Power Ranking the AFC East After the 2012 NFL Draft

Sean Delorge@@sdelorgeCorrespondent IIIMay 15, 2012

Power Ranking the AFC East After the 2012 NFL Draft

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    With the NFL draft and rookie minicamps in the rear view, it is time to shift our focus toward the 2012 AFC East power rankings.

    The AFC East is one of the stronger divisions in football, with the reigning AFC champion New England Patriots being the class of the division.

    The Patriots may be at the top, but the rest of the division is still up for grabs.

    Here is a look at my post-draft AFC East power rankings.

1. New England Patriots

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    After reaching the Super Bowl last season with one of the NFL’s worst defenses, the New England Patriots drafted two defensive playmakers in the first round of the 2012 NFL draft.

    Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower will make a difference from day one.

    The Patriots also addressed their lack of receiver depth by going on a signing spree during free agency. 

    Even though they didn’t land the highly touted Vincent Jackson, Brandon Lloyd is the outside-the-numbers receiver that Tom Brady and the offense lacked in 2011.

    Between the improved receiving corps and the numerous defensive players drafted, the Patriots are not only the best team in the AFC East, they are the best team in the entire conference.

2. New York Jets

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    After finishing 8-8 last season and missing the playoffs for the first time under Rex Ryan, the New York Jets used the NFL draft as a way to fill major holes on offense and defense.

    With their first-round pick, they drafted boom-or-bust prospect Quinton Coples to help improve their pass rush and bring youth to their defensive line.

    Marc Sanchez also got a new target to throw to when the Jets took receiver Stephen Hill in the second round.

    Between the improvement made through the draft, trading for Tim Tebow and bringing in Tony Sparano to be their new offensive coordinator, the Jets are poised to return to the playoffs in 2012.

3. Buffalo Bills

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    The Buffalo Bills made a big splash during free agency, but continued their great offseason with a solid draft.

    The Bills got two impact players with their first two selections.

    Stephon Gilmore is the final piece to a transformed defense. Between Gilmore, Mario Williams and Mark Anderson, the Bills defense is no longer a weakness.

    The Bills also used the draft to improve their offensive line by selecting Cordy Glenn in the second round.

    Despite a terrific offseason, the Bills need to prove they can gel on the field before they can compete with the Jets and Patriots for a shot at the division title.

4. Miami Dolphins

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    The Miami Dolphins used the NFL draft to build for the future, and selecting QB Ryan Tannehill all but guarantees that they will have their fourth straight losing season.

    While Tannehill may be the future, the Dolphins have too many holes on offense to succeed in 2012.

    They failed to replace Brandon Marshall, their best offensive player, with their second-round selection and instead took Stanford tackle Jonathan Martin.

    Martin has the chance to bookend with Jake Long to form one of the NFL’s best tackle combinations. But without a stud receiver to throw to, whoever is under center for the Dolphins will struggle in 2012.

    Even though Dolphins fans don’t have much to look forward to in 2012, the team is moving in the right direction.