Saturday, April 23, 2011

AFC East Draft Preview

As the clock ticks closer to the NFL Draft on April 28-30, we'll be doing our best to preview the team needs of all 32 teams to give you all an outlook on what to expect come draft day. Of course, there are no guarantees with things like mock drafts (even though they are fun to do) so we did our best to get some insight from bloggers/fans of other teams. Today we take a look at the AFC East. Our friends Jamie from Musket Fire, Alex M from and were cool enough to help us out with some inside perspective on their team needs.

For reference, we compiled the draft picks each team currently has. Compensatory picks are listed in parentheses.

2010 Record: 14-2
AFC East Champion, Lost to NY Jets in Divisional Round

Draft Picks: 17, 28, 33, 60, 74, 92, 125, 159, 193

The Patriots ran up the best record in the league then were upset in the opening round of the playoffs by the Jets. New England's offense was, at times, one of the best in the league, but they also laid some complete duds, like the playoff game against the Jets. The Patriots got more out of less than any other team last year, getting significant contributions on offense from guys like Danny Woodhead and Julian Edelman. Getting Deion Branch back was a good move from a locker room perspective, but they still have a lot of holes on the defensive side of the ball. Luckily for the Patriots, they have a TON of draft picks this year.

The Patriots have done a great job in the past few years assembling a plethora of draft picks. With 2 picks in each of the first 3 rounds, you've got to believe the Pats will be wheeling and dealing in the early rounds of the draft again this year. I wouldn't be surprised to see them trade away a few of their picks for early round selections in next year's draft. With two first round picks, the Pats are primed to fill two of their needs with big-time talent. Most likely they'll spend one pick on defense and one on offense.

Our friend Jamie from Musket Fire was cool enough to enlighten us on what to expect from the Patriots come draft day.

1. What are the biggest needs New England has entering the draft?
The Patriots' top five needs entering the draft are a pass-rushing OLB/DE, any position along the offensive line, a 3-4 DE, running back, and corner. Some have argued that wide receiver should be considered a top need, but my feelings are that if it's not broke, don't fix it. The Patriots had a prolific passing game, and any in-game struggles can be bailed out by a more legitimate ground game. However, the Patriots had the worst 3rd down defense in the NFL that year, and a good reason for that was the lack of a strong pass rush. That needs to change.

2. Do you think New England will address those needs in the draft or wait for free agency?
The Pats will likely pluck at least the top 3 needs from the draft. I expect the Patriots to grab an DE/OLB, offensive lineman, and defensive lineman within the first three rounds. They could wait for free agency for a veteran RB to partner with BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead, as well as a veteran nickel corner to shore up a secondary that will be lead by Devin McCourty and Leigh Bodden.

3. What players would you like to see the Patriots target in the draft?
Fortunately for the Patriots, their biggest needs line up perfectly with the positions with the greatest depth in the draft. There are so many quality pass rushers and offensive linemen that will be available early on that I haven't become fixated on a certain player or players. My biggest hope is that the Patriots target the top 3 needs early, and I'm hoping they snag the best pass rusher available in the first round. A couple of players that the Patriots could move up for if they fell far enough are UNC's Robert Quinn or Clemson's Da'Quan Bowers, who was in for a pre-draft visit recently.

2010 Record: 11-5
Lost to Pittsburgh in AFC Championship

Draft Picks: 30, 94, 126, 161, 194, 208

Last year, Rex Ryan guaranteed the Jets would win the Super Bowl. They defied the odds and made it all the way to the AFC Championship game. The Jets defense is built around pressuring the quarterback, but they don't have a stud outside linebacker that can get to the QB. Rather, they rely on Ryan's crazy blitz schemes to generate pressure. The Jets are also on the verge of losing a good amount of talent to free agency with Santonio Holmes and Antonio Cromartie's contracts set to expire.

2010 Record: 7-9

Draft Picks: 15, 79, 111, 146, 179, 217, 218, (235)

The Dolphins had high expectations in 2010 and fell a bit short. Chad Henne didn't progress as a passer as much as some had hoped (though I think he still has potential as the Dolphins long-term quarterback). A bigger blow to the Fins was their lack of a running game. Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams just flat out didn't produce last year. The front 7 on defense was stout with OLB Cameron Wake leading the league in sacks. LB Karlos Dansby was brought in in free agency last year to bring a tackler to the linebacking corps. In the secondary, the Dolphins have a pair of young corners that have the potential to be great, but are still learning the NFL game and have a tendency to get smoked.

The Dolphins don't have a 2nd round pick this year, so they need to hit on their first round pick. With the 15th pick, they are in prime position to trade down and compile more picks. The Fins have enough needs that they could use more picks, and players that could fill their needs will definitely still be on the board if they move down.

Alex M, Senior Staff Writer for the fantasy section at and owner of drops some knowledge on us about what to expect from Miami. You can find him on Twitter @PFF_Zerodev.

1. What are the biggest needs your team has entering the draft?

RB - Without free agency before the draft, banking on any free agents signing is too much of a gamble. With Lex Hilliard being the best back on the team right now (and even he is just a restricted free agent), the Dolphins need to look for a back or two in the draft.

TE - Fasano is a great TE, but the position needs an upgrade in terms of athleticism. A pass-catching seam threat is needed.

OL - The interior of the offensive line was putrid, particularly in rush blocking. Must be addressed.

QB - You don't win Super Bowls without a good quarterback. Henne is only marginally better than Mark Sanchez.

WR - The Dolphins actually have a good set of receivers, but a speedy stretch-the-field kind of guy is their biggest need.

2. Do you think your team will address those needs in the draft or wait for free agency?

I think they might wait for free agency on running back and offensive line. It will be a gamble to rely on free agency to fill ANY needs, and I think they could effectively address most of them in the draft, but rookies are never a sure thing either.

3. What players would you like to see your team target in the draft?

I, personally, love Ryan Mallett. I think he's the most NFL-ready and he's got a rocket arm. His off-the-field issues are mostly unsubstantiated and/or overblown, and I think he could be a great pick, maybe even at 15. 

2010 Record: 4-12

Draft Picks: 3, 34, 68, 100, 122, 133, 169, 206, (245)

I'm really not sure what to think of the Bills. Their offense showed flashes of being NFL-caliber, but they still have some pretty big holes that need filled. Their pass defense was decent, but playing in a division with Tom Brady means they will always need more help there. Missing on Aaron Maybin a few years ago has left a gaping hole in their defensive front. Buffalo has also switched between a 4-3 and a 3-4 each year for what seems like the last 5 seasons. 

No comments: