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AFC East projected starters: Patriots deep; Sam Darnold to start?

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Gregg Rosenthal will project post-draft starting lineups for all 32 teams -- because that's his idea of fun.

Buffalo Bills

QB: AJ McCarron
RB: LeSean McCoy
WR: Kelvin Benjamin
WR: Zay Jones
WR: Jeremy Kerley
TE: Charles Clay
LT: Dion Dawkins
LG: John Miller
C: Russell Bodine
RG: Vladimir Ducasse
RT: Jordan Mills

DE: Jerry Hughes
DT: Star Lotulelei
DT: Kyle Williams
DE: Trent Murphy
OLB: Matt Milano
MLB: Tremaine Edmunds
OLB: Lorenzo Alexander
CB: Tre'Davious White
CB: Vontae Davis
S: Micah Hyde
S: Jordan Poyer

» AJ McCarron has a strong chance to earn the Week 1 start, because Josh Allen was the most undercooked quarterback prospect to get taken in the first round. It will be difficult for McCarron to keep the job, however, with that receiver group and an offensive line that lost two starters to surprise retirements.

» General manager Brandon Beane indicated after the draft that a veteran or two could be added to one of the least experienced receiver groups in football. Zay Jones had a nightmarish rookie season, and Jeremy Kerley is a journeyman. This is a squad that Dez Bryant would absolutely upgrade, although the signing would have a Terrell Owens getting a key from the city of Buffalo vibe to it.

» Shaq Lawson, the last first-round pick of the Rex Ryan era, figures to back up Trent Murphy. The Bills handed the former Redskins player an aggressive contract, despite the fact that he's coming off a PED suspension and a torn ACL.

» Bills coach Sean McDermott spun magic in the secondary last year -- Tre'Davious White, Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde all return after excellent seasons. Now, the team is counting on McDermott to turn Vontae Davis' career around. There isn't much depth at the slot corner position.

» It's hard to completely remake a defense in two offseasons, but Tremaine Edmunds is the type of linebacker who can change Buffalo's entire profile on Sundays, like Luke Kuechly did for McDermott in Carolina.

Miami Dolphins

QB: Ryan Tannehill
RB: Kenyan Drake
WR: DeVante Parker
WR: Kenny Stills
WR: Danny Amendola
TE: Mike Gesicki
LT: Laremy Tunsil
LG: Josh Sitton
C: Daniel Kilgore
RG: Ted Larsen
RT: Ja'Wuan James

DE: Robert Quinn
DT: Jordan Phillips
DT: Davon Godchaux
DE: Cameron Wake
OLB: Kiko Alonso
MLB: Raekwon McMillan
CB: Xavien Howard
CB: Cordrea Tankersley
S: Reshad Jones
S: Minkah Fitzpatrick
S: T.J. McDonald

» I liked Miami's roster a lot more after completing this exercise. What the Dolphins lack in blue-chip talent, they make up for with improved depth. Super sub William Hayes, last year's first-round pick Charles Harris and Andre Branch aren't even listed with the starting pass rushers above. Albert Wilson, picked up from Kansas City, is incredibly talented for a No. 4 receiver. Frank Gore adds leadership as the team's backup running back. The secondary has strength in numbers.

» Then again, this is a team that needs contributions throughout the roster because it lacks top-shelf difference makers. Reshad Jones and Cameron Wake (now 36) are probably the best players on the entire roster. Kenyan Drake, the running back of seven career starts, has the best chance to be a standout of any offensive player if he keeps up his pace from late last season.

» Mike Gesicki's progress as a rookie will be key for the team's passing attack. Ryan Tannehill hasn't had a quality tight end throughout his tenure, and coach Adam Gase would love to line up two tight ends at a time. If Gesicki plays as well as he tested at the NFL Scouting Combine, the Dolphins could present a lot of matchup problems by spreading teams out with all their receivers.

» Danny Amendola, Wilson and Gesicki can make up for losing Jarvis Landry. The bigger question is how much better Tannehill can play than Jay Cutler -- or even 2016 Ryan Tannehill.

» Minkah Fitzpatrick was compared to Malcolm Jenkins by the Dolphins. That's a sign he'll be used as the team's nickel back on passing downs, often lining up against the opposing tight end. I'd expect T.J. McDonald to often act as a third safety/linebacker with Fitzpatrick in town.

