AFC East: Vernon Gholston

Morning take: Bills smokescreen?

April, 25, 2012
4/25/12
8:00
AM ET
Here are the most interesting stories Wednesday morning in the AFC East: Morning take: In the week of the draft, this has smokescreen written all over it. Buffalo has two starting-caliber safeties and other needs, such as left tackle, receiver and corner. This sounds like drumming up interest for the No. 10 overall pick.
Morning take: Light made up his mind that he's calling it a career. The Patriots are well-prepared after taking first-round pick Nate Solder in 2011.
Morning take: Clinkscales had his hits (Nick Mangold, Darrelle Revis) and misses (Vernon Gholston) in New York. But it appears he is taking his talents to the Oakland Raiders.
  • Miami Dolphins linebacker Cameron Wake was the only no-show for Tuesday's start of voluntary minicamp.
Morning take: Wake's show/no-show routine might get interesting. It appears things will get resolved. But I don't think this issue goes away until Wake gets a new contract.

AFC East links: Haynesworth back in action

August, 24, 2011
8/24/11
9:36
AM ET
Buffalo Bills

After expressing his displeasure with his apparent place on the Bills' depth chart, Fred Jackson has been told he will start Saturday's preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

As he entered camp as a projected starter, safety George Wilson has displayed more confidence, according to teammates.

Miami Dolphins

Reggie Bush admits that he's taken some added motivation with him to his new home in Miami.

Armando Salguero of The Miami Herald says the Dolphins have nothing to lose by signing running back Larry Johnson.

New England Patriots

It's still only an exhibition game, but Saturday's matchup with the Detroit Lions will have some meaning for the Patriots.

Albert Haynesworth returned to practice on Tuesday, and the Patriots hope that's a permanent development.

New York Jets

Mark Cannizzaro of the New York Post on Vernon Gholston's comments that Rex Ryan never gave him a fair shot while Gholston was with the Jets. "For all the chances and the kid-gloves treatment Ryan gave Gholston -- not to mention the $20 million in guaranteed money he got from the Jets for simply being drafted that high in '08 -- that's not a position he should have put Ryan in with those comments Monday night."

Shonn Greene says he expects to play against the New York Giants on Saturday night.

AFC East links: Gholston casts blame

August, 23, 2011
8/23/11
9:02
AM ET
Buffalo Bills

Count running back Fred Jackson among those surprised when he learned he wouldn't be starting the Bills' second preseason game last week. "I was shocked," Jackson said. "I feel like a No. 1 back, and I should be treated like one. As far as what's going on, you would have to ask them. I'm going to come out here and compete. I feel like I have been competing. I feel like I have done everything I can. It's been like that for two or three years, and nothing has changed."

After missing last season with an injury, linebacker Danny Batten isn't taking playing football for granted.

Miami Dolphins

Coach Tony Sparano has been impressed with the lack of mental errors from cornerbacks Sean Smith and Vontae Davis.

Anthony Fasano isn't flashy, but the Dolphins know they can always count on the veteran tight end to get the job done.

New England Patriots

Despite what appeared to be a very solid performance in the Patriots' latest preseason game, Logan Mankins says there is still room for the offensive line to make improvements.

Gerry Callahan of the Boston Herald is anything but a fan of Albert Haynesworth.

New York Jets

Former Jets first-round draft pick Vernon Gholston says he never got a fair shot to succeed under Rex Ryan.

Saturday’s Jets-Giants matchup, according to Plaxico Burress, is just "another football game."

What's the opposite of power rankings?

July, 14, 2011
7/14/11
10:50
PM ET
In response to the relentless stream of power rankings that have sustained us through the lockout, friend of the blog Bill Barnwell recently compiled his list of the NFL's 25 least valuable players at Grantland.com.

You probably can guess a few players with AFC East connections. Surprisingly not listed, however, was former New York Jets defensive end Vernon Gholston.

