Draft Needs: AFC East

Neil Hornsby offers a team-by-team display of positional draft needs starting with the AFC East.

| 3 years ago

Draft Needs: AFC East

2014-draft-needs-AFCEAt PFF we’re not big on telling you things we don’t know about first hand, so saying who a team should draft is not something you’ll see here. However, giving you our view on areas of need, is another matter. With free agency essentially in the books, we thought this might be a good opportunity to give you a pre-draft look at the areas they should look to address either via the draft or otherwise .

You know how much we like colour-coding everything and this set of articles (one for each division) is no exception. Before you dig in we’d highly recommend you check out the legend – these are not player grades as in our projected line-ups series, we are grading need. Obviously, to some degree, they are related but not always.  Let’s be clear, the fact we have the Patriots QB situation as a slightly higher need than that of the Jets does not mean we are saying Geno Smith is a better QB than Tom Brady; just that Smith has shown enough to say he deserves a decent shot and with Michael Vick backing him up there is no immediate need to draft another QB while in New England it may be time for them to consider a successor to the great man particularly given Ryan Mallett is a free agent next year and shown very little in recent preseasons.

In some of the grades we are also considering the depth behind the player listed so, for example, with Buffalo’s slot corner position the fact they have Nickell Robey as well as Corey Graham ensures this is a straight dark green. However, where this is the case, I’ll mention it in the text below relating to each team.

AFC EAST draft needs

(^click to enlarge)


For a team that only won six games last year the Bills are in a remarkably healthy position in terms of roster quality. They could go in any number of ways including simply choosing the best player available. The choice of defensive end as our top need for them may surprise some, but we are looking at new defensive co-ordinator, Jim Schwartz’s likely impact. Alan Branch will now move inside to give the Bills an incredibly potent interior but leaves Jerry Hughes as the only option to play opposite Mario Williams outside. Now Hughes played very well last year, but as a situational pass rusher and it would be a lot to ask of him to move up to playing full-time DE on the left.


Everyone is aware of the Dolphins’ need on the O-line, but the position at linebacker is obscured by the investment made last year on Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler. So poor was their play you shouldn’t discount the team already looking at an upgrade in the mid to late rounds. Similarly, the “on paper” depth at corner is bolstered by second- and third-round picks from the 2013 draft (Jamar Taylor and Will Davis), but if you trust a pair that were on the field for a combined 110 unconvincing snaps to come through, you’ve got more faith than us.

NB: Olivier Vernon on his own doesn’t rate a dark green, but with Dion Jordan behind him we don’t believe the Dolphins need to go to the DE well again.

New England

This squad is not a long way from going two steps further than last year and giving Tom Brady his fourth Super Bowl ring. However, they will need to draft well and perhaps consider quality over quantity next week if they want to go all the way. They can probably survive with what they have at wide receiver, but only if they get more production from the tight ends and keep the pressure out of Brady’s face. He’s a very interesting player in that he deals with pressure off the edge about as well as anyone but struggles worse than most when it comes through the middle. Better pass protection from the interior of the line is crucial.

N.Y. Jets        

The Jets have a lot of holes and there are no positions — other than the defensive line — that can do without at least some help. The fact our top three needs don’t include the offensive line or tight end give some indication of the rebuilding work John Idzik has on his plate. Quinton Coples looks like he could be a fine player in some systems, but an edge rusher? That’s not his forte and when paired with the aging Calvin Pace it’s hardly a recipe for consistent QB pressure. To be fair, though, that’s not been the Jets’ way and although we see it as a huge need I’m not sure they’ll view it that way.


Follow Neil on Twitter: @PFF_Neil

| PFF Founder

Neil founded PFF in 2006 and is currently responsible for the service to the company's 22 NFL team customers. He is constantly developing new insights into the game and player performance.

  • jordd

    dark green for EJ Manuel? haha I know he was a rookie but you can’t say they don’t need help in the future at QB. Debatable whether he should even be the QB! I like Thad Lewis more.

    • PFF_Neil

      I’m sort of with you but this article is a balance between what the team needs and will do. I don’t like him either and saw nothing last year to suggest he can become a competent NFL QB. That said the Bills invested in the guy and I don’t think there’s anyway they go back to that position in the early or mid rounds.

