AFC East Draft Preview

by David Syvertsen

New England Patriots (12-4)
Miami Dolphins (7-9)
New York Jets (6-10)
Buffalo Bills (6-10)

BUFFALO BILLS

#8 (1st)
#41 (2nd)
#71 (3rd)
#105 (4th)
#143 (5th)
#177 (6th)

2013 Offseason: Where They Stand

Buffalo’s performance in 2012 was not a true testament to the upside of this roster, particularly on defense.  There is a lot of up and coming talent on this team that is ready to compete.  Head Coach Doug Marrone was brought in from Syracuse to help give that final push towards playoff contention.  The personnel work started on offense with Ryan Fitzpatrick being cut and the oft-injured Kevin Kolb brought in to compete with Tarvaris Jackson for a starting position.  The long term answer at quarterback may not be on the roster yet, however.  Defensively, Mike Pettine is now calling the shots with what appears to be a match made in heaven when it comes to his scheme and the Bills’ personnel.  They are a young, hungry, and most importantly, versatile group of defenders that can play in multiple schemes.  They’ve lost their two leading tacklers so far, but the nucleus of a strong unit is already in place.  Better leadership is in place, and we all know that’s where it must begin.

1 – Wide Receiver

Stevie Johnson is the only pass catcher on this roster that opposing defenses need to create a gameplan around.  There are not enough options on this roster for a quarterback to work with.  They are starving for talent, whether its an outside or inside receiver.

2 – Guard

There is a respectable amount of talent at offensive tackle already.  But they were thin inside before they lost Andy Levitre via free agency.  In an offense that depends on the run and with a quarterback that lacks mobility and presence in the pocket, they will need to find a starting caliber guard.

3 – Back Seven Defender

The Bills gave up a ton of points in 2012.  Only 6 teams gave up more.  Opposing offenses were not afraid to throw the ball deep and they were consistently capable of running the ball with ease.  They need a defender in the back seven that can stuff the run and cover tight ends.

The Plan:

Again, this depth chart is an attractive group of young players that could very well compete for a playoff spot in 2013.  The defense underachieved in 2012 but the hiring of Pettine was a great move, arguably the top hiring across the league.  They need to upgrade their ability to put points on the board though if they want to bridge the gap between them and the Patriots.  The value may not be there at wide receiver with their first pick, but they will have their options in round 2.  With that first pick, the Bills must take the best player available they have graded on either side of the ball.  They need more presence and playmaking ability on defense.

They have six total selections at the moment.  Their offensive line is going to be depended on.  Even though they’ve done a fine job of piecing together overlooked, but effective players, there will be opportunity to upgrade the unit as a whole at some point.  A quarterback with one of their first 4-5 picks would be a smart move as well because Marrone needs to find a long term solution if he plans to hold on to his job for more than a couple years.

3 Round Mock:

#8 – Cordarelle Patterson – WR – Tennessee
#41 – Matt Barkley – QB – USC
#71 – DeVonte Holloman – LB – South Carolina

NEW YORK JETS

#9 (1)
#39 (2)
#72 (3)
#106 (4)
#141 (5)
#178 (6)
#215 (7)

2013 Offseason: Where They Stand

The Jets finished with just 6 wins in year four of the Rex Ryan/Mark Sanchez era.  They’ve taken major steps backward since appearing in the AFC Championship in both 2009 and 2010.  They were a tough team to watch in 2012 with clear holes on both sides of the ball.  The 2013 offseason has taken an enormous bite out of their starting lineups under new General Manager John Idzik. They were in a tough spot financially and it appears 2013 is going to be a wash.  While the Jets lacked talent last season, they do not have up and coming players that can fill the vacated spots.  This will be year one in an effort to rebuild this franchise with young players.  Darelle Revis remains on the team.  For how long is the question because if a trade could fetch multiple draft picks including a first rounder this year or next, Idzik may have no choice but to pull the trigger.

1 – Offensive Playmakers/Speed

Mark Sanchez has stalled, if not gone in reverse when it comes to his progression as a starting quarterback.  He cannot be blamed by himself, however.  The Jets could replace their entire receiving core tomorrow with street free agents and the overall quality of the group would almost remain the same.  They need players on offense that can create on their own and score touchdowns.  This is a huge disadvantage as it currently stands.

2 – Safety

The Rex Ryan scheme is an amoeba.  Always changing shapes and formations that can keep the offense unsure of what to expect post-snap.  One thing he has always needed though is an instinctive, quick reacting safety or two.  They lost both of their starters this offseason to free agency and there was nothing behind them.

3 – Blitzing Linebackers

Ryan does a nice job of creating complex blitzing schemes to exert pressure on the quarterback.  But that linebacker core is starving for talent.  They lack explosion and pass rush ability.  With ballhawking cornerbacks already on the roster, they need guys up front that can force opposing QBs to get rid of the ball quicker than they want.

The Plan:

2013 is going to be an abysmal season for the Jets barring multiple miracles.  If they actually have an offer on the table for Revis that can bring in multiple picks including a 1st rounder, they have to do it.  The best way to turn a franchise around for the long term is via the draft.  They are in a unique opportunity to give themselves a head start if someone is willing to pay a premium for a veteran CB coming off an ACL injury.

Whether or not the trade happens, the Jets need to obtain more firepower on offense to find out if Sanchez is the guy or not.  Stephen Hill has plenty of deep speed, but he does not have the elusive ability to create plays.  The group of tight ends is a sorry looking trio of guys that do not create any mismatches for opposing defenses.  There are holes all over this team.  Draft the best player available and plug him in to the system.

