks great value in round four. They also added a bit of depth at OT & TE which could come in handy as injuries hit later in the season.
Overall Grade A+
It’s hard to find fault with any of the Jets’ picks, and given the sorry state of their roster, several should see the field early in 2022. They are still a fair way off competing in what is a tough division but the gap is closing