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AFC East: Pre-Draft Guide

By: George Anastasios Haraktsis

New England Patriots

Team Record in 2017: 13–3

Number of Selections in 2018 Draft: 8

Overall Pick #s: 23, 31, 43, 63, 95, 198, 210, 219

Summary: Per usual, the Patriots were in this year’s past Super Bowl with Tom Brady at the helm playing at the level of his usual self (505 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs), but they failed to pull off a victory, losing to the Philadelphia Eagles 33–41. During the game, it was evident that the Patriots needed help with their pass rush and could use help at the linebacker position too. Really their entire defense needed help, as it usually does when it lets up 41 points in a championship game. The Pats seemed dedicated to the idea of getting help this off-season, signing pass rusher Adrian Clayborn and trading for Danny Shelton and Jason McCourty, three players who will make their impact felt immediately. Unfortunately, you can’t keep everyone, and they had to let multiple players walk in free agency, losing key contributors on the offense like RB Dion Lewis,WR Danny Amendola, and LT Nate Solder while also losing Super Bowl defensive star Malcolm Butler to the Titans. Also, to most everyone’s surprise, the Patriots traded away their leading receiver Brandin Cooks to the Rams for the 23rd overall pick in the 2018 draft. There have been a ton of moving parts in New England.

Overall, the Patriots have some definite holes all over the roster that they need to fill. There needs to be a replacement for Nate Solder. They need as many edge rushers as they can get. The linebacker and cornerback positions require more depth/infusion of youth, and the successor for Tom Brady needs to be anointed. Fortunately, they are in a position to do so, with their treasure trove of four picks in the first 63 selections of this year’s draft. The Patriots will need Bill Belichick to work his magic, because this is the franchise’s most pivotal draft in ages.

Top 5 Positions of Need:

  1. Offensive Tackle- Losing Nate Solder to the Giants was massive, and cannot be understated. Tom Brady needs to be protected. No one on the roster can currently start at left tackle, and the Patriots will need to snag a day one starter in the first two rounds.

  2. Edge Rush- James Harrison was given a significant amount of snaps in this year Super Bowl, and he was the only one who could generate a pass rush on the edge. They did sign Adrian Clayborn, but their pass rushing woes have not gone away since they shipped out Chandler Jones. It will be addressed in the earlier rounds.

  3. Linebacker- The defense needs some speedy bodies at linebacker. Dont’a Hightower could use a someone beside him that could cover the pass and stuff the run. More importantly, someone who can fill in when he or Van Noy go down. A guy in the later rounds who could get drafted and develop would be ideal.

  4. Quarterback- Tom Brady at 41 years old ain’t getting any younger. The Patriots have recently been linked to Josh Rosen, but that would require giving up a lot of draft capital, thus neglecting many other positions. Look for them to address their QB of the future in either the second or third round so they can fill different areas of need.

  5. Cornerback- Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe, and Jason McCourty are locked in as starters, but after that it gets murky. The Patriots could use some younger bodies and more depth after letting Butler go.

Prospect Fits:

  1. OT Kolton Miller (UCLA)- Selecting Miller would solve the Nate Solder problem immediately. Kolton is a big and very athletic tackle who O-line coach Dante Scarnechia could turn into a pro bowler.

  2. DE/OLB Lorenzo Carter (Georgia)- Since the days of Chandler Jones the Patriots have not had a ferocious pass rusher on the edge. Yes, James Harrison was able to generate some pressure for New England last year, but he’s now retired. Carter will be able to help the defense in a myriad of ways, something Belichick loves, and will most certainly be able to get after the Quarterback.

  3. LB Josey Jewell (Iowa)- The likely day three selection has all of the tools to serve as a key cog on both defense and special teams. He was the Big Ten’s leading tackler from a year ago and an All-American selection. Jewell has a natural feel for the game to go with great instincts when it comes to tracking receivers or finding the ball carrier. Pairing those together with his football IQ and exceptional technique helps cover up his athletic limitations and will help him in pass coverage and run stuffing at the next level.

