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AFC East Draft Grades: Bills, Dolphins, Jets, Patriots

By
The Sports Xchange

Grading an NFL Draft immediately after it occurs is akin to giving your compliments to the chef based on the menu. It will take at least three years before we can truly assess how the 32 NFL teams fared this weekend. But waiting is no fun. As such, let's take a look at which teams appear to have done the best job of filling needs and building for the future via the seven rounds of the 2016 NFL draft.

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AFC East

Buffalo Bills

Clemson DE Shaq Lawson poses with Goodell after being selected by the Buffalo Bills with the 19th overall pick. Photo by Brian Kersey/UPI
It didn't take long for Buffalo to transition into a Rex Ryan style of team, focusing its top choices on defense and adding a talented but raw quarterback in the fourth round in former Ohio State standout Cardale Jones. First-round pick Shaq Lawson is the perfect Ryan player. He might not be an elite athlete, but he's powerful, passionate and tough. So too is inside linebacker Reggie Ragland (a David Harris clone) and versatile interior defensive lineman Adolphus Washington, who has the length to slide outside and play defensive end in Ryan's 3-4 scheme as well as provide a bit of pass rush. Jones has the size, athleticism and terrific arm strength to excite scouts, but he's as raw as it gets, as is speed receiver Kolby Listenbee. Like Jones and Listenbee, running back Jonathan Williams has the talent to prove a steal but comes with durability issues.

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Grade: B

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Miami Dolphins

Ole Miss OT Laremy Tunsil poses with Goodell after being selected by the Miami Dolphins with the 13th overall pick. Photo by Brian Kersey/UPI
The Dolphins stopped Laremy Tunsil's slide at No. 13 overall and deserve kudos for nabbing arguably the draft's elite talent at this relatively late point, but there should be some concern as to where he fits best. The Dolphins have invested a lot in current tackles Branden Albert and Juwan James, and Tunsil has never played guard. It is fair to question his commitment, at this point, as well. Miami took exciting athletes and clean schematic fits throughout day two and three, as well, nabbing lanky press corner Xavien Howard, the explosive and agile Kenyan Drake to complement bruising Jay Ajayi at No. 73 and the playmaking Leonte Carroo in the third round, as well. At just 5 feet 6, 165 pounds, Jakeem Grant lacks NFL size but certainly not speed, reportedly clocking under 4.20 seconds in the 40-yard dash at Texas Tech's Pro Day.

Grade: B-

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New England Patriots

Patriots fans hold up signs outsisde NFL Headquarters in New York on June 23, 2015. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
The Patriots, of course, were without a first-round pick because of the Deflategate discipline levied by the NFL and made some surprising choices once they were on the clock. Top choice Cyrus Jones is a quality defensive back with the versatility to handle nickel duties and he is a terrific returner. Further, I'm a fan of Joe Thuney's toughness and versatility. Quarterback Jacoby Brissett, however, seemed like an odd choice for a club that had recently invested an early pick on Jimmy Garoppolo, who was at least one time viewed as the heir apparent to Tom Brady. Nose guard Vincent Valentine is a run stuffer who had a poor 2015 season but is talented. The biggest question is where is the pass rush going to come from with Chandler Jones traded and Dominique Easley gone. Of New England's day three picks, wideout Malcolm Mitchell is a rangy athlete with enough speed and size to provide a vertical threat.

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Grade: C-

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New York Jets

Ohio State linebacker Darron Lee dances onto the stage after being selected by the New York Jets with the 20th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft on April 28, 2016 in Chicago. Photo by Brian Kersey/UPI
Todd Bowles was a master at creating exotic and aggressive blitz packages while serving as defensive coordinator with the Arizona Cardinals, and few players in the 2016 draft offer more creativity than first-round pick Darron Lee, a heat-seeking missile. The Jets followed with third rounder Jordan Jenkins, who was more productive than top 10 pick Leonard Floyd at Georgia. Of course, the selection everyone is going to talk about is quarterback Christian Hackenberg, whose technique faltered once Bill O'Brien left Penn State for the Houston Texans but possesses the size, arm strength and grit to ultimately rise past Geno Smith and Bryce Petty (and Ryan Fitzpatrick?) to be the Jets' starting quarterback -- though not necessarily in 2016. Of New York's third day selections, offensive tackle Brandon Shell (the nephew of Hall of Famer Art Shell) offers the length and physicality worthy of developing.

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Grade: B+

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