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With the NFL Draft just days away, beginning on April 25, here’s a look at the AFC East’s biggest needs heading into the opening rounds.
By cutting Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Bills showed they are committed to finding a new franchise quarterback, and they could do a lot worse than taking Geno Smith with their first round pick. Smith has come in for a lot of criticism this offseason, largely in part to the fact he isn’t a player of the same caliber as Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III, but he does have all the tools required to become a franchise quarterback in the NFL.
Buffalo has some talented young offensive tackles in Chris Hairston and Cordy Glenn, but with Andy Levitre leaving in the offseason, they could look for a guard in the early rounds to potentially help protect their new quarterback. Barrett Jones (Alabama) could still be on the board when they come to pick in the third round, but if not, Earl Watford (James Madison) or Hugh Thornton (Illinois) should be available.
A need for a tight end could also be filled in the second round, with Zach Ertz (Stanford) likely still available, and has the ability to be a starter immediately in the NFL.
The Dolphins helped fill some of their many needs by spending big in free agency, but there is still a glaring need at left tackle. Trading up to try and take Lane Johnson (Oklahoma) is a move mooted by many, but if they can’t work out a deal, it’s hard to see them taking anyone other than Xavier Rhodes (Florida St.) with the 12th overall pick, as corner is another big need.
Depending on who Miami ultimately takes in the first round, offensive tackle Terron Armstead (Arkansas-Pine Bluff) or corner Robert Alford (Southeastern Louisiana) are potential second round targets.
Helping Ryan Tannehill has to be the Dolphins priority so do not be surprised to see Miami look for a tight end or guard in the third and fourth rounds, with both Vance McDonald (Rice) and Brian Winters (Kent St.) good fits.
New York Jets
New York could go in a number of directions with their first round pick, but finding a premiere pass rusher at the outside linebacker position has to be high on their list, and although patience will be required while he transitions to the new position, Barkevious Mingo (LSU) has so much upside that he’s hard to ignore. In addition, the recent first round they picked up as part of the Darrel Revis trade could help them aggressively go after a Dee Milliner (Alabama) or Xavier Rhodes.
Surprisingly, Mark Sanchez is still on the roster, but the Jets could be tempted to try and make a move for E. J. Manuel (Florida St.) or Tyler Bray (Tennessee) in the second or third round, to provide competition for Sanchez, and most likely, eventually replace him.
There are big question marks over Tyrann Mathieu (LSU) and whether he can keep himself out of trouble, but there are few players in the draft with more ability on the field. With Revis now a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Mathieu could be a valuable pickup, especially if head coach Rex Ryan is confident he can help Mathieu overcome his troubled background.
New England Patriots
The Patriots have been putting together a talented and young defense over the last couple of years and targeting a top corner in the first round could be vital in helping it progress to the next level. Desmond Trufant (Washington) could be off the board by the time they come to pick, but Jamar Taylor (Boise St.) is not far behind Trufant, and could be an immediate starter in the Patriots defense.
New England has replaced Wes Welker with Danny Amendola, but they could be looking for some more depth at receiver, and Marcus Wheaton (Oregon St.) could help make the transition easier. Wheaton is an accomplished route-runner and has good hands, making him perfectly suited to the Patriots offense.
An injection of youth at the guard position will also be high on New England’s wish list, but given their lack of picks, they would probably have to target one with their third round pick. Like the Bills, they might have to look at the likes of Watford and Thornton at this point in the draft, and hope they can develop one of them into the long-term successor Logan Mankins.
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