  4. QB Kyle Lauletta (Richmond)- Is the next Jimmy Garoppolo available in this year’s draft? The Patriots hope so. New England still needs a successor to Tom Brady and will look to take one in the middle rounds. Lauletta had an impressive Senior Bowl and would benefit from having time to sit behind the G.O.A.T. The Patriots had him in for a private workout, so there is interest. Growing up with a naval and lacrosse background the match almost seems too perfect for Bill Belichick.

  5. CB Nick Nelson (Wisconsin)- Nelson recently injured his knee in a private workout with the Lions, but received good news from Dr. James Andrews after undergoing surgery. His torn meniscus did not need a full repair, reducing Nelson’s recovery time to about 6–8 weeks.Therefore, Nelson would have the chance to sit and work his way back while learning the Patriots’ defense. There is no immediate need for him now with the Patriots cornerback depth set at the top. A win-win or both player and team.

New York Jets

Team Record in 2017: 5–11

Number of Selections in 2018 Draft: 6

Overall Pick #s: 3, 72, 107,157, 179, 235

Summary: Where to begin with the Jets? Before the season, most had them pegged as the least talented team in the NFL, and a sure-fire candidate to go 0–16. They surprised most by winning five games and showing they have young talent on their current roster. Guys like Robby Anderson, Leonard Williams, Steve Mclendon, stepped up in a big way, but there are still a plethora of holes everywhere.

The Quarterback situation will need to be addressed, McCown is not the long-term answer, and it will be after the Jets traded a plethora of picks to move up to the third pick in this year’s draft. They need another playmaker at the TE position, due to the departure of Austin Sefarian-Jenkins to the Jaguars. The whole O-line needs to be revamped, Kelvin Beachum is not doing it for anyone on the left side, the guard play is atrocious due to the failed James Carpenter experiment, and they have not found a replacement for Nick Mangold since his departure.

They could use help beside Leonard Williams and need to find a replacement for long-time starter Muhammed Wilkerson who left for the Packers and leading sacker Demario Davis (Saints). All in all, the Jets need help but might not be able to find it all in this draft with only two picks in the top 72 selections. They probably won’t turn it around this year but could use this draft as the foundation to build upon next year.

Top 5 Positions of Need:

  1. Quarterback- Josh McCown will be 39 years old at the start of this season, and will serve as the bridge QB to whoever is drafted at #3. The team hasn’t had a Pro Bowl QB since Brett Favre in 2008. This position will be addressed.

  2. Offensive Tackle- Kelvin Beachum wasn’t particularly bad last year, but he was not particularly good either. He and the Jets would both benefit from a switch to the right side of the line, and a replacement coming in at left.

  3. Tight End- The Jets might let Jordan Leggett prove himself here after missing last season with a leg injury, but he will not be able to replicate the production of ASJ. They should go for a tight end late here to push Leggett and add some depth.

  4. Edge Rush- Finding more pass rush at the outside linebacker position is a must. After the Jets let their leading sacker Demario Davis get away in free agency, the team has no one left on the roster with more than three sacks from last year. They need to get after the QB in their division.

  5. Defensive Line- Once a strength, this has become a position of need over the last few years. The team traded away Sheldon Richardson last year and cut Mo Wilkerson this offseason. They will need to find capable guys later in this draft to play alongside Leonard Williams.

Prospect Fits:

  1. QB Josh Allen (Wyoming)- This guy looks like he was concocted in a lab as an experiment to create, physically, the best quarterback we have ever seen. Allen has the arm strength, size, and speed that most coaches covet. If the Jets draft him, he will have a year to learn under McCown and correct his footwork and accuracy issues.

  2. QB Sam Darnold (USC)- Unlikely that he falls to them, but if he does he could push McCown out of a job sooner than anticipated. He is the most pro-ready quarterback in the draft, and the Jets would be lucky to snag him here but does have issues with turnovers. That’s something the Jets staff probably thinks they could fix.

  3. DE Tyquan Lewis (Ohio State)- The 2016 Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year has had his production dip slightly each year since 2015. But Lewis managed to finish his collegiate career with 23.5 sacks, 36.5 tackles for loss and five forced fumbles. A productive player on a great team could be a steal in the third round and be the replacement for Wilkerson that the team so desperately needs.

