It’s hard to believe that the 2012 NFL Draft is already in the rear-view, but here we are.
The calendar has turned to May, and the most exciting parts of the NFL offseason are nearing conclusion, as we start to move away from draft talk and transition towards training camp in a few months.
Nevertheless, the draft is one of the biggest events on the NFL calendar for a reason, as all 32 teams get a chance to lay the foundation for better and brighter days ahead.
Although we won’t get the full scope of how well these 32 draft classes will shake out for a few more years, it’s never too early to give some early impressions.
Here on Rant Sports, we’ve got division-by-division draft breakdowns for all eight divisions, which you can check out here.
In the AFC East, the New England Patriots are firmly entrenched atop the division, with the New York Jets, Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins trying to find ways to close the gap and challenge for the throne.
In a rare showing of competency not often seen around the league, all four AFC East teams got better on draft weekend, and that gap between the Patriots and their three division rivals just got a tad smaller.
Yes, the Jets, Bills and Dolphins should all be commended for some solid additions on draft weekend, and the Patriots did pretty well themselves. But not as well as their AFC East counterparts.
No doubt, Bill Belichick and the Pats are happy to have 1st-round picks Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower. The ex-Syracuse and Alabama defenders will be great fits in a defense that sorely needed new blood.
But the Patriots’ selection of Illinois safety Tavon Wilson in round 2 was easily the biggest reach of the draft among the four AFC East teams, and the Patriots really did a subpar job with the rest of their picks after round 1.
The exception to that was their selection of Nebraska cornerback Alfonzo Dennard in round 7. The value and upside of that pick saved the Patriots from a much worse grade. I give them a C overall for their 2012 draft class.
Meanwhile, the cellar-dwellers of the AFC East should hold their heads high. The Buffalo Bills did an absolutely terrific job at the 2012 NFL Draft, picking up serious talent on all three days of the draft.
They got excellent value with a pair of offensive linemen, 2nd-round pick Cordy Glenn from Georgia and 5th-rounder Zebrie Sanders from Florida State. Both can be developed into starters and have a ton of potential.
Buffalo also did well with Tank Carder, a linebacker from TCU who they picked in round 5, who has the potential to start down the road and make an immediate impact on special teams.
The only thing keeping the Bills from getting a perfect grade was the selection of NC State receiver T.J. Graham in round 3. Graham was a bit of a reach, especially with Rutgers’ Mohamed Sanu still on the board at the time.
That being said, Buffalo gets a solid A- grade from me, as they had by far the best draft in the division this year, and they hope that will translate on the field in 2012.
The Jets and Dolphins had respectable drafts. They were not without risk, but the upside is worth it. They each took the highest-rated players on their respective boards in round 1, for better or for worse.
Time will tell if Ryan Tannehill and Quinton Coples are the right men for the job for their respective teams. However, both teams were also able to get some great value picks on days two and three of the draft.
The Dolphins meanwhile found excellent value in running back Lamar Miller in round 4, and they were also happy to see Stanford tackle Jonathan Martin fall to them with the 42nd overall pick in round 2.
The Jets and Dolphins both get a solid B grade from me, and the pro careers of their respective 1st-round picks will determine whether or not that grade can get higher in hindsight.
At the end of the day, this may have been the best collective draft haul from the four AFC East teams all in the same season in quite some time. Very few bad picks between them, with a lot of good value throughout.
Years from now, it will be fun to debate just who had the best and worst 2012 draft classes among these teams. For now, I tip my cap to the four of them. I can’t wait to see how it translates on the field.