NFL Draft Grades: AFC East

New England Patriots

Best pick: QB Ryan Mallett, Arkansas (3rd round, 10th pick)

Will someone explain to me how this is a risky move for the Patriots?  A team that is overflowing with draft picks uses a 3rd round pick on the most talented quarterback in the draft.  Worst case, they cut him and, because of their amount of draft picks, are no worse for the ware.  Best case, he sits behind Brady and is traded for a higher draft pick when a QB-needy team comes calling.

Questionable move: OT Nate Solder, Colorado (1st round, 17th pick)

Patriots fans no doubt remember that horrible day when Tom Brady had his knee bowled into by former Chiefs safety Bernard Pollard.  It was a dark day in New England.  They are investing a lot of faith in Solder to protect Brady’s blind side now that Matt Light is leaving town.  He needs a lot of work on technique if he’s going to be the starter.

Third-day gem: G Marcus Cannon, TCU (5th round, 7th pick)

He was a second-round grade on most boards until they discovered he was suffering from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.  It’s unknown what exactly his future is in terms of football, but the Patriots can afford to wait and see.  They may have nabbed a Pro Bowl lineman in the 5th round.  Only the Patriots…

Overall: A solid draft.  They continued to ignore holes in their pass rush and at defensive end.  They did however fill their hole at left tackle with Solder and CB Ras-I Dowling comes with a ton of upside.  I like RB Shane Vereen in this offense.

Grade: B-

New York Jets

Best pick: DL Muhammad Wilkerson, Temple (1st round, 30th pick)

He fits their scheme well and provides a lot of versatility.  They were getting long in the tooth at the position with Shaun Ellis and Trevor Pryce getting up there in years, and Mike DeVito is probably best suited as a backup.

Questionable move: NT Kenrick Ellis, Hampton (3rd round, 30th pick)

He’s facing 20+ years in prison for assault and he’s failed numerous drug tests because of marijuana use.  Needless to say, he’s a bit of a character risk.  That would be enough risk in itself, but he’s also coming from a school where he played against a low-level of competition and his desire is in question.  Still, he’s a very large man with a lot of talent and they need help at nose tackle.

Third-day gem: WR Jeremy Kerley, TCU (5th round, 22nd pick)

He’s got excellent hands, is a great athlete and plays faster than he times.  He’s probably not a starter in the NFL, but he could be a very good slot and is a nice complement to the Jets’ other receivers.

Overall: They didn’t have a ton of picks to work with, but they added some decent pieces.  The two lineman should figure into the immediate picture, but RB Bilal Powell will have trouble finding carries in an already crowded backfield.  QB Greg McElroy should, at the very least, be a quality backup.  They passed again on drafting a pass rusher as Rex Ryan seems to think he can get away without one.

Grade: C+

Buffalo Bills

Best pick: DL Marcell Dareus, Alabama (1st round, 3rd pick)

He’s not going to take over games for stretches, like Nick Fairley is capable of doing, but he’ll be a very solid piece at an important position.  Provides a lot of versatility schematically which I’m sure the Bills will love since they can’t seem to decide on a scheme.

Questionable move: Passing on Blaine Gabbert

I’m not necessarily saying they should have taken Gabbert, but if he turns into a big-time signal caller, they are going to regret this pick.  Ryan Fitzpatrick is not the answer.

Third-day gem: ILB Chris White, Mississippi State (6th round, 4th pick)

He’s not a great athlete and might not be anything more than a special teams guy, but he could be a factor in the middle of this defense.  He’s your classic thumper that can slot in next to Paul Posluszny and make plays in the run game.

Overall: They did a nice job of adding talent to the defense in Dareus, CB/S Aaron Williams and LB Kelvin Sheppard, but they really could have used some help on the offensive line.  You can’t fill every hole in one draft though and they did acquire some nice talent overall.

Grade: B

Miami Dolphins

Best pick: G Mike Pouncey, Florida (1st round, 15th pick)

Not the flashiest first round pick, but he should be a very solid starter for a long time.  He fits right in with their blocking scheme and should be an immediate starter.  However, I think expectations are a little high because of his last name.

Questionable move: RB Daniel Thomas, Kansas State (2nd round, 30th pick)

It could have been worse.  They could have reached for Mark Ingram in round 1.  Instead they reached for Thomas at the end of round 2.  It’s not that he’s not a good player, he just wasn’t a good value at this slot.  His running style makes me nervous as he has trouble getting his pad level down.

Third-day gem: WR Edmond Gates, Abilene Christian (4th round, 14th pick)

He’s a burner.  Plain and simple.  At the very least I think he’s a good slot receiver, but he’s got starter potential.  He may eventually develop into what they were hoping for when they drafted Ted Ginn.

Overall: Like the Jets, they didn’t have a ton of picks to work with.  Still, they acquired some nice talent.  Pouncey and Thomas should contribute immediately and Gates shouldn’t be far behind.  They simply didn’t have the number of picks they needed.

Grade: C+

Next up: NFC North

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