Here are the players with strong AFC East ties on Barnwell's chart, with No. 1 being the worst (as opposed to best of the least):

Best of NFL: AFC East coaches

June, 29, 2011
6/29/11
2:00
PM ET
Best of NFC: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

As part of the Best of the NFL Week on ESPN.com, here are five bests for the AFC East:

Best at telling it like it is, Chan Gailey: Many would expect the Jets' Rex Ryan to be my pick here. But Ryan uses the microphone to talk up his players too often -- even when they don't deserve it. Ryan has fawned over Vernon Gholston and has a tendency to hype up unproven youngsters. But the Bills' Gailey has demonstrated a refreshing candor when evaluating his players. He has no patience for silliness and has publicly criticized outside linebacker Aaron Maybin and cornerback Leodis McKelvin. Before the 2009 draft, Gailey said he wanted to draft a scatback. The Bills selected Clemson running back C.J. Spiller ninth overall.

[+] EnlargeRex Ryan
Jeff Zelevansky/Icon SMIRex Ryan showed off his sense of humor during a media conference by dressing as his twin brother Rob of the Cleveland Browns.
Best sense of humor, Rex Ryan: He steps to the lectern for news conferences with one-liners jotted down and ready to fire, frequently quotes his favorite comedies and can hold his own with David Letterman. Ryan's rapier wit likely was sharpened by daily debates growing up with twin brother Rob Ryan. Before facing Rob Ryan and the Cleveland Browns last season, Rex Ryan wore a wig to publicly ridicule his brother. What makes Rex Ryan's brand of comedy even more endearing is that his favorite punchline is himself.

Best grinder, Tony Sparano: For these Best of the NFL blog posts, we were provided a list of categories we could choose from. And every time I see the word "grinder," I immediately think of Miami's Sparano because when NFL Network reporter Albert Breer and I get together we have a running joke that's probably humorous only to us and annoying to everyone around us. I do a poor impersonation of Sparano that cracks us up, and in it, Sparano talks about how proud he is that his guys are grinding. I just did a search of "Sparano" and "grind" in my email archives, and it turned up in 19 Sparano interview transcripts dating back to June 2009.

Best coach-GM tandem: Bill Belichick and Bill Belichick: You can't argue with the track record. While the New York Jets' tandem of Ryan and Mike Tannenbaum has been highly successful, reaching the AFC Championship Game in back-to-back seasons, no other AFC East coach or GM has won a Super Bowl. Belichick has won three titles while, in effect, handling both roles.

Best ego manager, Rex Ryan: The other three coaches don't have much tolerance for egos. Ryan, on the other hand, welcomes personalities big and small -- just as long as they can play. Ryan encourages players to be themselves and to express their opinions. Ryan has taken on players other teams couldn't handle anymore, namely receivers Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes and cornerback Antonio Cromartie.

Rex Ryan answers message board hecklers

May, 25, 2011
5/25/11
8:32
AM ET
ESPN The Magazine writer Sam Alipour carried out a novel assignment. He presented Rex Ryan a bundle of criticisms pulled from the Internet and asked the Jets coach to address them.

The results were interesting.

Ryan was disparaged for being a bad clock manager, disingenuous about Mark Sanchez, a motor mouth, a hypocrite, a poor drafter and a little more into feet than the average dude.

The most pointed (and deserving) criticism dealt with Ryan blasting pass-rusher Vernon Gholston in "Play Like You Mean It," Ryan's recently released autobiography. Ryan called the sixth overall draft choice from 2008 a phony after talking up Gholston the past two summers as a player on the rise.

Ryan's response:
"There's not a phony bone in my body, but if I could change a couple of words in the book, that would be one of them. Anyway, when I called Vernon a phony, I was talking to Eric Mangini about his combine numbers; he never played to those numbers. Vernon is a great person, and he got better as a player the two years I had him. And I don't kiss anybody's butt."

The Jets released Gholston after last season. He failed to record a sack in three seasons and will forever be known as one of the worst two or three busts in Jets history.

Jets tab Muhammad Wilkerson at No. 30

April, 28, 2011
4/28/11
11:35
PM ET
Wilkerson
Wilkerson
The New York Jets drafted defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson with the 30th pick Thursday night.

Why the Jets took him: The Jets have needed to get younger and better on the defensive line for a couple years. They had only 8.5 sacks from their defensive linemen last season, ranking 29th in the league. Veteran defensive end Shaun Ellis had 4.5 of them, but he is a free agent and will turn 34 in June.

