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Evaluating the Buffalo Bills’ competition in the AFC East

About a week after the 2021 NFL Draft, fans of the Buffalo Bills should be able to wrap their heads around the direction of the team. Although many, including myself, would’ve drafted a cornerback higher in the draft, we cannot change what has already happened. It’s time to accept the draft picks that Brandon Beane made and show them what it’s like to be embraced by Bills Mafia.

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About a week after the 2021 NFL Draft, fans of the Buffalo Bills should be able to wrap their heads around the direction of the team. Although many, including myself, would’ve drafted a cornerback higher in the draft, we cannot change what has already happened. It’s time to accept the draft picks that Brandon Beane made and show them what it’s like to be embraced by Bills Mafia.

I’ve really come around to the way that the Buffalo Bills attacked the 2021 NFL Draft. On the other hand, we still have to remember that the division isn’t given, it’s earned. The Jets, Dolphins, and Patriots all had great drafts. It’s also a lot easier to have a good draft when you’re picking at the top of each round, as opposed to the latter half like the Bills did.

If you had to ask me which team in the AFC East had the best draft in terms of immediate impact, I would probably say that the Bills are last. However, that’s also a function of having a good team, therefore, a good problem to have. When you have a good roster, it’s tough for rookies to make an immediate impact. For instance, I really like the Buffalo Bills’ first three picks, but it will be difficult for any of them to find a clear path to playing time. Not because these rookies aren’t talented enough, but because the veterans in place will be tough to beat in training camp.

New York Jets

The Jets have had a nice offseason, highlighted by the singing of new Head Coach, Robert Saleh. All of the moves they made were great, but they won’t mean anything unless the coaching staff can get the most out of them. I think Saleh can do exactly that. I don’t think the Jets are an immediate threat to the Buffalo Bills, but they are growing and should not be taken lightly. Especially considering the Buffalo Bills had a tough time against them last year in their second meeting.

Most of their future will rely on how well they support Zach Wilson. I personally thought Wilson was the right pick for them despite all the hate they got for picking a bust. Wilson has a lot of upside, and with the right environment, he could blossom into generational talent. On top of getting their new quarterback, the Jets also got him protection and weapons.

The Jets traded up from pick 23 to pick 14 to draft Alijah Vera-Tucker. it could be argued if the trade up was worth it or not, but only time will tell. Bottom line is that they fortified the protection in front of Wilson, which is typically a wise investment for a young quarterback. Furthermore, the Jets drafted wide receiver Elijah Moore in the second round and managed to snag running back Michael Carter in the fourth round. Both could end up being valuable offensive additions with good return on investment. However, I think the Jets have to build some more depth and establish their identity under their new coach before they are a true threat to the Buffalo Bills.

New England Patriots

Although fans have already written off the Patriots because of what they saw last year, they shouldn’t. The Patriots were without various key players last year because of covid opt-outs and, most notably, their star linebacker, Dont’a Hightower. Despite having one of the worst rosters in the league last year, the Patriots were two wins away from having a winning record. That’s a testament to Bill Belichick and his coaching staff. They got as much as they possibly could out of the 2020 New England Patriots.

The Patriots were perhaps the most active they have ever been during any offseason in Bill Belichick’s history in New England. At first, it felt like irresponsible spending, but in hindsight, it looks a lot better. We can joke about how much the Patriots are paying Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne. However, you should then also be joking at how much the Buffalo Bills paid John Brown in 2019. It’s acceptable to overspend on the wide receiver position to give weapons to a young quarterback when restarting the financial clock on the quarterback position. Furthermore, they also added a pair of quality tight ends: Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith. We all know that the Bills struggled to defend tight ends last season.

Under the tutelage of Belichick, any Patriots defense will be sufficient at it’s very worst. In 2021, they will be getting Hightower back on top of drafting Ronnie Perkins, Cameron McGrone, and Christian Barmore. On top of those draft picks, they also signed Matt Judon, Davon Godchaux, and Jalen Mills in free agency. Even without Tom Brady running the offense, the Patriots almost beat the Bills last year if it wasn’t for a great play by Justin Zimmer. Although the Patriots don’t have a quarterback that scares me, teams can win football games in spite of bad quarterback play. The Bills aren’t immune to that, and therefore, we should be taking the Patriots more seriously.

Miami Dolphins

If I had to rank the draft classes within the AFC East, I would rank the Dolphins as the best draft class in the division. It doesn’t feel good admitting that, but I like a lot of the prospects they drafted. The Dolphins didn’t add a lot of big names in free agency, but the one they did was wide receiver, Will Fuller. Fuller had a great year last season before being cut short by suspension for PED use. This adds talent to an already talented group of pass-catchers.

The Dolphins added onto that group of pass-catchers by using their first draft pick on wide receiver, Jaylen Waddle. They followed it up by selecting edge rusher, Jaelan Phillips. The medical concerns are real with Phillips, but if he’s healthy, he’s dangerous. After these two picks, the Dolphins still had three selections within the top three rounds. These picks included Jevon Holland, Liam Eichenberg, and Hunter Long. This fortifies a weak safety position for the Dolphins, adds protection for Tua, and adds another weapon at the tight end position.

Although the Dolphins didn’t make a big leap in terms of improvement, they showed that they were ahead of schedule with their play last year. The Buffalo Bills and Josh Allen seem to take care of the Dolphins without much difficulty. However, the Dolphins are creating something dangerous and could very well threaten the Buffalo Bills for the 2021 division title.

Air Raid Hour Recap

Yesterday on the Air Raid Hour, Judge and Tilt were joined by the members of the Every Morning Quarterback Podcast, Anthony and B-Mac. Anthony is a Jets fan while B-Mac is a Patriots fan. After having tunnel vision on the Buffalo Bills for the past couple of months, it’s nice to get an outside perspective and get that competitive banter back. In addition to breaking down the draft classes, we also touched on 2021 expectations. Of course, this naturally caused some friction.

However, the game isn’t won on paper; you have to prove it on the field. It won’t come easy, but the Buffalo Bills are in the driver’s seat when it comes to the AFC East. In a short time, the Bills have gone from being the hunters to being the hunted. Let’s see how the Buffalo Bills do this year with a target on their backs.

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