As the cover photo suggests, yes that is Rob Gronkowski chugging a bud light, because yes, the Patriots won another Super Bowl. En route to that Super Bowl, surprise, surprise, the Patriots won another AFC East title. That makes it 14 divisional crowns in the last 16 years for New England, and their eighth consecutive. To say that the rest of the division needs a shakeup would be an understatement. Luckily for the other three AFC East teams, they for the most part have high selections in this upcoming draft, while the Patriots don’t have a pick until the third round. While this would be an excellent time for the non-New Englanders to capitalize, make no mistake, closing the talent gap will not be easy.

In case you didn’t read my free agent piece earlier this offseason…

Breaking News: The Patriots opened their checkbooks for the first time in what seems like since the Bush administration.

They added not only a potentially lockdown corner in Stephon Gilmore to their defense, but they also further added to their already high-powered offense by inking tight end Dwayne Allen and by trading for speedy wideout Brandin Cooks. Sure, while they may have depleted their draft pick stockpile a bit in the process, there is no doubt that some serious talent was added to this roster just months removed from a Super Bowl title. Considering this, there is no doubt that the Bills, Jets, and Dolphins need to have excellent drafts this April in hopes of finally toppling the Patriots nearly two decade long reign of terror.

While the Pats have a title to defend, the Bills need to sort out their team identity crisis. The Dolphins will be looking to get over the hump after their impressive 10 wins in 2016, while the Jets will just be looking for a way to not lose every game next season.

Simply put, it’s time for this division to get to work… The AFC East is now on the clock.

Buffalo Bills

2016 Record: 7-9

2017 Draft Picks: 10, 44, 75, 156, 171, 195

As I just stated above, the Bills are currently at a crossroads. Their 7-9 record in 2016 indicates neither a motivation to go for it all or to blow it all up in 2017. The way I read their activity this offseason, it appears that they are playing the short-term game, as they restructured starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor’s contract in a way that should give them more cap flexibility over the next few years, while their commitment to him will only run through 2018. Translation: they will be looking to see what he’s got over the next year or so, while trying to win as many games as possible in the process. Considering this, you can pretty much scratch quarterback off their “needs” list, as Taylor will be their option for at least 2017, while Cardale Jones (2016 4th round pick) is the “things didn’t work out and we are tanking the rest of the way” backup plan. As for the rest of the Bills draft plan…

I have narrowed down their top needs to the following positions in descending order, ranked by importance:

| Wide Receiver, Cornerback, Safety, Offensive Tackle, Tight End |

Despite my above, prioritized list of the Bills draft needs; I have them going tight end in my most recent mock with the 10th overall pick. Look, while they may be more needy in other areas, if they are going all in on these next two seasons like I think they are, then an impact player is going to have to be taken with their high draft pick. Think similarly to what Dallas did last season with Zeke at 4th overall. In O.J. Howard, the Bills would certainly be adding a difference maker to their less than dynamic offense, as he has shown flashes of greatness on the biggest stages (back-to-back National Title games were his best performances), while he also put together one of the better combines in recent memory. He ended up with better agility and speed numbers than Antonio Brown for crying out loud! Think of what an athlete of that caliber at the tight end position could do for the progression of a still-developing quarterback in Tyrod Taylor. Beyond athleticism and high potential as a receiver, Howard’s blocking ability is also a plus for this run-heavy Buffalo Bills offense. Simply put, the mere presence of Howard in two-tight end sets would give the Bills one of the more dangerous TE duo’s in the league going forward.

If the Bills were to not go with Howard in the first, I wouldn’t be one bit surprised if they went in a similar direction – just at a different position – by grabbing one of the remaining game changing wide receivers on the board. Corey Davis, Mike Williams, and John Ross all come to mind.

The second round however is where I really believe that the Bills will target a wideout, considering the depth at the position in this draft. Players who should be available at number 44 overall include Chris Godwin, Cooper Kupp, Chad Hansen, Didi Westbrook, and Zay Jones, but the player who I think really fits the best in this offense as the tone setting number two wideout behind Sammy Watkins is JuJu Smith-Schuster out of USC. When I turn on the tape, I can’t pick one specific guy to compare JuJu to, but rather I would like to mold a few guys together. The best I have come up with is some kind of rare combination of Anquan Boldin, Andre Johnson, and Dez Bryant. He appears to most importantly have the relentlessness of all of them, the strength of all of them, and blocking ferocity of all of them, while his after the catch ability reminds me most of Dez, and his on the field reliability and veteran nuances more of Boldin and Johnson. The only real knock on him is his deep speed and speed coming out of his breaks, but I believe that his 4.54 40-time at the combine largely silenced the haters. Simply put, this guy can ball. With such an excellent young possession and after the catch receiver in JuJu paired next to the home run threat in Sammy Watkins and my first round selection for them – game changing tight end O.J. Howard – I see no way that this offense wont take a considerable step forward next season and further progress Tyrod Taylor’s development.

