The AFC East went from zero to one hundred overnight in the Post-Brady era. The Bills, Jets, and Dolphins spent the better part of the 21st century circling the drain in the Shadow of New England. This division is primed to follow up on 2022 with another strong showing in the post-season. PlayerProfiler will help guide the way while dissecting the AFC East. Without further ado, this is the AFC East Offseason Preview!
Estimated Cap Space: -16 Million
Estimated Effective Cap Space: -19 Million
Draft Picks: 28, 60, 92, 131, 140, 206. The Bills rank No. 26 among NFL teams in total draft capital according to Tankathon.
Likely Cuts: Nyheim Hines (0$ dead cap and over $4M salary)
Buffalo dominated the AFC East in 2022 and finished as the No. 2 seed among AFC teams. The case for the Bills in 2023 is simple as they push forward to maintain their dominance in 2023. Fantasy football players can expect more of the same from a Bills team with limited cap space (if any) and a lack of high-end draft capital. This team will continue to be a fantasy powerhouse under the reigns of elite QB Josh Allen.
Gabe Davis and James Cook are the big names to monitor this offseason. It is unlikely the Bills sign any relevant skill position players, however, this roster is strong enough to use Picks 28 or 60 on luxury WRs or RBs. Job security for the Buffalo skill position players will not be known until the draft.
The Bills use pick 28 on a WR who is good enough to start but not enough to drastically impact Stefon Diggs. Davis will lose some volume but maintain his boom/bust role regardless. The Bills will acquire a discount veteran or a late draft RB to compliment James Cook, but not replace him entirely.
Estimated Cap Space: -16 Million
Estimated Effective Cap Space: -23 Million
Draft Picks: 52, 78, 85, 179, 241. The Dolphins rank No. 32 among NFL teams in total draft capital according to Tankathon.
Likely Cuts: none
The Miami Dolphins are the most resource-limited team in the NFL heading into 2023. Fantasy managers can expect the same Miami Dolphins in 2023. The 9-8 Dolphins will push to improve on their Wild Card loss from 2022. Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle will continue to be featured as the most talented WR duo in the NFL. Cedrick Wilson is a deep target to consider after a busted 2022 campaign. His $7M cap hit will keep him in town this year. The main thing to monitor is Miami’s backfield situation.
Dolphins’ head coach Mike McDaniel remained true to his Kyle Shanahan roots with a running back by committee in 2022. Jeff Wilson and Raheem Mostert (both ex-49ers) were zero-RB darlings and good picks in the final rounds of most Best Ball tournaments. Mike Gesicki‘s absence will help open up more passing game opportunities out of the backfield (yes these are correlated!). Mostert and Wilson should consider staying in Miami on cheap veteran discounts given both parties have a lack of options.
Miami’s early draft picks will focus on pass protection to steer the narrative away from Tua’s durability. Raheem Mostert will return, but Jeff Wilson will search elsewhere for better-guaranteed money. Miami will dive into the dumpster rounds of the draft for a forgotten prospect. The Dolphins will give us 2023’s “one hit wonder” at running back from an afterthought rookie.
New England Patriots
Estimated Cap Space: 32 Million
Estimated Effective Cap Space: 28 Million
Draft Picks: 14, 47, 77, 108, 118, 136, 185, 188, 193, 211, 259. The Patriots rank No. 7 amongst NFL teams in total draft capital according to Tankathon.
Cut Candidates: Jonnu Smith (19M cap hit)
The New England Patriots hope to start swimming after years of treading water in Tom Brady‘s absence. Mac Jones projects to lead this offense with hopes of securing himself as the long-term starter. As a result, the fantasy football ceiling remains bleak in New England. The only edge to gain in drafts will be to trust that “The New England Way” will continue to be in full effect.
Bill Belichick has an abundance of money and draft picks to maintain his annual dominance on defense. His backfield is stout with stud Rhamondre Stevenson and developing depth players Pierre Strong and Kevin Harris. The receiving situation needs massive improvement. Hunter Henry, Tyquan Thornton, and Kendrick Bourne are the only notable players on this team entering free agency. Belichick has a long history of whiffing on WR draft picks, and there are no studs on the market this season. His best option is to trade for DeAndre Hopkins (which we know will never happen).
The Patriots add no significant backs, instead featuring Strong as a compliment to Stevenson. The No. 14 overall pick is not a wide receiver. Jakobi Meyers is re-signed to play alongside a wide receiver drafted at 47th overall. Thornton expands his role as the “lid lifter,” and Hunter Henry returns to middling TE2 value in fantasy football.
New York Jets
Estimated Cap Space: -200,000
Estimated Effective Cap Space: -4 Million
Draft Picks: 13, 44, 75, 113, 146, 180 Ranked #18 among NFL teams
Cut Candidates: Corey Davis (10M saved)
The New York Jets enter 2023 with an abundance of hungry, young talent. Fans should ALWAYS have a healthy skepticism when projecting the Jets despite how good they look “on paper.” That said, theoretically, this team is only a quarterback away from being at least .500 and pushing for post-season relevance.
Joe Douglas’s performance is a master class of General Managing over his Jets tenure. He targets forgotten veterans in free agency that are willing to make team-friendly deals. His use of draft capital targets the correct position at the correct value point. Douglas’s four top picks in 2022 were all hits, with both the offensive and defensive rookies of the year. His only miss to date is drafting Zach Wilson, but he was correct to take a quarterback at that slot.
The biggest concern for the Jets is leadership. 2022 saw multiple players wanting out of New York and the collapse of the locker room under Wilson. This team knew that Wilson was an extremely young project when drafted. If he “lost the locker room” only 18 months into his tenure, then it was a failure of leadership in the front office. No multi-billion dollar organization is entrusting its worker’s morale to a 21-year-old out of BYU. Ultimately, the decision at quarterback will dictate this team’s current development cycle.
Derek Carr will complete his long waltz of free agency by choosing Joe Douglas to be his final dance partner. The Jets and Carr will unite in a mutual search for redemption in a brutal media market. Joe Douglas will spend a top 50 pick on WR for the fourth year in a row with his selection at 44. Elijah Moore will be traded promptly after. Garrett Wilson and Breece Hall will be everything we believe they can be. The Jets will still miss the playoffs after going 2-4 in the division and being swept by New England, again.