Training camp is finally here, and players have already started to report. Teams are more than likely done with rounding out their rosters, whether it was through free agency, the draft, or resigning current players, so it feels like a good time to start getting some rankings out there.
These are my pre-season AFC East positional group rankings and will evolve over the year depending on injuries and overall play. Criteria are basically eye-test, stats, logic, and expectations.
- Josh Allen is the unquestioned number 1 QB in the division and top 3 in the NFL. Whether it’s passing, or taking off on the run he’s elite. The only downside is that he’s too risky with the ball, and has the most turnovers in the NFL over the last 3 years. Luckily for him, his talent outweighs the turnovers, and he carries the offense. I expect a bit of a regression with Buffalo trying to run the ball more, while he runs less so he doesn’t take as many shots because it will come back to get him at some point. It always does.
- Tua Tagovailoa’s 2022 campaign statistically was better than any other QB in the division. With his new shiny weapon Tyreek Hill, and track mate Jaylen Waddle, they lit up the NFL with the intermediate/deep passing attack. There was a stretch during the losing streak where Tua seemed to be figured out, but he rebounded before the 2nd diagnosed concussion that took him out for the rest of the year. He was honestly about to take off too. Tua’s put on some serious muscle and has been doing Ju Jitsu this offseason to make sure he can withstand the pounding that QBs take, with an emphasis on learning how to fall. I’m expecting him to bounce back this year, and possibly make a run for the top spot in the division.
- I feel that I’m one of the few Dolphins fans that believe Aaron Rodgers will have a true bounce-back year. I believe he was checked out in Green Bay, and has a newfound happiness in New York. He seems to be meshing well with his new teammates and even got the organization to bring over a few of his boys. Rodgers had a pretty average first half of the season but seemed to be back to his old self during the second-half stretch. We also can’t forget he was the back-to-back MVP in 2020 & 2021 so let’s not sleep on him.
- Mac Jones. Man, I feel like in a better situation he could be a high-end game manager, but Bill Belichick has been awful getting playmakers around him, and in my eyes sabotaged his development last year with the OC situation. They brought in Bill O’Brien so that’s a positive, but with the lack of weapons his ceiling this year won’t be much higher than middle-of-the-pack QB.
- The best back in the division is definitely Breece Hall. I was a little hesitant to put the Jets first, but reports suggest Hall will be ready, and healthy come week 1 so there is no question here. He was the breakout star in the first half of 2022 and was pretty much a lock for Offensive Rookie Of the Year until he tore his ACL. Even if he misses a week or 2, Zonovan Knight, and Michael Carter are really solid backups, and will hold down the fort until the young star is back.
- If Breece Hall wasn’t so dynamic last year, the top spot would’ve gone to Rhamondre Stevenson and the New England Patriots. Stevenson isn’t the fastest, but he’s a hard runner and solid pass catcher. He had close to 70 receptions too. The Patriots are a run-first team, and want to make things as easy as possible for Mac Jones on late downs. New England’s strength is in the trenches so they’ll lean on that and make Stevenson very productive.
- I believe the Dolphins will stand pat on where they are in the RB room, and not overspend on Dalvin Cook, Josh Jacobs, or anyone like that. They have a solid group, but health will be a concern again with top guys Raheem Mostert, and Jeff Wilson Jr. Devon Achane could see a lot of touches if his speed translates to the NFL. A lot of upsides there. I think most people sleep on Mostert because of the injuries, but when healthy he’s a top-15 RB with incredible breakaway speed and underrated power. The Dolphins backfield could be musical chairs, but Miami has quality RBs from top to bottom of the depth chart. P.S. I wish I wish Salvon Ahmed would get more touches. The guy is underrated, especially as a pass catcher.
- With the departure of Devin Singletary, the backfield has been appointed to second-year RB James Cook. He has all the talent you want, and the genetics of an All-Pro RB. What’s not to love? That leads you to ask why they’re 4th then. The Buffalo Bills are at the bottom because they haven’t committed to an RB during the Josh Allen era. Allen has been their best runner, and as of right now, James Cook is unproven. A lot of promise, but it needs to be seen. The ceiling is high here, but the floor is low if the Bills continue to misuse their backfield.
- The top of the list goes to the Miami Dolphins because the WR room is absolutely nuclear. With the best WR duo in the league (Tyreek Hill & Jaylen Waddle) along with newly added depth, the Dolphins are expected to be a firework show on offense. Hill has set his goal of 2,000 yards. I’m not expecting him to get there, but you can mark him down for 1500+ this year. Jaylen Waddle is widely regarded as the best WR2 in the NFL and would be a WR1 for most of the league. Expect the Dolphins to rely heavily on the receivers like last year, and the productivity will be near the top of the NFL.
- The Buffalo Bills may not have the depth that the Miami Dolphins do, but they also have a dynamic 1-2 punch in Stefon Diggs, and Gabe Davis. We see all the drama surrounding Diggs this offseason, but that’s men, and this is football. It’s going to get uncomfortable sometimes when your expectations are sky-high, and you continually fall short. I’m expecting Joh Allen & Stefon Diggs to kiss and make up, and have everything be copacetic going into week 1.