How it affects the roster: The Jets' depth chart is wide open at defensive end if they don't bring Ellis back in 2011. Ellis' backup, Vernon Gholston, was previously released.

Scouts Inc. says: Consistently fires off the ball and gets into the pads of OL. Strong at point of attack. Can stack and shed as well as any 5-technique in this class. Has great size with good lower-body strength and excellent upper-body power. Can anchor versus the run but is also very adept at finding the ball, disengaging, pursuing and making the play.

Rex Ryan's book doesn't tell all, but enough

April, 27, 2011
4/27/11
11:00
AM ET
When I heard Rex Ryan was working on an autobiography, I wondered what he could put on those pages that we didn't already know.

Ryan has been an open, nearly unabridged book his entire life. It's one of the main reasons he's so beloved by his players and fans. Since he became head coach of the New York Jets two years ago, seemingly every aspect of his life has been reported.

But it turns out Ryan's entertaining style makes "Play Like You Mean It" a page-turner with fresh ideas and revelations.

About the only aspect of his life not illuminated was last year's foot-fetish storyline, but he did comment on the Jets' other prominent scandals that drew league investigations: the Ines Sainz sexual harassment claim and the Sal Alosi sideline trip of Miami Dolphins gunner Nolan Carroll.

ESPNNewYork.com's Rich Cimini previewed the book and shared some of the sexier passages.

Ryan gave details about the transition away from Brett Favre, revealed his disgust over Tony Dungy's criticism of his language and knocked former players such as safety Kerry Rhodes and defensive draft bust Vernon Gholston.

Ryan called Rhodes "a selfish-ass guy. He wouldn't work and he was a Hollywood type, flashing and needing attention."

While still defensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens, Ryan said he warned then-Jets head coach Eric Mangini not to draft Gholston.

"Truth be told, I didn't like the kid coming out of college," Ryan said. "He's a good athlete and a smart guy, but I thought he was a phony."

Ryan also took a dig at New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who last year spat how much he hated the Jets.

"I really don't know Tom Brady, but who wouldn't hate him?" Ryan said. "Look at his life. Actually, look at his wife. Every man in America hates Tom Brady, and he should be proud of that."

First round is coming, but at what cost?

April, 26, 2011
4/26/11
10:20
AM ET
Long/GholstonDoug Murray/Icon SMIBoom (Jake Long) or bust (Vernon Gholston), teams have spent plenty on first-round picks since 2000.
Buffalo Bills general manager Buddy Nix recently said rare circumstances would be required to trade the club's third overall draft choice. He sounded fixed on making that pick, even though he has no idea how much it will cost him.

There's curiosity over what the New England Patriots will do with their abundance of draft assets. They have enough picks that they could trade up into the top 10. Yet they don't know how rich that territory will be.

We know the NFL draft will begin Thursday night. Unclear are the dollars it will take to sign those picks.

Rookie cost controls almost certainly will be part of the next collective bargaining agreement, but will that deal be hammered out before the 2011 season?

If not, then teams might operate under last year's rules. That would mean more outrageous guaranteed dollars to prospects who haven't snapped an NFL chinstrap. A league source calculated NFL teams have committed over $3.154 billion in guarantees to first-round draft choices since 2000.

The Associated Press reported the NFL's proposal for a rookie pay system -- made before the lockout -- included $300 million in diverted funds that instead would go to veteran contracts and player benefits and slow the rapid growth of guaranteed first-round money (up 233 percent since 2000).

The money would be saved by shrinking the already-in-place rookie salary pool system, where the league allocates a certain number of dollars to be spent based on the number of picks and their spots in the order.

Also in the reported proposal: first-round contracts would be capped at five years under the proposal. All other draft picks would be capped at four years. The player's maximum allowable salary would go down if he hadn't signed by training camp, a deterrent to holding out.

Buffalo News reporter Mark Gaughan recently estimated the Bills would save roughly $15 million on their No. 3 pick with rookie cost controls. That certainly would make another Aaron Maybinesque pick more digestible.

