2021 NFL Draft: Reviewing the AFC East
Updated: May 26, 2021
The 2021 NFL Draft is officially done and dusted, we’ve put a bow on it, we’ve got to the finish line.
It’s genuinely one of the highlights of the NFL calendar for me and always brings talking points and arguments from fans, enthusiasts, experts and so-called experts (I’m comfortable to be put in any of those brackets except expert).
As part of the 35 episode journey we started on the NFL Draft Punk Podcast we covered a lot and it only feels fitting to give my own opinions on this year's picks per division in a staggered article that will be regularly updated. There will be no grades here, they can only realistically be evaluated further in the future, but we can all have opinions, right?
So, without further ado let's run through by division in order of draft hauls I liked, taking into account the UDFA market also...let’s get into it, starting with the AFC East.
Editor’s note: Links above will become active as divisional articles are published.
New England Patriots
R1 (15): QB Mac Jones, Alabama
R2 (38): DI Christian Barmore, Alabama
R3 (96): EDGE Ronnie Perkins, Oklahoma
R4 (120): RB Rhamondre Stevenson, Oklahoma
R5 (177): LB Cameron McGrone, Michigan
R6 (188): CB Joshuah Bledsoe, Missouri
R6 (197): OT William Sherman, Colorado
R7 (242): WR Tre Nixon, UCF
Fave Pick: Christian Barmore; Drafting Barmore in the second round is tremendous value. Whilst only a 1-year starter, Barmore turned up in the big games in Alabama’s title run and was constantly disruptive in the back field, naturally explosive downhill and under Belichick’s tutelage with a chip on his shoulder, I think he’ll be a star for New England and will be the better half of the Bengals trade.
Least Fave Pick: Rhamondre Stevenson; Difficult to pick one in this class, Day 3 especially, but Rhamondre Stevenson doesn’t excite. He’ll fill a limited role that fits a historical Patriot mould and I believe will be effective, but I’m surprised they didn’t add another D-Line prospect considering it’s position of importance to that system.
Late Round Steal: Cam McGrone; The pick of the raw talented Michigan linebacker stood out of me, a player that is only 20 years old and has huge athletic upside, sideline-to-sideline ability but needs more experience playing the position and diagnosing plays. He’s a really effective blitzer through the A-gap when he recognises the Running Back staying in to block. Could be a replacement for Dont’a Hightower.
UDFA To Make Roster: Quinn Nordin K; - Ummm… He’s the only one...
Summary: I loved the value the Patriots got with their late round picks, I can’t think of a better landing spot for a player like Ronnie Perkins who thrives on generated scheme pressure with stunts and twists. Not having to trade up to take a potential QB of the future is the perfect scenario. The ceiling of Mac Jones may be considerably less than the others and I certainly didn’t have a first round grade on him but there is a reduced boom or bust outcome. He’ll have a steep learning curve, but the scheme Josh McDaniels ran in New England under Tom Brady will suit his game perfectly. Josh Bledsoe whilst announced as corner will be an immediate playmaker on Special Teams, something Belichick has always coveted and rarely ignored. New England will not go quietly this year...
New York Jets
R1 (2): QB Zach Wilson, BYU
R1 (14): iOL Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC
R2 (34): WR Elijah Moore, Ole Miss
R4 (107): RB Michael Carter, North Carolina
R5 (146): S Jamien Sherwood, Auburn
R5 (154): CB Michael Carter II, Duke
R5 (175): CB Jason Pinnock, Pittsburgh
R6 (186): S Hamsah Nasirildeen, Florida State
R6 (200): CB Brandin Echols, Kentucky
R6 (207): DI Jonathan Marshall, Arkansas
Fave Pick: Elijah Moore; the Ole Miss speedster was tipped as a potential first round selection so Gang Green will be delighted with the pickup at the top of the second round. An immediate starter in the slot, whilst also giving new QB Zach Wilson a threat deep and over the middle with huge YAC potential. He was second in yardage behind the Heisman winner and provides a tough catch point receiver to team up with Denzel Mims, Jamison Crowder and a newly signed Corey Davis in what is a stacked room.
Least Fave Pick: Alijah Vera-Tucker; it feels harsh putting this here as he was clearly the top interior player on most teams’ boards, and I feel if the Jets hadn't made the selection, then the Vikings would. But coming up that far for a guard feels a lot when you could’ve stayed in the 20s and picked an edge player which wasn’t addressed and is still a need and could’ve then picked Brady Christensen or Quinn Meinerz. It’s all hindsight and Vera-Tucker’s agile feet and vice-like grip next to Mekhi Becton is a formidable prospect.
Late Round Steal: Hamsah Nasirildeen; I was very high on the potential and talent of the Florida State Seminole through the draft process; his selection clearly took a hit based on medicals and an incomplete pro day. Nasirildeen has the versatility and downhill urgency to play as a nickel or dime hybrid player and will immediately contribute on Special Teams. He can blitz and make a nuisance of himself at the line of scrimmage and has potential to match with tight ends at the next level.
UDFA To Make Roster: Hamilcar Rashed; due to the previously mentioned lack of edge picks Rashed’s lateral quicks and natural agility as a speed rusher gives him a good chance of making the roster. Whilst having no power aspect to his game he can be a developmental outside linebacker and brought in on obvious passing situations.