  4. TE Tyler Conklin (Central Michigan)- A former college basketball player at Northwood, the athletic Conklin has been projected as a Day 3 pick in this year’s draft. He is an adequate pass-catching tight end with good body control and somewhat reliable hands. He could be the one that pushes Leggett and some depth to a thin position.

  5. OT Will Richardson (N.C. State)- Richardson has had his troubles with weed and DUIs in the past, which will most likely drop him to the later rounds in this year’s draft. At Right tackle, Richardson was credited with not allowing a sack or pressure while starting for what proved the ACC’s best pass-blocking line in 2017. He also paved the way for running back Nyheim Hines 1,113 yards and 12 touchdowns. An intriguing prospect who has his question marks, but could develop into a reliable starter with some coaching and patience.

Buffalo Bills

Team Record in 2017: 9–7

Number of Selections in 2018 Draft: 9

Overall Pick #s: 12, 22, 53, 56, 65, 96, 121, 166, 187

Summary: After trading away Tyrod Taylor to the Browns, the Bills now need a future at quarterback. They did sign AJ McCarron to a two-year, $10 million deal but he is viewed more as a bridge quarterback to whomever they take. At receiver, Zay Jones’ future is murky after what seems to be a nude drug-related incident in LA, and trade deadline acquirement Kelvin Benjamin is a free agent after 2018. The team is hurting all across the offensive line and could use an injection of youth, after the trade of T Cordy Glenn, and sudden retirement of both C Eric Wood and G Richie Incognito left them decimated at these positions.

They let Preston Brown walk, and now have a hole at middle linebacker that needs to b addressed in this draft. The defensive backfield looks good after Vontae Davis was signed to pair with Tre’Davious White, but better depth is necessary. Tight end isn’t an immediate need, but Charles Clay is getting long in the tooth, and the grooming process for his replacement should start sooner rather than later. With a plethora of picks, they should be able to fill a majority of these needs.

Top 5 Positions of Need:

  1. Quarterback- After the team traded Tyrod Taylor, they have no future option at the position currently on the roster. McCarron might be to some, but I’m not buying it. The Bills traded up to pick 12 to either select one there or put them in a better position to trade up for one. This position will be addressed.

  2. Offensive Line- As I mentioned before, Cordy Glenn is gone, and so is Richie Incognito. The team did sign Russell Bodine to replace Wood, but the other two positions need to be addressed to keep LeSean McCoy happy and off of the IR.

  3. Linebacker- After quarterbacking their defense for the last four year, the Bills elected not to re-sign Preston Brown. With only two significant players returning, Matt Milano and the 35-year-old Lorenzo Alexander, the Bills have considerable work to do as they need both an outside and middle linebacker.

  4. Wide receiver- The team has Kelvin Benjamin and Zay Jones still on the roster, but their production and future are in question. With that being said, those two still need help. The team does not currently have an impactful deep threat on the roster and will need to acquire speed on the outside.

  5. Defensive tackle- Marcell Dareus is gone, and Kyle Williams is simply getting old. The team did bring in former Panther Star Lotulelei on a huge deal to play beside Williams, but youth and depth are needed at the position.

Prospect Fits:

  1. QB Josh Rosen (UCLA)- The Bills would have to trade up to get Rosen, but the signal caller from UCLA would be the answer for the QB that’s been eluding them for years. He is the most mechanically sound QB in this draft and has plenty of experience in a pro-style offense. If the Bills are interested in drafting a guy to start day one, Rosen’s their guy.

  2. QB Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma)- Although not likely, there is potential that Mayfield could fall to Buffalo here. He is the draft’s most accurate QB and a proven winner. He would struggle without protection, but if the Bills shore up their offensive line Baker could prosper.

  3. WR Calvin Ridley (Alabama)- The Bills lack speed and playmaking at the receiver position. Ridley’s skills, fluidity, and explosive burst should lead to him regularly being open in the NFL. He had an iffy combine, supposedly dropping on some team’s draft boards. The Bills would gladly gobble him up with their second first rounder if he were to fall.

