AFC East NFL Draft Grades and Review: Patriots Return to Fundamentals While Jets Swing for the Fences

Cameron Smith

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Welcome to ColdHardFootballFacts' look back at the 2021 NFL Draft, where we're picking apart the highest of the highs, lowest of the lows and biggest head scratchers of the draft, division-by-division, starting with the AFC East. Here's how we see things shaking out in the division in the future. 

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS:

Grade: A — The Patriots did what they do, though with significantly more eyeballs and excitement following the selection of Alabama quarterback Mac Jones in the first round. From there the focus returned to the defense as the Pats welcomed in a first round-graded DT in the second, another elite edge rusher and a battering ram of a running back. The only things left to desire were more help for the linebackers and defensive backs, but we can't all have anything

MIAMI DOLPHINS:

Grade: A- — The Dolphins continue to manage drafts by themselves, and GM Ray Grier made a bold move in the first round by grabbing Jaylen Waddle with the sixth overall pick, reuniting the speedster with his former NCAA quarterback. From there, the Dolphins grabbed some exquisite value players including local edge rusher Jaelen Phillips (who could become something special), a new OT in Liam Eichenberg and plenty others. This was another outstanding draft for the 'Phins. 

NEW YORK JETS:

Grade: B+ — Whether or not you're a Zach Wilson fan, its impossible to criticize the pick too deeply because it was so bold. Justin Fields was clearly the safer pick, Trey Lance may have represented even more upside, but Wilson brings immense boom or bust quality. Elijah Moore in the second round is an astounding pick up for the Jets, then added not one, but two Michael Carters; the North Carolina running back and Duke cornerback. They have the latent to finally fill a number of holes. We'll see if they come good.

BUFFALO BILLS: 

Grade: B- — The Bills have the talent to remain a championship contender for years ahead, but you can never have too many skilled playmakers up front. Hence the selected of freakish Miami athlete Greg Rousseau, Add in offensive line depth, and the Bills did what they needed to in the draft. They just never needed to do that much, for once. 

BOLDEST PICK: BYU QB Zach Wilson, New York Jets — We touched on it above, but it's almost impossible to quantify just how gutsy this call is for Hugh Douglass and co. The talent and attitude are all there, and for once New York won't have to worry about a potential breakout star hanging out at the club! (Wilson is Mormom). 

THE STEAL: Alabama DT Christian Barmore, New England Patriots — Barmore was projected to go in the first round in nearly every mock draft. He was still there early in the second, and the Patriots moved aggressively to make sure he didn't stay on the board any longer.

THE HEADSCRATCHER: None of the AFC East squads put up any particularly stunning picks, though the Dolphins using their Round 3 and Round 5 picks on offensive tackles who weren't rated at the top of the board when picked was a bit surprising.