Summary: The Jets can finally move on from what has been a hideous couple of years. With a new coaching regime and another solid draft from Joe Douglas, they’ll be hoping to start to compete in the division. It all hinges on QB starlet Zach Wilson. The talent and playmaking ability with a varied arsenal of throws gives the fanbase plenty to get excited about, but despite being high on him he is certainly the biggest boom or bust prospect in the draft. Michael Carter, the speedy playmaker from North Carolina landed in a perfect offensive scheme and will see immediate returns along with Day 1 starter Vera-Tucker on the interior. There were some shrewd Day 3 selections with depth at cornerback and developmental 3-tech Jonathan Marshall who shows athleticism albeit raw ability at the position. It may be time for optimism in New York.
R1 (6): WR Jaylen Waddle, Alabama
R1 (18): EDGE Jaelen Phillips, Miami (FL.)
R2 (36): S Jevon Holland, Oregon
R2 (42): OT Liam Eichenberg, Notre Dame
R3 (81): TE Hunter Long, Boston College
R7 (231): OT Larnel Coleman, Massachusetts
R7 (244): RB Gerrid Doaks, Cincinnati
Fave Pick: Jaelan Phillips; My number one edge and the most naturally talented at the position in this year’s class. Breezes through contact and looks fluid in his transition from stance to pass rush. With the medical due diligence completed Miami come out of the first round with a player that could be a star at the next level.
Least Fave Pick: Jevon Holland; whilst I’m a definite fan of the player, the pick and trade up is puzzling. They have Eric Rowe, who was terrific against tight ends last season and Brandon Jones. They drafted Noah Igbinoghene to be their slot last season, so it’s a strange move to come up to get a player they had no real need to draft.
Late Round Steal: Larnel Coleman; With only two Day 3 picks I’ve gone for upside on a project tackle from a smaller school. Coleman has 35-inch arms and quick feet having previously played at defensive tackle. He was a 3-year starter at Massachusetts. If he can get more experience at the pro level combined with his quick feet and reaction, he could eventually become a swing tackle.
UDFA To Make Roster: Robert Jones; The Middle Tennessee State guard is the strongest of their current UDFA pickups but could be fighting for the practice squad.
Summary: I loved the Jaylen Waddle fit for Miami, despite being my WR3. The help to Tua in the short term is immediate, his YAC ability and deep threat should give a home run X-Factor to the Miami offense. Eichenberg is a shrewd pick up after Austin Jackson’s below par first season, a technically sound player who will compete for a Day 1 start, and Hunter Long gives them a true inline tight end in the style of former Viking, Kyle Rudolph to complement Mike Gesicki. I’d like to have seen a running back taken with more upside than Gerrid Doaks who remains NFL ready but limited.
R1 (30): EDGE Gregory Rousseau, Miami (FL.)
R2 (61): EDGE Carlos Basham Jr., Wake Forest
R3 (93): OT Spencer Brown, Northern Iowa
R5 (161): OT Tommy Doyle, Miami (OH)
R6 (203): WR Marquez Stevenson, Houston
R6 (212): S Damar Hamlin, Pittsburgh
R6 (213): CB Rachad Wildgoose, Wisconsin
R7 (236): OG Jack Anderson, Texas Tech
Fave Pick: Spencer Brown; A five sport athlete in high school and believe it or not is still growing into his 6’8 frame. A 3-year starter at right tackle with Northern Iowa, Brown moves well for a man his size highlighted by a mind boggling 7.03 three-cone and 4.88 40-yard dash. There’s development that needs work, maintaining leverage and not oversetting on pass reps among them but I felt this was an opportunistic selection on Day 2.
Least Fave Pick: One of Carlos Basham or Gregory Rousseau; let me explain, I like either pick, but I don’t understand both picks. Buffalo has an aging pass rush room with Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison, and they also drafted A.J. Epinesa last season and whilst he improved, they could never decide what weight he should play at. I felt picking up an edge player was wise but taking Rousseau means you’re going to unleash the huge potential his length and physical traits gives you, but why take Basham with the next pick, as Rousseau will need time? If you’re saying Rousseau isn’t ready and you took Basham to give immediate impact, why take Rousseau? One of these picks would be great despite the fact I wasn’t high on either, (especially Basham) but I felt Buffalo could have doubled down on a strength and got an immediate skill position playmaker to add to their offense.
Late Round Steal: Damar Hamlin; I like the Hamlin selection as a potential replacement for Micah Hyde. Watch any Pittsburgh Panthers film and you’ll see him making plays in all areas of the field. Whilst not an elite athlete he has good instincts and a history of playing cornerback.
UDFA To Make Roster: Tariq Thompson; The San Diego State safety came to our attention as a Senior Bowl snub and as a 4-year starter for the Aztecs all he’s had is production. A strong, forceful tackler with impressive ball production but without the high-level athletic traits that get him on team’s radars. Definitely a player to cheer for.
Summary: Buffalo entered this draft with no real immediate needs on a roster loaded with talent and the ascension of Josh Allen last season clearly sustainable. I feel it was an opportunity missed as all early picks don’t seem like impact players to me. Their running game whilst not heavily used is best described as “honest” and I can’t help thinking that getting one of the top three RB’s would’ve put opposing Defensive Coordinators in a real quandary. The Marquez Stevenson pick will give a real boost to the Special Teams return game. I like the potential for future development, but Buffalo are ready to go now.