clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2016-17 All-AFC East Team - The 53-Man Roster

I try and tackle the difficult task to take every single player from the AFC East to make the best 53-man roster for the upcoming 2016 season.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Here's the idea. Below is my take on the 53-man roster for the AFC East division. This has to do with projections for the 2016 season, and takes in to account previous stats and recent successes/struggles. Because 'potential' doesn't mean jack in my book, zero rookies will receive starting positions, but a few just may end up making the team! Let's get started.

Quarterbacks (3) - Tom Brady, Ryan Tannehill, Tyrod Taylor

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out the starter here, so there's no need discussing it any further. Ryan Tannehill may have had the worst year of all AFC-East QB's in 2015, but he still put up good stats for a down year and with so much more turmoil around him than any other quarterback in the division. Most outsiders would still rather trust him than any other quarterback in  the division behind Brady, however no there will be no excuses for the quarterback in his fifth year. Tyrod Taylor went from third stringer to pro-bowl quarterback in just a handful of years. Despite all of this though, it appears Buffalo isn't sold on him as the long term option at all, and selecting Cardale Jones in the fourth round may support that idea. Although I admit he had a fairly impressive season, Ryan Fitzpatrick is on the short end of the stick here. Fitzmagic had some impressive games but has made his career as a journeyman and the fact that he has still not signed with the Jets (or ANYONE for that matter) probably shows his true worth.

Running Backs (4) - LeSean McCoy, Matt Forte, Dion Lewis, Jay Ajayi

The AFC East has there fare share of capable backs, however it appears that all teams in the division are going with the running back by committee technique instead of having a so-called "bell-cow" back. McCoy had a very disappointing year in Buffalo and probably has one of the worst contracts in football at them moment, but he still is the most explosive back in the division. If he happens to rebound in 2016 then it means bad news for the rest of the East. Matt Forte is not the same back he was three years ago, however he still has plenty left in the tank and I would make an argument that he is the most complete back on this roster. I'll take Dion Lewis over LeGarrette Blount as the Patriots top back just because of his age and the fact that he exploded for New England last year before he got injured. He'd be a hell of a third down back behind McCoy and Forte here on the depth chart. Ajayi narrowly makes the cut as the last RB on the roster, beating out Blount, Karlos Williams and James White. He has limited experience under his belt, but looked terrific in flashes last year behind Lamar Miller. He will likely get a chance to show his skills this season as Miami's top back, and may end up even higher on this depth chart next year.

Wide Receivers (6) - Brandon Marshall, Sammy Watkins, Jarvis Landry, Julian Edelman, Eric Decker, Devante Parker

I'm taking Marshall, Watkins and Landry as my starting three receivers here. Brandon Marshall has been an all-pro since he entered the league and seemed to rebound with a solid year in New York last year working with Fitzpatrick. Sammy Watkins hasn't been able to hit his potential yet because he keeps getting injured, but when he's on the field you can see what Buffalo was thinking when they traded up to make him the top receiver selected in the epic 2014 NFL Draft. Jarvis Landry narrowly edged out Edelman here for slot duties. Both are very similar players and somewhat interchangeable, but one has to recognize what Landry has done in his first two seasons, breaking numerous records and on a far inferior offense than New England. Edelman will likely be the first depth at receiver and will be joined by Eric Decker and Devante Parker. Decker has been terrific in New York and Parker exploded at the end of the year and has made many Miami fans very excited about seeing him as the team's #1 receiver for the upcoming season. This division quite possibility boasts the best receiving core in the AFC.

Tight End (2) - Rob Gronkowski, Martellus Bennett

It pains me to see a double-headed monster here at tight end back in New England. I'm sure this may be the only thing that fellow Jets and Bills fans will agree with me on. While Charles Clay and Jordan Cameron have put up fantastic years in the past, they weren't really factors in 2015 and both get the snub for this year's all-pro team. Rob Gronkowski is the best tight end on the planet and it's not even close. Martellus Bennett has always been solid, and that has been with Jay Cutler throwing to him. One would think he will fare just fine with Belicheck and Brady in New England. We will could add another tight end (or two) here for depth but these two should be able to man the ship as a solid 1,2 punch. If they stay healthy, Patriots fans have got to be excited about the tight end position this year.

Offensive Linemen (9) - Brandon Albert, Cordy Glenn, Mike Pouncey, Richie Incognito, Nick Mangold, James Carpenter, Laremy Tunsil, Eric Wood, Sebastian Vollmer

While AFC East offensive lines have been shaky at times, especially subjected to the fierce defensive lines of the rest of the division 6 times per year, that doesn't mean that capable players aren't present in the trenches. Brandon Albert and Cordy Glenn have been solid and deserve a nod at left tackle. The division has three pro bowl centers and Pouncey, Mangold and Wood make the squad, while even provide depth at guard if needed. Richie Incognito was re-born in Buffalo after missing all of 2014 from the Bullygate scandal aftermath. He rebounded with a Pro Bowl nod and a presence on the NFL Top 100's list. Both Richie and Jets guard, James Carpenter, are great run blockers and scould both easily start on this roster. Laremy Tunsil gets the first rookie nod and provides solid depth; all things considered he has the looks of an elite tackle in the league. Sebastian Vollmer gets the final nod as New England's sole representative the OL. Vollmer barely beats out Miami's Ju'wan James, both of whom had solid seasons but also battled their fare share of injury.

