AFC East: Draft Watch 2010

Draft Watch: AFC East

April, 21, 2010
4/21/10
1:00
PM ET
» NFC dream/Plan B: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

» Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

Each Wednesday 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: dream scenario/Plan B.

Buffalo Bills

The Bills have so many needs, they can go any number of directions and land the right player in the ninth slot. As ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay has forecasted, the Bills will make a pivotal pick that affects the rest of the draft. They could have the option of taking the third- or fourth-best offensive tackle on their board, Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen, Tennessee nose tackle Dan Williams or maybe even Clemson running back C.J. Spiller or Oklahoma State receiver Dez Bryant. Whomever they've identified as the player who can help them most would be their dream scenario. If stuck with any of the above names, he would make a fine Plan B. The dilemma, however, is if the Bills pass on Clausen, another quality quarterback prospect might not be around when they pick again at No. 41.

Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins needed help before Jason Taylor split for the New York Jets. The Dolphins' indifference toward Taylor would suggest they'd already identified a player to handle that job. The Dolphins would love to see Georgia Tech pass-rusher Derrick Morgan still on the board with the 12th selection. If Morgan isn't there and Williams hasn't been picked up yet, then the Dolphins wouldn't be upset to settle. They need a young nose tackle to hold down the middle of their 3-4 defensive line for the future. Veteran Jason Ferguson will open the season with an eight-game suspension.

New England Patriots

The Patriots own four picks from the 22nd through 53rd slots. That affords them flexibility to go after any number of positions with their first-round pick and then concentrate on others in the second round. The Patriots need to bolster their pass rush. Sergio Kindle from Texas and Brandon Graham seem like great fits for a Bill Belichick outside linebacker, but both could be gone by the time the Patriots are on the clock. USC defensive end Everson Griffen would be another prudent option here. Griffen has been generating some late buzz.

New York Jets

In many ways, the Jets already have held their draft. They've picked up a running back (LaDainian Tomlinson), receiver (Santonio Holmes), pass-rusher (Taylor), cornerback (Antonio Cromartie) and safety (Brodney Pool). The Jets still have needs, but none of them critical. They have the luxury of taking the best player available, and it won't be the wrong choice. But if the Jets want to draft a player who will start on opening night, then a safety would appear to be the position -- as the roster looks Wednesday morning -- to target. USC's Taylor Mays would look good in Jets gear. Of course, general manager Mike Tannenbaum has a penchant for trading up to grab the prospect he believes will make an impact. By Thursday night, a veteran on the roster could be traded to make room for a position that looks filled now.

Draft Watch: AFC East

April, 14, 2010
4/14/10
1:00
PM ET
» NFC decision-makers: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

» Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

Each Wednesday 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: The decision-makers.

Buffalo Bills

Several key members of the Bills' front office will be in unfamiliar roles for the draft. Rookie general manager Buddy Nix has been a consigliere for decades, but he has never overseen a draft. Assistant general manager Doug Whaley will be in Buffalo's war room for the first time after handling pro personnel for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Chan Gailey hasn't gone into a draft as the head coach for 11 years. The most prominent holdover is vice president of college scouting Tom Modrak. The Bills fired pro personnel chief John Guy after last season.

Miami Dolphins

This will be the third Dolphins draft for football operations boss Bill Parcells, general manager Jeff Ireland and head coach Tony Sparano. There's little doubt whose voice is most authoritative in the command center. Parcells handpicked Ireland and Sparano. Each is beholden to him. But that doesn't mean they're "yes" men. One of the qualities Parcells values most from his support staff is the ability to proffer a dissenting opinion. With that in mind, it's interesting Miami's director of college scouting is Chris Grier, son of former Patriots and Texans executive Bobby Grier. Parcells eventually left the Patriots after a disagreement with Bobby Grier about drafting receiver Terry Glenn. Parcells didn't want Glenn. Grier did. Patriots owner Robert Kraft sided with Grier, instigating Parcells' infamous "buy the groceries" lament.

New England Patriots

Patriots overlord Bill Belichick is entering his second draft without right-hand man Scott Pioli, who is now running the show in Kansas City. Belichick manages every personnel move within the organization. He receives help from senior football adviser Floyd Reese (the former Tennessee Titans general manager) and director of player personnel Nick Caserio, but Belichick has the first, second and final say. We've already noted Kraft reserves the right to get involved. But he won't go against a coach who has brought him three Lombardi trophies.