With the offense now largely taken care of, the Bills would be wise to invest on the defensive side of the ball for their next few picks. Luckily for them, this is a deep cornerback class, while there is some reasonable depth at safety as well. Names include (CB) Jalen Myrick out of Minnesota, (CB) Adoree Jackson out of USC, (CB) Fabian Moreau out of UCLA, both Colorado corners Chidobe Awuzie and Ahkello Witherspoon, (CB/S) Desmond King out of Iowa, (S) Josh Jones of N.C. State, and (S) Justin Evans of Texas A&M. Chances are that one of those Colorado corners will be available for Buffalo in the third round, so they can fill the Stephon Gilmore void, while any of the three safeties would be a good fit to start opposite Micah Hyde in 2017.

As they get to their later draft slots, the Bills should address the offensive tackle spot, if not just for insurance purposes, maybe also as a developmental investment. My two favorites built in that mold include towering 6-foot-10 tackle Dan Skipper out of Arkansas and 6-foot-8 mauler Storm Norton out of Toledo. If they were to miss out on the safety spot in the middle rounds because of their need at corner, Buffalo would be wise to take a chance on Weston Steelhammer out of Air Force, who’s good build (6-foot-2, 200 lbs.) and excellent ball production (18 career interceptions) would be worth taking a look at in the final rounds of the draft.

Miami Dolphins

2016 Record: 10-6

2017 Draft Picks: 22, 54, 97, 166, 178, 184, 223, 240

The Dolphins really impressed in 2016 by getting up to 10 wins and sneaking their way into the playoffs. In the process, they seemed to have found themselves a new identity that includes a ferocious ground game led by Jay Ajayi and a reenergized offensive line, while their defense stepped up to becoming one of the more formidable units in the league. While I outlined in my most recent mock draft that the Dolphins are “…considered a team without many holes, but without many strengths either,” this upcoming draft has actually become critical in the process of them taking the next step in becoming a legitimate Super Bowl contender…

Below I have narrowed down the Dolphins top needs to the following positions in descending order, ranked by importance:

| Guard, Linebacker, Cornerback, Defensive End, Safety, Defensive Tackle |

As I said, Miami doesn’t have many glaring needs, but their lack of difference makers across many positions is keeping them from really contending. In the first round, I mocked them a true difference maker that can take their offensive line from good to great in an instant.

Full disclosure, you can call me Brick Tamland of Anchor Man fame because I love Lamp.

Forrest Lamp out of Western Kentucky is the best offensive lineman in this draft and would come in and fill the Dolphins biggest need from day one. He’s drawn Zack Martin comparisons, and while it may be lofty to compare an incoming rookie to a multi-time All-Pro, the similarities are just uncanny. Both were career left tackles, both are undersized for the NFL position, both have less than ideal arm length, and both were and will be forced to make the position switch at the next level. Like Martin, Lamp is a smash mouth football player, who blends his tenacity with incredible athleticism and technique as an offensive lineman. He will join Miami as their plug and play left guard, while Laremy Tunsil can properly be moved back to his natural left tackle spot for 2017. Below are excellent displays of him in pass protection and in the ground game. On the left play he manages to block two pass rushers, including top-five pick Jonathan Allen out of Alabama, while on the right play he shows his mean streak as a run blocker.

Sticking with the theme of taking impact players, the Dolphins would be best addressing their linebacker void in either the second or third rounds. The two most impactful players that will be available in that range are ironically enough two Florida linebackers. Jarrad Davis will be gone after the second round and Alex Anzalone will be gone after the third at the latest, so Miami should prepare accordingly. In terms of talent, both players are first rounders, but unfortunately they both dealt with a ton of injuries. This is likely because they play with the most reckless abandonment I have seen from a linebacking duo in some time. Particularly Davis plays at a Ray Lewis speed and level of intensity, so it makes sense why his 6-foot-1, 238 lbs. frame couldn’t hold up to the weekly car wrecks. If he can learn to stay healthy, he would bring a level of leadership and playmaking that this Dolphins defense has been lacking, while Anzalone’s intensity and versatility (can play every linebacker spot in either a 3-4 or 4-3) would be a breath of fresh air to this defense as well. Below is a highlight package of Davis. His speed, tenacity, and hit power will blow you away.

