Sunday, April 28, 2013
Updating post-draft needs in AFC East
By James Walker
The 2013 NFL draft is over, but there are still improvements that need to be made.
Now it’s time to take another hard look at the rosters and see what holes remain.
Here is an updated list of biggest team needs in the AFC East:
Biggest remaining need: Left tackle
Thoughts: Miami had a lot of resources entering the offseason and did a tremendous job plugging holes in the draft and free agency. However, the Dolphins’ biggest need is still offensive tackle. Miami felt defensive end Dion Jordan was too good to pass up in the first round, and we agree. But by the time the Dolphins came up again with the No. 54 pick in the second round, the run on left tackles already took place. Miami took former Tennessee guard/tackle Dallas Thomas in the third round. He’s versatile, but it’s a reach to think Thomas can step in right away and play left tackle at the next level. The Dolphins still have options in free agency. The Dolphins could look to sign available veterans like Eric Winston or Tyson Clabo. However, both tackles are better suited for the right side. Maybe the Dolphins are confident 2012 second-round pick Jonathan Martin can make the switch and protect quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s blindside next season. But Martin had mixed results playing left tackle in 2012 after the season-ending injury to former Dolphin Jake Long. Trade talks with the Kansas City Chiefs for left tackle Branden Albert appear over.
New York Jets
Biggest remaining need: Tight end
Thoughts: The Jets made five draft picks on offense, but they still lack a pass-catching tight end. New York lost starting tight end Dustin Keller to the Dolphins in free agency. Currently Jeff Cumberland, who had 29 receptions in 2012, is No. 1 on the depth chart. That's not good enough. A quality tight end is important in offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg's new West Coast scheme. A group that includes Cumberland, Hayden Smith, Konrad Reuland and Dedrick Epps won't strike fear in any defense. It also doesn't provide New York's quarterback, whether it’s Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith or David Garrard, a much-needed safety valve in the middle of the field.
New England Patriots
Biggest remaining need: Center/guard depth
Thoughts: The defending AFC East champs didn’t enter the draft with a lot of needs. They filled openings at wide receiver and in the secondary this weekend. New England’s roster is pretty much stacked, which is why we’re nitpicking by saying they could use more depth at guard and center. New England’s starters are fine. Center Ryan Wendell and guards Logan Mankins and Dan Connolly work well together, but injuries routinely take place in the trenches. Who would fill in to protect quarterback Tom Brady if one or two starters go down? The Patriots didn’t draft a developmental, interior offensive lineman this weekend, and might have to add depth in free agency before training camp.
Biggest remaining need: Guard
Thoughts: Buffalo also did a good job drafting for need. The Bills found a quarterback (EJ Manuel), two wide receivers (Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin) and depth at safety (Duke Williams). But Buffalo still didn't find a replacement for former starting guard Andy Levitre, who bolted to the Tennessee Titans in free agency. Levitre was Buffalo’s most versatile lineman and will be missed offensively if the Bills can’t find a viable replacement. The Bills also lost top backup guard Chad Rinehart. Offensive linemen Colin Brown, Chris Scott and Keith Williams are all inexperienced options. Perhaps the Bills will add a veteran to this group during the tail-end of free agency.