Thursday, November 8, 2012
Grading AFC East rookies classes
By James Walker
The first half of the NFL season is in the books, which means this is a good time for reflections.
All four AFC East teams were happy with their rookie draft classes in April. But is that still the case after seeing them for eight games in November?
Here is our midseason report card for AFC East rookies:
Buffalo Bills (3-5)
Notable draft picks: CB Stephon Gilmore, LT Cordy Glenn, WR T.J. Graham
Analysis: Buffalo got pretty good production early from its top two picks: Gilmore and Glenn. Both were immediately starters but Glenn suffered an injury that slowed him down. Gilmore is learning on the job but is having a solid rookie season. He leads Buffalo with 11 pass defenses. The Bills haven’t gotten much else from this rookie class. Still, filling the premium positions of cornerback and left tackle for the long-term raises the grade.
Miami Dolphins (4-4)
Notable draft picks: QB Ryan Tannehill, RT Jonathan Martin, DE Olivier Vernon, RB Lamar Miller
Analysis: Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland had another stellar draft class, and it’s a major reason Miami is in contention. He landed a franchise quarterback in Tannehill, which are always bonus points. Martin has started every game at right tackle and is holding his own. He will only improve. Vernon has been a terror on special teams and off the bench. He already has 2.5 sacks, two blocked field goals and a punt block recovered for a touchdown. Miller is the third running back but has contributed in spot duty. He averages 5.5 yards per carry. You can’t ask for more from a rookie class.
New England Patriots (5-3)
Notable draft picks: DE Chandler Jones, LB Dont'a Hightower, DB Tavon Wilson, DB Alfonzo Dennard
Analysis: Jones is a home run for New England. He has six sacks already this season and has brought a much-needed pass rush to the Patriots’ defense. Hightower was a physical presence early in the season but has battled through injury. Wilson and Dennard have been pleasant surprises. New England’s secondary has struggled mightily, which has opened up some opportunities for both rookies to get playing time and make a contribution. Wilson and Denard have combined for five interceptions.
New York Jets (3-5)
Notable draft picks: DE Quinton Coples, WR Stephen Hill, LB DeMario Davis
Thoughts: Coples has 15 tackles and two sacks. He has the physical tools but hasn’t made the immediate impact the Jets expected. Hill continues to be a raw prospect. He’s made some nice plays but also suffered a lot of drops. Davis is getting increased playing time with veteran Bart Scott (toe) injured. Bush has been a nice contributor on special teams, but continues to sit behind veteran safeties LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell on defense.