- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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Is it too early for the first NFL mock draft? Not according to ESPN draft guru Todd McShay.
ESPN's director of college scouting has been scouring the country this football season to find the best college prospects we will be talking about in the spring. Here is an early look at prospects McShay thinks could be coming to the AFC East:
Miami Dolphins (5-9)
Projected pick: No. 8
McShay's selects: USC QB Matt Barkley
Analysis: This would be the good pick for Miami at No. 8. The Dolphins need a long-term solution at quarterback and Barkley is someone the team can build around. I think Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck will be a star, but he will be gone with the first pick. Baylor's Robert Griffin III and Barkley both have strengths that I think you can build around. McShay projects Griffin going to the Washington Redskins at No. 7. But I think the Dolphins would be happy with either one. Barkley can compete with Matt Moore next year in training camp or sit a year and learn from the sidelines.
Buffalo Bills (5-9)
Projected pick: No. 10
McShay's selects: Iowa OT Riley Reiff
Analysis: I don’t like this pick for Buffalo. Reiff is a good player, and you rarely want to pass up offensive tackles. But I think Buffalo has too many holes on defense to pass up that side of the football with a top-10 pick. The Bills need playmakers on defense, particularly someone who can rush the passer. North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples would be ideal. But Buffalo may need to lose another game or two to move a few spots higher.
New York Jets (8-6)
Projected pick: No. 22
McShay's selects: South Carolina WR Alshon Jeffery
Analysis: For a team with so many talented starters, the Jets really lack depth at a lot of positions. Wide receiver is one of them, but I don’t think that’s New York’s most pressing need. I would prefer the Jets address their offense line, which would help their running and passing game. The Jets desperately need an upgrade at right tackle. Some possibilities late in the first round are Florida State’s Zebrie Sanders and Ohio State’s Mike Adams. Safety is another possibility, especially if the Jets allow Jim Leonhard to walk in free agency.
New England Patriots (11-3)
Projected pick: No. 29 (from New Orleans) and No. 31
Analysis: I like where McShay is going. New England has two picks, and he sees the Patriots going defense twice. I agree. New England's defense is nowhere near the level of its offense, and the draft should help. I think New England needs to focus on its secondary. I would consider the best safety available and maybe a corner with the second pick. Also consider New England has some young players coming back from injury, such as corner Ras-I Dowling. But whatever the Patriots do, they need to use their top picks and stop trading down. They need impact players.