With all this in mind, let's examine how much guaranteed money AFC East clubs have spent on their first-round draft picks since 2000. Data provided from the aforementioned league source shows the Patriots have spent most efficiently, the New York Jets have spent the most total dollars and the Miami Dolphins have spent the most per player.

The Dolphins have drafted eight first-rounders since 2000 and spent an average of $12.043 million in guaranteed money. That figure ranks eighth among all NFL clubs, but those players averaged only 37 starts for Miami.

Only the Buffalo Bills averaged fewer starts from their first-rounders at 36.2, but the Bills rank 19th in average guaranteed dollars committed.

Left tackle Jake Long's mammoth contract inflates Miami's dollar figure. The top 2008 pick became the highest-paid offensive lineman in NFL history days before commissioner Roger Goodell said Long's name at Radio City Music Hall. Running back Ronnie Brown was rewarded with $19.5 million guaranteed as the second pick in 2005.

Those picks were successful, but the Dolphins also committed $13.865 million to receiver Ted Ginn, $9.016 million to cornerback Jason Allen and $7.133 million to defensive end Jared Odrick.

The Jets' massive guarantee total includes left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson ($29.6 million), quarterback Mark Sanchez ($28 million), outside whatever Vernon Gholston ($21 million), cornerback Darrelle Revis ($14.7 million) and defensive tackle Dewayne Robertson ($14.7 million).

There are a couple royal busts in there, but the Jets still have spent relatively well. Despite picking in roughly the same average first-round slot as the Dolphins and Bills since 2000, the Jets have averaged nearly 61 starts per player.

The Bills' big-ticket items have been running back C.J. Spiller ($18.9 million), left tackle Mike Williams ($14.4 million) and Maybin ($10.9 million).

Buffalo's first-round picks ranked 19th in the NFL when it came to average guaranteed dollars.

The Patriots have committed eight figures in guaranteed money to only two of their 10 first-round selections since 2000 because of their penchant to trade back. Their average first-rounder is taken 20.7th overall.

Inside linebacker Jerod Mayo ($13.8 million) and defensive end Richard Seymour ($11 million) are the Patriots' lone top-10 picks under Bill Belichick and look like basement bargains compared to other names mentioned above.

Tracking starters in recent AFC East drafts

April, 22, 2011
4/22/11
2:53
PM ET
While working on a feature about Tom Modrak's draft record as Buffalo Bills vice president of college scouting, ESPN researcher John Fisher dug up some interesting data.

The Bills actually were the AFC East's most efficient club when it came to drafting starters since Modrak came aboard in 2002.

Several factors certainly play into that from team to team. Importance of the position, holes that allow for immediate contributions and reliance on free agents to fill out a roster all make a difference. So do the number of players drafted.

But, in general, I thought it was an interesting snapshot to share. Because the research was done to put Modrak's tenure in perspective, numbers are from 2002 through the present.

Buffalo Bills

First through third rounds: 28 players; 804 starts (15th)

Fourth through seventh rounds: 45 players; 417 starts (eighth)

Analysis: Among AFC East teams, only the New England Patriots generated more starts within the first three rounds. No other division opponent found more starts from the fourth round and beyond. The Bills have whiffed badly on some early picks, as noted in Thursday's story about Modrak. But they have done well in locating solid help in the later rounds, namely 1,000-yard receiver Steve Johnson (seventh round), Pro Bowl defensive lineman Kyle Williams (fifth round) and top cornerback and Pro Bowl kick returner Terrence McGee (fourth round).

Miami Dolphins

First through third rounds: 25 players; 599 starts (31st)

Fourth through seventh rounds: 43 players; 333 starts (16th)

Analysis: The Dolphins have done well with their recent first-round picks. Although receiver Ted Ginn with the ninth pick in 2007 was controversial, they found keepers with tackles Jake Long and Vernon Carey and running back Ronnie Brown. But the second and third rounds have been a wasteland: quarterbacks John Beck and Pat White, running back Lorenzo Booker, receivers Patrick Turner and Derek Hagan, linebacker Eddie Moore. Miami's best later-round pickups since 2002 have been franchise-tagged nose tackle Paul Soliai (fourth round), Pro Bowl safety Yeremiah Bell (sixth round) and tight end Randy McMichael (fourth round).

