- AFC North – Mid (Off) Season NFL Division Power Rankings
- NFC East – Mid (Off) Season NFL Division Power Rankings
- AFC East – Mid (Off) Season NFL Division Power Rankings
We are now at the half way point of the 2016 NFL Offseason. Most free agents decisions have been made. The 2016 NFL Draft has come and gone. Rookie minicamp is in the rear view mirror and teams coaching staffs have had a quick look at their 2016 chess pieces in the first round of OTA’s.
It’s a moment when hope is high and real information is minimal. Perfect time for NFL Division Power Rankings.
The first place you compete in the NFL is your division. Rather than attempt a 1-32 power ranking here we are looking at divisions. Today is the AFC East.
#4 New York Jets – Nice upside selection in the first round with OLB Darron Lee. Most believe selecting Christian Hackenberg in the second round was a reach. Time will tell. It does indicate the team doesn’t consider former second round pick Geno Smith the answer at QB. It also says a lot about what they think in regards to 10 win free agent QB Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Despite early season turmoil the Jet’s had a good season last year. Generally you build on success. Unless you don’t doesn’t really believe in players that were instrumental in the previous years uptick.
The club had a most interesting free agency period. They brought in two top talents in LB Bruce Carter and RB Matt Forte. They watched both of last years RB’s (Chris Ivory and Stevan Ridley) depart to Jacksonville and Detroit respectively. They have still not resigned QB Ryan Fitzpatrick.
The front office leaked partial details of a low-ball offer ($24 million for three years) in an attempt to sway public opinion indicating a “line in the sand” stance has been reached by both sides. It seems fairly obvious the personnel department believes Fitz played over his head last year. I get that. I don’t get why they haven’t given him an incentive based offer to cover themselves. Is this a desperate attempt to force Geno Smith on the coaching staff or general incompetence? One can only surmise.
What we do know is a team with drama and weak options at QB isn’t going to fare well in the tough AFC East. That’s why a 10 win team is at the bottom of the power rankings for the division. Fitzpatrick signs in time to have a full camp things could change.
#3 Miami Dolphins – This is a talented team that got more talented in the offseason. They cut the cord with OLB Quinton Coples and Mrs. Brent Grimes . They let RB Lamar Miller escape to Houston. It’s addition via subtraction in most, but not all aspects.
Coples will try and resurrect his career trying to win a slot in the powerful Rams rotation. He was a failed experiment in Miami and needed to move on.
Brent Grimes is talented. Mrs. Grimes burned the family’s bridges with the team and interestingly enough removed herself from social media before her husband signed with Tampa Bay. Second round selection Xavien Howard is penciled in as the replacement. He has the physical skill set.
Jay Ajayi will ably man the RB position with third round selection Kenyon Drake being a perfect change of pace option and special teams stud. Miller will have a great year in Houston. Ajayi will have a great year in Miami.
Both TE Thomas Durate and QB Brandon Doughty in the seventh round could surprise. OT Laremy Tunsil in the first is an incredible talent boost to the line. OC Pouncey is healthy again. QB Tannehill is getting better. TE Jordan Cameron will be a great pick for fantasy leagues. WR Jarvis Landry is a Sports Center highlight reel. The defensive line is stud filled. Wake, Williams and Suh are nightmares. This is one talented team.
New head coach Adam Gase is a proven offensive mind and has a highly talented group to work with. What he doesn’t have is a team united. What he doesn’t have is a club loaded with locker room leaders. Instead he has a squad filled with individual personalities and that’s a huge challenge.
Ndamukong Suh doesn’t show up for voluntary training. When mandatory sessions roll around he will be there and be in shape. He doesn’t get it. He’s not a leader. While he’s doing “his thing” his teammates will be working together, bonding, building team chemistry. Rather than being a part of that Suh is creating questions in the minds of his fellow players. Suh, Williams, Tunsil are all very talented individuals. As a group however they are not known to be team leaders. That’s tough for any team to overcome.
