2015 NFL Draft: AFC East Analysis and Grades
2 (18): Ronald Darby - CB, Florida State
3 (17): John Miller - OG, Louisville
5 (19): Karlos Williams - RB, Florida State
6 (12): Tony Steward - OLB, Clemson
6 (18): Nick O'Leary - TE, Florida State
7 (17): Dezmin Lewis - WR, Central Arkansas
Without a first-round pick due to last year's trade for Sammy Watkins, the Bills had to wait until day two to make their first selection. However, despite being a team that missed the playoffs last year, they did not go into the draft with many needs. Guard was the only one of immediate concern, while there was some depth needed at tight end, linebacker, and corner. It was a slight surprise that they got Ronald Darby with their first pick, as they guys they have in the starting lineup are more than capable players. However, Darby's speed and coverage skills make for an upgrade over nickel corner Nickell Robey, and he can move outside if the 29-year-old Corey Graham begins to struggle. The third round is where they got a quality guard, and possibly one of the better fits in the draft. John Miller will be an instant starter for the Bills and should thrive beside Cordy Glenn, shoring up the left side of the line. Karlos Williams was a bit of a shocker, as they acquired LeSean McCoy this offseason and still have a wily veteran in Fred Jackson. He has the physical traits to be a good back, but will more than likely work as McCoy's backup when the 34-year-old Jackson has nothing left to give. Tony Stewart is unlikely to see snaps on defense, but he has good traits for a special teamer. Nick O'Leary is a quality number two tight end and was one of the better picks in the sixth round. Dezmin Lewis, their final selection, has the physical traits teams covet, but he is extremely raw. Despite being without a first-round pick, this was not a bad draft by the Bills, making solid picks throughout.
Best Pick: John Miller - OG, Louisville
John Miller was not a steal, but he is a perfect fit for the Bills. A guard capable of starting right away with room to grow will always be a plus in the third round. He is a powerful player that should be able to get a lot of push and open up lanes.
Worst Pick: Tony Steward - OLB, Clemson
Their earlier picks were solid, while Nick O'Leary is a pretty good player and Dezmin Lewis is a 6-foot-4 receiver with 4.4 speed, so Tony Steward makes it as their worst pick. Steward looks like a decent special teamer, but he does not have the physical traits to hold his own as an inside linebacker in the Bills' new scheme. As a sixth-round pick though, he is unlikely to be expected to do much more than special teams.
1 (14): DeVante Parker - WR, Louisville
2 (20): Jordan Phillips - NT, Oklahoma
4 (15): Jamil Douglas - OG, Arizona State
5 (9): Bobby McCain - CB, Memphis
5 (13): Jay Ajayi - RB, Boise State
5 (14): Cedric Thompson - FS, Minnesota
5 (20): Tony Lippett - WR, Michigan State
The Dolphins came into the draft with major needs at receiver, guard, and cornerback, while they were expected to pick up a running back and a free safety along the way. Receiver was the first to be addressed, as the third-ranked wideout, DeVante Parker, fell right into their laps. His game should go well with deep threat Kenny Stills and slot receiver Jarvis Landry. Jordan Phillips came as a bit of a surprise, but was by no means a bad pick. Lining him up next to signee Ndamukong Suh and returning starters Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon gives the Dolphins one of the best defensive lines in the league. Their fourth-round pick, Jamil Douglas, is not much of a power player, but he can be a solid starter in this league. He provides an immediate upgrade over previous incumbent Nate Garner. Of their four fifth-round picks, Jay Ajayi was easily the best, as he was seen as a second-round pick to most. He fell due to injury issues but his talent is unquestionable. His power style of running will go well with the shifty Lamar Miller. Both Cedric Thompson and Tony Lippett provide good depth at their respective positions, with Lippett having the potential to contribute in later years. The one pick that I did not like was Bobby McCain. McCain is a sticky cover corner with good athleticism and instincts, but he is better suited for the slot, a position that they already had Jamar Taylor and Brice McCain competing for. Overall this was a nice draft for the Dolphins, picking up instant starters early and in the fifth round. When grading their draft, you cannot exclude the trade in which they shipped away their third-round pick for Kenny Stills, who should be able to make a positive impact on a receiving corps that struggled at times last year.
Best Pick: Jay Ajayi - RB, Boise State
A projected second-rounder at one point, Jay Ajayi could prove to be one of the biggest steals of the draft if his knee holds up. They essentially grabbed a three-down back capable of powering through defenders when other teams were getting backups or special teamers.
Worst Pick: Bobby McCain - CB, Memphis
Bobby McCain is not a bad player, as he could develop into a quality nickel corner, but it would have been better if they picked up a guy who can play outside. Instead, one of the shorter corners will be forced to play on the perimeter opposite Brent Grimes, who has been the exception to short corners struggling outside the nickel position.
