With only one team in the AFC East achieving a plus .500 record last year, Buffalo, Miami and New York will certainly be looking to draft the best talent available to help them catch up to the offensive powerhouse that is the New England Patriots. What more, it would also help re-create the tough and frightening division that the AFC East used to be. With three early first round picks held by the Bills, Dolphins and Jets - alongside the Patriots holding four picks in the first two rounds - look for the drafted players to make an immediate impact and contribution to their respective teams. Here you'll find the teams' most pressing needs, their complete line-up of draft picks, and my bold predictions on how I think these picks will be used. Enjoy!
Buffalo Bills[caption id="attachment_14786" align="alignright" width="263" caption="The Bills might be looking to bolster their WR corp."][/caption] Draft Needs: Offensive line, receiver, linebacker. Draft Picks: 10th, 41st, 71st, 105th, 124th, 144th, 147th, 178th, 217th, 271st. Many analysts have already determined that the Bills will without doubt select OT Riley Reiff with the 10th overall pick due to the recent departure of starting LT Demetrius Bell to the Eagles. But there is a chance he could be gone by then, with Jacksonville searching for a solid RT to both help solidify their line and keep struggling QB Blaine Gabbert standing. NFL scouts have also said he might not have the skills to develop into a long-term Pro Bowl LT. That is why with the 10th pick, Buffalo will look to find a frightening wideout to compliment Stevie Johnson. Provided the Jags wait until round 2 to address their need at receiver (possibly with the addition of Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill or Rutgers' Mohamed Sanu), Notre Dame's Michael Floyd would be a perfect fit and give opposing teams a headache trying to prepare for both him, Johnson, and their strong backfield in Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller. With the recent signings of DE Mark Anderson (Patriots) and $100 Million man Mario Williams, the Bills have the flexibility of using their next pick in one of two ways. I see them using the 41st pick on the O-Line, possibly drafting Mississippi T Bobbie Massie and their third round pick on some value in Utah State OLB Bobby Wagner. Wagner would be a decent fit in their 4 - 3 base defense, adding to what is already becoming a strong defensive front seven. In later rounds, look for Buffalo to address their depth in the defensive backfield, as well as possibly drafting a developmental QB in the later rounds.
Miami DolphinsDraft Needs: Quarterback, receiver, defensive back. Draft Picks: 8th, 42nd, 72nd, 73rd, 103rd, 145th, 196th, 215th. No breaking news here - "with the (8th but possibly higher) pick in the 2012 NFL draft, the Miami Dolphins select QB Ryan Tannehill out of Texas A&M". Time and time again, the Phins' brass has proven that they have little-to-no faith in current starting QB Matt Moore (despite his impressive performance after being thrusted into the starting line-up of a winless team due to injury). Peyton Manning passed, as did Matt Flynn. [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="374" caption="Tannehill is the frontrunner for Miami's QB of the future"][/caption] Ryan Tannehill may be their best option at QB, but at what cost? The Browns are also a strong contender at pick 4, and it seems as though they might attempt to make a play at Tannehill. Come draft day, I see Miami making a last-minute trade with the Vikings, moving up to the No.3 pick and making sure they secure Tannehill as their future franchise QB. As per usual, the NFL draft seems to persuade many GM's to make massive - and sometimes costly - moves which result in high prices paid for one pick (see: RG3 to DC). This situation is no different. Miami wants its guy, and its brass is used to making sudden and sometimes mind-boggling moves. Outside of this the Phins really need help at receiver. Pro Bowl wideout Brandon Marshall was recently dealt to Chicago for a third round pick (73rd overall) to re-unite with his former playmate Jay Cutler, and the only wideouts on the roster with true playing experience are Brian Hartline and Davone Bess. Provided they don't trade up to No.3, look to see them use their second round pick on a wideout such as Alshon Jeffery out of South Carolina, or Kendall Wright of Baylor. Also with back-to-back picks in the third round, they could use help in the backfield with SS Yeremiah Bell having been released last week. They could also head to South Carolina to seek the help of SS Antonio Allen, and possibly use the other pick to add another wideout, or possibly another TE. Fan Opinion: Max Hall from FB says "As much as Id' prefer they didnt, I think it's inevitable that my Dolphins take Ryan Tannehill with pick 8.That being the case I'd be looking in Rd2 to add a guy like Boise State's OLB/DE Shea McClellin to put opposite Cam Wake. With the two 3rd Round picks back to back I'd look to add Iowa Hawkeye WR Marvin McNutt followed up with a kid like Georgia CB Brandon Boykin or the best OL on the board. Rd 4 onwards I think its a matter of BPA regadless of his position. I'd love to see Tommy Streeter available to us in Rd 4. Athletic kid, with great size but just needs some good coaching. I see him gone by mid Rd3 though. Another guy that I like to watch is West Virginia's OLB/DE Bruce Irvin. The guy turns the corner to the QB so quick it makes me smile to watch him and I'm not even a Mountaineer fan, I just dont know how he'd hold up in the NFL. He's also recently had a few issues with the law so might still be available on Day 3."