New England Patriots

First through third rounds: 31 players; 823 starts (12th)

Fourth through seventh rounds: 50 players; 379 starts (11th)

Analysis: The Patriots have found their share of gems in the later rounds, including four eventual Pro Bowlers. They picked up cornerback Asante Samuel and kicker Stephen Gostkowski in the fourth round, center Dan Koppen in the fifth and quarterback Matt Cassel in the seventh. They've also done incredibly well with their first-round selections. Five of their past six first-rounders have gone to the Pro Bowl. Where the Patriots have been shaky is in the second and third rounds. They've gotten receiver Deion Branch, tight end Rob Gronkowski, tackle Sebastian Vollmer and safety Patrick Chung there, for instance, but they've also misfired with quarterback Kevin O'Connell, receivers Chad Jackson and Bethel Johnson and cornerback Terrence Wheatley.

New York Jets

First through third rounds: 24 players; 766 starts (19th)

Fourth through seventh rounds: 32 players; 314 starts (18th)

Analysis: The Jets' start totals look worse because they haven't drafted as many players as the other AFC East teams. Their early round players average 32 starts, about 5 1/2 more than the Patriots. But the team that accumulated the most starts here -- the Jacksonville Jaguars with 1,172 -- averaged an extraordinary 43 per player. The Jets obviously failed with 2008 sixth overall pick Vernon Gholston and 2003 fourth overall pick Dewayne Robertson, but they've generally identified quality players inside the first three rounds, including All-Pros Nick Mangold and Darrelle Revis and franchise quarterback Mark Sanchez.

Rex Ryan revisits Vernon Gholston failure

April, 8, 2011
4/08/11
1:55
PM ET
When Rex Ryan took over as New York Jets head coach, his general attitude toward pass-rusher Vernon Gholston was bullish.

Ryan thought if he couldn't develop Gholston, then nobody could.

After three NFL seasons and two under Ryan, the Jets released Gholston in March. The sixth overall draft choice in 2008 never got it. He started five games, was a healthy scratch three times and recorded zero sacks.

[+] EnlargeVernon Gholston
Sam Sharpe/US PresswireVernon Gholston was the No. 6 overall pick in the 2008 NFL draft.
At the NFL owners meeting in New Orleans a couple weeks ago, I had a chance to speak to Ryan for the first time since the Jets cut Gholston.

Ryan was little defensive about not being able to mold Gholston into an effective player.

Ryan claimed circumstances got in the way. Gholston went from 4-3 defensive end at Ohio State to 3-4 outside linebacker with the Jets under previous head coach Eric Mangini to 3-4 defensive end last year under Ryan.

The Jets also added Trevor Pryce during the season, an acquisition Ryan said hurt Gholston's snap count.

"I think Vernon improved," Ryan said. "Last year, I thought he gained strides. Unfortunately, I never knew this when we picked up Trevor and he played well for us, but that took a little away from Vernon. We had Shaun Ellis, so it was kind of hard to get [Gholston] more reps.

"But the guy is an excellent teammate. He did what was asked and he got better."

Even so, the Jets dumped him. Ryan spent a lot of time talking up Gholston to reporters and expressing optimism he would become a productive defender. Given that, I asked Ryan if he failed when it came to Gholston.

"Well, then I failed as far as the numbers go," Ryan said. "But I thought he got better, though. We'll see what happens to him. He's not done playing.

"I think I've had a long list of guys I've developed in my coaching career. Some guys develop faster than others. But I'll put how I coach up against anybody in this league when it comes to defense and technique."

Gholston will go down as one of the biggest draft busts in Jets history and a rare miss in recent years. The pick hurts even more because pass rushing is one of the Jets' biggest weaknesses.

Mangini was head coach and had influence when the Jets drafted Gholston. He's gone now, but general manager Mike Tannenbaum and vice president of college scouting Joey Clinkscales remain in place.

"I think Vernon still has the chance to have a productive NFL career," Tannenbaum said in New Orleans. "Obviously, he didn't play to the level of the sixth pick in the draft, but he's a great kid. His career is far from over.

