Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Draft Watch: AFC East
By Tim Graham
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.