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Grading the AFC East on Day 2 of the NFL draft

Posted by Erik Frenz  April 27, 2013 12:10 AM

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AP Photo/Eric Gay
If you thought the first round flew by, the second and third rounds left you with your head spinning.

Once again, the Jets became the story of the draft by taking the biggest-name prospect of the second day, while the Patriots created some buzz by drafting a largely unknown prospect. The Bills bolstered their arsenal of pass-catchers with two of their picks, and the Dolphins double-dipped at defensive back, where they had some gaping holes to fill.

All-in-all, the four teams in the AFC East made 12 selections. How did the teams do with each of their picks? Here are my grades for every selection on Friday.

Round 2, pick 39 — Jets select Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia

This is sure to be the biggest story to come out of this draft. Geno Smith, after freefalling out of the first round, contemplated leaving New York and not appearing in the green room for the second day of the draft. He had a change of heart, though, and ended up staying in New York. Now, he doesn't have to leave.

Smith has enough arm strength to make all the throws, but he doesn't always throw with accuracy. Some deep balls tend to get away from him, leading to head-scratching incompletions on wide open passes, and occasionally interceptions. He'll need to improve his footwork in the pocket, but his style of play will be a good fit for Marty Mornhinweg's West Coast offense, as he was big on short timing throws at West Virginia.

He wasn't used as a running quarterback like Robert Griffin III or Colin Kaepernick, but he has mobility to extend plays and will continue to look downfield to make a big throw. After running a 4.59-second 40-yard dash at the combine, there could be increased confidence in his ability to run the read-option, even though he didn't do it much in college.

Smith could develop into a solid NFL quarterback, but he may not be a Week 1 starter. With so many other options at quarterback on the roster, the Jets don't have to rush him into the starting job.

Grade: B+

Round 2, pick 41 — Bills select Robert Woods, WR, USC

Robert Woods was considered arguably one of the best wide receivers in this year's class.

He has the foot quickness to be effective running just about any route, but USC threw him the ball on short routes and put the ball in his hands in space often, allowing him to pick up yards after the catch.

He didn't light up the scouting combine, but he plays much faster in pads. His 6'0", 201-pound frame is great for an outside-the-numbers receiver, but he's not particularly physical and could run into problems if he's jammed at the line of scrimmage.

He can work out of the slot or the outside. Now, with Stevie Johnson, Robert Woods and T.J. Graham at receiver, the Bills have a top trio of pass-catchers that can line up anywhere on the field — whether out wide or in the slot.

Grade: A-

Round 2, pick 46 — Bills select Kiko Alonso, LB, Oregon

The Bills had big problems at linebacker last year. They couldn't stop the run (4.96 yards per carry ranked 30th) and couldn't cover running backs out of the backfield (ranked 26th, via Football Outsiders).

Adding a player like Alonso makes a lot of sense in the AFC East, where the Bills have to find an answer to Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski. The two have had their way with the Bills in their careers, to the tune of 43 receptions for 652 yards and 10 touchdowns in the past three years.

He is known for his length and fluidity as an athlete. Although he didn't rush the passer frequently in college (3.5 career sacks), he was disruptive in getting into the backfield (21 tackles for loss) and showed solid instincts in attacking gaps in a timely fashion.

Alonso had some run-ins with the law in college, with a DUI arrest in 2010 and another alcohol-related offense in 2011. If he keeps thsoe problems in check, he could develop into a three-down linebacker with time.

Grade: B+

Round 2, pick 52 — Patriots select Jamie Collins, OLB, Southern Mississippi

Jamie Collins is not like any linebacker the Patriots have on the roster, in that he provides a good deal of versatility in the passing game.

He has the speed and agility to cover running backs out of the backfield and tight ends over the middle. As a converted safety, his experience in coverage will be welcome in a linebacking corps that struggled in that area (ranked 29th against tight ends in 2012, via Football Outsiders).

On top of his fluidity in coverage, he can also rush the passer out of a two- or three-point stance. His explosion off the line is less than ideal in pads, but he ran a 4.64 40-yard dash at the combine. He will need to develop another move or two besides a standard rip. What he lacks in explosiveness, he makes up for in length and overall athleticism.

At first, he'll likely be a sub package defender, used as a cover linebacker and a pass-rusher. He could develop into a three-down player if he puts on some weight and if he continues to develop.

In selecting Collins, the Patriots addressed multiple needs with one pick.

Grade: B+

Round 2, pick 54 — Dolphins select Jamar Taylor, CB, Boise State

The Dolphins have lost both Sean Smith and Vontae Davis over the past two seasons, and although they've added Richard Marshall and Brent Grimes, they still needed more help at cornerback.

Taylor fits the profile of what the Dolphins are looking for in the secondary. He's not as big as Sean Smith, at just 5'11" and 198 pounds, but he has the versatility to play both man and zone coverage. His skills will be best used in man coverage, where his straight-line speed (4.39-second 40-yard dash) and fluid hips will allow him to keep up with even the faster NFL receivers.

The concern is whether he can handle NFL receivers, having never played against top competition. The measurables are all there, though, and if his ball skills translate (21 pass break-ups, six interceptions over the past two seasons) he should do just fine.

Grade: A-

Round 2, pick 59 — Patriots select Aaron Dobson, WR, Marshall

Well, for once, the Patriots drafted a big wide receiver. At 6'3" and 210 pounds, Dobson has the size to win matchups on the outside and

Dobson was not asked to do a lot in terms of running routes. This has been a problem for the Patriots in the past, with receivers like Brandon Tate and Taylor Price who never developed because their route-running wasn't up to snuff.