New England PatriotsDraft Needs: Defensive line, cornerback, linebacker. Draft Picks: 27th, 31st, 48th, 62nd, 93rd, 126th. Four of New England's draft picks fall in the first two rounds. The possibilities are endless here. Defensively, this draft happens to be deep with a ton of D-Line, D-Back and LB talent to be found (especially in the first three rounds). Now, as it happens, the Patriots absolutely love to trade back and accumulate draft picks, but this year I see them actually making use out of their picks. Their defense is the difference between Tom and Bill's fourth ring, and this year they have a great opportunity to fill all of their defensive holes and finally give themselves [caption id="" align="alignright" width="251" caption="Who does Belichick want at pick 27?"][/caption] a defense closer to (or equally as good as) their high-powered offense. With the departure of Mark Anderson to Buffalo and Andre Carter headed to free agency, the Pats are in need of a pass rush to help create a dominant defensive line (anchored by DT Vince Wilfork). With the 27th pick, the Pats may draft Clemson OLB/DE Andre Branch, who, along with 31st pick DE Kendall Reyes out of Connecticut, will look to dominate opposing offensive lines with a strong mix of power and pass rush. In the second round look for the Patriots to seek help in their defensive backfield. If he falls to the 48th pick, New England may select SS Harrison Smith out of Notre Dame. Also, in what might be a wild prediction, off-field issues could have North Alabama CB Janoris Jenkins drop out of the first round and right into the New England backfield with the 62nd pick. Beyond this, look for the Patriots to draft quality defensive depth, adding another linebacker, DB, or defensive lineman. Fan Opinion: Troy Conner keeps it short and sweet, saying "Patriots (draft): Safety, DL, OLB, CB and a big WR."
New York JetsDraft Needs: Linebacker, safety, receiver. Draft Picks: 16th, 47th, 77th, 154th, 187th, 202nd, 203rd, 232nd, 242nd, 244th. In what is definitely a first for the New York Jets, the team is currently in possession of ten - that's right, TEN - draft picks. This isn't uncommon, of course, but new for the Jets who have made a habit of mortgaging their future by consistently 'getting rid' of picks in exchange for trading up. This is something that has left the team without depth in many positions, but for their sake they should look to hold on to their picks this year. With the 16th pick, look for the Jets to finally add a pass rusher, something the team has lacked since they drafted DE John Abraham 13th overall in the 2000 NFL draft. They tried to this in 2008, but not even Rex Ryan could find a way to effectively utilise Vernon Gholston. Provided they don't trade up to make a play at South Carolina OLB Melvin Ingram (who, as of late, has been moving up draft boards and as it turns out is a player coach [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="288" caption="Could Upshaw be headed to the Big Apple in 2012?"][/caption] Ryan has fallen in love with), look for the Jets to find a quality pass rusher in Alabama star Courtney Upshaw, who will be able to give the defense an every down rusher who can consistently put pressure on opposing QBs. Now, here's an interesting situation. Should 'Bama safety Mark Barron start to fall towards the end of the first round, do the Jets potentially make a play for him and fill two massive holes on the defense? This is an out of this world prediction, but as recent history can tell us the Jets aren't afraid to trade up the board to make sure they get the player they need. Should that not be a possibility, look for the Jets to address their backfield by adding either Miami RB Lamar Miller or Boise State RB Doug Martin with the 47th pick, and Boise State FS George Iloka with the 77th overall pick. In the later rounds, New York could very well add depth to its offensive line. One of its pressing needs is a WR too, but I can see the Jets bringing back an old favourite 'Mark Sanchez target' in veteran wideout Braylon Edwards.
If you have any questions about the NFL draft, the AFC East or you just want to have an NFL-related chat, feel free to tweet your questions to @nflbyjohn.