  4. C/G Frank Ragnow (Arkansas)- The Bills recently held a private workout with the versatile lineman, so the interest is there. Ragnow is projected as a first or second round option, and if the Bills got him at the end of the first or second round, it would be a huge win for their O-line. He could immediately slide in as a starter at guard or switch to Center if the Bodine experiment doesn’t work.

  5. DT R.J. McIntosh, (Miami)- Buffalo needs a three-technique DT with Kyle Williams only coming back on a one year deal. McIntosh has an athletic, one-gap penetrator who can beat blocks. He does have some issues with his core strength, but at the stage of the draft where you can take him, it’s worth the risk.

Miami Dolphins

Team Record in 2017: 6–10

Number of Selections in 2018 Draft: 8

Overall Pick #s: 11, 42, 73, 123, 131, 209, 227, 229

Summary: The Dolphins were very busy this off-season both in free agency and on the trade market. The team bolstered the quality and depth of their wide receiving core with the addition of former Super Bowl champion Danny Amendola and former Chief Albert Wilson. They managed to sign one of the games best pass blocking guards in Josh Sitton who’s experience should help the development of young linemen like Ja’Wuan James and Laremy Tunsil. The team bolstered their defensive line by trading for sack artist Robert Quinn who could be a menace if he stays healthy. Then traded for Daniel Kilgore to man the vacant center position. The team was busy acquiring players but also let their fair share go.

They cut the massive attitude and salary of Ndamukong Suh, traded premiere slot receiver Jarvis Landry, and let go of long-time center Mike Pouncey. The team was not only trying to get rid of salary cap but trying to shed a losing culture as well. They need to hit on picks in this draft and right this ship, or it could mean the end of Mike Tannenbaum.

Top 5 Positions of Need:

  1. Linebacker- Kiko Alonso has a history of injuries to go along with his hefty contract. The team can clear cap space by cutting him next offseason and should think of drafting his replacement this year to pair with Raekwon McMillan for the long haul.

  2. Tight End- After cutting Julius Thomas, MarQuies Gray is the tight end currently atop the depth chart. He’s not gonna cut it. The team needs to find more talent at the position in this draft.

  3. Defensive Tackle- The release of Ndamukong Suh has literally and figuratively left a huge void in the middle of this team’s defensive line. The roster does have good, young talent in Jordan Phillips, Vincent Taylor, and Davon Godchaux. But they will not be enough and DT will need to be addressed.

  4. Offensive Line- The team did take some hacks at the offensive line in free agency and through trade, but the team needs to add more depth. The offensive line has been a thorn in the side for this team for years, and they would benefit from adding developmental players all along it.

  5. Cornerback-The Dolphins have used several of their pre-draft visits on cornerbacks expected to go in the first three rounds of the draft. They have identified cornerback as a position of need and will probably take a shot.

Prospect Fits:

  1. LB Roquan Smith (Georgia)- The instinctive, quick, and rangy linebacker from Georgia would provide an immediate boost to the linebacking corps and the defense as a whole. He posses all the skills to be an every-down back and would fit in nicely with this defense.

  2. TE Dallas Goedert (South Dakota State)- Arguably the top TE in this class, he has the athletic ability and size to excel in the NFL. Adam Gase loves the receiving talent in his tight ends that Goeddert brings to the table. He would solve their need instantly.

  3. Harrison Phillips (Nebraska)- Phillips could fall due to his size and supposed lack of athletic ability. He played at a very high level at Nebraska and would fit Miami’s 4–3 scheme very well. He would be a phenomenal rotation player until he can take over the reigns as a starter.

  4. CB Carlton Davis (Auburn)- If the team does not select a player at this position in the earlier rounds, they will need to address it later. Davis lacks the elite athleticism that scouts like to see in highly drafted defensive backs typically, but he is still a good prospect. He is very tall, physical, and has played against the top competition in the SEC.

  5. C Brian O’Neil (Michigan State)- The Dolphins need depth at all five spots along the offensive line. He started 37 of 50 career games for Michigan State.Starting 16 games at center, 16 at left guard and five at right guard. He has the versatility and experience to help the Dolphins out.

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