The role of reigning Super Bowl champion is once again played by the New England Patriots. Heading into the 2019 NFL season, the Patriots are looking to continue their two decades long dominance of the AFC East. In order to do so, the Patriots have once again found talented players through the draft. However, the rest of the division believes they have also found the needed pieces to dethrone the Patriots. Today we take a look at which rookie will have the biggest positive impact in 2019, and which will be lucky to avoid running into his own teammate. It’s rookie feast or famine time in the AFC East.
AFC East Rookies
Heading into the draft, Wilkins failed to receive the hype he deserved. Part of the reason was his usage at Clemson featured moves along the defensive line. Wilkins is a monster at the three-technique. He is quick, agile, and displays immense power. However, he also has the versatility to play at the 5T or anywhere else on the line. This versatility led to his selection in the first round by the Dolphins.
The Dolphins have a defensive-minded head coach in Brian Flores. The former Bill Belichick assistant has shown the ability to spur production in his players. Miami has talented interior linemen in Vincent Taylor and Davon Godchaux. The trio of athletic big men will pose problems for opposing offensive lines, primarily on the inside. Wilkins may not have the eye-popping numbers in 2019, but his impact on defense could be felt from week one. A player of his caliber affects the ability of offensive lines to protect the edges, opening up opportunities for the pass rush.
At the end of the day, Wilkins is a major upgrade for the Dolphins. He has the ability to uplift the Miami defense. Wilkins will have ample opportunity to make plays and wreck havoc, week in and week out. The Dolphins got themselves a heck of a player on defense. If Miami can let him loose, it will be a long season for opposing offensive linemen.
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Selecting a former Sun Devil as the AFC East rookie to struggle, is not something one does lightly. Harry was an exciting playmaker during his time at Arizona State. He is a local product who stayed home for college and turned himself into a folk hero. However, succeeding in the NFL relies on more than just talent. Harry was selected with the final pick of the first round, in last April’s draft. He was the second receiver selected of the first round, behind Marquise Brown, who landed in Baltimore. While Brown was the more explosive pass catcher in college, Harry had the better production.
Harry has strong hands, a great frame, and the ability to make athletic catches. However, he struggles to get steady separation against bigger cornerbacks and did not show much of a route tree in college. New England is not shy about spreading around the football. The offense is predicated quick routes to combat the pass rush. Route running is of the utmost importance for the Patriots offense. This is an area where Harry is lacking. The rookie excels in jump ball situations and can come across the field on crossing or drag routes. Yet Harry is often sluggish out of his breaks and allows himself to be grabbed too often.
Can Harry become a top wide receiver in the NFL? With the amount of talent he’s showcased, the answer is a resounding yes. Does he have an uphill climb ahead of him? Also, a resounding yes. Harry will learn from the likes of Josh McDaniels, Tom Brady, and Julian Edelman. His transition will have its growing pains, but he has the ability to be something special. As a rookie, expecting more than a handful of touchdown would be foolish.
A Great Draft
The AFC East as a whole, had a fantastic draft. Each team added key pieces to areas of concern. Buffalo added two starters in the first two rounds. The Jets added the best defensive player of the draft. The AFC East has long been owned by the Patriots. With their recent draft haul, New England has thrown down the gauntlet to the rest of the division to catch up. 2019 promises to be an interesting year in the AFC East, even if the end result remains the same.