By Cody Strahm @CodyJStrahm on July 21, 2014
Comprising preseason rankings and all-star teams often proves to be a futile exercise given the fluctuation of players and teams on a year-to-year basis. Nevertheless, they're still a fun way to inspire debate. Factoring in a blend of past accomplishments and future projections, here is my 2014 preseason All-AFC East team.
No debate here. There's some young talent at quarterback within the division, but no one is near ready to challenge one of the greatest quarterbacks in league history, Tom Brady, for a spot on the All-AFC East team. Brady turns 37 in early August, but still appears to have plenty left in the tank.
Despite a slight drop off in production last year, C.J. Spiller remains one of the AFC East's most explosive playmakers. His ceiling is incredibly high, and his production could mirror his potential in future seasons if quarterback EJ Manuel develops into a quality starter, as defenses wouldn't have the luxury of keying on Buffalo's rushing attack.
When healthy, Rob Gronkowski is one of the most dangerous pass catchers, among receivers and tight ends, in the sport. The only problem: staying healthy has been easier said than done for him. All indications are he'll be ready for the start of 2014, though, which should allow him to re-establish himself as an elite weapon for Tom Brady.
The Dolphins bolstered their offensive line in a big way this offseason by signing Branden Albert in free agency. As one of the most reliable pass blockers in football, Albert should solidify quarterback Ryan Tannehill's blindside.
For the right tackle spot, Sebastian Vollmer is clearly the class of the division. Despite being sidelined for half the season in 2013, Vollmer graded as Pro Football Focus' 21st-most effective offensive tackle.
Left guard Logan Mankins has been a model of consistency for New England's interior offensive line over the past nine seasons. His pass protection regressed some in 2013, but he remains one of the NFL's best run blockers.
At right guard, New York's Willie Colon has some durability concerns, but was one of the league's most effective pass blocking guards last fall.
Mike Pouncey's injury in Miami made this decision a no-brainer. The Jets' Nick Mangold, a five-time Pro Bowler, enters 2014 as the division's most accomplished center. As a full-time starter since his rookie year in 2006, Mangold has only missed two games over the course of his eight-year career.
Rookies rarely qualify for teams such as these, but Buffalo's Sammy Watkins has all the talent to not only be one of the most lethal receivers in the division, but in the entire league.
Miami's Mike Wallace left much to be desired in 2013. Improvement from his quarterback will be a huge boost to his production, though.
Julian Edelman isn't the third-most talented receiver in the division, but he'll be its third-most productive.
Cameron Wake's sack total dipped some last season as he was held back by a knee injury for nearly a month. He remains one of the league's most efficient pass rushers, though. Few offensive tackles can contain his explosiveness without holding.
Although he hasn't developed into the truly elite pass rusher he projected to be coming out of college, the Bills' Mario Williams is a physically gifted force.
As arguably one of the NFL's most underrated players, Kyle Williams is a dominant interior rusher who can also disrupt the run.
As the 2013 AP Defensive Player of the Year winner, Sheldon Richardson graded as Pro Football Focus' second-most proficient run defender among 3-4 defensive ends during his first year with the Jets.
Jerod Mayo's return from injury will do wonders for a Patriots defense that is suddenly equipped to become a top notch unit.
Former Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes will bring his run-stuffing prowess to a Bills defense that is in desperate need of quality linebacker play after Kiko Alonso was lost for the season.
Jamie Collins, who projects to be Mayo's sidekick in New England, appears primed for a breakout season in 2014.
Even playing out of scheme in Tampa Bay, Darrelle Revis graded as Pro Football Focus' most effective cornerback in 2013. He should continue his dominance with the Patriots, equipping New England's secondary with the shutdown corner it's been missing.
He's not a household name but he should be. Miami's Brent Grimes was the only cornerback who played at least 700 snaps not to surrender a touchdown in coverage a year ago.
Devin MCourty was Pro Football Focus' top rated safety in 2013, and the addition of Darrelle Revis should free him up to make even more plays.
Reshad Jones played poorly for the Dolphins last season, but he was dominant the year before. Expect him to return to form in 2014.
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