Every team in the AFC East has now drafted at least one quarterback in the first round over the past four years. The New York Jets are already moving on from their 2018 top pick, Sam Darnold, for a new QB in 2021. Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen is the oldest of the new group at just 24 years old. After two decades of Tom Brady tormenting the division, the East is reloading with a new generation of passers.
With quarterback success tied so closely to team success, let’s look at the four young passers set up for a new arms race in the AFC East:
Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills, Fourth season
Allen had a season to remember in 2020 as the boom-or-bust pick of 2018, blowing up in a big way. Coming off of his most successful season as a passer, Allen ended up finishing as the runner-up in MVP voting. Allen was elite last year, throwing for 4,544 yards, 37 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions while adding 421 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground and even a receiving touchdown.
Josh Allen unleashing a 47-yard dime with both feet fully off the ground is still wild 😳 @JoshAllenQB @BuffaloBills pic.twitter.com/4eZNxM0Iss — The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) May 15, 2021
He also did all of this while dealing with the fifth-hardest schedule in the league. A repeat performance could be in the works, especially since Buffalo has the third-easiest schedule entering 2021. Buffalo only has two seasons left of Allen’s contract before his cap hit will make it tougher to keep that roster together. The time is now for that Super Bowl appearance.
Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins, Second season
Tagovailoa may be in a curious position before the end of his second season. The former Alabama standout was taken fifth overall in 2020, with the plan to be eased into the starting role. Ryan Fitzpatrick played better than his usual capabilities, which led to a quarterback controversy on an almost weekly basis. Tagovailoa was benched for Fitzpatrick several times throughout the season, leading to questions about whether or not he could be a franchise QB. As weird as the situation was for 2020, it’s Tua’s huddle now. The AFC East has an easier schedule as a whole, so Miami will get some answers on what Tagovailoa can do in 2021. Miami has great talent in tight end Mike Gesicki and receivers DeVante Parker, Will Fuller and rookie Jaylen Waddle. The rest is up to Tua.
Tua Tagovailoa and Jaylen Waddle are going to be fun to watch in a Dolphins uni 👀🍿 Tua when targeting Waddle at Alabama: 74% Completion PCT 137.9 Passer Rating 16.6 Yards Per Completion (h/t @PFF_College, 📸 thegraphicgod/IG) pic.twitter.com/UUfZoRbPyH — CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) May 11, 2021
Zach Wilson, New York Jets, Rookie
Zach Wilson earned a 95.5 passing grade in 2020. The highest grade we’ve ever given to a college QB in a single season✈️ pic.twitter.com/xiuZsPEr0B — PFF (@PFF) May 9, 2021
The Jets gave up on Sam Darnold after offering him zero help in terms of coaching and roster makeup. While the receiving corps have some question marks still, the Jets are investing more in their offensive line. Wilson has plenty of athletic capabilities and traits that can be molded around. Like Allen, Wilson has potential that may need to sit and observe first. Unfortunately, Wilson will be thrown into the fire, as James Morgan and Mike White make up the QB depth chart. While New York added Corey Davis and drafted Elijah Moore, there is no elite pass-catcher on the roster. Add in New York’s tendency to get in their own way and Wilson will probably struggle out of the gate.
Mac Jones, New England Patriots, Rookie
Mac Whooo??? @MacJones_10 #FirstRoundU #RollTide 🎶: “Liftoff” – @leviwaddell7 Spotify: https://t.co/P0nhaEXHrc pic.twitter.com/H7CILlilNm — Alabama Football (@AlabamaFTBL) April 30, 2021
Jones has no physical trait that gives off a “wow” factor and warrants a top-15 selection. However, the Patriots wanted to come back with a new QB and took the fifth passer of the 2021 NFL Draft. Jones is a prospect with only average arm strength and velocity as well as zero mobility to allow for success on plays that deviate from the structure. Adding into issues with the pick is that Jones has no one to throw to. If Jones is forced to move or deal with a lot of pressure, he will struggle immensely. New England’s roster is hilariously bad at the wide receiver position. The rookie from Alabama will sit behind Cam Newton to start the 2021 season and only take over if Newton struggles. As for his future, Jones will need help at the receiver position. There is only so much that tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry can do.
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