- The New York Jets are going to lean heavily on Offensive Rookie Of The Year Garrett Wilson, but there is more than likely going to be a adjustment period between newly acquired Aaron Rodgers, and his receivers. New York added Allen Lazard so Rodgers could have someone with familiarity and a dynamic weapon in Mecole Hardman. Corey Davis & Denzel Mims have been a disappointment, and Elijah Moore was traded to the Browns so outside Wilson, there will be a bunch of new faces catching the ball for New York. With Rodgers, the WR room could receive a big boost, but until they show that, they’ll be down at #3.
- What more can I say about the New England Patriots WR other than there’s just not much here. The only positive I can give them is that they’re all solid pass catchers. Not going to see a lot of drops, but they can’t separate, and none of them are going to take over a game. Nothing dynamic here. Everything is set up through play-action, and if they get into 3rd, and long they’re more than likely not converting. Bunch of C+ guys, and a B- guy in Juju Smith-Schuster. Fire Bill Belichick the GM. Keep Bill Belichick the coach.
- In an effort to make the Bills less Josh Allen-Stefon Diggs dependent, they added the best TE in the draft in Dalton Kincaid on top of having the best TE in the division already in Dawson Knox. Kincaid is already getting young Travis Kelce comps. I’m not ready to go there, but he’s going to be on the field week 1. The Bills could be absolutely deadly in the play-action game if Kincaid can be an adequate blocker. Either way, both guys are going to be productive, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they ended up having the best two TEs in the division by the end of the year.
- TThe only really positive offensive signing the Patriots have made in the last few years is getting Mike Gesicki this off-season. He’s going to immediately be TE1 over Hunter Henry and is right now the second-best TE in the division behind Dawson Knox. He would be number one because of his elite pass-catching ability, but he can’t block worth a lick. Patriots love running two tight-end sets, but it’ll be hard unless they can teach Gesicki how to block, which I’m pretty sure won’t happen. He’ll most likely line up outside, and take advantage of the linebackers, and safeties that line up on him. Can see top-10 production from Gesicki this year being one of the few mismatches they have on offense.
- The New York Jets are only 3rd on this list because the Dolphins don’t have a starting caliber pass-catching TE. Tyler Conklin and CJ Uzomah are about as average as you can get at the TE position. No flash here. Aaron Rodgers usually likes his tight ends, so there’s a sliver of hope for them being productive, but all signs point to a safety valve-type role for them.
- The Miami Dolphins are going to heavily rely on the WR group in the passing game. The tight ends on the roster are going to basically be an extra linemen that can also be the last resort on pass plays. The system doesn’t favor tight ends anyway, and we saw that with Mike Gesicki. He rarely got targets and was barely on the field. When he did, he cashed them though. This TE group will be valuable in pass protection, but the receiving production will easily be bottom 10 in the NFL.
- New England is notorious for having an above-average OL group no matter whos out there. I don’t know whether it’s the culture, the coaching, or the scouting but whoever they plug in does the job. Cole Strange was wildly inconsistent last year at left guard but had some really good games too. Expecting him to make a jump with consistency this year. The only real hole they had was RT, but with the addition of Riley Reiff, New England should have a top 10-15 group there. Michael Onwenu is the standout at right guard and could have an All-Pro year. The offensive play calling should get some credit too because they commit to the run, and with that, pass rushers can’t just pin their ears back and go after the QB unless it’s 3rd and long.
- All 3 of the teams left could get any spot on the list because they are all that close to each other, but right now I’m going to go with the Buffalo Bills for #2. They’re an overall solid group, with not many injuries, and they made some additions to get some depth. Nothing flashy here outside of Dion Dawkins, but they’ll hold their ground against most pass rushes. Josh Allen is a big scrambler so it could distort what sacks that are against the OL as opposed to the QB holding the ball too long. Either way, Josh Allen doesn’t take too many sacks.
- Here is where it gets tricky. Right now on paper, if Terron Armstead was healthy for all the games, I’d take the Dolphins over any other OL in the division. As of now, there are two holes in the OL, and the Dolphins didn’t do much to address it besides dragging out corpses from free agency. They’re hoping the failed projects of Austin Jackson, and Liam Eichenberg somehow turn it around, but I don’t see that happening. If whatever right tackle that starts week 1 can be average, we’ll be good to go. Terron Armstead, Robert Hunt, and Connor Williams are all studs, but if Armstead misses extended time like last year the OL turns into Swiss cheese, and even the elite pocket presence of Tua can’t help it. Hopefully, I’ll change my mind about this in the first few weeks.
- Last, but the most talented OL in the New York Jets. They have absolute studs in Alijah Vera-Tucker, Laken Tomlinson, and Mekhi Becton. The only problem is that they can’t stay on the field. Vera-Tucker only played 7 games last year while Becton hasn’t played in two years. hey signed Duane Brown in the offseason, but his best years are behind him, and I don’t expect him to play the full season. Like the Dolphins, the Jets need to stay healthy in the trenches to move up this list.
I had to put on my unbiased hat while writing this, so let us know in the comments whether you agree/disagree with the rankings and what should be changed.