Each week leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: under-the-radar needs.
Because the Bills have so many glaring needs such as left tackle, nose tackle and quarterback, nobody was thinking about running backs until Bills coach Chan Gailey mentioned Tuesday he was interested in adding a third-down option to his roster. Then everybody leaned back and nodded "Why, yes, the Bills do need that player." Gailey even went so far as to give a description: 5-foot-8-ish, 190 pounds-ish with quickness and receiving skills to complement the prototypical Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson.
You'd think the Dolphins would be set at cornerback. They have three good ones. Sean Smith and Vontae Davis were good enough to start 16 and nine games, respectively, last year as rookies. Will Allen was their top cornerback when he went down with a knee injury in Week 7. But teams never can have enough good cornerbacks, and there are no guarantees Allen will be back. He recently was busted for driving under the influence of alcohol and has had off-field problems before. The Dolphins also declined to bring back free-agent nickelback Nate Jones.
The Patriots could use another quarterback. Owner Robert Kraft will make sure Tom Brady, who's entering the final year of his contract, doesn't go anywhere. But the Patriots have the flimsiest backup quarterback situation in the AFC East if not the entire league. The lone reserve on the roster is Brian Hoyer, an undrafted rookie last year. The Patriots have cycled through several backup quarterbacks over the past three years in search of reliable help. They'll be on the lookout again next month.
The Jets need a kicker. They signed free agent Nick Folk a few weeks ago and seem comfortable with the thought of letting Jay Feely go. (He's a free agent exploring his options.) But the Jets can't be comfortable with Folk as his replacement. Folk is coming off a disastrous season in which he missed a kick in each of his final six games with the Dallas Cowboys. With a team that will win with defense first, head coach Rex Ryan needs to be able to count on his kicker. Don't expect the Jets to draft one anywhere near as early as they took Mike Nugent (47th overall in 2005), but they'll have kickers in mind.