2022 NFL Draft grades: How each AFC East team fared in crazy first round


The first round of the 2022 NFL Draft was an impactful one for the AFC East.

The New York Jets were the busiest of the four teams. They entered the first round with the No. 4 and No. 10 picks, and near the end of the night Thursday they traded back into Round 1 for a third selection.

The Buffalo Bills, who have won back-to-back division titles, also traded up to fill a defensive need. The New England Patriots made the most shocking pick of the first round, one that ignited fierce debate on talk shows and social media.

The Miami Dolphins were the only one of the four teams without a first-round pick, but they had a pretty good reason for that (more below).

Let's get to the first-round grades for all four AFC East teams.

New York Jets

Picks: Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner, CB, Cincinnati (No. 4); Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State (No. 10); Jermaine Johnson, DE, Florida State (No. 27)

Grade: A

The Jets had a plan and executed it to near perfection on Thursday night, addressing several huge roster weaknesses with some of the top players at their respective positions.

Gardner has the ability to be an elite cornerback. In more than 1,000 pass coverage snaps in college he didn't allow a single touchdown. Wilson was the top-rated wide receiver in this class on many draft boards and has the potential to be a fantastic target for young quarterback Zach Wilson. Johnson is another top 15 talent who fell all the way to the later stages of Round 1, where New York was smart to move up and get him. 

The Jets defense gave up the most points and the most yards last season, while tallying the sixth-fewest sacks. Therefore, the additions of Gardner and Johnson should be huge upgrades for New York as it tries to improve in a loaded AFC East next season.

Miami Dolphins

Picks: N/A

Grade: N/A

The Dolphins essentially spent their first-round pick (No. 29 overall) on wide receiver Tyreek Hill. This pick was part of the package the Dolphins sent to the Kansas City Chiefs to acquire the 28-year-old star. Hill gives Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa an elite offensive weapon capable of scoring a touchdown on any play with his game-breaking speed and quickness. 

Hill and 2021 first-round pick Jaylen Waddle give the Dolphins one of the best wide receiver duos in the league. Miami's pass offense should be a lot of fun to watch in 2022.

Buffalo Bills

Picks: Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida (No. 23)

Grade: B+

The Bills needed to add depth at cornerback, and when Elam was still on the board at No. 23, they traded up two spots by sending the No. 25 and No. 130 picks to the Baltimore Ravens.

Buffalo lost Levi Wallace in free agency and veteran Tre'Davious White might not be ready for Week 1 as he recovers from a torn ACL, so it was important for the Bills to find a potential early-season starter at cornerback. 

Elam tallied five interceptions and 20 passes defensed over three seasons with the Gators. He also forced 16 incompletions since 2020, which ranked second among all SEC cornerbacks during that span, per Pro Football Focus. His excellent speed and coverage ability should help him make an immediate impact on an already loaded Buffalo defense. 

New England Patriots

Picks: Cole Strange, OL, Chattanooga (No. 29)

Grade: C+

Strange was the most surprising pick of the first round. He was projected to be a late second- or third-round pick in most mock drafts, but the Patriots thought he was worth the No. 29 pick. 

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The Chattanooga guard is very athletic, he plays with good technique and he has a mean streak that draws comparisons to former Patriots star Logan Mankins. Strange could start Week 1, especially after the Patriots lost both of last year's starting guards -- Ted Karras and Shaq Mason -- earlier in the offseason. Protecting franchise quarterback Mac Jones is a top priority, and Strange should play a huge part in that.

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But the Patriots probably could have taken Strange, or at least a comparable offensive lineman, at some point on Day 2 of the draft. Why take him at No. 29 when players at premium positions, such as cornerback and linebacker, were still on the board? The Patriots originally had No. 21 before trading down with the Kansas City Chiefs. Washington cornerback Trent McDuffie, Florida cornerback Kaiir Elam and Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd were all available at No. 21.

The Patriots, after their trade with the Chiefs and the selection of Strange, now have one second and two third-round picks to address major holes at wide receiver, linebacker and cornerback. Whether the Patriots nail these Day 2 picks likely will have a huge impact on the team's success next season.

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