2018 NFL Draft Needs by Team: AFC East
Now that the calendar shows April and most of the key NFL free agents have signed on with new teams, it’s time for football fanatics to turn their full attention towards the upcoming 2018 NFL Draft. While some veterans will continue to sign deals, most teams are now fully expected to shape their rosters via the draft, which is less than one month away.
Dynasty zealots have undoubtedly been doing their homework for months, but many football fans just want to enjoy the spectacle of the NFL Draft and haven’t done a lot of research. Either way, knowing the needs of your favorite NFL squad and your division rivals can help spectators know what to expect when Round One kicks off.
Let’s kick off our 2018 NFL Draft team needs series with a look at the AFC East.
Draft Picks: No. 12 (via CIN), No. 22 (via KC), No. 53, No. 56 (via LAR), No. 65 (via CLE), No. 96 (via PHI), No. 121, No. 166 (via JAC), No. 187 (via CIN)
Team Needs: QB, WR, OT, OLB
The Bills finally ended a long playoff drought but have plenty of work to do if they want to compete for another AFC Wild Card spot. A.J. McCarron replaces Tyrod Taylor as the signal-caller, but the Bills are still expected to be candidates to use their two first-rounders as ammunition to move up into the top-5 and target one of this draft’s elite quarterback prospects.
Regardless of who takes most of the snaps under center, general manager Brandon Beane needs to improve the skill position talent surrounding his quarterback, especially at wide receiver. The Bills acquired Kelvin Benjamin last season, but he never really got going. Troubled second-year player Zay Jones and replacement-level talent Andre Holmes are currently listed at the top of the depth charts for the club, who has one of the least talented groups of pass catchers in the entire NFL. The Bills desperately need to add some youth and play-making ability to their receiving corps.
Buffalo ranked 27th in pass blocking and allowed 47 sacks in 2017. The transition away from the mobile Tyrod Taylor should also be a challenge for the offense line, which could use an upgrade or depth throughout each position of the line. Currently, with six picks inside the first three rounds, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Bills use multiple selections to beef up their front five.
Pass rush wasn’t a huge concern for the Bills defense last season, but the linebackers struggled against the run and also had coverage issues when matched up against running backs. An outside linebacker with solid coverage ability would be a welcomed addition to Buffalo’s 13th-ranked pass defense.
Draft Picks: No. 11, No. 42, No. 73, No. 111, No. 123 (via CAR), No. 131 (via NE), No. 183, No. 227 (via SF), No 229
Team Needs: LB, TE, QB, DL, S
After a surprising playoff run in 2016, the Dolphins tailed off badly last year. The main culprit for the offenses’ struggles was the season-ending ACL injury to QB Ryan Tannehill. Despite the fact that Tannehill, 29, is expected to be ready for training camp, Miami is widely expected to be players in the first-round quarterback market, but to land the impact player they might want, the team may be forced to give up a lot of draft capital.
2017 second-round pick Raekwon McMcMillan tore his ACL during Miami’s preseason opener and the club’s lack of linebacker depth hurt the defense all season. McMillan is expected to play middle linebacker, so that leaves the Phins in need of a pair of linebackers that can rush the passer and also cover.
Julius Thomas was a bust for Miami, so the club cut ties and will enter the draft with an uninspiring tight end depth chart of in-line blocker MarQueis Gray, A.J. Derby and Thomas Duarte, who has yet to catch an NFL pass. No tight end warrants consideration at 11, but the Dolphins will be in the market beginning at 42 or could explore one earlier if they somehow trade down in the first.
The club severed ties with Ndamukong Suh and now has a big void to fill on the inside of their defensive line. With Suh, Miami generated a good pass rush and was particularly adept at stuffing the run. Without the presence of an elite force in the middle, reinforcements will be needed to give the Dolphins any chance of slowing down Tom Brady via the pass rush or on the back end via a very good defensive back draft class.
New England Patriots
Draft Picks: No. 31, No. 43 (via SF), No. 63, No. 95, No. 136, No. 210 (via OAK), No, 219 (via CLE)
Team Needs: LB, DT, OT, S
Bill Belichick is one of the most active draft day movers, regularly moving up and down the draft board usually to acquire more draft capital. Belichick also covets versatile players that play multiple roles, so the Patriots are always a bit of a wild card during the entire draft. When last seen, Belichick’s defense was surrendering a record amount of yards to the Eagles in the Super Bowl, so look for that side of the ball to be the top priority for the Pats in this draft, but that won’t preclude the club from selecting a potential successor to Tom Brady if the value is right.
New England’s front seven was 31st in sacks (25) and adjusted sack rate last season, so they’ll look to add reinforcements anywhere along the defensive line. Three-down linebackers that can get after the passer and stuff the run are always coveted by Belichick and company. The defense could also simply target the best pass rusher regardless of position or perceived fit, and that puts an edge rusher or DT in play at 31.
Nate Solder signed a four-year, $62 million contract with the Giants, so his absence will be a big priority that could be addressed in the first round. Keeping Tom Brady healthy is easily the most important factor for the Patriots and reinforcing a front five that just lost its best player is definitely a need for New England.
After his mysterious Super Bowl absence, it was no surprise to see Malcolm Butler depart. The Pats pulled a coup by getting terrific coverage corner Jason McCourty from Cleveland for next to nothing. McCourty will definitely help, but the Patriots could still look to add a safety or cornerback depth to keep up with the league’s ever-increasing reliance on the pass.
New York Jets
Draft Picks: No. 3 (via IND), No. 72, No. 107, No. 157 (via DAL), No. 179, No. 235 (via SEA)
Team Needs: QB, OG, EDGE, OT
It has been an unfathomably, decades-long drought since the Jets have drafted and developed a true franchise signal-caller. By trading three second-round picks to the Colts, Mike Maccagnan is moving all his chips to the center to finally get the next Broadway Joe. The Browns appear poised to take Sam Darnold, which still leaves the Giants and their No. 2 pick as a factor, but all indications are that the Jets will be all in on Josh Rosen, Josh Allen or Baker Mayfield.
Mccagnan traded the No. 37 and No. 49 picks in this draft to assure they get their man in the first. Starting in the third, the Jets will be in a position to take the best available offensive lineman to help reinforce a unit that surrendered 52 sacks and was in the bottom-5 in run blocking last season.
The club could also look at edge rushers starting in the third round. The void left by the release of standout pass-rusher Muhammad Wilkerson is a considerable one, and Mccagnan and Todd Bowles will undoubtedly bring in replacements that they can groom to get after the opposing passer.
While it looks like the Jets will enter training camp with a shiny new quarterback, the club re-signed Josh McCown who could continue to start in 2018. Regardless of who is under center, the Jets will likely spend multiple selections on the O-line, with center and guard being a particular area of need.