2020 NFL Draft fits for AFC East teams: Players to watch this college season who'd be ideal need-fillers
Here are the prospects fans of the Bills, Patriots, Jets and Dolphins should keep an eye on in the 2019 college season
The AFC East has belonged to the Patriots during the Tom Brady era, but it'll be strange seeing the Patriots take the field without Rob Gronkowski in 2019.
The Dolphins are clearly rebuilding, and will have an assortment of needs in 2020. Quarterback is likely to be their biggest. The Bills could be in the market for more youth in their backfield, and the Jets are positioned to pick a corner early in 2020.
As a primer for the college football season that ties in the NFL and the NFL Draft, we want to provide the top 2020 prospects who'd perfectly fill next year's needs for every professional team in division-by-division installments.
After running through the NFC, we hop conferences and start with the AFC East.
Biggest need: RB
The fit: Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor
As a 5-foot-11, 219-pound back from Wisconsin, you wouldn't be alone in assuming Taylor is a somewhat-plodding runner or mid-round scat back who benefits from a stellar, run-blocking offensive line in Madison. And yes, the Badgers have blocked well for Taylor in his first two collegiate seasons, but watch his film and you'll quickly realize he's in the same tier as Melvin Gordon as the best running back prospect from Wisconsin in at least the past decade.
Taylor's an ultra-efficient North-South runner with smooth multi-cut ability, awesome contact balance, and dangerous yet surprising long speed. The latter is a large part of what separates him from other backs who've been huge producers with the Badgers. He ran for over 1,900 yards as a true freshman at 6.6 yards per pop then eclipsed the 2,000-yard mark at 7.1 yards per in 2018. Check this run against Nebraska last season when Taylor bounces off two tacklers then hits it into top gear to run away from everybody:
Due to positional value, running back isn't technically the biggest need for any team in today's NFL, and defensive end is another spot the Bills will likely prioritize relatively early in next year's draft. But the Bills are one of the few teams who seemingly want to stay dedicated to running the rock. Frank Gore's in Buffalo on a one-year deal, and LeSean McCoy's contract is up after this season.
Buffalo added the small but electric Devin Singletary in the third round of the draft, and even though T.J. Yeldon is signed through 2020, the Bills could very well be interested in adding a big, thunderous runner with traditional feature back size. Taylor would be that type of ball carrier in Buffalo and would form a thunder-and-lightning duo with Singletary.
Biggest need: Quarterback
The fit: Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa
Although Kyler Murray won last year's Heisman Trophy, Tagovailoa recorded the highest passing efficiency in college football history in 2018, and until the national title game defeat at the hands of Clemson, he and the entire Alabama offense made everything look easy. He completed 69 percent of his passes at a flat-out ridiculous 11.2 yards-per-attempt average with 43 touchdowns and six interceptions. He'll start the college football season as my.
Despite smaller-than-traditional size, Tagovailoa threw with good velocity and pinpoint accuracy to all levels of the field while featuring the vertical route tree. While his arm strength isn't his forte, Tagovailoa seems to check all the other boxes of playing the quarterback position. And despite minimal experience, he's typically calm moving inside the pocket.
Check this dime placed just outside the seam to Jerry Jeudy against Ole Miss:
Even with Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen on the roster, I think the Dolphins have their eyes on a top quarterback prospect in the 2020 Draft. Sure, Rosen could conceivably play well enough to keep the team from picking someone like Tagovailoa, but the second-year quarterback isn't in much better of a situation than the one he justifiably struggled in with the Cardinals last season.
With one of the league's worst rosters, Miami is primed to be picking near the top of the 2020 Draft, and after what should be another gigantic season in Tuscaloosa, Tagovailoa is bound to be a top 10 or even top 5 selection in next year's draft.
New England Patriots
Biggest need: Tight end
The fit: Stanford TE Colby Parkinson
Parkinson looks like the latest in long line of big receivers and tight ends to emerge as a top draft prospect from Stanford during the David Shaw era. As a sophomore in 2018, the 6-7, 240-pound Parkinson averaged 16.7 yards per grab and scored seven touchdowns.
He has an enormously tall frame and could add 10-20 pounds without losing what is very impressive speed. He plays like a big receiver with smooth athleticism and "rebounds" the football with ease. This touchdown against Oregon State exemplifies what Parkinson brings to the field:
The Patriots are always reinventing themselves, and for almost two decades now, all that's truly mattered team-wise is Tom Brady under center and Bill Belichick roaming the sidelines. Projecting a true need wasn't easy.
Belichick has done a fine job building the defense into one of the better groups in football over the past few seasons, and acquiring under-valued, mid-to-late-round selections on the offensive line has allowed the Patriots to reload the blocking contingent. So I've turned to tight end as the team's greatest 2020 need after the high-profile retirement of future Hall of Famer Rob Gronkowski and what's left at the position in New England.
Ben Watson is playing on a one-year deal. The rest of New England's tight end room? Matt LaCosse, Stephen Anderson, and Jakob Johnson, Andrew Beck, and 2018 seventh-rounder Ryan Izzo.
Parkinson would provide New England a seam-stretching tight end who can be a go-to target in the red zone. After 2019 without Gronk, the Patriots will likely be in the market for that type of player at the position in 2020.
New York Jets
Biggest need: Cornerback
The fit: Florida CB C.J. Henderson
Henderson is a scheme-versatile corner with the twitchiness, length, and ball skills that look to be first-round caliber. As a sophomore in 2018 at Florida, the 6-1, 191-pound defender had 38 tackles, five tackles for loss, three sacks, five pass breakups and two picks after a freshman year in which he snagged four interceptions.
Because of his effortless athleticism and speed, Henderson thrives in man but also shows savvy in zone. Here's one of his two picks from last season:
The Jets have moderate-to-major needs across their roster, and center could be a position they target in one of the first two rounds in next year's draft. But, to me, cornerback will be the most glaring need heading in 2020, with Trumaine Johnson a good but not great No. 1 and the lack of depth behind him.
Free-agent signee Brian Poole had his moments in Atlanta but only got a one-year, $3 million deal in March. Last year's sixth-round pick Parry Nickerson flashed at times as a rookie but mostly proved to be a liability. There's not another established, reliable cornerback currently on the roster, which represents a big problem in today's NFL.
Henderson would be an awesome addition to a New York secondary led by safety Jamal Adams.
Pick Six Newsletter
Get the day's big stories + fun stuff you love like mock drafts, picks and power rankings.
Thanks for signing up!
Keep an eye on your inbox for the latest sports news.
There was an error processing your subscription.
Arizona stayed patient and snagged the versatile safety late in the NFL Supplemental Draft
An active, versatile defensive back and a speedy, yards-after-the-catch specialist could be...
Here are the prospects fans of NFC South teams should fall in love with during the 2019 college...
Of course, quarterbacks are highlighted, but a few defenders and a running back also made the...
These late-round picks provided historically awesome value to the teams that drafted them
We loved these players as 2018 prospects, and now they've got the opportunity for a big 20...