New England Patriots

QB: Tom Brady
RB: Sony Michel
WR: Julian Edelman
WR: Chris Hogan
WR: Malcolm Mitchell
TE: Rob Gronkowski
LT: Isaiah Wynn
LG: Joe Thuney
C: David Andrews
RG: Shaq Mason
RT: Marcus Cannon

DE: Adrian Clayborn
DT: Danny Shelton
DT: Malcom Brown
DE: Trey Flowers
LB: Dont'a Hightower
LB: Kyle Van Noy
CB: Stephon Gilmore
CB: Jason McCourty
S: Devin McCourty
S: Patrick Chung
S: Duron Harmon

» For all the hand-wringing over Tom Brady's supporting cast, this starting group looks strong, with two new first-round picks added to the mix. Sony Michel should lead a committee group at running back because he adds a more explosive element to the offense than James White, Rex Burkhead and Jeremy Hill.

» Isaiah Wynn is lightly penciled in as Nate Solder's replacement. If the No. 23 overall pick starts, he'll be the shortest left tackle in football at 6-foot-2 3/4. The Patriots also have the option of moving him inside to left guard, with LaAdrian Waddle or trade acquisition Trent Brown as other options to protect Brady's blind side.

» The reserve-receiver battle here will be fierce. Not listed above: Jordan Matthews, Phillip Dorsett, Cordarrelle Patterson, Kenny Britt, sixth-rounder Braxton Berrios and special teams captain Matthew Slater.

» The Patriots' defense was undermanned throughout last season -- and it showed in the Super Bowl. A look at the current roster reveals far better depth, with four starters who were elsewhere or unavailable in February. While the team still doesn't have great pass-rushing talent, the additions of Danny Shelton and Adrian Clayborn -- as well as the return of last year's third-round pick, Derek Rivers -- provide more juice up front.

» Not listed above on defense: Second-round cornerback Duke Dawson and two Day 3 linebackers, Ja'Whaun Bentley and Christian Sam. Dawson could be the favorite for the team's nickel back role. Rookies forced to play too much last year -- like Adam Butler and Deatrich Wise -- can slide into reserve roles.

» Bill Belichick desperately needs to hit on some draft picks after a few dry years. It's an aging roster with many of the best younger players, most notably Trey Flowers and Shaq Mason, nearing free agency.

New York Jets

QB: Sam Darnold
RB: Isaiah Crowell
WR: Robby Anderson
WR: Jermaine Kearse
WR: Quincy Enunwa
TE: Chris Herndon
LT: Kelvin Beachum
LG: James Carpenter
C: Spencer Long
RG: Brian Winters
RT: Brandon Shell

DE: Leonard Williams
DT: Steve McLendon
DE: Henry Anderson
OLB: Jordan Jenkins
ILB: Avery Williamson
ILB: Darron Lee
CB: Trumaine Johnson
CB: Morris Claiborne
CB: Buster Skrine
S: Jamal Adams
S: Marcus Maye

» There is already a report that the Jets believe Sam Darnold can be the Week 1 starter over Josh McCown. The No. 3 overall pick will essentially be competing against himself all summer, because the Jets know exactly what McCown can do.

» Terrelle Pryor isn't even listed above, which demonstrates the Jets' quietly stellar receiver depth. Pryor could wind up as the team's No. 1 wideout or as a situational big-play maker. It's possible the team could cut bait with Jermaine Kearse's contract, but Gang Green should be happy to have a surplus of wideouts, considering the injury risk and boom-or-bust potential throughout this group. Quincy Enunwa is coming off a scary neck injury, while Robby Anderson could possibly face a league suspension.

» Darnold's bounty of pass catchers, including running back Bilal Powell, will have to make up for shortcomings elsewhere. The offensive line is below average, without a ton of upside to improve. The tight end position is perhaps the weakest in all of football, with Chris Herndon, Jordan Leggett and Clive Walford as options to start.

» It's worth wondering if Darnold will have to start over in a new offensive system a year from now, just like Mitchell Trubisky and Jared Goff did after their rookie seasons. While there are promising sections of this roster, the weaknesses (OL, pass rush, TE) are pronounced.

» The Jets have finished 28th and 29th in sacks the last two seasons. Their best outside pass rusher right now is ... Jordan Jenkins? Todd Bowles' defense will be led from back to front. While this is a terrific-looking secondary, counting on the back end to carry a defense is always a precarious way to win.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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