In our first part of this year’s outlook to the NFL Draft, we first start in the AFC East. This year we saw defending champion New England Patriots get a couple of kinks in the armor, as they had tough games against both Buffalo and New York. Can the Jets or Bills take the next step in beating the Pats for the divisional crown? And what about Miami, who looks to make sure their investments create playoff berths? Here is the official outlook for each team.
2015 Record: 12-4 (1st in Division)
Playoffs: Lost in AFC Championship (2nd in Conference)
Analysis: New England was a very good team last season, and coming off of deflate gate, it seemed as if they could go into the playoffs as the most dangerous team in the NFL. But then the injury flu hit the team and multiple players went down. This then affected them in the postseason, as they got shellacked and Tom Brady got brutalized by the Denver Broncos defense. They also have to go into this year without a first round pick due to the scandal of last year that led to them winning a Super Bowl.
Draft Picks: None in first round, 60th pick in second round, 92nd in third round
Postion/Player to focus on: Unfortunately, New England won’t have a high caliber player to pick in the first round so we can’t in particular highlight anyone they should go after. Now in the rest of the draft, the Patriots should focus on two areas, the linebacker corps and the offensive line. They need to keep Brady clean as he won’t be able to scramble outside the pocket and get positive yardage, plus it will allow Gronkowski or Edelman to get open and gain more yards. Defensively, they need to be able to rush the passer, especially from the linebacker and safety position. Now they kept their safety corps intact, but with the loss of Jerod Mayo, they need to pick someone up that won’t be a dynamite star, but can be a facilitative role as linebacker and is a system moldable player.
2. New York Jets
2015 Record: 10-6 (2nd in Division)
Playoffs: Did Not Qualify (7th in Conference)
Analysis: New York is known as the City that Never Sleeps. And the way this team played last season, if the team had two extra games, they could have been the team everyone would be scared to sleep on. Both sides of the ball for them deserved top marks, as Brandon Marshall was becoming a top 10 receiver again and Ryan Fitzpatrick was looking like himself from a couple of years ago. But unfortunately they missed the playoffs and were left with a huge problem: they have to resign A LOT of contracts. 23 players, including defensive anchor Muhammad Wilkerson and Tight End Kellen Davis among others. On top of that, count in the fact that a certain QB who played in San Francisco wants to be a J-E-T jet and the Jets front office is trying to deny it, the jets need another piece to this team.
Draft Picks: 20th in the first round, 51st in the second round, 83rd in the third round.
Players to Focus on: Austin Johnson, DT, Penn State and C.J. Prosise, RB, Notre Dame. Now both of these picks highlights will be linked in the names( big compliments go to Harris Highlights for pulling up their highlights), but these picks are cautionary and complimentary to both sides of the ball. If the Jets aren’t able to resign Wilkerson to a long-term deal, then Johnson fills that gap. He can play on both sides of the D-line, shed’s blocks like no one’s business and led all defensive tackles in the country this year. He is very technical in his approach to getting to the ball carrier: essentially think of Haloti Ngata fifteen pounds lighter and with a extremely high football IQ. Now lets get to Prosise. The kid started out as a safety, then they moved him to third on the depth chart at running back and he became an extremely good running back for the Fighting Irish. Now he is the same to me as Austin Johnson, he is a replacement or compliment if in this case, Chris Ivory or Stevan Ridley, leave the team. He runs almost like Todd Gurley of the L.A. Rams, just minus the power aspect that Gurley has. I think his addition would be something the team could capitalize on to win the division, if not more.
2015 Record:8-8 (3rd in Division)
Playoffs: Did Not Qualify (8th in Conference)
Analysis: Buffalo, like a lot of teams in the NFL last season, are a complete mystery. This team has the weapons, LeSean Mccoy and Sammy Watkins. It has a good defense. They even had Tyrod Taylor come in and play like a franchise qb. And they couldn’t get right. And now we add to the fact that they have no idea what they are going to do at QB, and that LeSean might not play a full or any of this upcoming season due to his off-the-field issues and transgressions.
Draft Picks: 19th in the 1st round, 49th in the 2nd round, and 80th in the third round.
Players to Focus on: Kolby Listenbee, WR, TCU. I think this playmaker would be good for the Bills for multiple reasons: One is they need someone just in case Sammy Watkins goes down again. I understand he is their playmaker, but his value to the team, especially if Tyrod is the quarterback, is necessary to winning in the division. Secondly, he can blow the top off the defense with his acute ability to make himself open for any throw and able to speed past multiple defenders in stride or in the teeth of a defensive setup. Finally, they need a guy that can offensively help them compete. Sure having Sammy Watkins is good, but the days of having one legit receiver as your offensive anchor are over. In this new league, you need multiple weapons.
4. Miami Dolphins
2015 Record: 6-10 (4th in Division)
Playoffs: Did Not Qualify (11th in Conference)
Analysis: You fell for it. Every last person that is, or was, a Miami Dolphin fan. Even Ndamukong Suh, a 5-star caliber talent fell for it. You all thought that with the addition of Suh, you would be world breakers, beat the Goliath that is the New England Patriots and go on to be in the postseason. And you were wrong, like 6-10, under .500 wrong. Get a General Manager, Head Coach who was replaced by the tight ends coach wrong. Have a star caliber player leave a playoff caliber team for a team that hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2008 wrong. But I digress, the Miami Dolphins are in for a world of hurt. I would love to say that the addition of head coach Adam Gase is a plus, but seeing how he was the offensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears, I can’t see it as anything other than a minus. On top of that, you also have to deal with the fact that the Fins need Cameron Wake to come back healthy after missing the entire season last year and Dion Jordan, who was suspended over a diluted drug test sample. This is going to be a rough go for the Miami Dolphin, but lets see what they can do to ease the pain.
Draft Picks: 8th in the 1st round, 42nd in the 2nd round and 73rd in the 3rd round.
Players To Focus On: TJ Green, Safety, Clemson. Now unfortunately Miami won’t fix the entire defense in a draft, but Tj Green could help out the team atleast this year. His run defense is out of this world and for what Miami wants to do, or atleast try, he fits right end. If picked, expect him to line up on the interior of the Suh and Wake, allowing him to rush the passer or stay close enough to stop a leak out pass to the running back.
So that does it for my outlook on the AFC East. Come back next week where we will be looking at the NFC’s Eastern division and the insanity that is the Dallas Cowboys.