There are big changes coming to the AFC East after the 2020 NFL Draft, but how soon will the New England Patriots’ longtime stranglehold on the division dissipate?
4. New York Jets
The New York Jets are not a team to beat in the 2020 AFC East, and their schedule isn’t easy either. Outside of the division, Gang Green plays both conference’s western division teams, two of the best divisions in the game, including the 49ers, Seahawks, Rams, and Super Bowl defending Chiefs. How did they improve in the offseason?
They lost top target in wide receiver Robby Anderson in free agency, later drafting Baylor’s Denzel Mims in the second round, and signing standout wideout behind Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, Breshad Perriman. Third-year quarterback Sam Darnold, who threw 13 interceptions in 13 games last year, can target Jamison Crowder, Perriman, Mims, and Josh Doctson.
None of these names stand out entirely, and outside of the wide receivers corps, general manager Joe Douglas improved the offensive line in the offseason, signing a slew of veterans like Greg Van Roten and Connor McGovern along with taking Louisville athletic freak of nature Mekhi Becton at No. 11 in the draft.
It’s a rebuilding year for the Jets in the AFC East, although we could see friction between fans and management in the progress of the franchise as Darnold reaches his third year (although only age-23 season).
3. Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins’ big offseason acquisition was Alabama southpaw Tua Tagovailoa with the fifth overall pick last month. Even if Tagovailoa cannot start from day one (he suffered a season-ending hip injury with the Crimson Tide in 2019), the Dolphins have some very fun pieces around him in the AFC East, including emerging wide receiver DeVante Parker, second-year wideout Preston Williams, veteran Allen Hurns, and new running back Matt Breida via the San Francisco 49ers.
On defense, Miami lost top sacker in defensive end Taco Charlton but took linebacker Emmanuel Ogbah from the Kansas City Chiefs and tried to adjust the secondary after trading Minkah Fitzpatrick to the Pittsburgh Steelers last year by drafting cornerback Noah Igbinoghene from Auburn with the third of their three first-round picks in April. The Dolphins tried to reposition themselves in the AFC East by signing Cowboys Pro Bowl cornerback Byron Jones to a massive five-year deal. Along with corner Xavien Howard returning, the Dolphins should be better on D with some improvements in the trenches to be improved.
Miami’s ceiling in the 2020 AFC East could depend on how much of an immediate impact and playmaker Tagovailoa is.
2. New England Patriots
The sad news for every non-Pats fan around the world is New England, unfortunately, still possesses an elite defense in the AFC East. The Patriots lost Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy in free agency and re-signed defensive tackle Adam Butler and safety Devin McCourty. In the draft, they gained Division II safety Kyle Dugger and Michigan linebacker Josh Uche in the second round.
Offense could be a problem for this AFC East team, but quarterback Jarrett Stidham, stepping into departing six-time Super Bowl champion gunslinger Tom Brady’s big shoes, is a total mystery box. His weapons include Julian Edelman, Marqise Lee, Mohamed Sanu, and N’Keal Harry.
Only months removed from Brady’s stunning divorce from the Patriots, everybody still needs more time to recover from the ginormous move. Will Bill Belichick really suffer without Brady? In the short-term, it’s difficult to bet hard against him and the Patriots.
1. Buffalo Bills
The Bills are the team to beat in the AFC East in 2020, earning the first wild card spot last season with only improvements in this past offseason.
The obvious one is new No. 1 target Stefon Diggs via trade. Diggs should give third-year quarterback Josh Allen a deep threat in the AFC East. He joins Cole Beasley, John Brown, and tight end Dawson Knox round out a good pass-catching corps. The Bills will also be a top running-game team, with second-year rusher Devin Singletary on the up-and-up and Utah’s Zack Moss joining the fray via the third round of last month’s NFL Draft.
On defense, the Bills added Iowa’s AJ Epenesa in the second round of the NFL Draft and have the core of Ed Oliver, Trent Murphy, and Tremaine Edmunds returning with top sackers Jordan Phillips and Shaq Lawson gone. Top cornerback Tre’Davious White is back, and Buffalo’s defense should be a very entertaining in-game thrill of the annual AFC matchups with the Patriots.
Will the Bills finally edge out the Patriots in the 2020 AFC East? The talent most certainly presents the potential coup d’etat.