He doesn't have the numbers of a dynamic deep threat, putting up 12.7 yards per reception over the final two years of his career, but he did run a 4.4-second 40-yard dash at his pro day.

That being said, he knows how to get open deep and has great hands and ball skills. Colleague Greg Bedard thinks he fills a need, and that he could improve in New England:

Would fit exactly what the Patriots are looking for at the X position. Has the ability to get deep, make circus catches in the air with very good leaping ability. Question will be how quickly he contributes because most scouts think he's a bit raw and needs work. Will probably help going from a bad quarterback situation to one of the NFL's best.

If nothing else, he finally gives the Patriots a true outside-the-numbers receiver capable of creating matchup problems on the outside.

Grade: B+

Round 3, pick 72 — Jets select Brian Winters, T, Kent State

Winters set a Kent State record by starting 50 games, and was named All-MAC in his final three years in school. All that while playing three different positions.

That versatility will serve him well in New York, where the Jets have a need at guard and a big question mark at right tackle. He started every game at right tackle as a freshmen and sophomore, and started every game at right guard as a junior, so he could take the spot left vacant by Brandon Moore or he could push Austin Howard for the starting right tackle spot.

Despite his experience, his best positional fit in the NFL will likely be at guard. He was a wrestler in high school, which is evidence of his ability to win one-on-one battles in a phone booth. It will be interesting to see, though, if his lack of athleticism will allow him to translate to the Jets' zone-blocking scheme.

Grade: B-

Round 3, pick 77 — Dolphins select Dallas Thomas, T, Tennessee

The Dolphins desperately needed to help their offensive line, and finally did so in the third round.

Where is Thomas at his best, though? There are questions as to whether he'll be a better fit at guard or tackle.

Thomas is not particularly strong, but he moves very well for a man his size — 6'5" and 306 pounds. He played tackle in college, but some scouts think he should move to guard. He doesn't have the elite strength of an interior linemen, but he may not be athletic enough to line up at tackle in the NFL either.

Whatever the future holds, he works well in space, and that will be welcome in Miami's zone-blocking scheme.

Grade: B

Round 3, pick 78 — Bills select Marquise Goodwin, WR, Texas

With so much speed at receiver, it's pretty clear they're building a run-and-shoot offense around E.J. Manuel.

The Bills needed to add wide receivers anyway, after losing both Donald Jones and David Nelson this offseason. After adding Woods in the second round, the Bills felt a double-dip at receiver was in the works.

Goodwin wasn't always a football star, getting his start in track before making the switch. His limited football resumé was likely what scared some teams away from drafting him any earlier than the third round.

Will all that athleticism translate to big plays in the NFL? At 5'9" and 180 pounds, he will probably have some issues getting off jams, so the Bills may have to work out ways to get him off the press. Once he gets off the line, though, look out. His straight-line speed is dangerous (4.27-second 40-yard dash).

This is the second straight year the Bills have taken a chance on a high-upside athlete at receiver with limited experience in football. We've yet to see how the T.J. Graham pick pans out, but with so much speed on the field for the Bills, the potential is there for big things. Just don't be surprised if the returns aren't immediate as Goodwin figures out the ins and outs of the NFL.

Grade: C+

Round 3, pick 83 — Patriots select Logan Ryan, CB, Rutgers

Surprise surprise, another Rutgers cornerback.

At 5'11" and 191 pounds, Logan Ryan has good size for an NFL cornerback.

He has all the skills the Patriots like in defensive backs. He's versatile to play man, zone and press coverage, and he is solid against the run on the outside.

He can track the football, but he's not as effective in his backpedal as Devin McCourty, which leads to him getting turned around in coverage at times. That presents an all-too-familiar problem for the Patriots, but he knows how to play the ball in the air, and he led the nation with 37 pass break-ups over the past two seasons.

The Patriots needed to add depth at cornerback with the injury history of Aqib Talib posing a threat to the starting lineup. The Patriots are hoping that this selection will help them field a competent secondary regardless of what may come during the season.

Grade: B+

Round 3, pick 91 — Patriots select Duron Harmon, S, Rutgers

Rutgers defensive back, part deux. Also, "who?!" part deux.

He has good size at 6'1" and 200 pounds. Scouting notes are limited for Harmon, but a pamphlet handed out by the Patriots media relations staff explains that he was a first-team All-Big East selection as both a junior and senior, so clearly, his talents are not lost on everyone.

We can be sure that Bill Belichick did his homework on Harmon, thanks in large part to his close-knit relationship with former Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano, now with the Buccaneers.

Let him play a down before writing him off as an abject failure, but when there are no scouting reports out on a player, it's hard to feel overly confident in the pick.

Grade: C-

Round 3, Pick 93 — Dolphins select Will Davis, CB, Utah State University

At 5'11" and 186 pounds, Davis has good size for an NFL corner, but he doesn't play that way. He doesn't do well with contact, lacking the physicality to shed blocks, but he is solid when in press coverage at the line of scrimmage.

He only started one year at USU, and has only played football for a few years total. His football instincts need improvement, as he is naturally aggressive against pump fakes and double moves.

As is the case with any small-school prospect, the question will be whether he can step his game up with tougher competition in front of him.

Grade: C

What did you think of the picks in the AFC East? Leave your thoughts in the comments.


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About the author

Erik Frenz delivers analysis of the biggest news with the Patriots, including insight into the AFC East and New England's biggest rivals from a Patriots perspective. Erik is an interactive writer who engages his audience in his posts’ comments sections and on Twitter. Readers are encouraged to share their thoughts and ask questions. More »

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