2022 AFC East Rival Draft Recap
The 2022 NFL draft concluded this past Saturday and it was a circus for the lot of AFC East squads. For the Bills, they plugged all their holes and added athletes throughout the entirety of the three days of drafting. The Bills’ draft will be covered in other feature articles, the rest of the AFC East however, plops into my hands. The Jets put on a masterclass, the Pats earned “F” grades via twitter analysts nation-wide, while the Miami Dolphins simply enjoyed their weekend watching Tyreek Hill highlights. Let’s get into how each of the Buffalo Bills’ AFC rivals fared in the 2022 NFL Draft.
New York Jets
Jets fans have something to celebrate about! New York just had, arguably, the best draft out of the entire NFL. They moved around the board a lot in the later rounds, and got some absolute gems. We’ll get into the two top-10 picks first. They took Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner fourth overall and I honestly love what this says about the Bills. New York had a relatively full board, and could’ve gone anywhere positonaly at four. They opted with corner in an attempt to slow Allen’s offense down.
Gardner is the perfect pick for them, and he will have his hands full. The Jets have little to offer in their secondary, and will rely on Sauce to be CB1 immediately. Sauce will have to take on Diggs, Hill, Jefferson, Chase, Metcalf, etc. Being thrown to the wolves is a huge risk, just look at Jeff Okudah for instance. Corners (with egos as big as Sauce’s) get destroyed in the mental game if the transition doesn’t work out from college to pro ball. If Gardner is inconsistent his rookie year, it could spell troubles for his whole career. The likelihood of that is low though, as Gardner projects to be ready immediately. I mean, anyone who allows zero touchdowns through three years should come in dominating.
With their second pick the Jets landed former Ohio State and Lake Travis receiver Garrett Wilson. Wilson and I, funnily enough, grew up in the same area of Central Texas. I never knew him, but he did once jump over me on a backdoor lob in a select basketball tournament. That’s when I learned about pro-level talent. Wilson’s measurables are elite. He ran sub 4.4 and is known for his insane vertical play.
Later in the first, the Jets traded around the board and were able to pick up former “Last Chance U” star Jermaine Johnson II. I absolutely love this pick. I personally had Johnson ranked 18th. He’s a true edge that already has a multi-tool pass-rush attack. He’ll start day one and he’ll definitely have Josh Allen’s sweet face on a dart board as soon as he gets to the facility.
Sadly, to Rico’s chagrin, the Jets selected Breece Hall in the early second round and this one will sting. The selection itself is somewhat puzzling. The Jets invested a fourth round pick in a running back (Michael Carter) last year. It serves for a great 1-2 punch, but I seriously didn’t expect the Jets to go RB so early. Hall will be a staple in the AFC East for the next couple of years. The Jets have been slowly rebuilding their O-Line, and the best way to develop a young Zach Wilson is by coupling him with a ground game. Anyways, it’s always unfortunate to see a mock-draft favorite go to a division rival.
New York continued to move around in the later rounds, as they ended up with three guys over the next four rounds. They picked up longtime Jets fan Jeremy Ruckert from Ohio State. He could play a little year one, but the Jets will have a committee attack at the TE spot. With two picks in the fourth round, the Jets hit the trenches. Max Mitchell from Louisiana-Lafayette stands at 6’6” and has pretty good feet for a big fella, he’s not much as a run blocker though. They then took Michael Clemons from Aggieland. He was pretty good in college, and has been playing SEC ball since 2017. He should function well as a rotational pass-rusher.
In totality, the Jets killed the draft. They addressed every need, and added dangerous weapons. They’re well on their own way to playing good football in the Meadowlands, their past two draft classes couple perfectly. Expect Jersey to float around the six win mark next year, with their eyes set on that juicy free agent class going into 2023.
DRAFT GRADE: A
New England Patriots
*Clap* *Clap* *Clap*
What a botch-job. The New England Patriots, proposed AFC East contender, just put on one of the worst performances in draft history. Now, we never know what could happen down the line. Maybe they’re geniuses, perhaps they’re time travelers. But due to the many laws of the universe, that’s impossible. Let’s get into some of the specific head-scratching picks and what that means for Buffalo down the line.