3 Round Mock:

#9 – Tavon Austin – WR – West Virginia
#39 – Zach Ertz – TE – Stanford
#72 – DJ Swearinger – S – South Carolina 

MIAMI DOLPHINS

#12 (1st)
#42 (2nd)
#54 (2) f/IND
#77 (3)
#82 (3) f/CHI
#111 (4)
#146 (5)
#166 (5) comp
#217 (7)
#224 (7) f/DAL
#250 (7) comp

2013 Offseason:  Where They Stand

With a quality young quarterback finally in the fold, General Manager Jeff Ireland has thrown all of his chips to the middle of the table this offseason.  Miami has spent big time money in an effort to implant the final pieces to their roster that will bring them back to Super Bowl contention.  Veterans Mike Wallace, Brandon Gibson, and Dustin Keller are huge upgrades to the passing game.  Under second year Head Coach Joe Philbin, we may see a huge boost in scoring for the Dolphins, something that has hampered them for years.  They lost left tackle Jake Long  and running back Reggie Bush to long term deals elsewhere, but neither are considered to be big time players.  Defensively, the spending ensued with the additions of Dannell Ellerbe and Phillip Wheeler to balance out a strong front seven group.  The AFC East is still run by the Patriots, but Miami is on the upward trend as they’ve re-built their team the right way.

1 – Cornerback

Miami has struggled against the pass for a few years now, and they’ve moved on from both Vontae Davis (trade) and Sean Smith (free agency).  There is minimal long term security and questionable short term quality at a vital position in a division that is run by one of the top passing teams in football.

2 – Defensive End

Cameron Wake continues to prove he is a top notch edge rusher but even he needs help along that front to take away the abundance of double teams and extra attention.  They have guys that can rush from the inside, but an extra presence outside could be useful in solving their pass defense woes.

3 – Offensive Tackle

Losing Long to the Rams via free agency may not be much of a loss.  Second year tackle Jonathan Martin can be moved over to his more natural position if need be.  No matter the case, good value for a guy that can help protect Tannehill should always be considered.

The Plan:

11 draft picks, 5 of which in the first 3 rounds, present a big time opportunity for Miami to make this offseason a pillar of long term success.  Miami has the personnel to score a lot of points if they can keep the pressure away from Tannehill.  Once there is good value on the board to bring in an offensive lineman or two, they must take it.

Besides that, Miami’s defensive personnel needs better performance against the pass.  The best way to approach that always starts up front.  They have more than enough inside presence but without another true edge rusher, opposing quarterbacks will have too much time to scan the field.  With average-at-best cornerbacks, that could prove to be the Achilles Heal that prevents their defense from ever becoming playoff-caliber.

3 Round Mock:

#12 – Xavier Rhodes – CB – Florida State
#42 – Alex Okafor – DE – Texas
#54 (f/IND) – Kyle Long – OT – Oregon
#77 – Andre Ellington – RB – Clemson
#82 (f/CHI) – Jelani Jenkins – LB – Florida

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

#29 (1st)
#59 (2nd)
#91 (3rd)
#226 (7th) f/TB
#235 (7th)

2013 Offseason: Where They Stand

As Tom Brady enters the final few years of his career, the Patriots continue to try and add pieces around him to maintain their prolific offense.  They have re-tooled the wide receiver corps, replacing their vital slot presence Wes Welker for the younger, bigger Danny Amendola.  Outside they’ve brought in Donald Jones and Michael Jenkins to replace Deion Branch and Brandon Lloyd.  The overall quality of the group is better than 2012 and they hope to have a healthy year out of their dynamic tight end duo.  Defensively the Pats will boast a very similar group that was on the field last season.  The signing of Adrian Wilson will boost the defense in the middle of the field, giving them a presence they’ve lacked since Rodney Harrison.  Once again the moves they’ve made are very economical and fit their system well.

1 – Defensive End

The Pats bring pressure a lot of different ways, using their blitz-happy linebackers as pass rushers.  They do not consistently get to the quarterback from a four man front, however.  They should be able to bring in an edge presence pretty early on if the value matches up.

2 – Guard

The starting guards are good enough but they are both on the wrong side of 30.  This is a unit that needs to be kept strong and deep if they plan to get the best out of Brady over the final run of his career.

3 – Linebacker

They have a solid starting trio in Mayo, Spikes, and Hightower but there is minimal quality depth behind them.  The Linebackers have a lot of responsibility in this scheme and they need to be better prepared for injuries.

The Plan:

The rarity of the 2013 NFL Draft will be how few selections the Patriots hold.  They are usually involved in acquiring future picks throughout the calendar year, but they have only 5 picks, 2 of which are in round 7.  They still have 3 picks in the top 100 though, two of which should be used to beef up the trenches.  There is no doubt the Patriots can control the point of attack on both sides of the ball, but there isn’t a sense of dominance on either side that they are used to.

Beyond those holes, Bill Belichick always likes to bring in new talent to the cornerback position that fits within his scheme.  He is good at finding late round defensive values that lack the top tier athletic ability, but are solid blue collar players that out-perform initial expectations.

3 Round Mock:

#29 – Cornelius Carradine – DE – Florida State
#59 – Justin Pugh – OT – Syracuse
#91 – Blidi Wreh-Wilson – CB – Connecticut

Be sure to follow Dave on Twitter for more of his draft analysis.

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