New York Jets

Parcells protégé Mike Tannenbaum is entering his fifth draft as general manager and his second with Rex Ryan. The opinionated coach has considerable say on whom the team selects, especially when it comes to defensive players. Tannenbaum isn't afraid to make moves on the fly, executing several trades to move up and select key players: quarterback Mark Sanchez, running back Shonn Greene, tight end Dustin Keller, cornerback Darrelle Revis and linebacker David Harris. Tannenbaum and Ryan lean on top college scout Joey Clinkscales, who interviewed to be Dolphins general manager before Ireland got the gig.

Draft Watch: AFC East

April, 7, 2010
4/07/10
1:00
PM ET
» NFC Approach: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

» Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

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: Draft approach.

Buffalo Bills

Buffalo's draft decision-makers have changed and morphed so often over the past decade there's no track record to suggest their strategy this year. Buddy Nix has been influential in past Bills' drafts, but this is his first go-round as general manager. We're not sure how much input new assistant GM Doug Whaley or new head coach Chan Gailey will have. But the front office is exuding a sense of direction it hasn't had in years. In their previous four drafts, nobody really knew who made the decisions and nobody would admit it. Former head coach Dick Jauron, top college scout Tom Modrak, former pro personnel director John Guy and former chief operating officer/GM Russ Brandon all were involved, but to what degree? Of that muddled group, only Modrak remains in his role.

Miami Dolphins

Maybe they're ready to loosen up now that a foundation has been established, but the Dolphins' modus operandi was pretty simple for the first two years under football operations czar Bill Parcells. They were coming off a 1-15 season and needed to be rebuilt carefully. Parcells, general manager Jeff Ireland and head coach Tony Sparano set out to make the safest picks. Because left tackles are surer things than quarterbacks, the Dolphins chose left tackle Jake Long first overall in 2008 and not Matt Ryan, for instance. Then the Dolphins came back in the second round for quarterback Chad Henne. In the first three rounds of the past two drafts, the Dolphins drafted a left tackle, two quarterbacks, two cornerbacks, two defensive ends and a wide receiver.

New England Patriots

Perhaps no club drafts with value in mind more than the Patriots do. Unlike the Jets, who'd rather shoot up in the order, the Patriots are more content to backpedal and collect more picks. In last year's draft, they started out with the 23rd selection, backed up to 26th and eventually ended up with the 41st, 73rd and 83rd. Dissatisfied with the talent pool and reluctant to invest first-round money in anybody on the draft board, the Patriots traded out of the first round completely and took four players in the second. The Patriots have an embarrassment of bargaining chips this year. New England is the only team with four choices in the first two rounds and already holds two selections in the 2011 first round. New England also led the league in compensatory picks, but those cannot be traded.

New York Jets

The Jets own the 29th selection of the draft, but it would be a stunner if they actually pick there. General manager Mike Tannenbaum is intrepid when it comes to making trades, famously moving up to nab cornerback Darrelle Revis, linebacker David Harris, quarterback Mark Sanchez and running back Shonn Greene within the past three drafts. Tannenbaum, however, might abandon the maverick approach this spring. The Jets have traded away so many draft choices, they need to replenish their depth for developmental purposes. That could mean moving back into the second round to collect more picks, or, at the very least, holding onto the ones they have. But if presented another chance to pounce, it'll be interesting to see if Tannenbaum succumbs to temptation.

Draft Watch: AFC East

March, 31, 2010
3/31/10
1:00
PM ET
» NFC History: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

» Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

Each Wednesday 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: History in that spot.

Buffalo Bills: The ninth spot has been a minefield in recent years. Although it's a premium pick, it hasn't produced a Pro Bowler. The Washington Redskins selected cornerback Carlos Rogers in 2005. He has been a consistent starter, but missed most of 2007 with a knee injury. Detroit Lions outside linebacker Ernie Sims started every game in his first three seasons but made only eight last year because of a shoulder injury and has been a disappointment. The Miami Dolphins used their ninth pick in 2007 on receiver Ted Ginn, a maddening player for Dolfans because he plays small. Cincinnati Bengals outside linebacker Keith Rivers has played in only 20 games in his two seasons, and Green Bay Packers defensive tackle B.J. Raji started one game as a rookie last year.

