2020 Virtual NFL Draft Preview: AFC East

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NFL.com

Ethan Marchetti, Aaron Notis, Cam Cobey, and Ben Polikoff

The first round of the 2020 NFL Draft is set to take place virtually, with general managers and Commissioner Roger Goodell operating from their own homes, at 8:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 23. It will be broadcast on ABC, ESPN and NFL Network, among other online streaming platforms. From across the nation and from their respective quarantines, Colgate Maroon-News sports writers put together a guide for each of the 32 teams in the league, offering insights on top prospects and projecting likely selections. Rounds two and three will be on Friday, April 24 and rounds four through seven are on Saturday, April 25. 

Buffalo Bills

Ethan Marchetti, Editor-in-Chief 

The Buffalo Bills find themselves without a first round draft pick in this year’s draft after sending those rights, as well as several other picks, to the Minnesota Vikings in exchange for star wideout Stefon Diggs. After finishing 10-6 and losing in the Wild Card round of the playoffs last season, Buffalo will look to take advantage of quarterback Tom Brady’s departure from New England and aim to win the AFC East outright this season.

Without their first-rounder, the Bills may look to add an edge rusher in one of the later rounds. The addition of Diggs, as well as last season’s emergence of quarterback Josh Allen, rookie running back Devin Singletary and wide receiver John Brown, have put Buffalo in a position to focus on the defensive side of the ball in this draft. While Florida edge rusher Jonathan Greenard might be off the board before the Bills are even on the clock, his size and speed would obviously be a big addition to the defense. Michigan linebacker Josh Uche could also be on Buffalo’s radar, as his versatility will undoubtedly be attractive for many general managers.

As for later rounds, Buffalo will most likely focus on taking the best available player to add to an already impressive scheme of young playmakers on both sides of the ball. With one of the deepest and most versatile drafts in recent memory, there should be plenty of promising players for playoff teams like the Bills to choose from in the late rounds; it will be interesting to see where they decide to add depth.

 

Miami Dolphins 

Aaron Notis, Maroon-News Staff

Last year, when the Dolphins traded the No. 62 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft and a fifth rounder in the 2020 Draft for quarterback Josh Rosen, those both inside and outside of the organization felt they acquired their franchise player of the future. However, after an  unproductive 2019 season, Rosen does not look to be the franchise quarterback the Dolphins need. 

After an impressive free agency with all-league signings of cornerback Byron Jones and linebacker Kyle Van Noy, the Dolphins are in a position to bounce back this coming season. With the No. 5 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft and a league-leading 14 draft picks, the Dolphins can not only look to pick up their franchise quarterback, but they can dictate the direction of the draft for the league. 

At pick No. 5, the Dolphins should look at quarterbacks Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert from Alabama and Oregon, respectively. Tagovailoa will be one of the draft’s biggest X-factors. When healthy, the 6’1” Alabama signal-caller boasts the processing speed, pocket presence, accuracy and overall playmaking abilities to be a star at the next level. But, the devastating hip injury he suffered in Nov. 2019 could be a deal-breaker for some general managers. His medical checks leading up to the draft will determine just how high he will be selected. Tagovailoa has insisted that he is fully healthy and ready to go.

Herbert, a four-year starter at Oregon, is a big-bodied quarterback with a strong arm and playmaking athleticism. But, if Tagovailoa’s health does not become an issue, Miami should take the gamble on Tua.

With their remaining picks, improving the offensive tackle spot should be a focal point. The Dolphins need to address both left and right tackle, which could be done at No. 18 and No. 26, with left tackle Austin Jackson (USC) and right tackle Isaiah Wilson (Georgia). They could also use these first-rounders to create a package in exchange for the Cincinnati Bengals’ first overall pick, looking to steal this draft’s consensus number one quarterback, Joe Burrow. This draft can be a turning point for the Dolphins, and with the right picks, they can become the new powerhouse in the AFC East.

