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AFC East Team Needs

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AFC EAST:  BUFFALO BILLS TEAM NEEDS

2006 Record:  7-9-0 — First Selection: Round 1, Pick 12   Â
2006: Donte Whitner (S)
2005: Roscoe Parrish (WR)
2004: Lee Evans (WR)
2003: Willis McGahee (RB)
2002: Mike Williams (OT)

League Rankings:    Â
Offense: Run (27th) Pass (28th) Overall (30th) Â
Defense: Run (28th) Pass (7th) Overall (18th)Â

1. Running Back: With the loss of Willis McGahee, Buffalo is in need of a feature back, especially considering how critical the running game can be once the weather turns freezing in late November and December.  They retained Anthony Thomas, but he is not the answer.

2. Defensive Tackle: The Bills need help stopping the run.  The linebackers are quick but a bit undersized and this hurts the team when trying to stop inside runs.  It also means the defensive tackles have to occupy blockers to keep them off the linebackers.  The trio of Tim Anderson, Larry Tripplett and Kyle Williams needs upgrading.  In addition to being undersized against the run, they produced only 2.5 sacks all season, all of them by Tripplett.  Rookie Jason Jefferson has more size and potential but rarely took the field in 2006.  The Bills really need a big body to clog the middle, especially after passing up Haloti Ngata last season.

3. Cornerback: The loss of free agent Nate Clements is a big blow to the Bills.  Clements is undersized but is one of the top cover men in the game.  They have held on to Kiwaukee Thomas, who was also an unrestricted and used a third round pick on Ashton Youboty last season, however neither appears ready to step in and start.  This is an area the Bills need to address early in the draft.

4. Wide Receiver: Lee Evans is an above average wide receiver but there is a big drop off at the number two and three receiver spots.  Peerless Price had 49 catches but averaged just 8.2 yards per reception, no longer the playmaker he was in his first stop in Buffalo.  Josh Reed is inconsistent and struggles to separate from quality defensive backs, while Roscoe Parrish has great speed and hands but is only 5’9� and is best utilized in the slot.  Reed and Parrish are solid backups if they upgrade.

5. Linebacker: The Bills lost London Fletcher-Baker who was their leading tackler the past five seasons.   This area should be addressed if not on the first day of the draft, early on in day two, as the Bills will not improve against the run without an upgrade here.

Draft Rewind* Before last year’s draft when Michael Huff (Oakland) and Donte’ Whitner (Buffalo) were both taken in the Top-10 picks there had only been two true safety prospects, Roy Williams (Dallas, #8, 2002) and Sean Taylor (Washington, #5, 2004) taken within the Top-10 selections of the draft since the start of the 2000 draft.

AFC EAST: MIAMI DOLPHINS TEAM NEEDS

2006 Record: 6-10-0 — First Selection: Round 1, Pick 9     2006: Jason Allen (S)
2005: Ronnie Brown (RB)
2004: Vernon Carey (OT)
2003: Eddie Moore (LB)
2002: Seth McKinney (C)

League Rankings:    Â
Offense:  Run (22nd) Pass (13th) Overall (20th) Â
Defense: Run (8th) Pass (5th) Overall (4th)

1. Quarterback: As of press time, the Dolphins had agreed on a trade with the Chiefs for Trent Green but were still in negotiations with the veteran quarterback on a contract they could agree upon.  Then David Carr was released and there was talk that the team may opt in that direction instead.  Nothing has been officially announced so for now, this remains a need.  Should the Dolphins do either of the aforementioned, it is likely that the Dante Culpepper experiment will be over in Miami.  Backup quarterback Joey Harrington was let go and Cleo Lemon remains a work in progress.

2. Offensive Line: The Dolphins need better pass protection and some guards who can pull more effectively than the current duo.  There is not much in terms of quality depth at either guard or tackle.  Left tackle in particular is a sore spot, which makes Levi Brown a player they may target in the first round.

3. Wide Receiver: Whomever is the starting signal caller, they will need better and more targets to throw to, especially with Wes Welker gone.  Az-Zahir Hakim is not a replacement and Derek Hagan remains a work in progress.  Furthermore, receiver is among the deepest positions in this draft and there will be quality available in rounds two and three.

4. Defensive Tackle: The position was solid in 2006 and while Vonnie Holliday will be back and Keith Traylor is there, they may lose Jeff Zgonina, an unrestricted free agent and there is a lot of age at this position.  A few strong bodies to clog the middle are needed for 2007.

5. Defensive Back: Depending on what the new regime sees in Jason Allen, a surprise first round pick last season, will dictate whether corner or safety is a more pressing need.  Free safety is the weakest position, especially if Allen moves to corner in hopes of jumpstarting his career.

Draft Fact* *A total of 19 defensive backs were taken on the “First Day” (Rounds 1-3) of last year’s NFL Draft with 11 of them being cornerbacks, a year before (2005) there were 18 corners drafted in the first three rounds of the draft… the totals from the previous five drafts were 12, 11, 10, 12, 11, so an average of basically 12 true cornerbacks have been taken on the “First Day” of the drafts held been 2000-2006 (85 corners over seven years).

