NFL Draft Needs in the AFC East: Free Agency Update
Our divisional look at team needs moving towards the NFL Draft continues. This time we’re talking about the AFC East.
When you have the Super Bowl champions in your division, you’re facing an uphill battle to say the least. Drafting wisely is the first step to beating them.
For the Jets, Dolphins, and Bills, this is the exact situation they find themselves in.
It won’t be easy, but each team is trying to take strides to dethroning the best team most 15-year olds have ever seen.
Tom Brady won’t be easy to take down, but let’s see where these other teams need to draft more talent if they’re going to have a chance.
BUFFALO BILLS (2016 Results: 7-9 — 3rd in AFC East)
For the Bills to climb up from third in this division, their draft is going to have to bring some electricity.
LeSean McCoy is a great asset to have on this team, but his days are numbered. He’s already starting to have some injury concerns after missing four games in 2015.
He only missed one complete game in 2016, but he was banged up a lot during the year. Worse than you want your franchise guy getting.
There’s hope in this year’s class, though. The running back depth is better this off-season than it has been in a while.
There are a handful of guys who look like sure-fire future starters in the league, and even more who look to bring value in at least one area of the game.
Buffalo brought back Tyrod Taylor, more out of necessity than anything if you ask me.
Simply put, what other options did they have?
Unless Cardale Jones is ready to start, Taylor had to get brought back into the fold for at least two more years.
I say at least because there are a few quarterbacks in this draft who could become something.
Will the Bills grab one with at the tenth spot? It’s not impossible, but it’s not very smart either.
They already have multiple developmental quarterbacks on roster; why add another?
Sammy Watkins can’t do it by himself, so he needs a running mate. Doing so will make him better, Taylor better, and will add miles to Shady’s career.
The team needs work all the way around, but on day one, they need to find a weapon.
MIAMI DOLPHINS (2016 Results: 10-6 — 2nd in AFC East)
A team in the playoffs which simply wasn’t a playoff team, the Dolphins still need help from the draft to become a true post-season worthy opponent.
Retaining Kenny Stills was probably the best thing this team did all off-season to this point.
Brining Julius Thomas into the fold was the second best.
I’m not going to say cutting Mario Williams was a good move because even having in the first place was a mistake.
Still, this roster has some talent and surprising potential.
Let’s get this out of the way now, though, the Dolphins need a quarterback. No, Ryan Tannehill is not a franchise guy, and he’s not going to win them games.
Luckily for Tannehill, there aren’t any franchise quarterbacks in this class either. Miami can draft a Nate Peterman, however, and develop him into a future starter.
Better yet, there are a few 2018 free agents which could hit the market and land the job as well.
Until then, we have Ryan, and the Dolphins need to do some work on the defense. This group never got to where they were hyped to be, and instead of throwing money at it, they need draft picks to fix it.
Marlon Humphrey is a guy who immediately comes to mind which can really get the secondary moving in the right direction.
He’s getting lost in the shuffle a bit but could be a late first-round steal for this team here.
Don’t take them out of the running for Sidney Jones either. While the injury he sustained at his pro day is obviously going to hurt his stock, he could become a Dolphin at 97th overall with their first compensatory pick.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (2016 Results: 14-2 — 1st in AFC East)
What do you give a quarterback who seems to have everything? Well, you trade your first-round draft pick and give him Brandin Cooks.
I mean, if ever there was a real-life Madden trade, this is it. In no connected franchise ever would a player give the player controlling this franchise a speed-demon like Cooks.
It happened, so we’ll all have to deal with it while Patriots fans salivate at the thought of seeing those two on the same field.
This team also picked up defensive end Kony Ealy, re-signed linebacker Dont’a Hightower and looks to be on the cusp of re-entering the first round by flipping cornerback Malcolm Butler.
Listen, if the Pats get a first-round pick for Butler without giving up at least a third-round pick to go with him, I may go full Ruxin.
Imagine a team like this turning the 32nd overall selection and Butler into Cooks and a better first-round pick.
Craziness, but it may just happen.
In the meantime, New England doesn’t have a pick until 71 players have come off the board. This leaves them with guys like Florida State’s Roderick Johnson, Jordan Legette from Clemson, and possibly even Raekwon McMillan from Ohio State to add to their roster.
All three of those men would fill a need for this team who will be looking to get stronger up front, replace Martellus Bennett, and secure the defense a bit with a good linebacker addition.
So basically, this is a team without a draft pick until the third round, and things look great!
NEW YORK JETS (2016 Results: 5-11 — 4th in AFC East)
You don’t get much more opposite the New England Patriots than the current Jets lineup, so it’s a good thing they have a first-round draft pick.
Like every other team which needs a future at the quarterback position, they have really bad timing to not have a good player under center.
Even the guys with the best upside this year need a year or maybe two to get where they can effectively step in as a full-time starter.
“This position is an urgent need, and the fact that they haven’t signed one in free agency leads to the idea that they will address it in the draft.” – Alan Schechter
Pretty much says it all, and I think the name at the top of this list has to be Ohio State’s Marshon Lattimore.
If he’s unavailable then the team could address one of their many other needs including a possible stab at running back Leonard Fournette.
Regardless of who they take first, New York needs to draft well at every spot if they want to become relevant again before 2020.
This division is New England’s to lose and barring a sudden injury to Tom Brady, I don’t see anyone taking them down this year or the next.
Still, the goal is always to get better, and each team can do so through the draft on top of what they’ve already done in free-agency.
The ending may be predictable here, but one twist in the story and everything we thought we knew turns to dust.
Each team has to put themselves in position to win when called upon, so it’ll be interesting to see which direction each franchise goes.
Which draft prospects do you like for your team? Let me know on Twitter, and share your thoughts on your team’s needs.