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2013 NFL DRAFT TOP NEEDS: AFC EAST

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (12-4)

2013 Draft Picks: 29 (1st), 59 (2nd), 91 (3rd), 226 (7th), 235 (7th)

2012 Early Draft Selections: DE Chandler Jones, SYR (21, 1st), LB Dont’a Hightower, ALA (25, 1st), S Tavon Wilson (48, 2nd), DE Jake Bequette, ARK (90, 3rd)

Decision Makers: GM and Head Coach Bill Belichick

It was another successful regular season for the Patriots in 2012, but another disappointing end deep in the playoffs. They still remain an AFC powerhouse that could be just a player or two away from winning a Super Bowl. The Patriots come into an unfamiliar situation at the 2013 NFL Draft with just five draft picks to work with. Bill Belichick is famous for moving down and adding more picks, so look for the Pats to do that, although that likely means they won’t make a pick in the first round.

1.   Defensive End – 2012 first round pick Chandler Jones is a fantastic building block on one edge and appears well on his way to developing into a star. Rob Ninkovich continues to be a pleasant surprise after turning in his third straight good season for the Pats. Jermaine Cunningham on the other hand has not really developed the way the Pats had hoped he would, while 2012 third-rounder Jake Bequette did not play much as a rookie. A third pass-rusher to go with Jones and Ninkovich is needed to improve their horrid pass defense.

2.   Wide Receiver – The Patriots basically cleaned house of their entire wide receiving corps allowing Wes Welker to leave in free agency and cutting Brandon Lloyd, while Donte’ Stallworth and Deion Branch remain out there. They did resign Julian Edelman, but the big move was to bring in Danny Amendola to replace Welker. They also signed free agents Michael Jenkins and Donald Jones for depth, while they signed Steelers Emmanuel Sanders to an offer sheet, but were matched by Pittsburgh. However, they remain without a true no.1 wide receiver and deep threat, a problem area since they got rid of Randy Moss the first time.

3.   Cornerback – The Patriots pass defense was bad again in 2012 and remains the team’s biggest problem area. Adding a pass-rusher will help, but drafting a prospect that could turn into an elite corner is what will help the most. Aqib Talib was great mid-season pickup and could be the answer as their top corner, but they remain hesitant in investing in him long term and resigned him to just a one year deal. Kyle Arrington got a long term deal, but should be used as their third corner and nickelback. Ras-I Dowling can’t stay healthy and Alfonzo Dennard will be serving jail time following the season and is probably not a guy they want long-term.

MIAMI DOLPHINS (7-9)

2013 Draft Picks: 12 (1st), 42 (2nd), 54 (2nd), 77 (3rd), 82 (3rd), 111 (4th), 146 (5th), 166 (5th), 217 (7th), 224 (7th), 250 (7th)

2012 Early Draft Selections: QB Ryan Tannehill, TXAM (8, 1st), OT Jonathan Martin, STAN (42, 2nd), DE Olivier Vernon, MIA-F (72, 3rd), TE Michael Egnew, MIZZ (78, 3rd)

Decision Makers: GM Jeff Ireland, Head Coach Joe Philbin

The Dolphins come into 2013 with legitimate hope for the playoffs following a season where rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill showed real promise and an impressive off-season that saw them land offensive playmakers Mike Wallace and Dustin Keller along with upgrading their linebacker corps with Dannell Ellerbe and Phillip Wheeler. They also own eleven draft picks including five selections among the top 100 giving them the ability to move up more than once in the draft should they want a specific prospect.

1.   Offensive Tackle – Starting left tackle Jake Long was lost in free agency to the Rams and 2012 second round pick Jonathan Martin should remain on the right side, but could be moved to the over should they be unable to fill the hole left by Long. They recently were given permission to talk to Kansas City Chiefs LT Branden Albert and could land him in a trade for one of their second round picks. They will have to trade up into the top six picks if they want a shot at drafting one of the top three left tackle prospects.

2.   Cornerback – They traded one starter in Vontae Davis during the season to Indy and then lost their other starter Sean Smith to the Chiefs in free agency. Backup Richard Marshall could be promoted, but is coming off back surgery, while Nolan Carroll struggled in 2012. They signed former Falcon Brent Grimes, but he’s a stop-gap solution right now. They need to land at least one starter in this draft.

3.   Defensive End – Cameron Wake is 31 years old now and isn’t getting any younger. If he gets hurt, the Dolphins will be in trouble because he’s their only reliable pass-rusher. They don’t really have much that scares anyone across from him. 2012 third-rounder Olivier Vernon showed some promise, while Jared Odrick is terrific at stopping the run, but is in the last year of his contract. They brought free agent John Abraham in for a visit, but didn’t sign him, so there is interest in adding a pass-rusher.

