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AFC East 2020 NFL Draft grades: Dolphins soar, Patriots perplex

Why provide instant grades on the selections of prospects who have yet to take an NFL snap? Well, you're reading this, aren't you? Considering the makeup of every roster and the factors surrounding each pick, Gennaro Filice and Dan Parr attempt a division-by-division assessment of the 2020 NFL Draft. Keep in mind that these grades are based on draft hauls alone -- picks traded for veteran players were not taken into account. Below is Dan's review of the AFC East.


BEST PICK: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
Miami Dolphins, Round 1, No. 5 overall

Credit the Dolphins for laying in the cut to get their guy. By the time draft week rolled around, Chris Grier and Brian Flores had astute football observers buying into the idea that they would take an offensive tackle with their first pick -- perhaps even trading up for one -- or pass on the Alabama QB for Justin Herbert at No. 5. Obviously, that wasn't the plan. No one knows if Tagovailoa's injury woes will follow him into the NFL, but this was a shot Miami needed to take. The Dolphins didn't tank, and they still landed Tua. Well done.

MOST SURPRISING PICK: Justin Rohrwasser, K, Marshall
New England Patriots, Round 5, No. 159 overall

Obligatory disclaimer: Bill Belichick has forgotten more about football than I'll ever know. OK, with that out of the way, I was befuddled by this selection. What does Bill (or Nike the dog) know that we don't know about Rohrwasser? Well, likely a lot since we were caught off guard by the pick. The former Herd kicker wasn't invited to the NFL Scouting Combine or the postseason all-star games, yet the Pats made him the first specialist off the board. If you had told me before the 2020 NFL Draft that New England had a higher grade on Justin Rohrwasser than Jake Fromm, I would have needed assistance restoring my jaw to its standard position (perhaps they didn't and just thought kicker was a bigger need?). Anyhow, maybe this will turn out to be a gem of a pick, but it was definitely a surprise gamble on a player who is already embroiled in controversy.

BIGGEST SLEEPER: Malcolm Perry, RB, Navy
Miami Dolphins, Round 7, No. 246 overall

An option quarterback last season at Navy, Perry lined up at wide receiver in January at the East-West Shrine Bowl, and the Dolphins are listing him at running back, which makes sense. I mean, the guy ran for the second-most yards in the FBS last season (2,017). What Perry lacks in size (5-foot-9, 186 pounds), he makes up for in intangibles. He was one of the final 10 picks of the draft, but I wouldn't bet against him becoming a versatile contributor for the Dolphins.


NOTE: Draft classes are ranked from best to worst within the division.

Miami Dolphins
RANK: 1 · 2019 RECORD: 5-11-0

» Round 1: (No. 5 overall) Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama; (No. 18) USC OT Austin Jackson; (No. 30) Auburn CB Noah Igbinoghene.
» Round 2: (39) Robert Hunt, OL, Louisiana; (56) Raekwon Davis, DT, Alabama.
» Round 3: (60) Brandon Jones, S, Texas.
» Round 4: (111) Solomon Kindley, OG, Georgia.
» Round 5: (154) Jason Strowbridge, DE, North Carolina; (164) Curtis Weaver, edge rusher, Boise State.
» Round 6: (185) Blake Ferguson, LS, LSU.
» Round 7: (246) Malcolm Perry, RB, Navy.

This was the Dolphins' draft to control. They entered it with the most picks in the league, including three first-rounders, and used the boatload of capital about as well as they could. As I mentioned earlier in this piece, I'm a fan of the risk they were willing to take with their first selection. Tagovailoa's potential was too great to pass up, even with the injury concerns. Jackson and Igbinoghene went earlier than many expected them to, but in those two players, Miami might have a future starting left tackle and a tough, competitive, physical nickel back -- you need to be good at those spots to win in today's NFL. We're not here to strongly dock the Fins for those decisions, even if a case can be made that they were reaches. The Igbinoghene pick foreshadowed the Dolphins' theme for Day 2 of the draft, as the master plan of adding tough, physical, powerful talent was fully revealed with the selections of Hunt, Davis and Jones. Big fan of the work they did on the defensive line on Day 3, landing a Senior Bowl standout (Strowbridge) and a potential steal in Weaver, who didn't allow below-average explosiveness to keep him from racking up 34 sacks over the past three seasons. Last but not least, Perry -- he of 2,017 rushing yards last season -- has a chance to earn a spot as a versatile contributor who can help on offense and special teams. Now, the merits of drafting a long snapper might be debatable, but all in all, a really nice haul here.

New York Jets
RANK: 2 · 2019 RECORD: 7-9-0

» Round 1: (No. 11 overall) Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville.
» Round 2: (59) Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor.
» Round 3: (68) Ashtyn Davis, S, Cal; (79) Jabari Zuniga, edge rusher, Florida.
» Round 4: (120) La'Mical Perine, RB, Florida; (125) James Morgan, QB, Florida International; (129) Cameron Clark, OG, Charlotte.
» Round 5: (158) Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia.
» Round 6: (191) Braden Mann, P, Texas A&M.

