NFL Draft Class Recaps - AFC East

By Aaron Ussery


Buffalo Bills


Round 1, Pick 23 - Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida

Buffalo fills the biggest roster need with Elam in the 1st round. With Tre White's 2021 injury and the loss of Levi Wallace in free agency, a new outside starter was desperately needed. Elam fits the bill.


Round 2, Pick 63 - James Cook, RB, Georgia

Might have been higher than some expected for Cook, but not me. He was my RB3, and offers a level of speed and passing down efficiency that was desperately missing from Buffalo's RB room. I could easily see him pushing Singletary and Moss for starting reps as a rookie.


Round 3, Pick 89 - Terrel Bernard, LB, Baylor

Tremaine Edmunds has yet to be extended, and has had continuous struggles holding up in coverage assignments despite his athletic gifts. Bernard has enough savvy in coverage to earn reps as a rookie, and could serve as a long term replacement in 2023 if the Bills opt to let Edmunds walk.


Round 5, Pick 148 - Khalil Shakir, WR, Boise State

It's easy to visualize a role for Shakir in the Bills offense as a reliable chain mover out of the slot, taking over for Cole Beasley's role (7% of his catches at Boise State went for either a first down or a touchdown). Jamison Crowder was only signed to a one-year deal, so Shakir could offer a more long-term solution.


Round 6, Pick 180 - Matt Araiza, P, San Diego State

Obviously the hope is Araiza can beat out Matt Haack for the starting punter role. Araiza's leg strength is well-documented, but he also put 63% of his punts inside the 20-yard line for the Aztecs last season. For comparison, only 35% of Haack's punts in 2021 did the same.


Round 6, Pick 185 - Christian Benford, CB, Villanova

Benford likely doesn't offer much beyond some additional depth to the CB room. He's got good ball production and shows the aggression as a tackler that A) Sean McDermott loves and B) could help him stick on special teams.


Round 6, Pick 209 - Luke Tenuta, OT, Virginia Tech

Tenuta has a shot to stick on the roster as OT depth behind Dion Dawkins and Spencer Brown, serving as a cheaper and younger OT4 option than Bobby Hart.


Round 7, Pick 231 - Baylon Spector, LB, Clemson

Spector is a really instinctive linebacker but very undersized and projects more as a hybrid safety/linebacker type. He'll join the soup of backup linebackers on the Bills roster and will need to stand out on special teams reps in order to make the roster.

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Miami Dolphins


Round 3, Pick 102 - Channing Tindall, LB, Georgia

Tindall makes a ton of sense to me. The linebacker room was due for a facelift after the swap from Brian Flores' New England-style system. He's inexperienced but incredibly athletic, and could push Elandon Roberts for the starting job opposite Jerome Baker.


Round 4, Pick 125 - Erik Ezukanma, WR, Texas Tech

Another pick where the fit isn't hard to visualize. Ezukanma reminds me of the 49ers Juaun Jennings, as a "power slot" option who displays a lot of toughness before and after the catch and offers plus-level blocking on running downs. There's definitely a role for him in the offense to complement the speed and dynamism of Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill.


Round 7, Pick 224 - Cameron Goode, LB, California

Continuing the LB overhaul, Goode is another hyper-athletic linebacker prospect who fits more of the new mould that new DC Josh Boyer is looking to build. He's likely a special teams player early on in his career, but his speed and quickness could definitely help him stick there.


Round 7, Pick 247 - Skyler Thompson, QB, Kansas State

Thompson has a lot of limitations, but offers some really nice touch on his deep and intermediate passes and some decent mobility. Mike McDaniel will likely want to keep three QBs on the roster just like Kyle Shanahan preferred to do, and Thompson has a chance to beat out Chris Streveler for that job.

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New England Patriots


Round 1, Pick 29 - Cole Strange, IOL, Chattanooga

A pick that many certainly found "strange," I think that the Chattanooga prospect has a great shot to develop into a high-end starter along the team's IOL. His measurables compared strongly to those of Joe Thuney, so it's certainly easy to see why Belichick liked him so much. And with the Patriots' track record of developing OL talent, I really like Strange's chances.


Round 2, Pick 50 - Tyquan Thornton, WR, Baylor

Thornton, like Strange, went earlier than I thought he would. He was the fastest wideout at the combine, and certainly could turn into the type of explosive deep threat that the Patriots are currently missing. You worry about his thin frame and play strength, but his downfield skills are legit and could help this offense open things up a bit more.


Round 3, Pick 85 - Marcus Jones, CB, Houston

The Patriots were a natural landing spot for Jones due to his versatility. Belichick loves "football players", and the Houston product can offer value as a slot corner, return man, and potentially even a part time offensive weapon.