AFC EAST: NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS TEAM NEEDS

2006 Record: 12-4-0 — First Selection: Round 1, Pick 24 (from Seattle)
2006: Laurence Maroney (RB)
2005: Logan Mankins (G)
2004: Vince Wilfork (DT)
2003: Ty Warren (DE)
2002: Daniel Graham (TE)

League Rankings:    Â
Offense: Run (12th) Pass (12th) Overall (11th) Â
Defense: Run (5th) Pass (12th) Overall (6th)

1. Cornerback: Starter Asante Samuel is an unrestricted free agent but the Pats put the franchise tag on him.  The other starter, Ellis Hobbs, is often beaten by double moves because he is overaggressive.  Chad Scott will be 33 next season and he has already lost a step or two.  He cannot be counted on to start 16 games at this stage in his career.  Even if Samuel stays, he has yet to sign the tender, the Patriots need to get younger and faster at this position.

2. Safety: Rodney Harrison has been the emotional leader of the secondary but he is now 34 and is missing more time due to injuries each year.  James Sanders was benched early in the year but showed improved awareness as the season progressed.   Willie Anderson has potential but the Pats are not sure if he’s a safety or a corner.  Eugene Wilson is coming off a season-ending injury and may not be back.

3. Offensive Tackle: Matt Light struggled in 2006 after five very strong years at left tackle.  While his run blocking is still top notch, Light had a tough time with many of the league’s better pass rushers.  The Pats cannot afford to allow Tom Brady to be vulnerable on his blind side.  The right side is strong with Nick Kaczur.  Depth on both sides is needed.

4. Inside Linebacker: Teddy Bruschi will be 34 next season, while Mike Vrabel will be 32.  Junior Seau said he wants to return but he will be 38 and backup Larry Izzo will be 33 and is also an unrestricted free agent.  The Pats need some youth at this position and possibly someone who can step in and produce right away.

5. Guard: Since the filled their holes at wide receiver and outside linebacker via free agency, we’ll go with guard at this spot.  New England needs to upgrade this area but it is more of a depth need.  Stephen Neal is still good but he’s turning 31 this season and has a lot of wear on his treads.  Upgrading the backups at this position would be a big help for the Pats.

Draft Fact* The last player taken from LSU #1 overall in the NFL Draft was running back Billy Cannon in 1960 by the Los Angeles Rams, the highest rated LSU quarterback drafted in recent memory was Tom Hodson, who was taken in the 3rd round of the 1990 NFL Draft by New England.

AFC EAST: NEW YORK JETS TEAM NEEDS

2006 Record: 10-6-0 — First Selection: Round 1, Pick 25

2006: D’Brickashaw Ferguson (OT)
2005: Mike Nugent (K)
2004: Jonathan Vilma (LB)
2003: Dewayne Robertson (DT)
2002: Bryan Thomas (DE)

League Rankings    Â
Offense: Run (20th) Pass (17th) Overall (25th)Â
Defense: Run (24th) Pass (14th) Overall (20th)Â

1. Offensive Line: Yes, the Jets addressed this spot last season, using both of their first round picks to pluck a pair of starters, nonetheless, there is more work that needs to be done, in particular on the right side.  The weak link is at right tackle, while their best guard, Pete Kendall is 34 years old and approaching retirement.  Thomas Jones upgraded the running back position, but he could benefit from a stronger unit blocking for him.

2. Defensive Line: If the Jets want to play a 3-4, they need a nose tackle who can fit the position.  Former top pick Dewayne Robertson is built for a 4-3 and while he gives top effort, he is not a natural nose tackle.  As a result, the Jets had trouble stopping the run all season.  Kimo von Oelhoffen starts at one end and he will be 36 next season.  The Jets may want him back, but not as a starter.  The Jets were forced to blitz to pressure the quarterback.  They have added several pieces to the end rotation, making that a less pressing need.

3. Cornerback: The quality at this position falls off dramatically after Andre Dyson.  Justin Miller shows flashes but looks lost at times and would be better off as a nickel back.  A number two starter at this position would be a big help to the Jets.

4. Tight End: During the “Chad Pennington Era� the Jets have inexplicable not added a tight end as a security blanket for the signal caller.  The Doug Jolley trade blew up in their face, maybe it is time to invest a draft pick for a pass catcher to complement Chris Baker’s blocking.

5. Linebacker: The Jets have talent here but it doesn’t fit the scheme they are trying to play.  Jonathan Vilma can be a force in a 4-3 defense but in a 3-4 he gets lost in traffic and isn’t able to use his smarts and speed to pursue sideline-to-sideline.  Victor Hobson is also a bit undersized at 6’0â€?.  The Jets either need to revert back to a 4-3 defense or bring in some linebackers better suited to a 3-4.Â

Draft Fact* The NY Jets had the #4 overall pick last year, which they used to take offensive tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson, back in 2003 they used the same #4 selection to pick Dewayne Robertson, DT… they have had a Top-10 pick in the draft a total of five other times since 1990, using those picks to select two linebackers, one tight end, one running back and one wide receiver, Keyshawn Johnson in 1996.

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