AFC East Team Needs
The AFC East is arguably the NFL’s worst division, even with the league’s best coach and reigning MVP at the top every year. With free agency in full swing and the NFL Draft quickly approaching, the teams of the AFC East have several opportunities to fill holes on their roster.
DL, QB, TE, LB, WR
The Dolphins have very little on their offense to look forward to for the foreseeable future. Kenyan Drake looks like he could be a solid running back for several years, but outside of that, there are several options in free agency and the draft to fill some positions and get younger as a team. With the release of Ndamukong Suh, there is a gaping hole on the defensive line and multiple options that could be available at the eleventh overall pick in the first round. Marcus Davenport and Da’Ron Payne are both good options that could start immediately on the defensive line. It would also benefit Miami to grab a quarterback as a contingency plan for Ryan Tannehill, who is coming off a torn ACL and has not made a single playoff start in his six years in the NFL. Julius Thomas does not seem to be a long-term answer at the tight end position for the Dolphins, and getting a linebacker to cornerstone the defensive front with Cameron Wake and a defensive lineman in the first round would be a strong base to build a defense around for the future. Finally, albeit signing Danny Amendola, finding another skill receiver to backup Amendola would help calm some of the question marks surrounding Amendola’s health and age.
New England Patriots-
OL, LB, S, QB, RB
Following another trip to the Super Bowl, the Patriots have lost several key pieces to free agency this offseason. Safety Malcolm Butler to Tennessee, wide receiver Danny Amendola to in-division foe Miami, and left tackle Nate Solder to New York leave holes at very important positions for New England to fill. Not even speaking of the new faces on the sidelines with the headsets on, the far and away from immediate need is a left tackle to protect Tom Brady’s blind side. After seven seasons on the Patriot offensive line, losing Solder leaves limited options on the free agency market to replace him. I’m looking for New England to fill this spot at their pick at the end of the first round, the most player that fits most would be Connor Williams out of Texas if he’s available at 31st overall. Dont’a Hightower’s injury in late October should propel the Patriots to try and find his replacement, as Hightower only appeared in five games last season should he find his way to the IR again. Bill Belichick has been able to win with a running back committee in the past, but I would look for New England to try and find an every-down running back that will last in the post-Tom Brady era. After trading away Jimmy Garoppolo, the Patriots have Brian Hoyer at the QB2 spot for long. Belichick’s specialty has always been finding those quarterback gems, so we might not know his name now but when Brady decides to hang it up he will have one of the most dominant franchises of the 21st century at his fingertips.
QB, WR, LB, OL, CB
After making it back to the playoffs for the first time since 1999, the Buffalo Bills still have a lot of work to do to compete in this division as long as number twelve is still suiting up every Sunday in Foxboro. Tyrod Taylor is out, and A.J. McCarron is in for Buffalo at quarterback, and with the quarterback depth in the draft, I’m looking for the Bills to keep moving up the board to grab their franchise guy. As of this writing, Buffalo has moved up nine spots in the first round to the twelfth overall pick, and I wouldn’t be surprised for them to move into the top five and make a deal with Denver. After losing Sammy Watkins last offseason, the Bills would want to draft or sign a veteran wide receiver to go with a young quarterback. I would look for Buffalo to be connected with Terrelle Pryor and Jordan Matthews as some of the best wide receivers left on the market. Lorenzo Alexander needs to be paired with another talented linebacker on the defensive side. Throw him in the mix with recent free agent signee Trent Murphy from Washington and up and coming cornerback Tre’Davious White, and the Bills have something to get excited about when LeSean McCoy is off the field. With a new quarterback on the way, the Bills need to make sure he is protected, and a revamped offensive line would pay big dividends in the long term. Finally, another talented cornerback to go opposite of White could set up the Bills defense for a long time.
New York Jets-
QB, DL, CB, TE, OL
Don’t fool yourself into thinking Josh McCown will be part of any of the Jets long-term plans at the quarterback position. After moving up to the number three overall pick, New York should be looking at either Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen or Lamar Jackson as Sam Darnold has a very good chance at being off the board at the third pick. Bryce Petty will be battling for the QB3 spot with Christian Hackenberg, where the loser of that competition will likely be out of a job. Mo Wilkerson was released following reports of tardiness to practice that left him on the bench for the final three games of the season allows for the Jets to reset on the defensive line. Staying on the defensive side of the ball, the Jets could use a cornerback to go with newly signed Trumaine Johnson. After losing Austin Seferian-Jenkins to Jacksonville, New York needs to add another big target for a young quarterback to rely on as they develop. To go along with the development of the quarterback, having big lineman that can pass protect well and allow for the passer to go through progressions will help the Jets in the long run in their rebuild.
Joe Skinner is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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