New England Patriots
1 (32): Malcom Brown - DT, Texas
2 (32): Jordan Richards - SS, Stanford
3 (33): Geneo Grissom - DE, Oklahoma
4 (2): Trey Flowers - DE, Arkansas
4 (12): Tre' Jackson - OG, Florida State
4 (32): Shaq Mason - C, Georgia Tech
5 (30): Joe Cardona - LS, Navy
6 (2): Matthew Wells - LB, Mississippi State
6 (26): A.J. Derby - TE, Arkansas
7 (30): Darryl Roberts - CB, Marshall
7 (36): Xzavier Dickson - OLB, Alabama
The biggest needs for the Patriots coming into the draft were running back, receiver, guard, defensive tackle, and cornerback. In the first round, they got an absolute steal in Malcom Brown, who not only satisfies one of their biggest needs, but is of great value at 32. In the second round, guys like Tevin Coleman, Jaelen Strong, and A.J. Cann were available, but the Patriots opted for Stanford' Jordan Richards, a safety with a narrow range of impact that was expected to go late in day three. He has what it takes to improve his craft, but he does not fill a hole or possess plus value where they picked him. Geneo Grissom was another prospect picked earlier than expected, but he makes a little more sense. Grissom is a versatile player that will likely play a role similar to that of Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins, working as an rush/coverage linebacker hybrid. Trey Flowers is a talented lineman that can work on special teams and may be able to carve out a role as a situational pass rusher later in the year. Tre' Jackson was an excellent pick, as he is a physically imposing guard that should be able to get on the field early and grow into a quality starter. Bryan Stork had a decent rookie year, but Shaq Mason could give him some competition for the starting spot. Mason is well known for his skills as a run blocker, but also for having holes in his passing game and having well below average length. Joe Cardona is an excellent long snapper, with both accuracy and power in his snaps. The question with him is when will he be able to play. Matthew Wells is a fast linebacker, but he will likely be limited to a role on special teams. A.J. Derby is very raw, and with Rob Gronkowski, Scott Chandler, Tim Wright, and Michael Hoomanawanui on the team, he will likely not see snaps on offense anytime soon. It is surprising that they waited all the way until the seventh round to address cornerback, but they got a talented prospect. Darryl Roberts will have to work on his game quite a bit, but he has the length and the athletic ability to make it on the perimeter. Xzavier Dickson does not possess any outstanding physical traits, but he is adequate. While he will likely make most of his contributions on special teams, he might be able to get some snaps as an edge rusher. It was shocking that they passed on running back and receiver altogether, while they waited a long time to get a corner. Too many early picks were used up on positions that they did not need to address so early, but getting Brown and Jackson where they sat saves the draft.
Best Pick: Malcom Brown - DT, Texas
With the loss of Vince Wilfork, defensive tackle became one of the Patriots' biggest holes. Many expected them to get Eddie Goldman or Jordan Phillips, but instead, Malcom Brown, who was projected to go as high as 12, fell to them. Not only does he fill a hole, but he is of tremendous value.
Worst Pick: Jordan Richards - SS, Stanford
A day three pick to most, this pick came as a surprise to just about everyone. Safety also was not a need for the Patriots, as they re-signed Devin McCourty and extended Patrick Chung's contract. Jordan Richards is a similar player to Chung and can perhaps work as his future replacement or be a decent backup, but the Patriots have needs at other positions. This was not a good pick by means of best player available nor filling a hole.
New York Jets
1 (6): Leonard Williams, DE, USC
2 (5): Devin Smith - WR, Ohio State
3 (18): Lorenzo Mauldin - OLB, Louisville
4 (4): Bryce Petty - QB, Baylor
5 (16): Jarvis Harrison - OG, Texas A&M
7 (6): Deon Simon - NT, Northwestern State (LA)
The Jets stacked their secondary prior to the draft, so their biggest needs were on offense. Picking Leonard Williams in the first round was seen as just taking the best player in the draft, but he would work for them, as Muhammad Wilkerson is on a contract year. Having Williams will allow them to maintain a strong defensive front. Picking Devin Smith in the second round was a fairly questionable decision. He can stretch the field for Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, but a pure slot receiver would have made more sense for them. Lorenzo Mauldin was an excellent selection in the third round, as the veteran presence in Calvin Pace and Jason Babin will allow them to let him carve out his role throughout the year, instead of rushing him onto the field too early. After the second day was over, it looked like the Jets were content with Geno Smith as their quarterback of the future, but then they took Bryce Petty atop the fourth round. With bridge quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, Petty will be given time to develop, unlike Geno Smith, and will compete for the starting job year two or three. Jarvis Harrison was one of the better selections made in the fifth round. There are questions surrounding his commitment to football, but if he does put his heart into it, he can become a high quality guard. If he does not, this will just be one of the many fifth-round selections that did not produce a starter. Deon Simon was a solid selection in the seventh, as he can work in a rotation with whoever they could bring in next year as Damon Harrison's replacement. The Jets did a great job throughout the entire draft, finding impact players and snagging some future value.
Best Pick: Leonard Williams - DE, USC
Leonard Williams was the consensus best player in the draft, it is as easy as that. Getting him with the sixth-overall pick is a steal, and with Muhammad Wilkerson on the last year of his contract, this does satisfy a need. It looks like the Jets will keep the title of "Best Defensive Line in the NFL."
Worst Pick: Deon Simon - NT, Northwestern State (LA)
This is not really fair, as the Jets' draft was straight up great. Even Deon Simon, a seventh-round pick, has potential to make an impact. The reason he is the worst pick is because he has the narrowest range of impact, being just a nose tackle, and he is an older rookie, at 24 years of age, recovering from an injury.