"We'll have to look at our scouting process and have to see what we can learn from that experience."

Gholston, Cousineau make Kiper's bust list

March, 26, 2011
3/26/11
1:35
PM ET
In a column for ESPN Insider, draft institution Mel Kiper listed the 40 biggest non-quarterback bustsInsider since he put out his first draft guide in 1978.

Five AFC East picks made the cut. Here they are along with Kiper's comment:
  • Linebacker Tom Cousineau, Bills, first overall in 1979: "He was kind of an undersized guy, even in 1979, and his career didn't match his work in Columbus."
  • Running back Sammie Smith, Dolphins, ninth overall in 1989: "Smith played with a bruising style for FSU but wasn't explosive enough in the NFL."
  • Tackle Mike Williams, Bills, fourth overall in 2002: "An absolute mammoth at 370-plus pounds, Williams got starts but never lived up."
  • Defensive tackle Dewayne Robertson, Jets, fourth overall 2004: "Only 16 sacks in his career for a guy we thought would really penetrate and be a menace."
  • Outside linebacker Vernon Gholston, Jets, sixth overall in 2008: "Finally time to call it what it is. Amazing physical skills, but not even Rex Ryan could save him."

Draft Watch: AFC East

March, 17, 2011
3/17/11
12:00
PM ET
NFC Draft Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Each Thursday leading up to the NFL draft (April 28-30), the ESPN.com NFL blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today's topic: draft rewind -- examining the past five drafts.

Buffalo Bills

Best choice: Defensive lineman Kyle Williams. Only three players in the Bills' past five draft classes have gone to a Pro Bowl. Two of them, Williams and safety Jairus Byrd, still are on the team. Williams was a 2006 fifth-round pick who has emerged as one of the NFL's top interior pass-rushers.

Worst choice: Defensive end John McCargo. The Bills traded up to select McCargo 26th overall in 2006. He has started one game since then. He was a healthy scratch for 15 games last year. The Bills tried to deal him to the Indianapolis Colts in 2009, but he failed his physical and was sent back.

Bubble player: Left tackle Demetrius Bell. On the surface, a starting left tackle from the seventh round sounds like a steal. But when you consider the Bills have banked on Bell and avoided drafting other tackles early enough to compete with him for three years, then you'd expect Bell to be an obvious franchise player. He has been OK, but far from a clear-cut solution.

Miami Dolphins

Best choice: Left tackle Jake Long. There's not much to discuss here aside from wondering how the Dolphins would be different had they drafted Matt Ryan No. 1 in 2008 instead. But Long undoubtedly has been their best draft choice of the past five years. He's an elite blocker and protector. He has been chosen for three Pro Bowls in three seasons.

Worst choice: Quarterback Pat White. The most regrettable pick of the Bill Parcells-Jeff Ireland regime was White at 44th overall in 2009. Not even former general manager Randy Mueller's fateful 2007 draft -- two of 10 picks still on the roster -- had a dud like White, who was cut after one season and retired from baseball seven months later.

Bubble player: Defensive end Jared Odrick. Last year's first-round draft choice is in a tough spot. Odrick played one game because of a hairline leg fracture. While the rookie was out, the Dolphins' three-man defensive front was cemented. Right end Randy Starks went to the Pro Bowl, while some thought left end Kendall Langford had the better season. And don't expect Starks to return to nose tackle to make way for Odrick. The Dolphins placed their franchise tag on nose tackle Paul Soliai.

New England Patriots

Best choice: Inside linebacker Jerod Mayo. Since the Patriots drafted Mayo 10th in 2008, he has led them in tackles all three years, won The Associated Press Defensive Rookie of the Year Award, has been defensive captain the past two seasons, was named first-team All-Pro last year and went to the Pro Bowl.

Worst choice: Wide receiver Chad Jackson. The Patriots traded with the Green Bay Packers to move up 16 spots and select Jackson 36th overall in 2006. Who did the Packers get with the 52nd pick? Greg Jennings. Injuries and lack of commitment forced Jackson out of New England after two seasons and 13 catches.