The Fins don’t pick again until the fifth round, and then again until the seventh. In both of those rounds though, they have a total of five picks, so plenty of depth selections will be made in that range. Continuing to look on the defensive side of the ball will be best for them, so consider names like (CB) Jeremy Cutrer, (CB) William Likely, (DE) Josh Carraway, and (FS) John Johnson in the fifth round, while seventh round options include (OG) Jermaine Eluemunor, (LB) Ben Boulware, and (NT) Josh Tupou.

New England Patriots

2016 Record: 14-2

2017 Draft Picks: 72, 96, 131, 163, 183, 200, 239

Leave it to the Patriots to make this article un-fun, but I see where the mad genius Belichick is coming from here. Essentially he has traded out of the first day and out of most of day two and in exchange he has gotten immediate impact players. The thought process here is that because this draft is so deep with talent, he could afford to expend his early selections in exchange for current veteran starters. With his remaining picks, Belichick believes that he can still get quality prospects, making his plan completely digestible.

Below I have narrowed down their top needs to the following positions in descending order, ranked by importance:

| Edge, Cornerback, Offensive Tackle, Center, Linebacker, Running Back |

As you would expect, a team that just won the Super Bowl doesn’t have many glaring needs, but like the Dolphins, they could upgrade in certain spots. To be honest though, most of their selections will be used to replace players after their contracts expire within the next year or two.

As for their first selection; well, as I said, it doesn't come until the third round, so giving you a concrete pick that I like for them is going to be much harder than it was for the rest of the teams in the first round. I do have an idea though, and it starts with filling their biggest need on the edge. If still available at 72nd overall – which I think he will be – Tim Williams fits exactly what the Patriots are looking for on the edge. He's a twitched up, pure pass rusher, and he may be the most NFL ready player in this draft - in terms of getting after the quarterback – not named Myles Garrett. You must be wondering now, "If he is so good, then why would he fall so far in the draft?" And my answer to you is easy...

Drug tests.

Rumor is that Williams may actually love marijuana more than football, and if Randy Gregory and Josh Gordon have taught us anything; a player of this nature may not actually be worth it. I have a feeling though that if he can get into a culture like New England has, then he may have a chance of getting clean. Ultimately this is a selection that Belichick can afford and many other coaches/GM's cannot. Knowing the Patriots, this will work out and the acquisition of Williams will allow them to move on from Rob Ninkovich after his contract expires at the end of the 2017 season.


Towards the end of the third round, the Pats pick again. I wouldn't be completely surprised if they decided to double down on the edge, considering the uncertainty of Tim Williams' availability. A guy who may still be there is Daeshon Hall Myles Garrett's book end on the Texas A&M defensive line – and if he isn't, another name to keep in mind is Tarell Basham out of Ohio.

With their fourth and fifth round selections, any of the rest of their needs will be in play. Corner is likely the deepest position still available and happens to fill their next most immediate need. After the loss of Logan Ryan, the Patriots are in need of a slot corner, so that is the lens that I will look through when considering cornerbacks available in the middle rounds. Names that come to mind include Corn Elder out of Miami, Shaquill Griffin out of Central Florida, and William Likely out of Maryland. I know that I previously mentioned Likely's name as a player that Miami may target, however for the Patriots interests, I really like his fit in New England. The book on Likely is that as a corner, he has almost no coverage weaknesses and he is equally game to play downhill as a run defender if needed. He's a blazing fast, twitched up athlete, and he appears to be clean off the field. The reason he may be available in the fifth round? He's 5-foot-7 and is coming off of an ACL injury. Outside of a niche need for a tough slot corner and a special teams contributor, the odds are against Likely that an NFL team would consider him anything more than a priority free agent. I however believe his talent is good enough for coach Belichick to be intrigued. According to, an AFC scout director said "Stick that guy in a 6-foot body and he's probably the first cornerback off the board this year. He's got everything you want other than NFL size." With such incredibly high praise, I see no reason that he couldn't contribute in the NFL, despite his limited size and injury history. To tack on here, it should also be noted that Likely is a former All-American and Big-10 Special Teamer of the Year due to his excellent return skills. If nothing else, he could contribute on special teams and far out perform his fifth round selection.

