Draft Needs: AFC East
Neil Hornsby offers a team-by-team display of positional draft needs starting with the AFC East.
Draft Needs: AFC East
At 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.
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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.
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.
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.
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Neil Hornsby | 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.