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NFL Draft

Which AFC East Team Has Best Non-QB Roster?

  • The Draft Network
  • June 23, 2021
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A once New England Patriot-run division has become one of drastic change, a welcomed sight for Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, and New York Jets faithful who’ve spent the last two decades of their fandom holding onto hopes of a wild-card spot year in and year out. 

Fresh new talent under center has welcomed in new, exuberant coaching presences throughout the division, with Brian Flores (Miami) and Jets first-year bench boss Robert Saleh now in place for the long haul. Gone are the days of dominance in Foxboro, and its departure has ushered in a dramatically well-rounded division with competition aplenty.

In this exercise, quarterbacks are deemed irrelevant, denoting that presumed starters in Josh Allen (BUF), Tua Tagovailoa (MIA), Cam Newton (NE), and Zach Wilson (NYJ) are excluded from the overall microcosm that is each team’s potential final 53-man Week 1 roster. With all things considered, including positional depth, recent offseason success, and how well each franchise is set up for the years to come, here is how the AFC East stacks up outside of under center. 

Buffalo Bills

Earning their first division title since 1995 was a step in the right direction for Sean McDermott’s unit, but it wasn’t the ultimate leap they envisioned as they eye their franchise’s first Lombardi Trophy.

The Bills’ offense doesn’t jump out on paper despite the presence of Stefon Diggs. Rather, each player has a unique role in contributing to Brian Daboll’s offense, whether it be as a 1,000-yard pass-catcher (Diggs) or a third-down change of pace back that they envision offseason addition Matt Breida to be behind an underwhelming duo of ball carriers in Devin Singletary and Zack Moss (who many believed would be replaced this offseason). Replacing John Brown is free agent signee Emmanuel Sanders who will pair with 2020 second-team All-Pro Cole Beasley as the intermediate target hogs in Buffalo along with Dawson Knox at tight end. Up front, the Bills are a disciplined group with 24 years of combined professional experience leading the way for a unit that allowed just 27 sacks in 2020, ninth-best in the entire league, and tops in the division.

Defensively, the Bills have an outstanding foundation of talent within all three levels, led by linebacker Matt Milano, the nucleus of a fast, explosive Buffalo unit. Tre’Davious White is the lone standout in the cornerback room, but the presence of Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde as roaming safeties eases his duties to sit on an island on a weekly basis. Add in draft additions Carlos Basham Jr. and Greg Rousseau to beef up the front four, and it’s clear why the Bills are favorites to repeat as division victors.

Miami Dolphins

This was tough slotting the Dolphins at two, but they tout too deep of a roster under the tutelage of Flores to not be a thorn in the side of the Bills as they attempt to capture the division. Let me start by saying this: Man am I excited to see a healthy Jaylen Waddle suit up! Arguably the most electric receiver prospect in a deep wideout draft pool, Waddle has all the necessary traits to dominate from the onset of his career in Miami, if he’s able to stay on the football field. His presence on the outside pairing with Will Fuller V, DeVante Parker, and Mike Gesicki in-line rounds out a dynamic group of talent to ease the burden of Tagovailoa’s elongated development period. 

On the other side of the ball, Miami’s second first-round selection, Jaelan Phillips, looks primed to wreak havoc in his first season entrenched within a talented Dolphins defense. We can also take a look at the secondary, where elite cover-man Xavien Howard joins Byron Jones, Eric Rowe, and first-year talent Jevon Holland to round out one of the league’s top back-end groups.

New England Patriots

Following a drastically different approach this offseason, the Patriots enter the summer with questionable optimism hinging upon the ability of their new acquisitions to produce, and in bunches. Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, and Matt Judon headline Bill Belichick’s overhaul as he attempts to drag the Patriots back to the playoffs on the heels of a seven-win season where things could have been much, much worse. 

With veterans in abundance, and Belichick still pushing the buttons, New England has the chance to surprise, especially if all goes well under center, whether it’s Newton, or 15th overall pick Mac Jones slinging the rock.  Don’t count them out.

New York Jets

The introduction of Saleh has accompanied a new hope within the Jets facility, as general manager Joe Douglas attempts to accelerate the Jets rebuild into warp speed with the additions of wideout Corey Davis, edge defender Carl Lawson, and draft headliners Alijah Vera-Tucker, and Elijah Moore. The Jets are by no means expected to be in contention come Christmas time, but the pieces are in place for success in the near future if Saleh is able to develop, progress, and serve as the leading voice in what has been a Jets facility in desperate need of a figurehead to lead the charge back up the ranks of the division.

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