Impact 2023 AFC East rookies: McDonald, Kincaid
Connor Rogers looks at what the Jets, Patriots, Dolphins and Bills did in the 2023 NFL Draft, highlighting which squads made the best decisions, moves he didn't understand and more.
CONNOR ROGERS: AFC East has gotten a lot more interesting heading into the 2023 season, thanks to the addition of Aaron Rodgers. But listen, the NFL draft, still a pivotal process, as much as that free agent and pro trade market.
But let's start with the Jets, who are looking to get Aaron Rodgers some help. And the Jets probably disappointed they didn't walk away with an offensive lineman in round one. But they did get pass rush help from somebody in my top 30 in Will McDonald. They got their center of the future in Joe Pittman.
I think for that alone, this is a solid B-minus. And they got back some of that value and out of the C range for me, by taking [? Issy ?] Abanikanda. This was somebody I had valued as a running back 5 in this draft, 70th overall. They got him at 143.
So a bit of a roller coaster draft for the Jets. But getting that explosive running back with 4.26 speed, while Breece Hall is slowly working his way back, they got a little tougher in the trenches as well. Just a rock solid B minus for the Jets.
And the same could be said about the New England Patriots, who had a little bit different of a draft process. After the first two picks, I thought this was going to be an A-plus. I love Cristian Gonzales. He had no business falling to them as pick 17. I thought he was a top 10 player and a future number one corner.
I like Keion Wyatt, the former tight end that's converted to defensive line. A tough, tough run defender. He's got more potential as a pass rusher because of his athleticism. But then they made some questionable decisions they took center Jake Andrews right in that top 110 players of the draft. I didn't think he was a top 200, or maybe even top draftable kind of player.
To take a kicker in the fourth round, I don't think you needed to do that if you're New England. So they got a little special teams happy. But their picks at the top were so impactful, this is still a B minus for Bill Belichick's Patriots, as that defense is looking tough.
The Miami Dolphins did not have a lot of selections in this draft, and they still walk away with a B for me. The speed of Devon Achane. Going into an offense that has Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle and Raheem Mostert, that's not fair for anybody else. So I love that selection. I like the fit. I like the value of where they got him.
But I'll tell you the biggest value for me, was Elijah Higgins. The wide receiver out of Stanford, he probably will transition to tight end at the next level. They got him at 197. I had him at 146. And the Dolphins didn't have much to work with, and they still walk away with a B in this draft.
And then we have to finish with the reigning AFC East Champions in the Buffalo Bills. Another team that walks away with a rock solid B for me. They didn't do anything splashy. They didn't do anything crazy. I think Dalton Kincaid is going to be their big slot, even though he's a tight end. I thought he had the best hands in the draft. He's not going to offer you much as a blocker, but reliable pass catching ability.
The value pick, O'Cyrus Torrence, who I thought they could have taken in the first round. They got him 59th overall. I had him 32nd overall. Buffalo, I still have some questions about their spot at right tackle with Spencer Brown, but with Torrence on the offensive line, they got a lot tougher up front there.
Dorian Williams is a really, really good coverage linebacker. So this division, the heat gets cranked up a little bit more each passing week. Everybody seems to get better bit by bit. And it's going to be an absolute dogfight to watch throughout the 2023 NFL season.