With their immediate needs addressed with their first handful of picks, the Pats can fill out the rest of their roster with depth selections. Players for New England to consider in the later rounds include (RB) James Conner, (RB) Donald Pumphrey, (OT) Brad Seaton, (LB) James Onwualu, and (LB) Harvey Langi. An intriguing storyline to follow is one of Langi’s, as it has been rumored that if he came out in last year’s draft, Bill Belichick would have looked at him in the first round (source: Yahoo’s Josh Norris showed a tweet from former NFL linebacker Brady Poppinga last summer that established this rumor). After an awful season however, playing far out of position, many are claiming that Langi may not even get drafted now. I’m sure though that if Belichick really had that much interest in him last season, he will be willing to overlook Langi’s down year.

New York Jets

2016 Record: 5-11

2017 Draft Picks: 6, 39, 70, 107, 150, 191, 224

I hate to crap on the Jets here because they are my second favorite team, but they sucked last year and unfortunately they are probably going to suck even more this season. I shouldn’t have to give you too much more background than that to convince you that they desperately need a good draft if they are going to get better anytime soon…

I wanted to dwindle down their top needs like I did for all of the other teams, but truth be told the Jets could use help everywhere. The top three positions listed should be considered as their priority needs however:

| Quarterback, Cornerback, Offensive Line, Rest of Roster|

As badly as the Jets need a quarterback, ironically, I don’t think that they are going to take one in this draft. Not only did they just draft QB’s in back-to-back seasons, but this class also isn’t very deep at the position. I firmly believe that this team currently has so many holes that they should do all they can to trade back from 6th overall in hopes of acquiring more picks and subsequently more players who can actually play. As I said in my most recent mock draft though, I’m going to spare you of trade scenarios over a month away from the draft, so instead I gave the Jets the best player on the board at their second biggest need.

Marshon Lattimore out of Ohio State is the best cornerback in the draft with the tape and combine numbers to backup that claim. He was incredibly productive and a team leader on one of the best defenses in the country. A true no brainer pick for the Jets here, despite the fact that they could take this selection in a variety of ways.

The Jets so desperately need cornerback help, that I wouldn’t be surprised if they double-dipped at the position within their two first selections. Their best bet would be to go after Fabian Moreau of UCLA in the second round, as his skill-set is more than capable of a first round nod, however a torn peck suffered last week at his pro day is sure to drop him at least slightly down draft boards. Picking in the top half of the second round, the Jets should be lucky enough to have such an incredible competitor fall into their laps. In adding Moreau and Lattimore with their first two selections, the Jets would have effectively taken their second weakest position group and turned it into a strength. Lattimore and Morris Claiborne could start on the outside, while Buster Skrine could slide back into the slot where he was most effective two years ago. Moreau would serve initially as the Jets depth utility corner, but there is no doubt in my mind that he would eventually become a starter once he is back to full strength and learns the nuances of the position at the NFL level.

If the Jets don’t want to go back-to-back at the CB position, there will still be ample quality options available in the top half of the second round. (OL) Taylor Moton would likely still be on the board and in play for the Jets, as would (LB) Raekwon McMillan, (OG) Dan Feeney, (LB) Jarrad Davis, and a host of great wideouts including Chris Godwin, Cooper Kupp, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Carlos Henderson

By the third round, the Jets would have to address their offensive line. After the recent departure of mainstay at center and future hall of famer Nick Mangold, I believe that Pat Elflein of Ohio State would be the Jets best option in the top half of the third. Luckily for the Jets, Elflein is not only the best center in the draft, but he also would be an immediate starter. If they didn’t want to start him right away over Wesley Johnson however, Elflein has experience playing any of the three interior OL spots, so he would be able to find a starting position somewhere on the line at the very least. With their second third round selection, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Jets doubled up again and went back-to-back on the offensive line just as they did at the CB position. If any of Roderick Johnson, Taylor Moton, or Antonio Garcia were available for the Jets in the back half of the third round, expect them to pull the trigger. In all likelihood though, those guys would have just come off the board prior to the Jets selection at 107th overall, so I would expect them to play the board BPA. Again here, I’m just going to throw out a bunch of names of who I think would be in play for the Jets based off of team needs (which is everything) and potential fit… (WR) Chad Hansen, (WR) Dede Westbrook, (LB) Duke Riley, (Edge) Tyus Bowser, (TE) Jake Butt, and (NT) Dalvin Tomlinson.

