2011 NFL Draft: Needs and Picks for Every AFC East Team
The lockout is still going on, but there will still be a draft. For the second year in a row, the first round will be on a Thursday evening, prime time at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.
No matter what you may think, every team needs a slot to be filled, whether it's the Jets because they need a backup plan in case they can't sign both Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes, or even the Colts searching for their next quarterback.
In this slideshow, I will take you through every AFC East team, giving you an inside look at where they should improve their rosters on April 28th when it comes time to draft.
*Statistics and other information collected from ESPN.com and NFL.com.
1. Buffalo Bills
First Pick: Round 1, Pick 3
The Bills are in rebuilding mode. Last year they had a subpar season, but who could blame them? Ryan Fitzpatrick showed some signs of improvement, and with breakout receiver Steve Johnson, it is looking like the Bills may have a decent air game this year. The Bills still have last year's first-round draft pick C.J. Spiller and a more experienced back in Fred Jackson, who did more of the work last year, but the combination of the two running backs is a good sign.
In order to take full advantage of these players' skills during the season, the Bills will need to rebuild their offensive line. Without an efficient offensive line, Fitzpatrick will be eating turf game-in and game-out, not to mention that the combo of Jackson and Spiller will be rendered useless.
Therefore, the Bills should make use of their third overall pick by drafting an offensive lineman. If they were to do so, a good pick would be Tyron Smith of USC. Smith is strong (was four presses away from the best bench press for an offensive lineman at combine) and is fast (best 40-yard dash for offensive lineman at combine).
By drafting Smith, the Bills will be able to have an athletic tackle protecting Fitzpatrick's blind side and someone who will be able seal off the edges on runs to the left.
2. Miami Dolphins
First Pick: Round 1, Pick 15
The Dolphins had another average year as they tried to compete with the Jets and Patriots, who were the top teams in the AFC East. The Dolphins were able to keep up for a short amount of time but in the end, their team was not complete. They were great on the road but could not win at home.
The Dolphins caught a break last year when Cameron Wake had a breakout a season as he made 57 tackles and 14.0 sacks. If the Dolphins want to continue to get into the backfield, they're going to need someone else.
The downside to Wake is that teams will begin to pick up on his habits when he goes after the quarterback, which could bring down his numbers as they figure out ways to stop him. Therefore, the Dolphins should draft a defensive tackle or defensive end. By doing so, opponents will have more to worry about when going up against the Miami pass rush, resulting in sacks, interceptions or even enough pressure to force incompletions. As most of you know, defense wins games.
A possible pick for the Dolphins would be Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley. Fairley, who played well yet dirty in the BCS National Championship Game, would be a good fit in the Miami system. Head Coach Tony Sparano should be able to handle a character like Fairley and be able to get the most out of him.
3. New England Patriots
First Pick: Round 1, Pick 17 (From Oakland)
When the name New England Patriots is said, most people will automatically think of Tom Brady, Wes Welker and Bill Belichick (and for those who are a little late, Randy Moss). There is no doubt that Belichick has put together a great offense, but what ultimately killed their season was their defense.
The defense had an average season as Jerod Mayo led the league in tackles and Devon McCourty came in second to Ed Reed for most interceptions. While those two represented the team well, there is a very big flaw in said defense. To be blunt, they're not very good against the pass. Last season, they were ranked 30th against the pass. Knowing Belichick, he will not let his defense repeat their poor performance against the pass in 2011.
In order for the Patriots to do so, they will most likely take advantage of having a mid-first round pick and select a top defensive end or defensive tackle.
Most likely, they will pick Aldon Smith, a Missouri defensive end. With an average 40-yard dash at the combine and above-average vertical/broad jumps, Smith will be a good asset as the combination of his jumping ability, speed and height (6'4") will allow him to get into backfields and possibly knock down pass attempts or even sack the quarterback.
4. New York Jets
First Pick: Round 1, Pick 30
Yet again, the Jets failed their faithful fans by falling short of the Super Bowl. This time it was their play in one quarter that ended their run for the Lombardi Trophy. Had the Jets played like they did in the second half during the first or second quarter, they would have won the game and extended their season two more weeks. On top of the feeling of defeat, the Jets are not getting any younger.
There are many players advancing in age, and the windows for these players are slowly closing. The main concern right now would be the Jets defensive line. It may seem like I am obsessed with teams in the AFC East drafting linemen, but they are essential and these teams need them.
The Jets have not had much luck when it comes to their defensive line. Sure, last year they had Jason Taylor, who made some big plays. At defensive tackle, Sione Pouha stepped up as Kris Jenkins had a severe injury for the second year in a row.
The reality is, the Jets need a fresh player who will be able to provide quality seasons. Although the Jets have the 30th pick, there are still quality players that can be drafted late. The Jets may draft a player considered to be a sleeper by the name of Ollie Ogbu. Coming out of Joe Paterno's program at Penn State, the stocky Ogbu has the agility and strength that will fit Rex Ryan's defensive scheme of exotic blitzes, especially on third down.
Stay tuned and return to Bleacher Report in the coming days for more of my reports on the 2011 NFL Draft.