Miami Dolphins: The 12th selection has been far more rewarding than the ninth over the past five years, producing four players who have been selected to six Pro Bowls. The San Diego Chargers found linebacker Shawne Merriman there in 2005, followed by Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, Bills running back Marshawn Lynch and Denver Broncos left tackle Ryan Clady. Last year's No. 12 has a bright future, too. The Broncos grabbed running back Knowshon Moreno, who rushed for 947 yards and seven touchdowns as a rookie.

New England Patriots: Some intriguing players have fallen to the 22nd pick, which the Patriots own. The Minnesota Vikings were thrilled to see receiver Percy Harvin still on the board last year. The Dallas Cowboys snatched Felix Jones in 2008, and he could be their featured back this year. Although it didn't work out, the Cleveland Browns thought they'd drafted their franchise quarterback when they landed Notre Dame star Brady Quinn at No. 22 in 2007. In the two drafts before that, the San Francisco 49ers chose defensive end Manny Lawson and the Baltimore Ravens landed erratic receiver Mark Clayton.

New York Jets: The 29th overall selection has been good to the Jets before. That's where they picked up All-Pro center Nick Mangold in 2006. Other teams haven't been nearly as fortunate in that slot, but the New York Giants seem to have found a top prospect last year with receiver Hakeem Nicks. The others drafted at No. 29 over the past five years are 49ers defensive tackle Kentwan Balmer, Ravens guard Ben Grubbs and former Colts defensive back Marlin Jackson.

Draft Watch: AFC East

March, 26, 2010
3/26/10
1:00
PM ET
» NFC Under-The-Radar: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

» Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

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.

Buffalo Bills

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.

Miami Dolphins

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.

New England Patriots

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.

New York Jets

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.

Draft Watch: AFC East

March, 17, 2010
3/17/10
12:00
PM ET
» NFC Needs Revisited: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

» Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

Each Wednesday 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: Biggest needs revisited.

Buffalo Bills

The first "Draft Watch" installment broke down each team's biggest needs before the free-agency period began. Four weeks later, not much has changed for the Bills. Their positional priorities continue to be quarterback, left tackle and a nose tackle for their new 3-4 defense. The Bills have been judicious in their signings, and the players they've brought aboard haven't addressed major areas of concern. They've added right tackle Cornell Green, inside linebacker Andra Davis and defensive end Dwan Edwards.

Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins knew an inside linebacker was essential and threw a ton of money at the best one on the free-agent market. They made Karlos Dansby the highest-paid player at his position. But they haven't found a free safety after cutting last year's starter, Gibril Wilson, and failing to land Pittsburgh Steelers free agent Ryan Clark. Nose tackle remains a question mark. They re-signed veteran Jason Ferguson, but he'll be suspended for the first eight games for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances. The Dolphins' perennial need is at wide receiver, an area they've declined to address through free agency since misidentifying Ernest Wilford in 2008.

New England Patriots

The Patriots have four draft picks in the top 53 slots. They can address several positions that way. And maybe that's why they haven't been too active in free agency outside of re-signing their own players. Outside linebacker appears to remain a glaring need. Bill Belichick brought back last year's sacks leader, Tully Banta-Cain, but Adalius Thomas' future is in doubt. The Patriots may have tipped their hand about what they consider a need by getting involved in trade talks for Arizona Cardinals receiver Anquan Boldin. Last week's news that slot receiver Wes Welker underwent rotator cuff surgery creates that much more concern.

New York Jets

No team's needs have changed as much in the past four weeks as the Jets. General manager Mike Tannenbaum has been busy through trades and free agency. Tannenbaum said the Jets were destined to draft a cornerback with their first-round pick until they traded with the San Diego Chargers for Antonio Cromartie. The Jets haven't brought in any new receivers yet (unless you want to count running back LaDainian Tomlinson for what he adds out of the backfield), but something tells me Tannenbaum will make a trade to improve the receiving corps. As for the draft, the Jets could use safety help after trading Kerry Rhodes and must fortify their general depth on both sides of the ball, particularly on the lines.

Draft Watch: AFC East

March, 10, 2010
3/10/10
12:00
PM ET
» NFC Recent History: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

» Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

Each Wednesday 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: Recent history.

