Published On: Mon, Apr 16th, 2018

Identifying the biggest need for every AFC East team

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theScore goes division by division to identify the biggest positional needs for all 32 NFL teams entering the 2018 draft, which will be held from April 26-28.


Buffalo Bills

Biggest need: QB
Secondary needs: OL, WR, LB

After the Bills traded Tyrod Taylor to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for a third-round pick, an opening at quarterback became readily apparent. Although the Bills signed AJ McCarron, that position is the most pressing need for a team otherwise poised to contend for its second consecutive playoff bid.

Buffalo traded tackle Cordy Glenn to Cincinnati, while guard Richie Incognito, who featured in the past three Pro Bowls, announced his retirement, creating an immediate need on the offensive line. While the unit currently sports five functional starters, a strong offensive line is imperative to Buffalo’s run-heavy scheme. The Bills currently sport one of the weakest wide receiver cohorts in the league and Zay Jones’ status could be in jeopardy after a scary off-field incident. They could also use an immediate upgrade at inside linebacker, where Matt Milano and Tanner Vallejo are currently penciled in.

Potential draft targets: This is all contingent on what the Bills opt to do with their two first-round picks (No. 12 and 22), with many believing they’ll trade up for a premium quarterback. If the Bills trade up for a top-six selection, UCLA’s Josh Rosen or Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield could be in play. Louisville’s Lamar Jackson should also be available if the Bills elect to stay put.

If Buffalo holds onto the No. 22 pick, it could upgrade at guard by selecting UTEP’s Will Hernandez, find an NFL-ready wide receiver in Alabama’s Calvin Ridley, or select a plug-and-play linebacker in Boise State’s Leighton Vander Esch. Ultimately, the Bills’ strategy remains unclear until it’s known what they plan to do with the No. 12 and 22 picks.

Miami Dolphins

Biggest need: TE
Secondary needs: QB, OL, LB

Miami’s offseason strategy baffled many analysts and it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if the club dropped to the bottom of the AFC East. Though the Dolphins have many needs, the team is currently projected to start MarQueis Gray at tight end, who recorded a single catch in 16 games last year. Yikes.

It’s possible the Dolphins elect to move on from Ryan Tannehill with the draft featuring one of the deepest quarterback classes in recent memory. It’s clear the Dolphins have a finite ceiling with Tannehill aboard, and entering his age-30 season, his inconsistency can’t be justified under the guise of potential. If the Dolphins move on from him, they’d do their new quarterback a huge favor by upgrading at center and right guard from the sub-par Daniel Kilgore and Jesse Davis, respectively.

Potential draft targets: There isn’t a tight end worthy of the No. 11 pick, but if the Dolphins elect to trade down to satisfy their biggest need, South Dakota State’s Dallas Goedert presents matchup nightmares for defenders. South Carolina’s Hayden Hurst is another option.

It’s more likely Miami fills its need at quarterback at No. 11, where Mayfield and Jackson still ought to be available. In the event the draft’s consensus top-five quarterbacks are off the board, Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph could get a look here.

New England Patriots

Biggest need: DE
Secondary needs: LB, RB, DT

The Patriots’ lack of edge talent was exposed throughout the 2017 season and culminated in a Super Bowl loss to the Eagles, in which they failed to put any pressure on Nick Foles. Despite generally refusing to use its picks on certain positions, New England should go after a premium rusher for the first time since selecting Chandler Jones in 2012.

Dont’a Hightower is expected to return from injury but the Patriots’ alarming lack of depth will need to be addressed during the draft. It is often assumed Bill Belichick can use a motley crew of linebackers and mold them into a cohesive unit, but this proved to be unfiltered hubris in 2017 and New England has to find a way to attack at the line of scrimmage this fall.

Potential draft targets: Armed with two first-round picks (No. 23 and 31), the Patriots have more draft capital than they’ve had since 2012. New England could use either, or both picks on edge and inside talent. Boston College’s Harold Landry, Alabama’s Rashaan Evans, UTSA’s Marcus Davenport, and Ohio State’s Sam Hubbard all should be high on its draft board.

If the Patriots are looking for a running back, LSU’s Derrius Guice is in their range with Penn State’s Saquon Barkley certain to be off the board after the first seven picks. New England could always pull the nuclear option and use both of its picks to trade up to take Barkley, a nightmare for 31 other teams.

New York Jets

Biggest need: QB
Secondary needs: LB, WR, TE, CB

Although the Jets should be lauded for signing Teddy Bridgewater to a reasonable deal this summer, their quarterback scenario remains unsolved. Bridgewater is coming off one of the most horrific injuries in recent memory while Josh McCown serves as a reliable, stop-gap option. Until the Jets solve this problem, they cannot escape the trenches of the AFC East basement.

New York desperately needs to replenish its wide receiver corps, even if Robby Anderson emerged as a revelation in 2017. Aside from Anderson and Jermaine Kearse, the Jets struggle to stretch the field and it’s paramount they find another playmaker.

Potential draft targets: New York traded up for the No. 3 overall pick, which should allow it to find its elusive franchise quarterback. It’s possible any of USC’s Sam Darnold, Wyoming’s Josh Allen, Rosen, and Mayfield will be in play here, and it ought not to be a surprise if Jackson ends up here, either.

If the Jets want to use the No. 3 pick on the best player available, NC State’s Bradley Chubb and Barkley could be in play. It’s unlikely the Jets use the No. 3 pick on a linebacker, especially after trading up, but if they unexpectedly trade down, Georgia’s Roquan Smith is an off-the-wall candidate here.

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)

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