Last year I tackled the task of creating the 53-man roster for the AFC East. This year I’m back at it again just as Week 1 kicks off. This list is based on building the best possible team using upcoming projections for the 2017 season, so let’s take a look on who makes the cut.
Quarterbacks (3) - Tom Brady, Jay Cutler, Tyrod Taylor
Touchdown Tom has to lead the list unfortunately, as he has as great a resume as anybody to be called the greatest of all time. While Smoking Joe gets a lot of crap, but he’s the most capable player in the division of backing up Brady. Tyrod Taylor narrowly edges out Garoppolo for the third QB spot, mostly because he can add something with his legs that the others can’t. There are about 8 other players I’d add here (including a one-legged Ryan Tannehill) before I’d put a New York Jets QB under center.
Runningback (4) - Jay Ajayi, LeSean McCoy, Matt Forte, James White
Jay Ajayi was the last running back on the AFC East roster last go around. This time he’s the head of the pack. The 24-year old RB blew up in a big way last season and became the focal point of the Dolphins offense. While he’s at the tail end of his career, Shady McCoy still has one of the best one-cuts in the league and is a great “lightning” to Ajayi’s “thunder” as a RB2. There is a large drop off after these two but Matt Forte is still serviceable as a pass catcher and James White is another do-it-all utility back who makes the roster.
Wide Receiver (6) - Jarvis Landry, Brandon Cooks, DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills, Jordan Matthews, Zay Jones
The wide receiver position relies heavily on the South Beach trio of Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, and Kenny Stills, all of whom have quietly turned into one of the best receiving corps in the game. New Patriot asset Brandon Cooks is only 24 and should have a huge year as Tom Brady’s main target. Jordan Matthews and Zay Jones finalize the group and should have plenty of potential in their first season in upstate NY. Quincy Enunwa was an option for the Jets before he got hurt and ended up on IR.
Tight End (3) - Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, Anthony Fasano
Rob Gronkowski would start for the All-NFL team, let alone the AFC East. The Pats double up with Dwayne Allen who’s more of a proven pass-catcher, and also still somewhat in his prime. The third tight end spot could go a handful of ways with Julius Thomas, Charles Clay and even Austin Sefarian-Jenkins making a case to make the roster. However, all of them have their fair share of question marks, and none can block anywhere close to as good as Anthony Fasano. His blocking skill set makes him valuable as a TE3 and pairs well with the two receiving threats from New England.
Offensive Line (9) - Nate Solder, Laremy Tunsil, Richie Incognito, Mike Pouncey, James Carpenter, Shaq Mason, Cordy Glenn, Marcus Cannon, Ju’Wan James
There are a lot of question marks from each of the AFC East offensive lines going into this season. Nate Solder and Laremy Tunsil expect to be penciled in as solid left tackles to protect their quarterback’s blind sides. Richie Incognito has rebounded in Buffalo after being booted from Miami’s bully-gate scandal in 2014. Mike Pouncey is looking to put together his first healthy season since his rookie year; which Miami desperately needs him to. Carpenter and Mason are two solid guards and Glenn, Cannon and James are three tackles that finalize this position grouping.
Defensive Line (8) - Cameron Wake, Ndamukong Suh, Leonard Williams, Kyle Williams, Alan Branch, Jerry Hughes, William Hayes, Trey Flowers
The AFC East defensive linemen can stand toe-to-toe with any other division in football. Cameron Wake is one of the most dominant ends in the game while Ndamukong Suh is as elite as they come. Leonard Williams is the one true bright spot on the Jets roster. Kyle Williams, Jerry Hughes, Alan Branch and William Hayes are solid vets who still have plenty of game while Flowers is a young stud defensive end who is trying to feed off of his strong super bowl performance. This group on paper would be the strength of this roster.
Linebacker (5) - Kiko Alonso, Dont’a Hightower, Lorenzo Alexander, Preston Brown, Lawrence Timmons
The AFC East used to be a hotbed of solid linebackers, but in 2017 this group is dangerously thin. Dont’a Hightower is the one all-pro here and will have to be the captain in the middle of the field. Kiko Alonso and Lawrence Timmons are trying to put together a solid year in Miami while Alexander and Brown have turned into quality linebackers in Buffalo. This unit is definitely the weak spot on this roster but may end up surprising some people this season.
Cornerback (6) - Malcolm Butler, Stephone Gilmore, Xavien Howard, Byron Maxwell, Morris Claiborne, Tre’Davious White
Just like the linebacker corps, the lone all-pro here is a Patriot; Malcolm Butler has turned into one of the league’s best. Byron Maxwell and Morris Claiborne have rebounded declining seasons with a solid 2016 and look to continue that upward success. Stephone Gilmore had a down year but is looking to rebound with the evil division rival Patriots. Rookie Tre-Davious White looks to take over at corner in place of Ronald Darby, who was traded to the Eagles. Dolphins are expecting a breakout year from Xavien Howard who they are considering their top corner.
Safety (5) - Reshad Jones, Devin McCourty, Jamal Adams, TJ McDonald, Micah Hyde
Reshad Jones and Devin McCourty are two of the best safeties in the game and are easy selections as starters here. Rookie Jamal Adams might be in the conversation for NFL defensive rookie of the year. TJ MacDonald and Micah Hyde are looking to find new roles as solid starters on Miami and Buffalo.
Kicker (1) - Stephen Gostkowski
The Patriots always have a reliable kicker who makes big kicks when it matters the most. Gostkowski gets the nod here.
Punter (1) - Ryan Allen
Dolphins Matt Darr would likely have gotten the spot here after a great 2016 season, but he was a surprise cut late for Miami. Ryan Allen is the only proven punter left in the division.
Special Teams (2) - Matthew Slater, Walt Aikens
Slater is one of the best special teams players in the NFL. Aikens beats out his teammate, Michael Thomas after the former was an absolute machine on punt coverage last season. These two are two quality players that any team would definitely appreciate on their roster.
Returner - Jarvis Landry / Tre’Davious White
These guys don’t count for roster spots as they are already on the team. Landry is as shifty as they come and White had some success returning kicks in college.
Head Coach (1) - Bill Belichick
It sucks leaving out Adam Gase (who could make a case as the youngest and most promising head coach in the league) off this list. But Evil Hoodie has won 5 more rings as a head coach than any of the division coaches. He’s the choice, and it’s still not really close, unfortunately.
IR - Ryan Tannehill, Julian Edelman, Quincy Enunwa, Tony Lippett, Cyrus Jones, Raekwon MacMillan
Welcome to our practice squad, get well soon. A moment of silence for our fallen soldiers.
So there you have it, your 53-man All-AFC East roster. Did anyone miss the cut? Any changes you would make to it? Sound off in the comments below and let everyone know who you think the captains should be on Offense, Defense, and Special Teams!
Will the Patriots win the division yet again?
This poll is closed