Thursday, April 21, 2011
Draft Watch: AFC East
By Tim Graham
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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: dream scenario/Plan B.
Dream scenario: The Bills went 4-12 last year and haven't made the playoffs in 11 years. They're entering their second season under general manager Buddy Nix and head coach Chan Gailey. They're still laying an organizational foundation. As such, there are holes all over the place. So many, in fact, the Bills can go almost any direction and not make a misguided pick. Their dream player would be Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, but his availability at No. 3 isn't within their control. I believe if Newton is there, the Bills will pounce.
Plan B: If Newton's gone, then Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert almost certainly will be on the board for them. At least two of the top three defensive players -- Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, Texas A&M outside linebacker Von Miller and Louisiana State cornerback Patrick Peterson -- would be there, too.
Dream scenario: The Dolphins' dream scenario would be to get a draft-day phone call from another team desperate to move into the middle of the first round. The Dolphins own the 15th pick, and none of their most pressing needs matches up favorably with that spot. The top two -- maybe three -- quarterbacks will be gone. The Dolphins also need interior line and backfield help, but No. 15 seems too early for those top prospects: Florida center Mike Pouncey and Alabama running back Mark Ingram. But the Dolphins cannot afford to pass on a player they really like and hope he falls to them in the second round because they don't have a second-rounder. They traded it to the Denver Broncos in the Brandon Marshall deal. So the Dolphins would love to trade back in the order a little, snag Pouncey or Ingram or a quarterback such as Ryan Mallett, Christian Ponder, Andy Dalton or Jake Locker and collect another draft choice in the process.
Plan B: If they can't trade back, then they'll be stuck with reaching a little for a player they identify as the best fit for their team.
New England Patriots
Dream scenario: The Patriots hold three of the top 32 picks and two selections in each of the first three rounds. They'll gladly listen to every trade offer and definitely will field some calls. Bill Belichick's dream scenario is to have maximized value when they've made their final selection. If that means collecting more picks and still landing players they like, then so be it. If that means moving up in the order for a specific player and not having to give up much to do so, then so be it. If that means standing pat and making the best pick off their in-house draft board, then so be it.
Plan B: The Patriots have so many picks that they have more than a Plan B. However the draft shakes out, they'll have a Plan Z, Article XXXIV, Section 16, Subsection vii -- and an appendix with 23 more sets of instructions. No other front office enters the draft process with such flexibility.
New York Jets
Dream scenario: The Jets don't seem to be worried much about a dream scenario. Head coach Rex Ryan has laughed and shrugged when discussing the No. 30 slot. They don't have much control over who will be available. Their trade options are severely limited. The Jets don't have a second-round pick to dangle because they lost it in the trade for cornerback Antonio Cromartie. The NFL lockout allows clubs to trade draft choices only, preventing the Jets from packaging players like they did to move up and draft quarterback Mark Sanchez fifth overall in 2009. The Jets probably will be forced to await their turn and hope another team wants to jump in at the end of the first round. Maybe then they can turn their 30th pick into multiple picks.
Plan B: If no one wants their 30th pick, then they'll check out players such as Baylor nose tackle Phil Taylor or UCLA safety Rahim Moore.