 

New England Patriots

Cam Cobey, Maroon-News Staff  

The New England Patriots face a significant new challenge heading into this year’s draft. For the first time in 20 years, they will be drafting without star quarterback Tom Brady on the roster. It is a weird reality for the Patriots, but coach Bill Belichick will be taking his patented business-as-usual approach, looking to add important pieces in order to make his roster competitive in the 2020 season.

The Patriots have a lot of holes to fill; the team lost linebackers Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins and Elandon Roberts as well as defensive tackle Danny Shelton, safety Duron Harmon and wide receiver Philip Dorsett, among others in free agency. So, it is not just the quarterback position the Patriots have to fill.

The Patriots have the No. 23 overall pick; I would not suspect them to go quarterback here, as that is not a very Belichick-type move to make. But, sources say the Patriots are intrigued by Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert and Utah State quarterback Jordan Love. Both are popular choices for pundits predicting the Patriots’ draft board. Despite this, I would suspect them to fill either the defensive end or linebacker position with their first-round selection. A popular name mentioned for them has been defensive end A.J. Epenesa from the University of Iowa. He would fit well into the defense and is a big and strong player who can set the edge. 

The Patriots have had success drafting linebackers, historically, which is another option in the first round. K’Lavon Chaisson from LSU is one intriguing option; he had 6.5 sacks and 60 tackles last season and is an elite edge setter. Penn State University linebacker Yetur Gross-Matos is another elite athlete and intriguing option.

The Patriots need to fill the tight end position, which has been poor since Rob Gronkowski’s retirement. Top tight ends in this year’s draft include Notre Dame’s Cole Kmet and Washington’s Hunter Bryant.

The Patriots could look to the quarterback position in the late rounds as well. A trendy pick that I like is Georgia’s Jake Fromm. Fromm played in a National Championship and he is an experienced quarterback who could fit in with the Patriots.

 

New York Jets 

Ben Polikoff, Maroon-News Staff  

The New York Jets have been known for their tendency to overpay for free agents and perform poorly on draft day for years. New general manager Joe Douglas has stated publicly that he plans to build the future of the Jets through the draft. This change of narrative is refreshing for a Jets fan like myself. Year after year, we see overpaid free agents come in and fail to reach their full potential. Douglas, to some extent, has already changed the culture in the Jets’ decision-making skills.

In the 2020 NFL Draft, the Jets really cannot go wrong. With holes in their offensive line and at the wide receiver position, the Jets have the power to improve whatever position they choose to select. However, there is one hole that must be filled with a first-round pick: the offensive line. 

The Jets have not selected an offensive lineman in the first round since 2006 when they drafted 3-time Pro-Bowler, D’Brickashaw Ferguson. Two targets for the Jets should be offensive tackles Tristan Wirfs from Iowa and Jedrick Wills from Alabama. 

Wirfs might be a bit of a stretch, as he is projected to go in the first five picks, but if he falls to them, then this should be a no brainer. I am not a huge fan of Louisville’s offensive lineman Mekhi Becton because, despite his impressive film, he was not tested or challenged in the Atlantic Coast Conference. But when Louisville played in games against Clemson and Notre Dame, with challenging defensive opposition, he was exposed.

For the remainder of the draft, the Jets need to address the cornerback and wide receiver positions. One target for the second round would be cornerback Damon Arnette from the Ohio State University. Arnette is an extremely experienced corner who has proven himself throughout his career with the Buckeyes. He has also been around some talented current NFL corners like Denzel Ward and Marshon Lattimore. 

The other second-round option, if they go with a receiver, is Arizona State’s Brandon Aiyuk. Aiyuk is a four-year player who has a ton of speed and versatility. He can return kicks, which adds a dimension that the Jets lacked last year. 

The Jets have many positions to fill in their roster, so they should be able to find some needed talent. But then again, they are the Jets,and the Jets always find a way to surprise the NFL world.