Yes, we know there's low-floor potential with Becton. We also have heard that he's a 6-foot-7, 364-pound mountain of a man who mauls people. That's what I'd be looking for if I needed to protect my young franchise quarterback. So, Sam Darnold can rest a little easier at night (and hopefully won't have to wonder if Iowa OT Tristan Wirfs, who went a couple picks later, would have been the better pick at No. 11). Oh, and GM Joe Douglas found a good value in Round 2 even after trading down, enhancing Darnold's supporting cast again with the addition of Mims. If he can master a more complex route tree than he was asked to run at Baylor, look out. Douglas then turned to his defense, snagging one of the middle-rounders who generated the most buzz this spring. This will be a great pick if it all comes together for the freakishly athletic Davis, dubbed the draft's "mystery man" by one general manager last month. The Jets might have reached a bit to fill a need with the Zuniga pick. The production (18.5 career sacks in four seasons) doesn't jump off the page, but injuries were a bugaboo. Perhaps Gregg Williams can coax the most out of a player who certainly has shown flashes. Douglas must have enjoyed his time scouting in the Sunshine State, as he added a couple more Florida men to start Day 3. Perine, who can churn out tough yards, was a fine choice to fill a need behind Le'Veon Bell. We also weren't bothered by the decision to take a shot on the big-armed Morgan as a backup for Darnold. Same goes for how Douglas closed things out on in the draft's last few rounds, checking off needs and finding nice value once again with Hall in Round 5.

Buffalo Bills
RANK: 3 · 2019 RECORD: 10-6-0

» Round 2: (No. 54 overall) A.J. Epenesa, DE, Iowa.
» Round 3: (86) Zack Moss, RB, Utah.
» Round 4: (128) Gabriel Davis, WR, UCF.
» Round 5: (167) Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia.
» Round 6: (188) Tyler Bass, K, Georgia Southern; (207) Isaiah Hodgins, WR, Oregon State.
» Round 7: (239) Dane Jackson, CB, Pittsburgh.

Brandon Beane took care of his biggest need last month, giving up a package of picks, including this year's first-rounder, for WR Stefon Diggs. However, we're grading purely on the work done on draft weekend here (their grade would be higher if the Diggs deal was being taken into account). Beane still did a good job with his remaining capital, though! He found a first-round-caliber player late in Round 2. Epenesa was once considered a likely top-15 pick, but fell out of favor with the draft cognoscenti due in part to an NFL Scouting Combine workout that didn't inspire. That said, he filled Buffalo's top need entering the draft and was one of the best values in the draft, according to NFL Network draft expert Daniel Jeremiah. I like it, and can say the same thing for the selection of Moss, a violent runner who fills the void left by Frank Gore. Now, I would have preferred to see Buffalo go with a corner with its first pick on Day 3 (Josiah Scott? Amik Robertson?) with Josh Norman in decline and playing on a one-year deal, but I understand the allure of continuing to add weaponry for Josh Allen, and the Bills did find value at the corner position with the selection of Jackson in the final round. Davis has the size and catch radius to snag Allen's throws downfield and Hodgins is another tall tree who can go up and get it. The Fromm pick was an eyebrow-raiser, but I can't argue with the value. Weird things happen on Day 3, as I was also surprised they decided to reel in Bass in Round 6, but hey, he was arguably the best kicker in the draft. Sorry, Stephen Hauschka.

New England Patriots
RANK: 4 · 2019 RECORD: 12-4-0

» Round 2: (No. 37 overall) Kyle Dugger, S, Lenoir-Rhyne; (60) Josh Uche, LB, Michigan.
» Round 3: (87) Anfernee Jennings, edge rusher, Alabama; (91) Devin Asiasi, TE, UCLA; (101) Dalton Keene, TE, Virginia Tech.
» Round 5: (159) Justin Rohrwasser, K, Marshall.
» Round 6: (182) Mike Onwenu, OG, Michigan; (195) Justin Herron, OL, Wake Forest; (204) Cassh Maluia, LB, Wyoming.
» Round 7: (230) Dustin Woodard, C, Memphis.

No one's earned the right to be confident more than Bill Belichick, but this Patriots draft felt sort of ... well, arrogant. They didn't bother to address needs at quarterback or wide receiver and took a kicker when it was still early in the fifth round, making Rohrwasser the first specialist selected in 2020. Belichick has said the decision to pass on drafting a QB 10 times "wasn't by design," so that sounds like he didn't hate the talent at the position in this draft. He just didn't feel compelled to take one in a year where he's riding with Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer. Alrighty then. The Pats did address several voids with their selections after trading out of Round 1 and picking up an extra pick, though. Dugger provides some much-needed youth at safety and while he comes from a small school, he looked like a guy who belonged when he faced all-star competition at the Senior Bowl. Uche, another Senior Bowl standout, appears to be a good fit with raw athletic tools that Belichick can mold. Jennings drew a comp to former Patriot Kyle Van Noy from colleague/draft guru Lance Zierlein, so it would seem he landed in the right place. New England had to add at tight end, and finally did in Round 3, trading up for both Asiasi and Keene, which were somewhat surprising decisions given that there were arguably better prospects at the position available at both spots. The decision to add depth to the O-line later on Day 3 made sense. Overall, there were things to like and things to question in this class.

Follow Dan Parr on Twitter _@TheDanParr_.

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