The New England Patriots have won 11 straight AFC East division titles. But has the balance of power shifted in the division with Tom Brady now in Tampa Bay? That's what the other AFC East franchises are hoping for.
The 2020 NFL Draft was a crucial one for all four teams. The Pats were looking for younger players to help them keep their winning edge, while the other three teams were hoping to add more talent in hopes of finally knocking New England from its perch. Here is what each AFC East squad accomplished during this year's draft.
Objective Achieved: Added depth to multiple positions
The Bills added to their defensive line with A.J. Epenesa (26.5 sacks, 36.5 tackles for a loss for Iowa). A player many expected to go in the first round, Buffalo was able to get Epenesa in the second half of the second (No. 54 overall). Utah's Zack Moss should team with Devin Singletary and quarterback Josh Allen to give the Bills a punishing ground attack while Gabriel Davis and Isaiah Hodgins add to an improved receiving corps that already gained former Viking Stefon Diggs via trade. Seventh-round pick Dane Jackson should be able to help out at cornerback.
The most intriguing pick was Jake Fromm, as the former Georgia starter who was expected to go as early as the second round by many analysts lasted until the fifth. Fromm didn't help himself during the NFL Scouting Combine and his lack of arm strength appears to be a curious fit for Buffalo's conditions, but there's no questioning his football IQ, which could benefit Josh Allen when it comes to game preparation this season.
Objective Achieved: Dolphins find their next franchise quarterback... no seriously
Next to Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa was the No. 2 quarterback prospect in this year's class. And even though Justin Herbert continued to build momentum headed into the draft, Miami took Tagovailoa with the fifth pick. Now the question becomes how soon he sees the field with Ryan Fitzpatrick able to give Tagovailoa time to fully rehabilitate his surgically repaired hip. But it's also entirely possible that we'll see him sooner rather than later as the Dolphins loaded up on offensive linemen in this draft, taking three (Austin Jackson, Robert Hunt, Solomon Kindley) total with an eye towards protecting their new signal-caller.
Six of the Dolphins' seven other picks were used on three defensive linemen, two defensive backs and a long snapper, but the most intriguing selection may be of Malcolm Perry. The former Navy quarterback was announced as a wide receiver when he was drafted late in the seventh round (No. 246 overall) but he's listed as a running back on Miami's roster. Regardless of his position, Perry's versatility and athleticism could have him fill any number of roles on both offense and special teams. The team also added to its backfield by trading a fifth-round pick to San Francisco for running back Matt Breida.
New England Patriots
Objective Achieved: Standing Pat at quarterback, sticking to the blueprint elsewhere
Bill Belichick seems content to move forward with Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer at quarterback in the post-Tom Brady era as he didn't draft one. He also traded out of the first round to acquire some more draft capital. But in the end, there was one consistent theme with most of the team's 10 picks — versatility. The man in charge of the oldest roster in the NFL, Belichick injected youth into the defense with the selection of three linebackers (Josh Uche, Anfrernee Jennings, Cassh Maluia), three offensive linemen (Michael Onwenu, Justin Herron, Dustin Woodard), and safety Kyle Dugger. He also addressed the tight end position with two new options — Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene and used a fifth-round pick on a kicker, Marshall's Justin Rohrwasser. He will try to fill the big foot of Stephen Gostkowski, who was with the team for 14 seasons and is 12th all-time in career points (1,775).
New York Jets
Objective Achieved: Get Sam Darnold more help
The Jets went big with their first pick, taking mammoth (6-7, 364) offensive tackle Mekhi Becton at No. 11 overall. The good news for GM Joe Douglas is that he didn't have to trade up to get one of the top tackles in this draft. Then Douglas gave Darnold a new weapon by taking Baylor wide receiver Denzel Mims in the second and added to his backfield depth with Florida running back La'Mical Perine in the fifth round. Cameron Clark, a fourth-round pick out of Charlotte, will join Becton as part of the Jets' new-look offensive line.
The other side of the ball wasn't completely ignored with Cal safety Ashtyn Davis (third round) and Virginia cornerback Bryce Hall (fifth) set to join the secondary and former Gator Jabari Zuniga (18.5 sacks, 33 tackles for a loss) looking to boost the pass rush. Don't overlook the addition of Texas A&M punter Braden Mann either, who won the Ray Guy Award in 2018. The most surprising pick may have been FIU quarterback James Morgan, who was the seventh at the position to come off of the board (fourth round, No. 125 overall). The team loves his arm strength and the hope he is he will eventually develop into Darnold's reliable backup.
— Gabe Salgado is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He's a co-host of The Rewind Sports: 60. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.