Round 4, Pick 121 - Jack Jones, CB, Arizona State

Doubling down on corner, Jack Jones differs from Marcus Jones due to slightly better ability to play outside. Most teams likely still saw him as a slot only option, but Belichick has taken chances on guys with smaller statures as outside corners in the past and been rewarded for it. He's got a great shot to earn reps in the suddenly crowded Patriots CB room due to his high-level instincts and ball-production.


Round 4, Pick 127 - Pierre Strong, RB, South Dakota State

Strong is a home-run hitter at running back, possessing sub 4.40 speed. That should help him stand out in the RB rotation as a complementary piece to the power-styles of Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson.


Round 4, Pick 137 - Bailey Zappe, QB, Western Kentucky

A pick that seems tough to understand at first, but Bill Belichick has a history of always keeping QB projects on the roster. Jarrett Stidham hasn't quite panned out, and is now in the final year of his deal. Zappe is likely to take the QB3 spot from him this offseason.


Round 6, Pick 183 - Kevin Harris, RB, South Carolina

Harris looks like a natural choice to eventually supplant Damien Harris' role in the offense. The Alabama product is in the final year of his deal in 2022, and Kevin Harris has a similar skillset as a straight-line hammer with minimal tread on his tires and a low fumble-rate.


Round 6, Pick 200 - Sam Roberts, EDGE, Northwest Missouri State

Roberts is a powerful inside-out style defensive lineman who wins with leverage and strong hands. Belichick loves having players like this rotating in and out of his lines. I figure he can work his way into the lineup as a backup option behind the likes of Christian Barmore, Davon Godchaux, and Lawrence Guy.


Round 6, Pick 210 - Chasen Hines, IOL, LSU

Hines can plug in as a depth piece along the interior offensive line at both the center and guard spots. Things currently look thin behind the projected starters Michael Onwenu, David Andrews, and now Cole Strange - so it shouldn't be too hard for him to stick on the roster.


Round 7, Pick 245 - Andrew Stueber, OT, Michigan

Stueber will need to fight with Justin Herron, Yasir Durant and Yodny Cajuste in order to earn a backup tackle role. The Patriots may want to keep the reserve spots extra full due to the injury histories of starters Isaiah Wynn and Trent Brown, so that could boost Stueber's odds of making the roster. However, I'd still consider him the biggest longshot to do so out of all their draft picks.

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New York Jets


Round 1, Pick 4 - Sauce Gardner, CB, Cincinnati


Gardner is immediately the Jets CB1, and I'm not surprised Robert Salah loved him so much. His physical profile and play style reminds me a lot of Richard Sherman, who Salah worked with both in Seattle and in San Francisco. He'll lock down one side of the field, while Bryce Hall and DJ Reed compete for the other job.


Round 1, Pick 10 - Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State


Of all the wideouts available, I think Wilson ultimately offered the best blend of A) what I think OC Mike LaFleur wants to do on offense and B) what QB Zach Wilson is best at. He offers elite ability working in space and creating yards after the catch, but also has the speed and ball tracking ability to take the top off of defenses when needed. He should establish himself as Zach Wilson's favorite target early on.


Round 1, Pick 26 - Jermaine Johnson, EDGE, Florida State


This is pretty straightforward. The state of the Jets' EDGE rushing room was dire. Carl Lawson is coming off an ACL tear and hardly a sure thing. Beyond him, the other options were Bryce Huff, Vinny Curry, and Jacob Martin. Jermaine Johnson isn't a high-ceiling player, but he's already good enough to immediately start in front of all of those aforementioned players, and he likely will.


Round 2, Pick 36 - Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State


Hall immediately plugs in as the Jets' starting tailback, forming a very exciting 1-2 punch with Michael Carter. He has terrifying straight-line speed, which will work beautifully in LaFleur's widezone scheme. He could easily wind up as a 1,000 yard rusher as a rookie.


Round 3, Pick 101 - Jeremy Ruckert, TE, Ohio State


Ruckert may have surprised some, seeing as how the Jets already signed both CJ Uzomah and Tyler Conklin in free agency. However, with all the 12 personnel looks they want to employ you really do need three good tight ends on the roster. Plus, Uzomah comes with a troubling injury history and Conklin has only shown one season of strong production as a player. Neither can be called a sure thing, so drafting Ruckert to bolster the position isn't the worst idea in the world.


Round 4, Pick 111 - Max Mitchell, OT, Louisiana


Mitchell wasn't going to be a fit in every system, but for the Jets' wide zone scheme I think he works. He's very light on his feet and does well to keep his feet moving when engaged with defenders. His weight and play strength aren't where they need to be if he were to start, but I think he'll fit in for them as a good swing tackle option behind Mekhi Becton and George Fant.


Round 4 - Pick 117 - Michael Clemons, EDGE, Texas A&M


Clemons profiles very similar to Jermaine Johnson from a physical standpoint. He's a very powerful and long EDGE with great linear athleticism but limited bend and ankle flexion. As stated previously, the pass rusher room was barren prior to the draft, so Clemons has a good shot of clawing his way into a rotational EDGE role.

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