AFC East: Courtney Upshaw

The time for mock drafts is coming to an end, as the actual NFL draft will be Thursday night. But ESPN draft experts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay provided their final mock drafts of 2012.

Here is how Kiper Insider and McShay Insider envision the first round going this week for the AFC East:

Miami Dolphins (No. 8 overall)

Kiper’s pick: Texas A&M QB Ryan Tannehill

McShay’s pick: Tannehill

Analysis: I haven’t seen a mock draft in a while that doesn’t have Tannehill going to Miami. The need for a quarterback of the future and Miami's interest in Tannehill are obvious. If he’s there at No. 8, I agree that Tennehill is the pick. There’s been some speculation that Tannehill could go as high as No. 3 or No. 4, but that rumor appears to be losing steam the week of the draft. Miami likes Tannehill, but certainly not enough to trade the farm. The Dolphins can sit tight and take their chances.

Buffalo Bills (No. 10)

Kiper’s pick: Notre Dame WR Michael Floyd

McShay’s pick: Floyd

Analysis: Both Kiper and McShay also agree on Buffalo's pick. As we mentioned several times in the AFC East blog, the Bills are in somewhat of an odd spot. I like Floyd as a prospect and he does fit a need. But I’m not a big proponent of taking wide receivers in the top 10, especially if they're not the top player at the position. I think the safest pick for Buffalo at No. 10 would be linebacker Luke Kuechly, but McShay and Kiper both have Kuechly off the board when Buffalo comes up. Floyd is a decent pick, but I would rather Buffalo trade back and get additional draft picks, if possible. Other receiver prospects such as Stephen Hill or Alshon Jeffery might be available to Buffalo at No. 41 near the top of the second round, and that would provide more value.

New York Jets (No. 16)

Kiper’s pick: North Carolina DE Quinton Coples

McShay’s pick: South Carolina DE Melvin Ingram

Analysis: These are both interesting selections for the Jets. New York would be jumping for joy if Ingram is available at No. 16. It’s one of the worst-kept secrets in the draft that the Jets are high on Ingram. He can add a pass-rush to Rex Ryan's defense. However, I'm skeptical that arguably the best pass-rusher in the draft will make it this far. Coples is a player whose stock is taking a dip. There are questions about his motor. I also think Coples is a better fit as a traditional 4-3 defensive end, as oppose to playing in a 3-4. Coples would be a decent value at No. 16, but he doesn't fit New York's scheme as well as Ingram.

New England Patriots (No. 27 and No. 31)

Kiper’s picks: Alabama OLB Courtney Upshaw and Notre Dame S Harrison Smith

McShay’s picks: Boise State OLB Shea McClellin and Smith

Analysis: Smith is being linked to New England a lot, and he is a prospect who is rising up the draft boards. The Patriots need help for their 31st-ranked pass defense. Smith has a good mix of intelligence and athleticism New England could use in its secondary. Both Kiper and McShay see the Patriots going outside linebacker with the No. 27 pick. I don't think New England could go wrong with Upshaw or McClellin. Both bring a good pass-rush.

AFC East mock draft board

March, 29, 2012
Wednesday we opened the floor for our first blogger mock draft of 2012. My vote counts for half and the community board counts for the other half.

The AFC East will stay true to our board. Here are the final results:

Miami Dolphins (No. 8 overall)

Analysis: The Dolphins are in a tough spot, despite having the best pick in the division. I do not like Tannehill at No. 8. But the Dolphins botched their quarterback situation so badly this offseason that I think they almost have to take Tannehill if he’s available. Matt Moore and David Garrard are not the long-term solutions and have just one year left on their contracts. Tannehill provides some hope, even if he’s just holding a clipboard in 2012. Reiff would fill a need, but I wouldn’t draft a right tackle in the top 10. I think Ingram would be solid at No. 8 to provide a pass rush opposite outside linebacker Cameron Wake.

Buffalo Bills (No. 10 overall)

Analysis: I was surprised how fast Floyd is moving up everyone's draft board. Buffalo fans lately are in love with the Notre Dame product. Floyd was the top choice on the community board. I’m still a little nervous about Floyd in the top 10, but he did make the end of my list. I still like Reiff here at left tackle. Buffalo rotated three players there last year, and they need a bookend to protect quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick’s blind side.

New York Jets (No. 16 overall)

Analysis: Power to the people on this one. I had the same three players as Jets fans in the AFC East blog. But Upshaw and Barron are so close in my book that I’m getting out of the way. If both are on the board, I’m trusting my Jets scouts and going with Upshaw. You'd better be right, Jets scouts. The New York media will get on my case very hard if I pass up the best safety in the draft for a bust, knowing that safety was a huge need.

New England Patriots (No. 27 and No. 31 overall)

Analysis: With two picks at the end of the first round, we went with the top five options. I knew this ballot would be all over the place. But here is what I like most: The final board is defense, defense, defense. That is something we can all agree on. Mercilus was the consensus top pick for myself and Patriots fans. Konz did make the top three, but he would be a backup behind Dan Connolly. Any defensive pick in the first round this year has a chance to start right away for New England's 31st-ranked defense.
The Buffalo Bills entered the 2012 offseason with a top priority of fixing its anemic pass rush. Two defensive ends and $142 million later, consider that problem solved with Mario Williams and Mark Anderson.

Now that the Bills set the edges of their new 4-3 defense, the team can focus on other areas. Let's get up to date on Buffalo's remaining needs and how this fits into the NFL draft.

Need No. 1: Left tackle

Analysis: The Bills are still searching for a blue-chip prospect to protect quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick's blind side. Left tackle was a revolving door in Buffalo last year, and that's a quick and easy way to lose games. This is a very important position that needs stability. I wouldn't be surprised if Buffalo takes a left tackle in the first round with the No. 10 overall pick. First-round possibilities include Iowa's Riley Reiff and Stanford's Jonathan Martin. Any top prospect at left tackle probably could start from Day 1 in Buffalo.

Need No. 2: Wide receiver

Analysis: The Bills re-signed leading receiver Steve Johnson before free agency. That gave Buffalo some relief in addressing this need right away. But the Bills pass a lot on offense and need another dynamic talent in the lineup. The Bills nearly signed Robert Meachem, who decided instead to go to the San Diego Chargers. That was the target Buffalo wanted. But there are probably a few receivers in the draft the Bills like.

Need No. 3: Outside linebacker

Analysis: The Bills took care of their defensive line, but their second level isn't that deep or talented. Nick Barnett is stable in the middle, but two outside spots remain a work in progress. Maybe Shawne Merriman has potential here. But he's coming off his second season-ending Achilles injury. No one knows at this point how well he can bounce back. The Bills also have a young linebacker in Danny Batten who has some potential. But can you start Batten for 16 games? An addition like Alabama's Courtney Upshaw could be solid. Upshaw is a good hitter who can also bring a pass rush off the edge. He could fall to the Bills at No. 10.