Bubble player: Safety Brandon Meriweather. For the most part, Meriweather has been successful. The 24th pick in 2007 has been to a pair of Pro Bowls. But how they voted him a starter last year is a mystery. Bill Belichick removed him from the starting lineup for three games because of disappointing play. That plus Meriweather's presence at a recent multiple shooting in his hometown raises questions about which way his career is going.

New York Jets

Best choice: Cornerback Darrelle Revis. The Jets not only drafted him 14th in 2007, but also spent second- and fifth-round picks to move up 11 spots for the chance. He quickly established himself as an elite lockdown cornerback. As long as he stays healthy, he should remain in the conversation for defensive player of the year for a while.

Worst choice: Defensive end Vernon Gholston. He's one of the biggest busts in franchise history. The Jets used the sixth pick of the 2008 draft on a player they thought would terrorize quarterbacks. The Jets cut him after three seasons and zero sacks.

Bubble player: Running back Shonn Greene. The Jets traded up to make Greene, the reigning Doak Walker Award winner at the time, the first pick on the second day of the 2009 draft. Greene has been solid, but he has played a supporting role to Thomas Jones and then LaDainian Tomlinson. Will 2011 be the season he takes over the lead?

Draft Watch: AFC East

March, 10, 2011
3/10/11
12:39
PM ET
NFC Draft Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Each Thursday leading up to the NFL draft (April 28-30), the ESPN.com NFL blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today's topic: biggest team needs.

Buffalo Bills

Where would you like to start?

Offense? How about left tackle, right tackle, tight end and -- if there's a great one still on the draft board -- quarterback?

Defense? How about the line, outside linebacker, inside linebacker, cornerback and safety?

Special teams? OK, the Bills are fine there.

But kicker, punter and running back are about the only positions the Bills can draft third overall and not help themselves.

The most pressing needs, however, are tackle and outside linebacker. The Bills haven't drafted an offensive tackle earlier than the fifth round since taking Mike Williams in the first round in 2002, and their line play shows that. They have tried to coach up late draft picks (Demetrius Bell, Ed Wang) and rummaged through free agency (Cornell Green, Mansfield Wrotto, Jonathan Scott, Jamon Meredith) rather than acquire that prized blindside protector.

The Bills were so desperate at outside linebacker they plucked the injury-ravaged Shawne Merriman off waivers last year and then, even though he got hurt again minutes into his first workout, gave him a contract extension.

They can't bank on Merriman to anchor their pass rush. Yet even if he can contribute, they'll need more help. The Bills recorded 27 sacks last year. Only three teams had fewer.

Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins probably will need a running back. They could stand to upgrade at quarterback if they can.

But they definitely need interior offensive linemen.

They recently re-signed left guard Richie Incognito to an extension, but they still have problems at center and right guard. Although they have two solid book-end tackles in Pro perennial Bowl left tackle Jake Long and veteran Vernon Carey, they've been a mess in between for the past three years.

The Dolphins need to upgrade their power running game. Despite having a capable and healthy backfield tandem in Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams last season, the Dolphins ranked 21st in rushing yards, 29th in yards per carry and 29th in rushing touchdowns.

A stud running back certainly can help, and the Dolphins might have little choice but to take one with their 15th selection. Brown's and Williams' contracts are up. That's why so many draft analysts project the Dolphins will take Alabama running back Mark Ingram and then address the O-line later.

New England Patriots

Funny how things work for the Patriots when it comes to draft picks. The reigning AFC East champs might have the fewest needs but have the most draft picks at their disposal.

The Patriots went 14-2 last season and own two draft choices in each of the first three rounds. So the Patriots have the flexibility to go any number of directions.

The most obvious need is outside linebacker. The Patriots' entire outside linebacking corps mustered 13.5 sacks last year. Dolphins outside linebacker Cameron Wake generated 14 sacks all by himself.

Offensive line is another concern because there are so many question marks. Right guard Stephen Neal retired. Left guard Logan Mankins is upset. Left tackle Matt Light isn't signed. Nick Kaczur is coming off serious back surgery. The timing is right to bring in some fresh O-line blood.