Buffalo Bills: It's a safe bet their objective won't be to draft defensive backs. The Bills have many shortcomings, but their secondary isn't among them. Thanks to former head coach Dick Jauron's obsession with defensive backs, the Bills have a glut there. Of the 18 players they selected the past two drafts, a third of them played cornerback or safety. The Bills are bleak at offensive tackle because they've chosen one, seventh-round project Demetrius Bell, in the past three years. In fact, you'd have to search back to 2002 to find a tackle they selected before the fifth round. The Bills are switching to a 3-4 defense this year, so it might be enlightening to know they haven't selected any defensive tackles -- let alone one who would be an effective NFL nose tackle -- three draft classes in a row.

Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins still are trying to recover from their disastrous 2007 draft class. Only three players remain on their roster, a disappointing receiver (ninth overall pick Ted Ginn), a pedestrian defensive tackle (fourth-rounder Paul Soliai) and a punter (seventh-rounder Brandon Fields). That was the last draft conducted by former GM Randy Mueller. The Dolphins were in such disrepair, new football ops boss Bill Parcells focused on the staples. Of the 18 picks under Parcells, seven were linemen. Eleven offensive players were chosen, but only two running backs, two receivers and one tight end. That would suggest they'll target defense in this year's draft, but they've been aggressive in addressing their needs through free agency so far. Safety, outside linebacker and nose tackle are positions to watch -- for now.

New England Patriots: The loose pattern the past three springs has been to draft defensive backs early and offensive linemen late. In that span, the Patriots selected a cornerback or a safety in the first or second round of each class and have taken five O-linemen (six if you count long-snapper Jake Ingram) in the fourth round and later. Only 11 of the 28 players they've drafted were offensive players, which is a significant reason why the Patriots have the NFL's oldest group of players on that side of the ball. The trend would indicate it's time to get younger there, especially in the backfield. The Patriots have selected one running back since 2007, calling Central Connecticut State's Justise Hairston that year in the sixth round.

New York Jets: A look at the Jets' three-year track record suggests they're famished for draft choices. Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum has a fondness for bartering picks to move up in the draft order. As a result, they selected just three players last spring and four in 2007. So few incoming prospects hurts organizational development, and with so many positions seemingly set, the Jets need to focus on drafting as many rookies as possible next month. When they traded for cornerback Antonio Cromartie, they were sure to send a 2011 draft choice. They sent Kerry Rhodes to the Arizona Cardinals for a fourth-round pick this year and a seventh-rounder next year.

Draft Watch: AFC East

March, 3, 2010
3/03/10
12:00
PM ET
» NFC Schemes/Themes: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

» Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

Each Wednesday 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: Schemes and themes.

Buffalo Bills: As if the Bills didn't have enough holes to fill, they've chosen to overhaul their defense. New coach Chan Gailey and defensive coordinator George Edwards are converting a Tampa 2 defense into a 3-4. They're missing the keystone of that scheme, a blocker-absorbing nose tackle. Logic would suggest the Bills draft either a nose tackle or an offensive tackle with the ninth overall pick, but they had the need for a left tackle last year and selected pass-rusher Aaron Maybin with the 11th pick. The 3-4 switch is good news for Maybin because he was invisible as a rookie and projects better as an outside linebacker. Still, the Bills will need to infuse that position with more talent in this transformation.

Miami Dolphins: Because quarterbacks coach David Lee and offensive coordinator Dan Henning were the Wildcat innovators, many look at their draft needs through that prism. They didn't disappoint the prognosticators last year when they reached to draft scat quarterback Pat White in the second round for the purposes of using him in their direct-snap offense. I'd be surprised if the Dolphins drafted for Wildcat purposes again this year. White's selection was a disappointment. He was no threat as a passer, and the coaches couldn't figure out a way to use him. Another theme to watch is how the Dolphins draft linebackers. They didn't like the way their linebackers performed under defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni, inside linebackers coach Edwards (now with the Bills) and outside linebackers coach Jim Reid. All three coaches are gone.

New England Patriots: The Patriots have incredible flexibility entering the draft with four selections among the top 53 slots. They can go any direction they choose, but will Bill Belichick keep his picks or barter them? The Patriots have tweaks to make all over the place, particularly on defense. Fortunately for the organization, Belichick has a much better success rate when it comes to identifying defensive players early. Some of the Patriots biggest draft mistakes on Belichick's watch have been on offense. They found a keeper with left guard Logan Mankins, but didn't connect on such prospects as tight ends Daniel Graham and Benjamin Watson and receivers Chad Jackson and Bethel Johnson. Running back Laurence Maroney has been a contentious pick, too.