      • jordd

        Fair point I get where your coming from no chance they add a QB this year.
        Think a light green would have been fair but I definitely see what your saying.

  • jordd

    CB for Miami is interesting because I highly doubt they’l draft one in the first 2 rounds simply because you can’t keep on spending high picks on the same position.
    However I can see them adding a mid round CB for depth.

    • jordd

      So I would say LB is a bigger need than CB.

      • ThinkerPrime

        I agree MLB is the key. Misi is fine as an OLB. Dion Jordan should be a superb OLB and will be able to play the Lawrence Taylor role, letting the OL commit then using his freakish speed to run undefended to the QB like a RB hitting the hole. But it takes a special mind to play MLB, read what is coming, call the plays, move to where he will need to be. Players with the right mindset can make a huge impact as Buoniconti and Zach Thomas did even if not great athletes since they know where to go based on reading the play and time is on their side.

  • Steve

    Overall, this was a great analysis. I do have a couple of questions though.

    When you looked at New England’s need to build players into the DT spots, did you consider Armond Armstead who is already on the roster? I realize he’s an unknown as far as NFL performance, but based on his play in college and the CFL, I think he’s somebody who could fill one of those spots as a development prospect (I also think he could beat out Tommy Kelly for a starter spot, but I want to wait until training camp to get a better feel for him).

    Also, you seem kind of down on Aaron Dobson. Most Pats fans tend to think he has the potential to improve as he learns the system and gains Brady’s trust. Is there something you saw in his game that leads you to believe he’s unlikely to take a step forward this year?

    • Ben

      Also no mention of Marcus Cannon affecting the OL depth. They could still use another lineman in the draft so the grades seem accurate, but I feel it warranted mentioning in the blurb at least!

  • thenextone82

    No love for the Dolphins free agents, huh? Brent Grimes went to the pro-bowl last year. He just signed a long term contract. He’s freakin awesome. I don’t understand how he’s not dark green. Same with Starks….pro-bowler that just signed a new deal.

    The Patriots QB analysis is off, too. Brady’s locked up for several more years. He got the rare guaranteed contract to play until like 2017. He hasn’t shown signs of age yet. Pretty comical that Amendola is pegged as a weakness considering the contract he got (and the one that Welker got). Patriots really screwed the pooch on that one.

    Eric Decker as a dark green #1 WR? That’s a little crazy. Have you see a legit #1 receiver play? They’re all better than Decker.

    “For a team that only won six games last year the Bills are in a remarkably healthy position in terms of roster quality”. That’s a mistake. They’re not a good football team. The whole team is overrated. The reason it surprises you that their roster is good is because it isn’t. Their D-line is good. Their RBs are good. Everything else needs work.

    • Joey

      Did you read the intro?

  • Steven Windeler

    What was Quinton Coples grade for the last 8 games? He did switch positions, and had a broken ankle in preseason. If I’m adding right it’s +4.5. How do we explain that?

  • bernie

    “That’s not his forte and when paired with the aging Calvin Pace it’s hardly a recipe for consistent QB pressure. To be fair, though, that’s not been the Jets’ way and although we see it as a huge need I’m not sure they’ll view it that way.”

    Completely agree with this. Coples is out of position. It’s so frustrating that edge rusher has been a need for this team for over a decade (John Abraham was traded in ’05) and strangely it is never addressed, and barely anyone ever mentions it as a need. But year after year we watch QBs sit in the pocket for an eternity against the Jets. I’m sick of it, but I suspect it will go unaddressed yet again.

  • a57se

    You guys have no frickin clue……..

  • Mike

    Got to question the grading. The Jets needs don’t look that accurate. They arguably had the #1 rush d last year, but all of their linebackers are liabilities?

    Coples was arguably the best defensive player on the team the second half of the year.

    Their offensive line was also 2nd in the NFL in pass protection. But it looks like they need a complete overhaul

    • PFF_Neil

      The run D was almost entirely predicated on that awesome D-Line (although Couples and Harris were no slouches either) but these days linebackers coverage ability (or pass rushing skill for OLBs) is more important than what they do against the run.
      As for the o-line being 2nd in pass protection – not by any pass-blocking metric we put out (they were mid-table at best) and their run blocking 2nd worst.