Over the next couple of days, I will be taking a look at each NFL division, and I will be coming up with a list of the top-10 division newcomers sure to have a big impact.
We'll start with the AFC East.
1. Bill Parcells—Miami Dolphins
This one is kind of self-explanatory. The Tuna comes to a team that, in 2007, had one of the worst years of all time. While the Dolphins are another year or two away from really competing in the division, Parcells, a two-time Super Bowl champion, will have this team turned around and headed in the right direction in no time.
2. Alan Faneca—New York Jets
Faneca, a seven-time Pro Bowler and a Super Bowl champion, brings stability and leadership to the much-maligned Jet offensive line. He has been opening up holes for Jerome Bettis and Willie Parker for the last 10 years, and he will need to step up and do the same for Thomas Jones if the Jets want to win this year.
3. Vernon Gholston—New York Jets
Gholston is a pass-rushing end/linebacker, of the Shawne Merriman mold, who will come in right away and provide the Jets with someone who can get to the quarterback. In order for the Jets to win this division, they must be able to get to Tom Brady. If Gholston is up to the challenge, they will be a force to be reckoned with.
4. Jake Long—Miami Dolphins
Long, the first overall pick in the draft, is a perfect fit for the Dolphins. He'll come in and start right away, bringing stability to the Dolphins' horrible O-line. With Long at left tackle, new head coach Tony Sparano will be able to move 2004 first-rounder Vernon Carey over to right tackle, his natural position.
5. Marcus Stroud—Buffalo Bills
Stroud, a 6'6'', 310-pound, three-time Pro Bowler, will give the Bills the dynamic run-stopper at D-tackle that they have been looking for a decade. Stroud will make this young Buffalo defense one of the best in the league.
6. Jerod Mayo—New England Patriots
The No. 1 weakness for my Pats was their aging linebacker corps. What did Coach Belichick do to fix this? He drafted Jerod Mayo No. 10 overall. Mayo, out of Tennessee, led the SEC in tackles last year. He won't start right away, but he will learn from two of the best linebackers of their era—Tedy Bruschi and, if he returns, Junior Seau.
7. Kris Jenkins—New York Jets
The same thing I said about Stroud can be said for Jenkins. He provides Coach Tattle-Tale...er, I mean Mangini...with a perfect 3-4 defensive tackle that will make this defense that much better.
8. Calvin Pace—New York Jets
This one here is a big question mark. Pace is a freak, athletically, but prior to last year, he only had recorded 6.5 career sacks—not really the body of work that would garner $22 million guaranteed. If he plays well, however, he gives the Jets another pass-rusher on the outside.
9. Tony Richardson—New York Jets
Another Jet on the list here, and one whom I believe will have a big impact. Richardson, the fullback, has paved the way for Pro-Bowl runners such as Priest Holmes, Larry Johnson, Chester Taylor, and Adrian Peterson. If he plays well, which he always has, I believe the Jets could become a dangerous running team.
10. Leodis McKelvin—Buffalo Bills
McKelvin, the 11th overall pick this year, gives the Bills three, promising young corners—the other two being Terrence McGee and Jabari Greer. McKelvin also has the return skills to be a real weapon.
NFC East coming up next!