AFC East: Best draft picks made in the Patriots division

Penn State v Northwestern
Penn State v Northwestern / Michael Reaves/GettyImages

Famous Canadian and former Mennonite Malcolm Gladwell once wrote, “Success is not a random act. It arises out of a predictable and powerful set of circumstances and opportunities.”

Only time will tell who the best picks in the 2024 draft are. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try to predict who will have the best careers given the circumstances in which they now find themselves. 

OT Olu Fashanu - Jets

Fashanu isn’t just the best pick in the AFC East; he could prove to be the best in the league. His NFL career will be a fascinating bellwether for those who believe first impressions count when analyzing performance. His early scouting reports were glowing, and some were ahead of Joe Alt.

As recently as January, Fashanu was expected to be the seventh pick on the draft, but he fell as low as 15th in some mock drafts. He was selected by the Jets with the 11th overall pick, and he’s probably the steal of the draft. 

WR Javon Baker - Patriots

On the subject of absolute steals, Baker was projected to be drafted as high as the 76th pick, but he fell to the Patriots at the 110th spot! Baker has some of the best moves in the draft class. His ability to wrong-foot defenders as he gets off the line really stands out.  

He only ran a 4.54 40-yard time, so the Patriots will still have to rely on Demario Douglas to provide the explosive speed they lacked for most of 2023.

But Baker will certainly bring some swagger while he’s tying cornerbacks in knots.

WR Malik Washington - Dolphins

The Dolphins made a few really good picks, but one or two are bound to be buried on their depth chart. Mohamed Kamara is a really explosive pass rusher. But as an outside linebacker on the right edge, he will probably find himself behind Bradley Chubb and Shaq Barrett. 

Even their first-round pick, Chop Robinson, will have to battle Jaelen Phillips for snaps. Miami's defensive front will be terrorizing quarterbacks in 2024, though.

Tahj Washington was terrific value in the seventh round, too, but the Dolphins aren’t short on receivers, so he might not play many snaps this year, particularly considering that they drafted Malik Washington just one round earlier.  

Washington led all receivers in this class regarding yards after the catch in 2023. He racked up 1,384 receiving yards, and 710 of those yards came after he’d caught the ball! Like all of the Dolphins receivers, he’s fast enough to separate from defenders, but he’s a lot more powerful than someone who is just 5 feet 8 inches tall and 191 pounds should be.

He swats defenders away if they try to arm tackle him. The Dolphins receiving corps has plenty of competition, but Washington should see his fair share of targets. 

QB Joe Milton III - Patriots

This prediction will only come true if the Patriots decide not to convert him to tight end. That never really works; most guys who convert successfully do it while they’re at college. Milton III never played tight end in college, but he did play quarterback, and despite only starting one entire season in six years he has all the tools to be a successful signal caller in the NFL. 

He’s 6 feet 5 inches tall and weighs 235 pounds, so he’s one inch taller than Anthony Richardson and nine pounds lighter. He’s not as athletic as Richardson, but Richardson ran a faster 40-yard time than Justin Fields, and he’s 16 pounds heavier than Fields!

Milton III is plenty athletic, though. His 4.63 40-yard time at the combine placed him in the 87th percentile of his class. His vertical jump was also in the 88th percentile, and his broad jump was in the 93rd percentile.

But he’s not just a running threat; he can throw bombs, too. If you're wondering why they call him "Bazooka Joe," one of his passes at the combine clocked 62 mph, equaling a record Josh Allen set. He threw 20 touchdowns and five interceptions among the 354 passes he attempted in 2023. 64.7% of his attempts were completed too.

Milton III’s critics question his accuracy, mainly when he throws short and intermediate passes. That was also an issue for Allen as a young quarterback, but it will improve with time. Milton III hadn’t started more than nine games in a season until 2023, so he needs time on the field.

If Drake Maye really is the franchise quarterback, Milton III may not get that until he leaves New England. 

TE Jaheim Bell - Patriots

Bell's fall to the seventh round of the draft is one of the biggest mysteries of the Western world. He was projected to be taken in the fifth round, although some mock drafts expected him to go as high as the third.

How the Patriots’ coaching team uses Bell’s skill set will indicate how well they understand their offense. Bell’s 4.61-second 40-yard dash saw him in the 87th percentile of the tight end class, suggesting he’ll be a very handy pass catcher.

However, the improvement in his blocking after he moved to FSU means he’ll be a very interesting option as a fullback, too. Bell even lined up at receiver and scored on an end around when FSU played LSU. 

On paper, drafting a tight end after signing two in free agency was an odd decision. But when an elite athlete like Bell is still on the board, you’d be mad to ignore him. If the coaches use him correctly, he will add an extra dimension to an offense that will need to run the ball a lot and get the ball out of the quarterbacks' hands as quickly as possible. 

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