2019 NFL Draft Aftermath: Winners and Losers from the AFC East

The AFC East has become one of the less interesting divisions in the NFL in recent years as the Patriots steamroll the opposition and the other teams are continually rebuilding. It would do the league an awful lot of good for either Bill Belichick or Tom Brady to start being not so good.

There is some hope though. The Bills and Jets think they’ve got young quarterbacks they can build around and the Dolphins have a coach who they think can finally overcome the terrible team mentality.

Let’s see if the 2019 draft really helped any of the teams trying to break the competitive stranglehold of New England.

Buffalo Bills

Winners – Josh Allen and the Bills passing game

The Bills immediately upgraded their pass protection when they drafted Cody Ford in the second round. Last season, the Bills gave Dion Dawkins and Jordan Mills over 1,000 snaps each. They responded by giving up 69 pressures combined. That is not good enough.

Buffalo had already spent money in free agency trying to bolster the unit, but their signings were more about veteran depth and reducing disasters than they were finding star linemen. Ford is different. In his final year of college at Oklahoma, he surrendered just seven total pressures from 441 snaps. The competition is clearly not directly comparable but Ford brings an upside that was not there before. Josh Allen will be hoping for more time and more stable pockets that will enable him to unleash that rocket arm of his.

Winner – Jerry Hughes, DE

Hughes was the single effective pass rusher in Buffalo last season. Ed Oliver is going to be a pure pass rusher from the inside, and he should cause some havoc which will clearly lessen the load on Hughes. Pass rush creates more pass rush in today’s NFL and Oliver will make it easier on everyone.

Losers – Frank Gore and LeSean McCoy, RBs

The Bills picked Devin Singletary in the third round. This looks very much like a backfield that will be shared around a number of players. McCoy and Gore will certainly be involved but their days of being feature backs are behind them.

New England Patriots

Winner – Tom Brady, QB

As Brady ages towards his mid-40s, the Patriots are leaning on him less and less. Brady is still a fantastic player but the Patriots just won a Super Bowl on a dominant rushing attack.

Yodney Cajuste and Hjalte Froholdt are not household (or easy to say) names but they add talent and depth to a well-coached unit.

Both are pass-blockers first. Cajuste allowed just three sacks in 2,009 pass protection snaps in college while Froholdt finished fourth in the class pass blocking efficiency last year among interior linemen (per Pro Football Focus).

Loser – Deatrich Wise, DE

Wise has played 975 snaps in his two years as a pro and although he’s flashed playmaking, he’s never quite managed to be consistent. When the Patriots signed Michael Bennett, it was worrying for him but drafting Chase Winovich at 77th overall is bad.

Winovich has all the energy and destructive force of an explosive bowling ball. With him around, Wise is going to struggle to play much more than his customary 500 snaps per season.

Loser – Rex Burkhead, RB

The Patriots surprisingly invested a third-round pick in Alabama thumper Damien Harris. New England have three distinct RB roles in their offense, but it just got harder for Burkhead to win one of them outright.

Losers – Cornerbacks not named Stephon Gilmore

New England have now drafted four corners in the past two drafts. Joejuan Williams joins Duke Dawson from a year ago as second-round picks. The team have proven they are very happy to keep awarding playing time to whoever can do the best job. No one’s job is safe bar Stephon Gilmore’s.

New York Jets

Winners – Jets’ edge rushers

Drafting Quinnen Williams at the top of the draft will instantly help everyone else on the line simply by him being really, really good. But the Jets also only invested in Jachai Polite in the third round at the position. Polite has a load of talent but he’s also a significant risk to self-destruct. The rumors of his arrogance and bad attitude are worrying and there is a long history of Jets edge rushers crumbling under the glare of New York media. Brandon Copeland, Jordan Jenkins and even Frankie Luvu will feel like they dodged a bullet.

Loser – Henry Anderson, DE

Just when things were finally looking up for Anderson… His prospects take a hit with the arrival of Williams. Williams is so good he can probably play nose tackle but it’s more likely he’ll end up lining up at his old spot which will make him an NFL DE in the Jets’ likely odd front.

Miami Dolphins

Winners – Conspiracy theorists

Fans like to imagine that NFL teams often tank deliberately. And the Dolphins are a hotly favored example. They’re trying to lose on purpose to grab one of the elite QBs in the 2020 draft.

Unfortunately, this draft just doesn’t seem to support that theory. Aside from Wilkins, there wasn’t much forward planning involved. The Dolphins simply grabbed a lot of average talent rather than specifically stockpiling for the future. Michael Deiter may be a good player but he’s hardly a building block for a bright new future.

At the same time, the Dolphins landed a trade that very much pointed away from any tank theory…

Winner – Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB

The Dolphins sent a second-round pick to Arizona for the right to try and resuscitate Josh Rosen’s stock and reputation. Why would a team trying to tank for a top QB do this? Surely, they’d have been happier with Fitzpatrick throwing 20 interceptions before throwing Jake Ruddock out there as a sacrificial lamb?

Either way, Fitzmagic has some real competition now for his ongoing retirement tour of Florida. Which player will win the right to toss up YOLO-balls to DeVante Parker?

Winners – The 2020 Dolphins defense

They’ll get the pleasure of being based around young stud defensive tackle Christian Wilkins. He’s going to be a star as a pro.

Unfortunately, the flipside is they received very little other help for the impending 2019 season.

Losers – Miami season ticket holders

It’s not certain at all the Dolphins are tanking on purpose. But either way, it’s going to be a rough year in Miami. Brian Flores is saying and doing all the right things but he’s just the coach. It appears the old problems of a terrible front office are still very much alive and kicking in Miami. We all want to see them improve but this is unlikely to be the year it happens.

tom kislingbury