afc east 2021 nfl draft
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The Jets greatly improved their roster this past weekend. But how did their division rivals fare during the annual event?

Ryan Honey

The 2021 NFL Draft has sadly come to an end, and boy was it one to remember. After a 2020 event that was virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NFL was back to hosting an in-person draft with fans in attendance.

There were cheers for the players selected, boos toward NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, and a number of draftees in attendance to walk onto the stage and hug Goodell when their name was called. Yes, normalcy is upon us to a certain extent.

As for the Jets, Joe Douglas and his staff did an excellent job this past weekend, improving either side of the ball with the acquisitions of Zach Wilson, Alijah Vera-Tucker, Elijah Moore, Jamien Sherwood, and more.

But they weren’t the only AFC East team to make superb moves during the 2021 draft. How did the Patriots, Dolphins, and Bills fare?

Patriots

A new era of Patriots football has begun with the first-round selection of Mac Jones at No. 15 overall. And while many weren’t as high on Jones as they were with some of the other first-round quarterbacks, his pro comparison is Tom Brady, given his immobility but sheer accuracy when throwing the football.

Jones should fit right into Bill Belichick’s system, although it’s unclear if he’ll start right away since the Pats brought back Cam Newton on a one-year deal this offseason.

Following that selection, the Patriots made a number of beneficial picks that are sure to enhance the talent level of an already-productive defense. Alabama defensive tackle Christian Barmore and Oklahoma edge rusher Ronnie Perkins are both headed to Foxborough, and the Pats possibly executed a steal with the third-round selection of the latter. There’s a chance Perkins could’ve been off the board in the second.

Belichick also did a great job adding a weapon that could eventually take pressure off Mac Jones in Oklahoma running back Rhamondre Stevenson (fourth round, No. 120 overall). Stevenson averaged 6.6 yards per carry and scored seven touchdowns for the Sooners this past season.

Tre Nixon, a wide receiver out of UCF, will also be joining the team as a seventh-rounder. Prior to not playing in 2020, Nixon caught 49 balls for 830 yards and seven scores during the 2019 campaign, so he should provide decent wide receiver depth for both Newton and Jones if he makes the final roster.

Adding defensive help and eventual weapons for Jones was the name of the game for the Pats in this draft — can’t knock those moves by Bill.

Dolphins

The Dolphins made a number of fantastic picks in this draft and acquired multiple talented bodies to add to a roster that nearly made the postseason last year.

Other than the fact he’s coming off an injury-plagued season at Alabama, I can’t find a reason to knock the Jaylen Waddle pick at No. 6 overall. He will provide pure speed to the Dolphins offense and could be a talented return specialist as well. Not to mention, he possesses familiarity with Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, having played with him at the collegiate level.

Following that pick, the Dolphins added Miami edge rusher Jaelan Phillips, who underwent a superb season in 2020. Stepping up in the absence of Gregory Rousseau (who opted out amid the COVID-19 pandemic), Phillips earned second-team All-ACC and All-American honors in 2020 after racking up 45 combined tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss, and eight sacks.

He’ll surely improve a Dolphins pass rush that was tied for 10th with 41 total sacks last year.

Following the first round, Miami was able to add Notre Dame offensive tackle Liam Eichenberg and Boston College tight end Hunter Long — two great acquisitions that could eventually assist in the crucial development of Tagovailoa.

Eichenberg was a consensus All-American and first-team All-ACC selection in 2020 and was one of the better second-round selections this year.

Long will be another weapon Tua could rely on — he was one of the top tight ends in the ACC this past season and caught 57 balls for BC.

I wish the Dolphins would’ve made a move to add a pick or two in the middle rounds. It’s tough to not have any selections in the fourth, fifth, or sixth rounds, which was the case for Miami.

Nonetheless, the Dolphins added a multitude of talented players to a roster that carries the potential to make the playoffs.

Bills

Rushing the passer is extremely important in what’s become a passing league. Buffalo realizes that and acquired a pair of talented edge rushers with their first two picks.

Gregory Rousseau was always a first-round-caliber player, regardless of how the media portrayed him. He wasn’t dropping to the second round and didn’t, having gone to the Bills at No. 30 overall.

Carlos Basham Jr. was a second-round-caliber player; it was tough to imagine him dropping to the third. The Bills took him at No. 61 overall.

Both will provide significant talent to a pass rush that racked up 38 sacks last year.

Following those two selections, Buffalo focused a significant amount of its attention on adding offensive line depth to protect star quarterback Josh Allen.

Spencer Brown (Northern Iowa offensive tackle), Tommy Doyle (Miami, Ohio offensive tackle), and Jack Anderson (Texas Tech offensive guard) are all headed to Orchard Park. Brown was a second-team All-Missouri Valley selection in 2019 while Anderson sports great size at 6-foot-4, 314 pounds.

Allen is the long-term answer at the quarterback position in Buffalo, so adding depth to the offensive line was very crucial. The organization knew that heading into the draft and hit the nail on the head with a multitude of decisions.

Expect Buffalo to undergo another great season in 2021 and potentially win the division for the second consecutive year.

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