Defensive Linemen (8) - Muhammed Wilkerson, Nmadukong Suh, Jerry Hughes, Marcell Dareus, Sheldon Richardson, Cameron Wake, Leonard Williams, Mario Williams

If wide receiver isn't this division's deepest position, then it has to be defensive line. Selecting the top 10 best defensive linemen in this division is a daunting task and many solid players end up on the outside looking in. The AFC East has become famous for each team having an arms race to out-do the rest of the division by having the most stout DL. Leonard Williams seems to be the future for New York, as both Wilkerson and Richardson were surrounded by trade rumors prior to the draft. Either way, all three are great defensive linemen and make the cut to give the Jets three members of the team here. Dareus and Suh are two of the league's best at defensive tackle and are joined by their teammates, Jerry Hughes and Cameron Wake at the defensive end. position Now that Chandler Jones has departed New England for Arizona, the Patriots may lack elite talent, but all of their starters are solid. My final vote would go to Mario Williams though, who despite an off year should rebound nicely back in his scheme in South Florida. He's got more sacks then anyone on this list, and I would think one off year is an anomaly, not a trend. He beats out fellow Patriots Jabaal Sheard and Malcom Brown along with Bills rookie Shaw Lawson for the ninth and final defensive lineman spot.

Linebackers (7) - Jamie Collins, Preston Brown, Dont'a Hightower, Reggie Ragland, Rob Ninkovich, David Harris, and Kiko Alonzo.

Despite not getting a single defensive lineman above, the Patriots respond by adding three linebackers of their own for to the team. Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower have become two unstoppable forces at times for New England. Rob Ninkovich is a versatile defender who started his career with New Orleans and Miami before finding his true home in New England. Although he often plays on the line, the DL position was already settled and he can find a better role as a linebacker here. Preston Brown had a terrific year for Buffalo and I think he has already become their top linebacker. Reggie Ragland becomes the second rookie to make the team here because he should instantly slide in Buffalo as a supurb run stopper. Finally, David Harris and Kiko Alonzo represent the final two spots for the Jets and the Dolphins respectively, as they beat out Jelani Jenkins and rookie Darron Lee.

Cornerbacks (5) - Darrelle Revis, Malcolm Butler, Ronald Darby, Stephon Gilmore, Logan Ryan

I'm only going with five cornerbacks here, but I feel pretty confident, as it's quite a formidable five. Darrelle Revis is a shoo-in as possibly still the best corner in the league. Malcolm Butler has emerged from Super Bowl 49 hero to a legitimate starter. Ronald Darby dominated his rookie year in 2015 and is joined by fellow teammate Stephon Gilmore. Logan Ryan grabs the last CB spot, who's a tad bit more consistent then Byron Maxwell and Buster Skrine, and more proven than rookies Xavien Howard and Cyrus Jones.

Safeties (5) - Reshad Jones, Devin McCourty, Calvin Pryor, Corey Graham, Patrick Chung

Reshad Jones is the best safety in the league that nobody talks about. McCourty isn't too far behind him. After that, Calvin Pryor seems to be finally putting it together for the Jets, after having a very good year in 2015. Corey Graham did the same for Buffalo, who was looking for it's next safety to step up since Jairus Byrd departed. I decided to keep a 5th safety and go with Patrick Chung, knowing he could always fill in at nickel corner if need be. His versatility sold me, and the fact that he always seems to make a big play when the Patriots need one.

Kicker (1) - Stephen Gostkowski

What more needs to be said here. If you need a field goal right down the center, this is your guy.

Punter (1) - Matt Darr

Interestingly enough I'm rolling with second year undrafted punter Matt Darr here to represent the AFC East. Dolphin fans were a bit surprised to see Brandon Fields leave in 2015, but Darr stepped in last year without a hiccup, averaging the third best punt average in the entire league.

Kick/Punt Returner - Jarvis Landry* and Julian Edelman*

These receivers have already made the team so they don't count against another roster spot here. Fans of the AFC east might want to keep an eye out for rookies Jakeem Grant, Jalin Marshall and Cyrus Jones who could easily become huge weapons for their teams in the return game. For now though, I'm saving roster spots and going with these two proven playmakers.

Special Teams (2) - Matthew Slater and Michael Thomas

The last two spots are reserved for my special teams specialists, New England's Matt Slater and Miami's Michael Thomas. Slater is the special teams captain for the Patriots and a five-time pro bowler. Thomas provides solid depth and leadership at the safety position and was graded out as Pro Football Focus's top special teams player in 2015. These are invaluable assets to any team that often don't get mentioned enough.

Head Coach - Bill Belicheck

Everybody except Patriots fans might hate him, but Hoodie is the best coach in the league, year after year... even if he is 50% genius and 50% evil.

So what do you think? Did I nail it? Did I absolutely butcher it!?!? Comment below to let me know the biggest snub and who would you have as the captains of the AFC East?