Rookie CB’s can have a rough introduction to the NFL. Tom Brady is licking his chops thinking about it. Miami has a talented roster but it will be the Dolphins and Jets fighting for worst record in the east.
#2 Buffalo Bills – DE Mario Williams is gone but he wasn’t playing well anyhow being in contention with the coaching staff. WR Percy Harvin is still unsigned but really, does anyone actually care? Resigning with Buffalo is probably Percy’s best option if he’s going to play in 2016. Resigning OL Cordy Glenn, Jordan Mills and Richie Incognito were solid moves for this run first team.
Early grades on the draft haul are extremely positive. Not only did the team get talent they got Ryan style guys that fit scheme and need. DE Shaq Lawson should give them what Williams wasn’t. ILB Reggie Ragland is a tackling machine with great football instincts. DT Adolphus Washington was a value pick in the third and should slide right into the rotation. QB Cardale Jones is pure upside and a great skills matchup for current QB Tyrod Taylor. They should be able to run the same playbook. RB Jonathan Williams was a home run shot in the fifth if he can stay healthy. The fifth round is a great place to take a swing like that. WR Kolby Listenbee gives the team a much needed speed infusion that Harvin could not stay on the field to deliver. CB Kevon Seymour could surprise.
The long term health of WR Sammy Watkins is a concern. When on the field he’s an elite weapon. So is Percy Harvin. Get the drift? Rex Ryan likes to run the ball and plays smash mouth, power football. This opens up the play action pass and Watkins is the guy who can deliver the big play from anywhere on the field. They need him to stay healthy.
The Ryan brothers are on their last stand and I like that. The NFL is about results and these two guys have been a mixed bag in that regard. But make no mistake, just like their father the brothers Ryan can coach. Players generally have better seasons in a contract year or while under the gun. Coaches are no different. I believe Rob and Rex will bring it together and give the Patriots all they can handle in 2016.
I look for the Bills to put up good numbers in the win/loss column in 2016 but come up just short against Belichick.
#1 New England Patriots – They lost some guys in free agency like they do every year. They signed some very talented guys in search of redemption like they do every year. They found value in the draft like the do every year. The team will reinvent it’s offense and defense like they do every year. It will all be masterfully planed by Bill Belichick and implemented by QB Tom Brady, like they do every year.
The league slapped the teams wrist hard in taking it’s first round pick away. That hurt but I almost feel as if Belichick considers it an acceptable handicap perhaps making this years challenge more interesting. He’s that good.
The offense will find ways to use it’s two freak of nature TE’s Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett. The defense will find a way to matchup from week to week. The addition of DE Chris Long is a perfect example of the Pats recurring ability to sign talented players near the end of their careers and eek out a season or two of resurgent productivity at affordable rates.
Via the draft rookie CB Cyrus Jones should start in the slot at some juncture, perhaps from day one. OG Joe Thuney is a high upside pick who could also find his way to a starting gig in 2016. QB Jacoby Brissett was on my draft radar and it’s always a good feeling when Belichick drafts a QB you have an eye on. DT Vincent Valentine is an intriguing talent and should be able to hold down the NT duties for years to come while helping the rotation as he learns the pro game. WR Malcom Mitchell was a steal in the fourth round who can already run the NFL route tree with precision. OLB Kamu Grugier-Hill is a sleeper who has great measurables.
The pending/possible/probable four game suspension for QB Tom Brady is a reality. Like last season Belichick will prepare for it. The week four game versus Buffalo could very well be the deciding factor. However Belichick is anything but shy about facing challenges. Regardless of what happens in the first four games Brady will return to right the ship in week five and has an outside chance of playing the entire season depending on various appeals.
The AFC East is talented and tough. The Patriots are the bad cats of the division for a reason. I don’t see that changing in 2016.
What say you Sports Nation?
Another Left Coast Sports Post: on Twitter – Steven Van Over