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NFL Draft needs: AFC East
Drafting: Eighth pick
Typically a team that finished as well as Miami did last year is usually optimistic about the next season.
With all that has transpired since the end of the season, that is not the case in South Beach. The good news is that whomever the Dolphins choose in the draft, they actually will have to play for Miami, unlike some others who chose not to — Matt Flynn, Peyton Manning.
With Miami having only one playoff appearance in the past decade, new head coach Joe Philbin can take heart: Whatever the Dolphins get in the draft will be an upgrade at just about every position.
The Dolphins actually have drafted well the past 10 years, particularly in the early going: offensive tackle Jake Long (No. 1 in 2008), center Mike Pouncey (No. 15 in 2011), cornerback Vontae Davis (No. 25 in 2009), defensive tackle Jared Odrick (No. 28 in 2010) and defensive end Koa Misi (No. 40 in 2010) have become proven starters.
Still, with few exceptions, you could throw a dart at any position and it could use either upgrading or depth. No more so than at quarterback.
After striking out in the Peyton Manning sweepstakes and the surprise at not landing Philbin protege Matt Flynn, the Dolphins were reduced to signing David Garrard to challenge Matt Moore. This may be one of the most compelling QB drafts in recent history; the problem is it ends after the first two picks of Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III.
Many draft analysts have Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill moving into the top 10 in this year’s draft, but the league has a scary history of taking QBs with limited experience. Philbin is an accomplished offensive coach, but if they miss in taking Tannehill, that could set the Dolphins back for another decade.
Iowa offensive tackle Riley Reiff, Stanford's Jonathan Martin, linebacker Courtney Upshaw or LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers all would be good picks. The most intriguing pick, however, might be running back Trent Richardson if he remains on the board. The running back position has been devalued in this league, but Richardson is worthy of a top-10 pick. With a solid offensive line, Richardson could anchor the Miami offense until it gets the quarterback position figured out.
Brandon Weeden might be an option with the Dolphins' second-round pick. Quarterbacks taken in the second round have been a classic spot to draft a bust, but with the success of Andy Dalton in Cincinnati, Weeden might be worth it.
Drafting: 10th pick
The Bills are picking in a familiar spot at No. 10. As the only team in the NFL that has not made the playoffs this century, the Bills have made eight picks in the top 13 since 2002.
The Bills made the free-agency acquisition of the season, signing Mario Williams (Peyton Manning not withstanding). They also signed defensive end Mark Anderson from New England, giving new coordinator Dave Wannstedt the much-needed presence in the front seven that was an obvious problem in 2011. They also have to be given credit for re-signing wide receiver Steve Johnson.
The good news is there are plenty of options with the 10th pick. The bad news is Buffalo needs help at several positions.
Offensive tackle, outside linebacker, defensive back and even tight end all could use an upgrade of talent. The Bills did re-sign tight end Scott Chandler, but this is just a stopgap measure, and there may be some attractive options in the second round.
Riley Reiff, Jonathan Martin, David DeCastro and Courtney Upshaw all would be upgrades.
In the second round, outside linebacker Zach Brown or cornerback Alfonzo Dennard could be options. It would be a bit of a reach, but tight end Dwayne Allen from Clemson might fill the need.
Drafting: 16th pick
The New York Jets may be the most talked about 8-8 non-playoff team in NFL history.
Head coach Rex Ryan has dialed back the Super Bowl talk, but only outside the building. I promise you that the expectations and swagger are still part of the Jets' persona. Most of the focus for the Jets seems to revolve around the play of Mark Sanchez. Sanchez has received some harsh criticism, and some question whether he is truly the franchise quarterback the Jets need to win a Super Bowl.
In fairness to Sanchez, the team around him was not nearly as good as the two previous versions that reached the AFC Championship Game. Ryan and the organization have tried to stand behind their QB, but that now seems perfunctory in light of the Tim Tebow signing.
If the Jets want to get productivity out of Sanchez at the level they say they believe he is capable of, they need to surround Sanchez with better wide receivers and more protection. They also need an outside pass-rush presence.
Unless they make a move, the best option for New York in the first round likely is going to be at the offensive tackle position. Jonathan Martin has dropped to this area and would be a great pick up for the Jets. Some think it might be a reach, but Mike Adams would address their offensive line woes. If defensive end Quinton Coples were to fall, this is the type of player the Jets might take a chance on.
The Jets singed wide receiver Chaz Schilens, but they know he is not the answer at that position. If Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd falls to them at No. 16, they may have to think about it.
Wide receivers Rueben Randle or Mohamed Sanu could be of interest in the second round. Both have the size to be a factor in the running game down the field, which will be expected in new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano’s scheme.
Finished: 13-3 — Runner-up in Super Bowl XLVI
Drafting: 27th and 31st picks
The New England Patriots again are loaded with first-round draft picks.
Based on the way the defense performed, head coach Bill Belichick should use their first five picks on that side of the ball.
The Patriots franchised wide receiver Wes Welker. They also signed several second-level free agents that fill specific roles, including: Brandon Lloyd, Anthony Gonzalez and Donte' Stallworth. Robert Gallery and Spencer Larsen also were added to the offensive mix.
Defensively, the Patriots believe they are young and will get better naturally, but they lack an edge rusher. They also could use another cornerback, so they won't be pressed into using wide receiver Julian Edelman in their nickel package. They added free safety Steve Gregory and cornerback Will Allen and also picked up Jonathan Fanene to bolster the front seven.
It is unlikely that the Patriots will use both of their first-round choices, as they typically like to move back and compile more picks.
If they hold on to their two first-round selections, wide receiver Kendall Wright has the speed that would fit the bill.
Nick Perry is an elite pass rusher from USC who might be available as well.
If the Pats don’t get a wide receiver in the first round, they may have some interesting decisions at that position later on with Mohamed Sanu or Stephen Hill. Billy Winn, a hybrid defensive end/linebacker, might have the versatility the Patriots are known for.
Running back LaMichael James from Oregon or Doug Martin from Boise State could be good second-round picks, but they vary in skill set. James excels in the speed game, but Martin is the most complete back on the board.
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