BUFFALO BILLS (6-10)

2013 Draft Picks: 8 (1st), 41 (2nd), 71 (3rd), 105 (4th), 143 (5th), 177 (6th)

2012 Early Draft Selections: CB Stephon Gimore, SCAR (10, 1st), OT/OG Cordy Glenn, UGA (41, 2nd), WR T.J. Graham, NCST (69, 3rd)

Decision Makers: GM Buddy Nix, Head Coach Doug Marrone

The Bills come into another season looking for a fresh start after failing to make the playoffs yet again. They’ve replaced Chan Gailey with Syracuse’s Doug Marrone as Head Coach and his first move alongside GM Buddy Nix will be to find a couple of building blocks to help propel Buffalo back into the postseason for the first time since 1999.

1.   Quarterback – The Bills quarterback position is in flux once again after they cut Ryan Fitzpatrick in just the second year of a 7-year, $62 million contract. They’ve signed former Arizona Cardinals starter Kevin Kolb and retained backup Tarvaris Jackson, but Gailey and the Bills have made no secret that they plan on landing a new franchise signal-caller in this draft.

2.   Offensive Guard – This might be the biggest hole on the roster at the moment after the Bills saw starting left guard Andy Levitre sign a big deal with the Titans in free agency and have yet to sign his replacement. They also started five different players at right guard in 2012 and while Chad Rinehart missed most of last year with an ankle injury, he was fantastic for the Bills in 2011 and will now be a part of the Chargers offensive line rebuilding plan.

3.   Wide Receiver – Like with the quarterback position, the Bills have been pretty open about their desire to draft a receiver to play across from Stevie Johnson. 2012 third round pick T.J. Graham had a solid season, but is probably best served as the team’s third wide out. David Nelson and Donald Jones signed elsewhere as free agents and some depth will be needed as well.

NEW YORK JETS (6-10)

2013 Draft Picks: 9 (1st), 39 (2nd), 72 (3rd), 106 (4th), 141 (5th), 178 (6th), 215 (7th)

2012 Early Draft Selections: DE Quinton Coples, UNC (16, 1st), WR Stephen Hill, GTCH (43, 2nd), LB Demario Davis, AKST (77, 3rd)

Decision Makers: GM John Idzik, Head Coach Rex Ryan

The 2012 season was a disaster for the Jets and it resulted with GM Mike Tannenbaum being fired and Head Coach Rex Ryan on the hot seat in 2013. Tannenbaum was replaced with John Idzik and he will be tasked with rebuilding a roster void of a lot of talent on both sides of the ball. They weren’t able to help themselves much in free agency due to cap restrictions and will now have to look to the draft to fill most of the holes on their roster, while adding some much needed talent. Cornerback will need to be added to their top needs should they find a trade to their liking for Darrelle Revis. The Jets are also in desperate need of a couple of offensive playmakers at running back, wide receiver and tight end.

*Update: The Jets have traded Darrelle Revis to Tampa Bay for the Bucs’ 2013 13th overall pick along with a conditional fourth round pick that could become a third if Revis is still on Tampa’s roster on the third day of the 2014 season. A cornerback will now be among the Jets top needs.

1.   Outside Linebacker – The Jets did not have anyone on the roster that could consistently put pressure on opposing quarterbacks and still don’t despite signing former Charger Antwan Barnes in free agency and resigning Calvin Pace after releasing him earlier in the off-season. Their defense slumped in 2012 because of it and their focus in the first round should be on landing a dynamic pass-rusher.

2.   Quarterback – Their quarterback position is a complete mess. Mark Sanchez is awful and continues to get worse each year, but the Jets remain stuck with him for another season because of guaranteed money and will probably have to start him unless they can find a better option in the draft. They’ve brought in David Garrard presumably as a backup along with Greg McElroy. Meanwhile they continue to sabotage Tim Tebow’s career and will hopefully release him as expected following the draft. I will add that had they switched to Tebow at any point last season even as late as the Tennessee game, he would’ve have gotten them into the playoffs.

3.   Safety – The safety position is one of the keys to the way Rex Ryan wants to play defense, so it’s imperative that they draft a safety that can start right away. They lost both of their starters (Yeremiah Bell and LaRon Landry) from last year in free agency and cut backup Eric Smith.  They signed former Jag Dawan Landry, who will likely start at one spot, but probably shouldn’t be at this point in his career.

Written By: Mark Scott                                        

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