The Dolphins gave Tua Tagovailoa the extra weapons he needed
For many years, the question surrounding the AFC East was "who can keep up with the New England Patriots?" But after last season, the question has changed to "who can stop the Buffalo Bills?" Every team in the division used the 2021 NFL Draft to get a leg up on their divisional competition. Buffalo looks to keep their hold on the division crown, the Miami Dolphins are out to prove that last season was the real deal, the Pats' are looking to return to the postseason, while the New York Jets are out to shock the world. Here is what each AFC East team accomplished during this year's draft.
Objective Achieved: Filled some needs
The Bills defense ranked 12th in sacks last year (38), and they look to improve upon that as they drafted defensive ends Greg Rousseau [Miami (Fla.)] and Boogie Basham (Wake Forest). They also selected Wisconsin cornerback Rachad Wildgoose, and Pittsburgh safety Damar Hamlin, to help with pass defense. The Bills also want to cut down on the 27 sacks they allowed on offense last year, so they picked up offensive tackles Spencer Brown (Northern Iowa), Tommy Doyle [Miami (Ohio)], along with Texas Tech guard Jack Anderson to beef up the protection for Josh Allen. They also snagged Houston wide receiver Marquez Stevenson, but I was surprised that they didn't take a tight end or running back.
Objective Achieved: Added support for Tua Tagovailoa
Tagovailoa is thrilled to be reunited with former college teammate, wide receiver Jaylen Waddle. Offensive tackles Liam Eichenberg (Notre Dame) and Larnel Coleman (UMass) will help keep Tagovailoa upright, Boston College tight end Hunter Long also will be an option in the passing game, while Cincinnati running back Gerrid Doaks could be a nice sleeper pick. The Dolphins also decided to keep Miami (Fla.) edge rusher Jaelean Phillips in town, they added Oregon safety Jevon Holland, but where's the new blood at linebacker?
New England Patriots
Objective Achieved: The quarterback of the future?
Cam Newton is the starting QB for now, but how long will that last with Alabama's Mac Jones in town? Other new additions to the offense include Oklahoma running back Rhamondre Stevenson, Colorado offensive tackle Will Sherman, and UCF wide receiver Tre Nixon. But in true Bill Belichick fashion, he also made sure to add plenty of defensive talent. Jones' college teammate, defensive lineman Christian Barmore, is the big prize. The Pats' also grabbed Oklahoma edge rusher Ronnie Perkins, Michigan linebacker Cameron McGrone, and Missouri safety Joshuah Bledsoe.
New York Jets
Objective Achieved: New talent on both sides of the ball
The J-E-T-S are rebuilding and they didn't waste any time in filling needs. BYU signal-caller Zach Wilson will be the face of the rebuild, while USC guard Alijah Vera-Tucker will be charged with protecting him. Ole Miss receiver Elijah Moore gives Wilson a nice downfield weapon, while North Carolina running back Michael Carter hopes to fill the void that this team has had in its backfield for quite some time. The Jets also began the mission of improving last year's fifth-worst pass defense (275.6 ypg) by adding cornerbacks Michael Carter II (Duke), Jason Pinnock (Pittsburgh), and Brandin Echols (Kentucky). They also picked up safties Jamien Sherwood (Auburn), and Hamsah Nasirildeen (Florida State), along with Arkansas defensive tackle Jonathan Marshall.
— 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 can also be heard on WGN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.
(Top photo courtesy of miamidolphins.com)