At the end of round one, after trading back, the Pats took former Chattanooga Moc Cole Strange. Strange indeed! Now, personally, I like Cole Strange, and would’ve loved if Buffalo got him in round two or three. The reach just doesn’t make sense. New England is proposed as this brilliant front-office that will trade back without hesitation to get their guy. Why not trade back? Drop to 60 and get Strange. Karlaftis, Dax Hill, Logan Hall, McCreary, Ebiketie. There were a ton of guys New England could’ve gotten, along with Strange in the later rounds. There must have been a lot of love for him around the league. He’s a multi-positional pull perfectionist, the optimal Belichick lineman.
In the second, another gaff. The Pats traded up to 50 to select Baylor speedster Tyquan Thornton. He was Second-Team All Big-12, and ran a blazing 4.21 unofficial 40 at the combine. I actually dig the pick, but once again, trade back for a guy like this. New England practically drafted a third and fourth rounder in rounds one and two. It would be ridiculous to not ridicule what happened.
In the third, the Pats took my favorite pick of theirs in Marcus Jones out of Houston. Jones is an awesome player. Despite his small 5’8” frame, he bowls around the line of scrimmage, and is a speedster as well. He just feels like a New England slot and will be a day one starter. They also got Arizona State’s Jack Jones in the sixth, a player I like a lot as well. He’s played a lot of college ball and could get some snaps right away. Losing J.C. is unfortunate, but the rebuild in the secondary has begun. Will they be able to hang with the likes of Diggs, Davis, and Crowder? I don’t think so, and that will be the point of attack when playing New England next season.
Another weird pick was Western Kentucky’s Bailey Zappe, who just broke Joe Burrow’s college touchdown record. He’s a cool player no doubt, but Mac Jones was selected in the first round last year and had the best rookie season out of any other eligible QB. I know that breaks some rules in your draft book Belichick. Zappe has no chance of playing, and it seems we have another potential Jimmy G situation on our hands. They also took a pair of running backs in the fourth and sixth rounds. Typical Patriot guys, Pierre Strong Jr. and Kevin Harris add to an already loaded backfield. I don’t understand taking two, Damien Harris commands most of the load already and guys like Rhamandre Stevenson and James White will take the rest of the carries.
The Pats got some good talent when looking at the draft now, but they could’ve done so much better. They reached at nearly every pick, and still have questions at receiver and corner. This team is not ready to compete for a Super Bowl, as Miami has officially leap-frogged them post-draft.
DRAFT GRADE: C-
Speaking of Miami… Think of the Dolphins’ draft like this: They selected a three-time 1,000 yard receiver, a player with six playoff touchdowns, and a four-time All-Pro. When the Dolphins traded for Tyreek Hill, they sacrificed the bulk of their draft. They got some good depth pieces in the later rounds, and we’ll get into that in a second, but let’s get into Cheetah.
This poses super-potential for Miami, but it will all fall on who’s playing Quarterback. Tua had a better year last year, and his O-Line has been upgraded mightily with the signings of Terron Armstead and Connor Williams. Nonetheless, I don’t see Tyreek being as lethal as he was in Kansas City, due to the skill gap between Mahomes and Tua. Time will tell, and quite literally everything is speculation at this point. Let’s just say Miami is shooting for a Wild Card spot.
In the third round, the Dolphins picked up National Champion Channing Tindall from that elite Georgia defense. Though he wasn’t a star, Tindall has good potential for the NFL. He’s got a huge build and ran sub 4.5. He’ll be a rotational guy at first, but could soon be a notable face around the NFL, due to Miami’s lack of talent at the linebacking spot.
Miami then snagged Red Raider Erik Ezukanma. He was taken in the middle fourth, with some pretty good players, even at the receiver spot, still available. Miami has been linked to Texas Tech before with players like Jakeem Grant and Sam Eguavoen. “EZ Erik” has pretty good size at 6’2” and plays with above-average speed. He seems like a good blocker too. This is definitely a depth move for next year, but Ezukanma will be a force on special teams. Two 7th round picks later, and the draft was over. Once again, Miami was quiet last weekend.
DRAFT GRADE: B-
Post-draft, the Bills still hold the AFC East with a white-knuckle grip. New York made good moves for the future, but they’re not ready now. New England squandered some opportunities to better their roster, and Belichick got out-Beaned. Miami has a lot of speculation throughout their roster, and time will tell if they can mold together. For the Bills, it’s Super Bowl time anyways, other teams’ draft picks shouldn’t matter. Time to play Buffalo ball and win the whole damn thing.