Round 1 of the 2022 NFL Draft saw the AFC East welcome some fresh new talent.
The New England Patriots pulled a New England Patriots, trading down from No. 21 to select Chattanooga interior offensive lineman Cole Strange with the 29th overall pick. Strange seemingly could fill the Patriots’ need at guard while also providing center depth behind David Andrews.
We’ll spend plenty of time breaking down what New England did in the first round. For now, let’s focus on its AFC East rivals: the New York Jets, Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins.
Pick 4: Ahmad Gardner, CB — Cincinnati
Pick 10: Garrett Wilson, WR — Ohio State
Pick 26: Jermaine Johnson, Edge — Florida State
While you never truly know how any draft pick will pan out, it’s hard to ignore what the Jets accomplished Thursday evening. They landed Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, a highly skilled and confident cornerback, and a speedy receiver prospect in Wilson. Then, later in Round 1, the Jets traded with the Tennessee Titans to land the 26th pick, which they used to select Johnson. The Florida State product was considered one of the better pass-rushers in the draft but surprisingly fell toward the bottom of the first round.
New York improved at two premium skill positions and added needed talent to its front seven. Gardner, Wilson and Johnson all were among Mel Kiper Jr.’s top 11 overall prospects. Not bad for one night.
Richard Sherman is especially high on Gardner’s potential in head coach Robert Saleh’s defense.
Also, this comment from draft expert Daniel Jeremiah tells you all you need to know:
“They end up coming away, in my opinion, with the top corner and the top receiver in the draft,” he said during NFL Network’s draft coverage.
If there’s one Jets-related note from the draft that should encourage Patriots fans, it’s that New York wound up not trading for San Francisco 49ers receiver Deebo Samuel. The Jets reportedly were considering moving one or more of their two first-round picks for the star wideout, who recently requested a trade.
Of course, the Jets — and the Patriots, for that matter — still could swing a deal for Samuel at some point this offseason.
Pick 23: Kaiir Elam, CB — Florida
Buffalo swung a trade with the Dallas Cowboys to move up from No. 25 to No. 23, which it used to draft Elam. Often mocked to the Patriots, Elam was viewed by many as one of the five best cornerbacks in the draft. He now potentially forms a dynamic cornerback duo with star Tre’Davious White, who is recovering from a torn ACL.
Here’s what Dane Brugler wrote of Elam in his 2022 NFL Draft guide:
“Elam needs to tidy up his timing and processing issues, but he is a good-sized athlete with natural
cover talent and NFL-ready intangibles. With his physicality for press-man, he compares favorably to Tampa Bay’s Carlton Davis when he was coming out of Auburn.”
We’ll see how Elam does in the pros, but the Bills clearly wanted to beef up their secondary with the Patriots, Dolphins and Jets all improving their receiving corps this offseason.
Last year, Miami moved up in the first round by trading a 2022 first-rounder to the Philadelphia Eagles. The Dolphins wound up using the sixth overall pick on Alabama receiver Jaylen Waddle, who turned in an impressive rookie campaign.
More recently, the Dolphins traded another 2022 first-rounder, the 29th overall pick, to the Chiefs in the deal that sent receiver Tyreek Hill to Miami.
Consequently, Miami entered the 2022 draft without any first-round picks. And, since they didn’t trade back into the first round, the Dolphins did not make a selection Thursday night.