As we close in on the 2013 NFL Draft (April 25-27 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City), our analysts examine each team's biggest needs. Gregg Rosenthal previews the AFC East below, but click here for other divisions.
2013 draft picks: 8 (1st round), 41 (2nd), 71 (3rd), 105 (4th), 143 (5th), 177 (6th).
Biggest area of need: Quarterback.
Other spots to address: Receiver, guard, linebacker, safety.
Prospects who fit: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama; Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina; Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia; Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse; Arthur Brown, ILB, Kansas State.
It was difficult to decide which need is the Bills' "biggest," because Buffalo has so many pressing problems. Quarterback gets the nod because it's the most important position on the field, but you could make a strong case that the potential starters at wide receiver, guard and linebacker are even worse -- on a relative scale -- than Kevin Kolb.
In today's NFL, teams essentially need three wide receivers who can start. The Bills have one they can trust: Stevie Johnson. Given that T.J. Graham and Marcus Easley are next on the depth chart, Buffalo could have the most pressing wideout need in the league. Left guard is also basically empty after Andy Levitre's departure via free agency; Buffalo needs to draft a starter. Both outside linebacker spots require long-term solutions -- unless Manny Lawson qualifies. (Doubtful.)
The Bills seem likely to invest in a quarterback sometime in the middle rounds, but they really shouldn't force a pick they don't believe in, because they can definitely use talent in a lot of spots.
On most teams, the Bills' total lack of depth at safety and defensive end would qualify as a pressing need. On this Buffalo roster, it ranks relatively low on the list.
2013 draft picks: 12 (1st), 42 (2nd), 54 (2nd), 77 (3rd), 82 (3rd), 111 (4th), 146 (5th), 166 (5th), 217 (7th), 224 (7th), 250 (7th).
Biggest area of need: Tackle.
Other spots to address: Cornerback, linebacker, tight end, guard.
Prospects who fit: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma; Menelik Watson, OT, Florida State; Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State; Travis Kelce, TE, Cincinnati; Arthur Brown, ILB, Kansas State.
Sometimes draft rumors are almost too obvious to be true. After an offseason of wild spending, the Dolphins still have a hugely pressing need at tackle and the ammunition to trade up for one -- like, perhaps, Lane Johnson? The possibility of Jonathan Martin moving to left tackle to replace the departed Jake Long is worrisome. Starting, say, Will Yeatman at right tackle is even worse.
General manager Jeff Ireland, facing a must-win contract year, might very well make another big splash. But the Dolphins could also trade up to take a cornerback, which is the team's other significant need. It wasn't so long ago that Vontae Davis was talking about being part of the best cornerback duo in football. Now Davis and Sean Smith are gone, replaced by veteran stop-gaps like Brent Grimes and Richard Marshall.
Signing Grimes and tight end Dustin Keller made sense for Miami, but those moves were Band-Aids, not long-term solutions. Picking a tight end earlier than expected would be logical in this context. The more weapons for Ryan Tannehill, the better.
The Dolphins need depth at places outside of tackle and cornerback. Mildly disappointing 2010 draft picks Jared Odrick and Koa Misi are coming to the ends of their deals. Miami could use front-seven help, especially for 2014 and beyond.
Then again, Ireland doesn't appear to be looking too far ahead this offseason. He's cashing in his chips.
New England Patriots
2013 draft picks: 29 (1st), 59 (2nd), 91 (3rd), 226 (7th), 235 (7th).
Biggest area of need: Defensive end.
Other spots to address: Receiver, cornerback, guard, defensive tackle.
Prospects who fit: Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State; Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington; Datone Jones, DE, UCLA; John Cyprien, FS, Florida International.
The Patriots need pass rushers and secondary help. Of course, that these will be team needs in New England is as reliable an occurrence as Bill Belichick saying after every loss that the other team "out-played us and out-coached us."
The good news for Patriots fans: The team isn't quite as desperate at those spots as it has been in years past. Chandler Jones is a foundation-type defensive end; adding one more situational pass rusher to join Rob Ninkovich could make the position strong. Cornerback and strong safety lack reliable long-term solutions, but the positions are deeper.
The bad news for Patriots fans: New England doesn't have many picks to fill those needs (although trades could be coming). They tried (and failed) to sacrifice a third-round pick in exchange for adding restricted free-agent receiver Emmanuel Sanders; now they can actually spend that third-round pick on a speed threat. A late pick at guard for depth would also make sense.
New York Jets
2013 draft picks: 9 (1st), 39 (2nd), 72 (3rd), 106 (4th), 141 (5th), 178 (6th), 215 (7th).
Biggest area of need: Quarterback.
Other spots to address: Linebacker, running back, guard, cornerback.
Prospects who would fit: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia; EJ Manuel, QB, Florida State; Cornellius "Tank" Carradine, DE, Florida State; Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA; Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina; Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama.
When I watched Mark Sanchez self-immolate on "Monday Night Football" last December in Tennessee, it felt to me like the end of an era. Surely, the Jets would finally give up on Sanchez, or make him a highly paid backup. But five months later, his only real competition is a guy who hasn't played since 2010.
The Jets could put off drafting a quarterback this year, if only because they are putting off everything else as a franchise for a year, including firing Rex Ryan and truly starting a new era under general manager John Idzik. So it's not like quarterback is the only pressing need.
In the meantime, Ryan also needs defenders who can win one-on-one matchups. The Jets are relying too much on outside linebackers like Garrett McIntyre or Antwan Barnes. At least Ryan can coach up questionable defensive talent. On offense, New York is counting on annual disappointment Vladimir Ducasse and the annually injured Willie Colon to start at guard; there are no capable backups.
Help at running back should be available later in the draft -- except the Jets haven't found help at running back anywhere for years. It's not a great sign when the prospect of replacing the team's best player by far (Darrelle Revis) is low on the list of priorities.
UPDATE: The Jets and Buccaneers have agreed on the trade, Yahoo Sports' Jason Cole reported Sunday morning. The deal should be finalized by Sunday night or Monday morning, according to Cole, after Revis takes a physical. The Buccaneers, who will want to know as much about the knee before committing to a trade for Revis, hold the No. 13 slot in the 2013 NFL Draft and likely would have to give up that and a second-rounder. Another later pick is probable.
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