Analysis of AFC East rivals

April, 28, 2011
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- A closer look at what AFC East teams do in the NFL Draft:

Buffalo (No. 3) -- Defensive lineman Marcell Dareus (Alabama)
If I had to guess, Bill Belichick probably viewed Dareus (6-3, 319) as the best player in this draft. It helps that Dareus comes from Nick Saban's pro-style program. The Bills were too often overpowered at the line of scrimmage -- ranking last in the NFL in run defense -- and Dareus should help them provide more resistance. By passing over quarterback Blaine Gabbert, the Bills could be in the market for a quarterback at No. 34 in the second round. Depending on how many quarterbacks go in the first round, that could make the Patriots' No. 33 selection enticing for QB-needy teams. Instant reaction: A very strong pick for Buffalo, which needs to bulk up to compete with the big boys in the AFC East.

Miami (No. 15) -- Offensive lineman Mike Pouncey (Florida)
The Dolphins are without a second-round pick and needed to make sure they got production out of their first-rounder. Pouncey (6-5, 303) is one of the safest picks in the draft, a Day 1 starter, who will help bolster the interior of the offensive line. To compete with the 3-4 defenses in the AFC East, teams need to be strong up front and Pouncey gives them a powerful presence in the middle of their line against a big nose tackle like New England's Vince Wilfork. The Patriots had a very high grade on Pouncey and would have thought strongly about selecting him had he been available at No. 17. Instant reaction: Won't sell tickets but the type of solid pick that reflects the personality of their head coach, former offensive line coach Tony Sparano.

N.Y. Jets (No. 30) -- Defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson (Temple)
Notice a trend with all the AFC East picks, when factoring in the Patriots selection of 6-foot-8, 319-pound Nate Solder as well? Every team went big. Wilkerson (6-4, 315) was a player who looked like a good fit for the Patriots. In time, he projects to become a solid presence in the base 3-4 defense, while also contributing in sub packages while rushing from an interior position. Instant reaction: Although raw, he is one of the biggest, athletic 3-4 defensive ends in the draft and fits the personality of the tough defense that Rex Ryan is assembling.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

NFL Draft



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