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AFC East draft review: Patriots filled holes with big influx of talent

The New England Patriots had the most picks in the early rounds of the 2019 NFL Draft and got the most help of any of the Buffalo Bills’ AFC East rivals.

The Pats had five picks in the first three rounds and seven in the top four.

The New York Jets didn’t get nearly as much help, in part because they traded three second-round picks a year ago in the process of moving up to draft quarterback Sam Darnold No. 3 overall. The Jets had three picks in the first three rounds and five in the top four.

Miami made a controversial move by trading its second-round pick to Arizona for quarterback Josh Rosen. That left the Dolphins with just one pick in the top 75 and just two in the first four rounds.

It wasn’t a huge price to pay for a potential franchise quarterback. Rosen was picked No. 10 overall last year. If Rosen does not set South Florida on fire this season, Miami likely will be in position to pick a quarterback high in next year’s draft.

Here’s a review of how the Bills’ division foes fared in the draft:

New England: The Patriots needed an influx of draft talent because they have lost a lot since winning the Super Bowl in February. Among the departed: tight end Rob Gronkowski, left tackle Trent Brown, defensive end Trey Flowers, defensive tackle Malcolm Brown, gadget weapon Cordarrelle Patterson, receiver Chris Hogan and tight end Dwayne Allen.

Of course, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick remain, and Belichick has proven his draft brilliance over and over.

“I think more than anything else, they just know what works with them,” said NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah. “When you have the continuity that they have and the elite people in those roles, they know they have a real good feel for where their team is and what they need and what they would do with guys if they were to bring them in. There's zero guesswork in how guys would fit and function in what they do. That's huge.”

Belichick picked a slew of "prototypical Pats," and each of his first five picks could help right away.

First-round receiver N’Keal Harry is a big possession receiver with good hands. He’s not fast and doesn’t separate that well. But Brady is so accurate, he likely will make the most of Harry underneath and in the red zone.

Belichick loves big cornerbacks and talks all the time about the challenge of covering big wideouts. Second-round corner JoeJuan Williams of Vanderbilt is 6-foot-4 and plays press coverage. He ran slow at the combine (4.64) but did better at his pro day (4.55). With Stephon Gilmore available to handle the No. 1 receivers, Belichick can find good matchups for Williams.

The Pats had three third-round picks and got edge-rusher Chase Winovich of Michigan, running back Damien Harris of Alabama and left tackle Yodny Cajuste of West Virginia.

Nobody manufactures pass rush as well as Belichick, but the loss of Flowers and the underachieving of Adrian Clayborn needed to be addressed. Winovich is on the small side, but he’s fast and has a good first step. He will look great in a Pats uniform.

Harris is a productive pounder who complements Sony Michel, James White and Rex Burkhead. Four backs, four different styles, one great running game.

Cajuste covers Brady’s butt at left tackle given the loss of Brown and if Isaiah Wynn is slow to recover from an Achilles injury.

Grade: A

Jets: If nothing else, the Jets got an almost surefire superstar with the No. 3 overall pick, defensive tackle Quinnen Williams. The Jets gave up 4.6 yards per rush last year. The defense got better.

Like the Bills, the Jets did a ton of work in free agency, spending more than $100 million on 16  free agents. All that work made up for the lack of early picks.

How much help they get besides Williams is questionable. Early in the third round, the Jets took a chance on Florida defensive end Jachai Polite. Watch his 12 best plays and you’re thinking Pro Bowler. He is an edge-bender with an elite first step. So why did he last until pick 68? Maturity issues. It’s a boom-or-bust pick. And the Jets passed on a safer pick, Michigan edge rusher Chase Winovich, taken by New England five picks later. It will be fun to watch Jets fans gnash their teeth every time Winovich sacks Darnold.

Southern Cal tackle Chuma Edoga was pick No. 93. He’s like Dion Dawkins, a tad short (6-3 1/2) but with good feet. The Jets might need him to start in 2020, but he has some maturity issues, too. Another rivalry subplot: Don't be surprised if Cajuste, taken by the Pats eight picks later at 101, is better than Edoga.

Fourth-round tight end Trevon Wesco of West Virginia is a blocker with versatility to line up at H-back and fullback. The Jets see him as a Swiss Army knife. He’s not nearly as sexy a pick as the upside tight end Dawson Knox, taken by the Bills nine picks sooner, but he’s safer. Minnesota’s Blake Cashman is your typical fifth-round linebacker.

Williams makes the draft decent at worst no matter what else happens. The bigger questions in New York are the overall direction of the Jets’ franchise. Is new coach Adam Gase, discarded by the Dolphins, an upgrade over Todd Bowles? And is he a good fit with general manager Mike Maccagnan, rumored of late to be on the hot seat?

Grade: B

Miami: New coach Brian Flores, formerly of New England, got a quality, three-technique defensive tackle in Clemson’s Christian Wilkins. It’s a safe pick. Wilkins won the Campbell Trophy, aka “the academic Heisman.” After dealing the second-round pick for Rosen, the Dolphins went safe again in the third, taking Wisconsin guard Michael Dieter. He may never be great, but he’s capable.

There was no pick in the fourth. The Dolphins took a backup linebacker in the fifth in Wisconsin’s Andrew Van Ginkel. Sixth-rounder Isaiah Prince may have to start at tackle.

It’s a long-range project in Miami. The Dolphins picked up an extra second-rounder in 2020 in a trade-down before the Rosen deal. They may need it to jockey up the draft board for a quarterback a year from now.

Grade: C

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