AFC East Roster Holes: Optimal Landing Spots for the 2020 Rookie Class

Kevin Taylor breaks down the fantasy opportunity in the AFC East ahead of the 2020 draft.

With the NFL Draft approaching on April 23, it’s time to take stock of NFL rosters to find prime opportunities for the incoming rookie class. Even the most talented rookie can get buried on a depth chart in the NFL, while a fourth-round pick could break out in year one if drafted into the right situation.

This series of articles will search each NFL roster for glaring holes in the depth chart, focusing on the fantasy football positions of quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and tight end. If a talented rookie is drafted to fill one of the following roster holes, we could have the formula in place for a fantasy football difference-maker.

 

Buffalo Bills: RB2

 

There aren’t a lot of skill-position holes for the Bills heading into the 2020 draft. With the addition of stud receiver Stefon Diggs to go along with the steady John Brown and slot-man Cole Beasley, they seem to be set at receiver. They have a promising second-year player at tight end in Dawson Knox and are set a quarterback with Josh Allen. Second-year running back Devin Singletary seems poised to take over the lion’s share of the work in this backfield. The question I ask myself for this team is: who is going to compliment Singletary in 2020?

As of right now, they have T.J. Yeldon and Taiwan Jones as their number two and three running backs respectively. Yeldon had 17 carries and 15 targets last season and Jones had nine carries and one target in his regular-season with the Texans last year. The Bills have also moved on from veteran Frank Gore, who led the team in carries last year with 166.

The Bills only used Gore and Singletary most of last year, even with Singletary missing four games. Yeldon is an under-used passing game specialist at this point in his career and Jones will likely be a special teams contributor. The Bills don’t have a first-round pick and have one pick in each of the second, third, fourth, and fifth. The Bills have one of the deeper rosters in the league, with no glaring holes anywhere so a running back could be in the cards for them with one of their first picks to complement Singletary.

 

Miami Dolphins: QB, RB

 

With five picks in the first two rounds, the Dolphins are poised to add talent to their developing roster. At quarterback, they brought back Ryan Fitzpatrick who is a great veteran stopgap option and they have Josh Rosen behind him who has struggled in his two years in the league. The Dolphins scooped up running back Jordan Howard to take over early-down work. Returning from last year include passing-game specialist Patrick Laird, second-year runner Myles Gaskin, and plodder Kalen Ballage. They return a solid quartet at receiver in Breakout receiver DeVante Parker, second-year up and comer Preston Williams, slot man Albert Wilson, and Allen Hurns to provide some depth. At tight end, the Dolphins have Mike Gesicki who started to turn his game around in the second half last year.

The Dolphins are clearly in need of their next franchise quarterback. They have the luxury of allowing a rookie to be mentored by Fitzpatrick and not need to start them right off the bat. It will be interesting to see if the Dolphins take a stab at one at pick five or wait and take them later in the first or the second. This offensive line was so bad last year that I wouldn’t want my rookie quarterback being thrown to the wolves behind it. Luckily the Dolphins have started to upgrade there with the signings of Ted Karras from New England and Ereck Flowers from Washington. They likely address offensive line further in the draft as well to help their young quarterback.

Ballage plodded to a 1.8 yards per carry a year ago and Laird had 2.7 yards per carry himself. They had a combined 132 carries between them. Laird caught 23 of 30 targets for a healthy 8.9 yards per reception and he can provide value in the passing game. The Dolphins bring in Howard who is a traditional two-down grinder himself. Improvements along the offensive line will help these guys but there also needs to be a talent infusion and I expect the Dolphins to grab a running back at some point with their 14 draft picks. This backfield seems destined for a committee based on the personnel they have and the probability of them adding more guys to the mix. However, it is a situation to monitor as there is room for someone to grab the reigns and run with it.

 

New England Patriots: QB, Speed WR, TE

 

The Patriots lost out on future hall of Famer and GOAT quarterback Tom Brady in free agency and now have second-year fourth-rounder Jarrett Stidham and journeyman Brian Hoyer. The Pats’ return their full complement of running backs: Sony Michel, James White, and Rex Burkhead, as well as barely-used second-year back Damien Harris. Their tight ends last year had a combined 37 receptions and two touchdowns and the leader of that group Ben Watson is now gone. The Patriots return slot-machine Julian Edelman and second-year outside receiver N’Keal Harry who struggled most of his rookie year. They also bring back Mohamed Sanu who was miscast as a perimeter receiver in New England and caught a woeful 26 of 47 targets and one touchdown.

The Pats’ have one first-round pick and then three late third-rounders. If New England doesn’t go with a quarterback in round one I think it shows that they have confidence in Stidham and want to see what they have in him. Stidham completed two of four passes last season and had an interception. I could see the Pats’ drafting a quarterback later as more of a project if they don’t grab one in the first round.

If the Patriots are set with Stidham going forward they need to address his weapons. Tight end is a no man’s land for New England and the draft isn’t supposed to be stocked with them this year. Their depth chart consists of Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo who combined for 19 receptions on 28 targets in 2019. This is, however, supposed to be a crazy deep wide receiver class.  New England should be able to address the speed-receiver later in the draft. Edelman and Sanu are slot type guys and Harry is a big-bodied, low-separation receiver on the outside. There is no one to stretch the defense deep.

 

New York Jets: WR1, RB2

 

The Jets have four picks in the top three rounds including pick 11 overall. They are set at quarterback with Sam Darnold who is young and oozes potential. At running back they bring back their starter/bell-cow Le’Veon Bell who handled 245 carries and 78 targets a year ago. Their number two and three running backs from a year ago are now free agents that leave Trenton Cannon and Kenneth Dixon as the next guys up. At wide receiver, the Jets bring back their top receiving option in slot-man Jamison Crowder and replaced deep threat, Robby Anderson, with the speedy Breshad Perriman. After those guys, there are the likes of Quincy Enunwa, Josh Malone, and Josh Doctson. Tight end is a position of strength for the Jets with Chris Herndon and Ryan Griffin both returning and capable of producing.

I like the Jets to take a stab at a wide receiver or two in this draft that is supposed to be rich in talent at the position. They are lacking a true number one receiver to complement the speedy Perriman and slot-man Crowder. At running back, Bell averaged a brutal 3.2 yards per carry in his first year with the Jets. He is still ticketed to be the feature back given his contract but I think the Jets will want to improve their number two to possibly be a replacement for Bell this season or in the future. Cannon can be a third-down type back and Dixon has some talent but was unable to stay on the field in his first few years in Baltimore due to off the field issues and injury.

 

(Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire)

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