BBD Staff Writer: Ryan Talbot
The NFL is known for its parity, mostly because the league tells us about it often. The league raves about how they have averaged five new teams in the playoffs since 2000. The article linked in the previous sentence was from the start of the 2011 season. To make sure the trend continued, I looked up the teams that made the playoffs in the 2011-2012 season. Six new teams joined the playoffs in this span (Texans, Broncos, Bengals, 49ers, Giants and Lions). Four new teams made the playoffs last season (Colts, Redskins, Seahawks and Vikings). The average is safe as the league enters the 2013-2014 season.
Unfortunately, parity seems to be avoiding the hierarchy of the AFC East. Sure, the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets have each made playoff appearances in the last five seasons, but the division itself has belonged to New England. The Patriots have reigned over the AFC East, winning the division the last four seasons. The Patriots have won the division championship 10 times since 2011, only falling to second in 2002 with a 9-7 record and 2008 with an 11-5 record.
The Dolphins won the AFC East in 2008, but from that point on they’ve rotated with the Jets for second and third place. The Dolphins finished second in the division 2012, but they finished third in three consecutive seasons from 2009-2011. The Jets haven’t won the division since 2002, but they have made four playoff appearances since, including in back-to-back years in 2009 and 2010.
The Bills? They have consistently been the bottom-feeders of the AFC East. They have finished fourth in the division for five consecutive years, have not made the playoffs since 1999 and have not won a division championship since 1995.
Seeing the results within the division, I wanted to dig deeper. The Patriots have been completely dominant in the AFC East since the turn of the century. Specifically within the past five years, the Patriots only failed to win the division in 2008 when quarterback Tom Brady suffered a season-ending injury in their season opener — and they still finished 11-5.
Drafting, of course, is a crucial step to building a winning team. Has the Patriots’ dominance been reflected through their draft selections in recent years? Let’s take a look at each team’s draft classes over the past five years, the number of draft picks that are still on each team’s roster and how Pro Bowl players have emerged from their draft classes.
2008-2012 Record: 29-51
Players Currently on Roster: 21/45 (47%)
Pro Bowlers Drafted: 2 (Jairus Byrd and C.J. Spiller)
2008-2012 Record: 38-42
Players Currently on Roster: 20/41 (49%)
Pro Bowlers Drafted: 1 (Jake Long)
New England Patriots
2008-2012 Record: 60-20
Players Currently on Roster: 21/47 (45%)
Pro Bowlers Drafted: 4 (Jerod Mayo, Matthew Slater, Devin McCourty, Rob Gronkowski)
New York Jets
2008-2012 Record: 43-37
Players Currently on Roster: 15/27 (56%)
Pro Bowlers Drafted: 0
Which AFC East team was most successful in drafting between 2008-2012? It depends on how you define best.