AFC East: 2014-2016 biggest stars AFC

AFC East's biggest future stars

July, 13, 2011
7/13/11
12:00
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AFC Future Stars: East | West | North | South NFC: East | West | North | South

A team-by-team look at the players I expect to be the most dominant in the AFC East from 2014 to 2016.

ESPN.com launched a series of stories this week in which we ponder the ultimate Dream Team of Tomorrow, players who should dominate the NFL in the three-year window from 2014 through 2016.

ESPN.com assembled offensive and defensive ballots for you to decide the starting lineup. But there are some prominent names missing from the AFC East. Regardless, here are my predictions for the best candidates from each club.

[+] EnlargeMarcell Dareus
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesMarcell Dareus could shore up a weak defensive line.
Marcell Dareus, Buffalo Bills defensive tackle: Dareus hasn't played an NFL game yet, but he arguably was the safest selection in this year's draft. The Bills were ecstatic to see him still on the board with their third selection. Dareus is immensely talented and versatile along the line. He can't help but make an immediate impact on Buffalo's meager defense and will get better. Dareus will draw multiple blockers and will help stop the run (Bills ranked 32nd) and get after the quarterback (only three teams had fewer sacks).

Jake Long, Miami Dolphins left tackle: Long is the obvious choice for the Dolphins. The top selection of the 2008 draft has been named to the Pro Bowl each of his three NFL seasons. He was voted first-team All-Pro last season. Some might consider outside linebacker Cameron Wake to be a good bet. He started in the Pro Bowl after recording 14 sacks in his second NFL season. But Wake isn't a youngster. He took a circuitous route to the big leagues and is 29 years old already -- and not even on the Dream Team of Tomorrow ballot. Does he have a better shot of being dominant at 32 than Long does at 29? Nope.

Jerod Mayo, New England Patriots inside linebacker: Mayo is the safe bet. He was voted first-team All-Pro after his third season and has proven himself a tackling machine. He should be a defensive star for many years. But the Patriots have a few other intriguing possibilities. Devin McCourty played left cornerback as a rookie and started in the Pro Bowl, but I give Mayo the edge because of his three-year track record. Rookie tight ends Rob Gronkowski (10 touchdowns last season) and Aaron Hernandez (2009 Mackey Award winner) didn't make the ballot somehow.

Darrelle Revis, New York Jets cornerback: He'll be 29 years old when the Dream Team of Tomorrow window opens, but he has been so dominant it's hard to pick any other Jet ahead of him. I realize All-Pro center Nick Mangold and Pro Bowl left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson are on the ballot, but Revis is as elite as they come. Revis is compared to Deion Sanders, who is considered the greatest cover corner of all-time. Dustin Keller was another AFC East tight end strangely left off the ballot.

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