AFC East draft analysis

April, 30, 2011
4/30/11
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The 2011 draft was short on sensationalism for the AFC East.

Even the sexiest pick was easy to rationalize. The New England Patriots took Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett, but the decision didn't seem out of whack in the third round.

Clubs went by the book. They bolstered need positions, concentrating on the trenches early. Very few red flags were raised.

But that doesn't mean the draft was dull.

Here are some draft highlights from the AFC East:

BEST MOVE

The AFC East's best decision of the draft was for the worst team to not get cute.

The Buffalo Bills didn't have to think when they filled out their draft card and sent it up to the commissioner. After the Denver Broncos selected Texas A&M outside linebacker Von Miller, the Bills rejected any thoughts about targeting a quarterback and pounced on Alabama defensive lineman Marcell Dareus, perhaps the safest pick in the entire draft.

Dareus immediately improves Buffalo's pitiful run defense and will help their anemic pass rush, too.

In fact, all four AFC East teams made prudent first-round decisions by reinforcing the lines.

The Miami Dolphins also eschewed quarterbacks, tabbing Florida center Mike Pouncey. The Patriots went with Colorado tackle Nate Solder. The New York Jets added Temple defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson.

RISKIEST MOVE

Had Mallett been taken in the first round or by a team that needed him to play right away, he would've gone down as the riskiest decision. But in the middle of the third round, no expectations to play and a solid infrastructure mitigate the hazards.

The Jets waited a long time between their first and next picks. When they were back on the clock at No. 94, they took Hampton defensive lineman Kenrick Ellis, a player the Jets rated as one of the top two nose tackles in this year's class.

But Ellis was suspended at South Carolina and kicked off the team, reportedly for drug use. Ellis also is facing felony assault charges -- he allegedly broke a man's jaw and nose last April on Hampton's campus. He's scheduled to stand trial in July and could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison if found guilty.

MOST SURPRISING MOVE

[+] EnlargeRas-I Dowling
Lee Coleman/Icon SMINew England took cornerback Ras-I Dowling instead of drafting pass-rush help.
Again, some people would say Mallett was a surprise. I didn't think so in the third round. That's the kind of value selection the Patriots are prone to make -- similar to Texas Christian offensive lineman Marcus Cannon, who tumbled into the fifth round after a recent cancer diagnosis.

The biggest surprise to me was New England's decision not to address its need for pass rush help with the 33rd overall pick. With Pittsburgh's Jabaal Sheard and Arizona's Brooks Reed on the board, Bill Belichick took Virginia cornerback Ras-I Dowling instead.

The Patriots then drafted running backs with back-to-back picks. They went into the draft with backfield needs. They were old last year and had only two backs -- BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead -- under contract.

They drafted California's Shane Vereen in the second round and then Louisiana State's Stevan Ridley 17 picks later in the third round.

It's hard to imagine either Green-Ellis (the AFC East's only 1,000-yard rusher last year) or Woodhead (electrifying fan favorite) being on the outs. So how do the Patriots figure they'll use all these guys?

FILE IT AWAY

The two AFC East teams unsettled at quarterback didn't draft one. The Bills and Dolphins avoided that position.

Each of the two AFC East teams with clear-cut quarterback situations drafted another. The Patriots added Mallett, and the Jets took Alabama's Greg McElroy in the seventh round.

The Jets aren't starting a quarterback controversy. Mark Sanchez is the unquestioned starter, and veteran backup Mark Brunell has another year left on his contract.

But here's an interesting fact: McElroy wore No. 17 his first two college seasons. He switched to No. 12 because it was worn at Alabama by his father's hero, Joe Namath.

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AFC EAST SCOREBOARD

Sunday, 11/30
Monday, 12/1