The Jets don’t pick again until the fifth round and from there on will be playing the draft “best player available.” A fit that I really like for them in the fifth would be a value running back who could come in and compliment the finesse style of Bilal Powell. Three guys come to mind in that regard – D’Onta Foreman (6-foot, 233 lbs.) out of Texas, Samaje Perine (5-foot-11, 233 lbs.) out of Oklahoma, and James Conner (6-foot-1, 233 lbs.) out of Pittsburgh. No, I did not plan for them all to be exactly 233 lbs. but basically my point is that the Jets could use some thunder to Powell’s lightning. Foreman is a hulking back out of Texas who just ran for over 2,000 yards this past season, Perine is regarded as a “banger” and is not only Oklahoma’s all-time leading rusher, but also is the NCAA’s single-game record holder for rushing yards with 427.  James Conner was considered one of the best backs in the country prior to his cancer diagnosis two years ago and seems to be back on track to being his old self. Assuming Matt Forte is on his way out, one of these three backs should be available when the Jets are picking in the fifth. If that ends up being the case, any three of them could contribute – at least around the goal line – from day one.

The same story goes for the Jets sixth and seventh round picks. They will take the best players on the board, and considering the depth of this class; they could actually end up with some talent in these selections. My two favorite fits in the sixth are Storm Norton and Dan Skipper – offensive tackles who I mentioned above as developmental fits for the Bills – because why not add more depth at a position of need? As for the seventh round, I think that nose tackle Josh Tupou out of Colorado would be an excellent fit for the Jets because not only is he a talented player, but he also could have a chance to start for this defense believe it or not. While he’s not a pocket moving pass rusher, Tupou is a massive interior presence who takes up bodies. That more or less sums up the responsibilities of the nose tackle position, so while he has little upside as a pro bowler, it is tough to argue with starting potential out of a seventh rounder.


I am dedicating this section to not necessarily the likeliest of scenarios, however I plan on keeping it as realistic as possible. Essentially I want to give you an idea of what selection could end up being the most fantasy impactful for the 2017 season for each team in the division. It doesn’t have to be someone that I have discussed for the team above, but rather a realistic scenario in which the team picks a player who would be a fantasy ringer for 2017

Buffalo Bills

I spelled it out pretty early in this article; O.J. Howard has a chance to change the way the Bills run offense. He’s a dynamic tight end with more athleticism than the position may have ever seen before. I wouldn’t be surprised if he entered the NFL and finished as a top-10 fantasy tight end in 2017.

I also see incredible fantasy potential for JuJu Smith-Schuster if the Bills follow my draft plan. He’s a great possession receiver, which gives him PPR upside, while his physicality after the catch makes him a threat to break off big gains at any moment.

Miami Dolphins

I mainly went defense for Miami in this draft scenario, so finding fantasy impact here would be limited to IDP leagues. Having said that, if they did end up going with linebacker Jarrad Davis in the second round, his intensity and talent combination would give him “multi-category” – to use a fantasy baseball term – upside. His rage and tenacity as a blitzer, technique and toughness as a tackler, and athleticism and instincts in coverage make Davis a future IDP star provided he can remain healthy going forward.

New England Patriots

To stick with the IDP theme, getting a talent like Tim Williams on your fantasy roster could pay dividends towards the end of your fantasy drafts. Sure he would be limited to contributing points only through sacks and subsequent forced fumbles, but his potential to do it as often as most scouts think he can is what would make him a valuable fantasy commodity.

New York Jets

The fact that the Jets have so many needs makes this difficult to predict. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they went with O.J. Howard, Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook, Corey Davis, or Mike Williams at sixth overall, all of whom would enter the 2017 season as the Jets best playmaker, however if I’m trying to stick to what I wrote above, probably adding any of the three power backs – D’Onta Foreman, James Conner, or Samaje Perine – would be the Jets biggest potential fantasy ringers in 2017. All three of the backs would immediately bring touchdown upside to the table, which is music to the ears of any fantasy owner.