The Patriots had one of the NFL's most entertaining backfields last year, with BenJarvus Green-Ellis rushing for over 1,000 yards and Danny Woodhead making the Jets look foolish for cutting him. But each running back has his limitations, and the Patriots could be on the lookout for an all-purpose back adept at catching a pass and converting a third-and-short.

New York Jets

The Jets are in a weird spot. They finished the season as a team with talent at virtually every position.

But they have a crowded group of free agents and couldn't bring themselves to sign any (aside from giving inside linebacker David Harris the franchise tag) until a new collective bargaining agreement was in place. The Jets want to know what the new salary cap is before moving forward.

That leaves a lot of loose ends for the Jets heading into the draft. Will they need a receiver to replace Santonio Holmes or Braylon Edwards? A cornerback to replace Antonio Cromartie?

The needs we can bank on are outside linebacker and safety.

The Jets must generate a better pass rush and still need to recover from the Vernon Gholston pick that set them back. Outside linebacker Bryan Thomas is competent, but no star. He led the Jets with just six sacks. Calvin Pace had 5.5 sacks. The recently released Jason Taylor added five.

Safety is an area of emphasis because they could have stood to upgrade even before Brodney Pool, Eric Smith and James Ihedigbo became free agents. Jim Leonhard is a Rex Ryan favorite but recovering from a broken shin.

Top draft busts in AFC East history tallied

March, 4, 2011
3/04/11
9:31
AM ET
When word got out the New York Jets would release defensive end Vernon Gholston, I solicited your nominees for the AFC East's biggest draft busts.

These disappointments received the most votes for each club:

Buffalo Bills
  1. Defensive end Aaron Maybin (11th in 2009)
  2. Tackle Mike Williams (fourth in 2002)
  3. Quarterback J.P. Losman (22nd in 2004)
  4. Defensive tackle John McCargo (26th in 2006)
  5. Defensive end Erik Flowers (26th in 2000)
Comment: Sadly, Buffalo's list suggests readers don't remember the team before the Music City Miracle. Last year's strong safety, Donte Whitner, finished sixth. Epic busts Walt Patulski (first in 1972), Tony Hunter (12th in 1983) and Perry Tuttle (19th in 1982) received only one vote each. Nobody mentioned running back Terry Miller (fifth in 1978).

Miami Dolphins
  1. Receiver Yatil Green (15th in 1997)
  2. Receiver Ted Ginn (ninth in 2007)
  3. Running back John Avery (29th in 1998)
  4. Cornerback Jamar Fletcher (26th in 2001)
  5. Receiver Randal Hill (23rd in 1991), Eric Kumerow (16th in 1988), running back Sammie Smith (ninth in 1989)
Comment: The Dolphins were the most nominated team in this exercise. They led with 16 nominees and the number of votes cast. Green didn't play in his rookie or sophomore seasons because of injuries and lasted eight games his third year. My pick would have been Kumerow, whose career consisted of three seasons, zero starts and five sacks.

New England Patriots
  • Running back Laurence Maroney (21st in 2006)
  • Receiver Chad Jackson (36th in 2006)
  • Receiver Hart Lee Dykes (16th in 1989)
  • Cornerback Chris Canty (29th in 1997)
  • Offensive lineman Eugene Chung (13th in 1992), defensive end Kenneth Sims (first in 1982), linebacker Chris Singleton (eighth in 1990)
Comment: I was surprised Sims didn't receive more attention. He was the No. 1 choice ahead of Marcus Allen, Gerald Riggs, Mike Munchak, Jim McMahon and Chip Banks. Maroney received the most votes, but he also generated the most spirited debate because many readers disagreed he should be considered a bust. Jackson was a second-round pick, but the Patriots traded up 16 spots to get him.

New York Jets
  1. Running back Blair Thomas (second in 1990)
  2. Defensive end Vernon Gholston (sixth in 2008)
  3. Tight end Kyle Brady (ninth in 1995)
  4. Defensive tackle DeWayne Robertson (fourth in 2003)
  5. Receiver Johnny "Lam" Jones (second in 1980)
Comment: There was a lot of material to work with here. I was satisfied readers emphasized the magnitude of the bust over the freshness of Gholston's release by voting for Thomas. The next running back off the board in 1990 was Emmitt Smith.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Insider