New York Jets: General manager Mike Tannenbaum said at the NFL scouting combine Friday the organization isn't placing any extra importance on collecting draft picks, but the Jets need to sow young talent onto their roster. Over the past three years, the Jets have traded away most of their draft picks to move up in the order and select players such as cornerback Darrelle Revis, linebacker David Harris, quarterback Mark Sanchez and running back Shonn Greene -- all successes to date. But their ranks have been thinned with only three draft picks last year and 13 since 2007. The Jets have used undrafted free agents and castoffs from other teams to fill out their roster, a philosophy that's difficult to maintain for the long haul. The Jets also are affected by the "final eight" plan that prevents them from signing unrestricted free agents until they lose one. A plump draft class would do the Jets wonders.

Draft Watch: AFC East

February, 17, 2010
2/17/10
12:00
PM ET
» NFC Draft Watch: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Each Wednesday 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: biggest team needs.

Buffalo Bills

The Bills had craters to fill on both sides of scrimmage before new coach Chan Gailey came aboard and decided to switch to a 3-4 defense. That has created more positional needs. Critical to pulling off that defensive transformation is identifying a classic, run-stopping, multiple-blocker-occupying nose tackle. One doesn't exist on their roster.

But where the Bills really need to upgrade is at offensive tackle and quarterback for an offense that has rated 30th, 25th, 30th, 30th, 28th, 25th and 30th the past seven seasons. They neglected left tackle after trading Pro Bowler Jason Peters before last year's draft. They passed on budding star Michael Oher. Without that piece, can the Bills afford to draft a quarterback ninth overall, pay him the type of money he would command and expect him to develop behind a feeble line?

Miami Dolphins

For the third offseason in a row, receiver is Miami's sexiest offseason need. Dolfans have been begging for downfield help, and the necessity has been augmented now that Chad Henne is the quarterback. The Dolphins got by with a collection of possession receivers because of Chad Pennington's pinpoint, midrange arm. A reliable deep threat would benefit Henne.

The Dolphins have a decision to make at nose tackle. Incumbent Jason Ferguson is coming off a season-ending leg injury and will turn 36 next season. If the Dolphins look elsewhere, then that's a big hole.

No matter what, they must improve at inside linebacker and free safety, the positions most responsible for surrendering big play after big play throughout the season. Last year's free safety, Gibril Wilson, was paid well and gave up costly plays. Inside linebackers Channing Crowder and Akin Ayodele simply aren't playmakers. They combined last year for one sack, one interception, one forced fumble and two recoveries.

New England Patriots

Crucial to the Patriots' offseason is finding pass-rushers, either through free agency or the draft. They're rice-paper thin at outside linebacker, where unrestricted free agents Tully Banta-Cain and Derrick Burgess were first (9.5) and tied for second (five) on the team in sacks. It's hard to imagine Adalius Thomas remaining on the roster. Defensive end is another area of concern. Bill Belichick dealt Richard Seymour in training camp. Jarvis Green is unrestricted.

On offense, it would sound laughable to say this a year ago, but the Patriots need receiver help. They never located a legitimate third option last season. Randy Moss showed his volatile side for the first time as a Patriot. Wes Welker has a long recovery from knee surgery ahead. Tight end is another unsettled spot. Benjamin Watson is unrestricted, and even if he comes back, the Patriots never seem comfortable there.

New York Jets

A year ago, the Jets embarked on what appeared to be massive renovations. Now they're tweaking. On offense, receiver is an area to concentrate on. Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery are a nice start, but the Jets couldn't find trustworthy help beyond that. Whether they add a wideout or a slot target, Mark Sanchez could use help as the Jets develop into a more balanced offense.

Offensive line and defensive end are places where the Jets are getting older. The Jets are not compelled to find starters in either area, but they're in desperate need of depth players they can groom for the future. General manager Mike Tannenbaum isn't afraid to barter draft picks, and the result has been just 13 selections over the past three Aprils, including three last year. When you're constantly filling out the back end of your roster with undrafted rookies and castoffs, depth can suffer a long time.

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