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Recent Selections: DT Marcell Dareus, CB Stephon Gilmore, OT Cordy Glenn, RB C.J. Spiller, & LB Kelvin Sheppard
Recap: It took two seasons, but 2013 was a breakout campaign for Spiller. He emerged as one of the AFC’s best running backs, rushing for 1,244 yards and scoring six touchdowns. The jury remains out on Gilmore and Glenn, but they flashed potential as rookies. Dareus is the most significant red flag of Buffalo’s recent draft picks. The former No. 3 overall pick is entering a pivotal season, as he’s yet to live up to his draft hype. Dareus underachieving and Buffalo’s inability to find a quarterback outweigh the positives and has led to the team’s inability to push for postseason contention.
Best Scenario: DE Ezekiel Ansah & QB Matt Barkley
Draft Preview: Signing Kevin Kolb does not take Buffalo out of the quarterback derby. Kolb’s body of work is small and he has a history of injuries. He’s no more than a stopgap. Packaging picks No. 47 and No. 71 together would allow Buffalo to move into the backend of round one. At that point, they could target Barkley (among others) as their future signal caller. A struggling offensive line held him back in 2012, but his 2011 tape is outstanding. He displays a good arm and even better accuracy. This draft’s real gem, however, is Ansah. The BYU prospect is raw, but his combination of size, speed, and strength is unique. With a year to hone his skills, he could turn into one of football's premiere pass rushers ala Jason Pierre-Paul.
Recent Selections: DT Jared Odrick, C Mike Pouncey, QB Ryan Tannehill, & RB Daniel Thomas
Recap: Miami’s franchise centers on Tannehill. They’ll go as far as he develops. He displayed promise as a rookie, but this season’s already shaping up as a crucial one in his career. The Dolphins have surrounded him with talent and they’ll open up the playbook more in 2013. Pouncey, Odrick, and Thomas are just background noise in the grand scheme. If Miami is to make a run at the postseason, then it’s because Tannehill is developing into a top-flight NFL quarterback.
Best Scenario: OT Lane Johnson, CB Darius Slay, DE Michael Buchanan, & TE Gavin Escobar
Draft Preview: You had better protect Tannehill if his arm holds the fortunes of your franchise. Unfortunately, it’s looking less likely that Johnson will fall to Miami at No. 12, so the Dolphins may have to add an extra pick (No. 54) to jump as high as No. 6 to guarantee they get their franchise left tackle. After solidifying their offensive line, Miami could turn to the defensive side of the ball with Slay and Buchanan. Both are developmental players, but Slay’s combination of size and athleticism makes him a unique prospect. Finally, adding a developmental tight end to play behind Dustin Keller, who signed a one-year deal this off-season, would round out a very successful draft.
New England Patriots
Recent Selections: TE Rob Gronkowski, TE Aaron Hernandez, LB Dont’a Hightower, DE Chandler Jones, CB Devin McCourty, RB Stevan Ridley, & OT Nate Solder
Recap: The Pats have done a great job of accumulating multiple early-round picks. Their margin of error increases, as a result. 2010 is a good example, as New England drafted 12 players that year. Gronkowski, Hernandez, and McCourty were among them and all three have significantly contributed since their rookie seasons. Last year was a redemption type of year for Ridley, though fumbling issues have landed him in head coach Bill Belichick’s doghouse. The jury remains out on Hightower and Jones, but the duo’s development could lead to New England’s revival on defense.
Best Scenario: WR Justin Hunter, C Barrett Jones, & CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson
Draft Preview: In many ways, New England hasn’t replaced wide receiver Randy Moss. They attempted to replace him with Chad Johnson and then Brandon Lloyd, but nothing has stuck. Perhaps going young is the right approach. Like Moss, Hunter is a tall, lanky receiver who takes big strides. He’s not as explosive, but he can still develop into a major outside threat. The Pats can address their offensive line with Jones in round two. He’s tough, intelligent, and pro ready. Three years from now, I suspect many will scratch their heads at the thought of Jones not being a first-round pick.
New York Jets
Recent Selections: DE Quinton Coples, WR Stephen Hill, DE Muhammad Wilkerson, & CB Kyle Wilson
Recap: You don’t need to go far to conclude why the Jets fired general manager Mike Tannenbaum. Their last three draft classes have been underwhelming. Wilkerson has been an excellent player in Rex Ryan’s defense --possibly their second best. However, Coples and Wilson have not lived up to their first-round status. In addition, Tannenbaum’s inability to surround quarterback Mark Sanchez with weapons hindered his growth. The Jets want to run the ball, yet Shonn Greene was their featured running back. It never made sense.
Best Scenario: CB Dee Milliner, RB Le’Veon Bell, & G Alvin Bailey
Draft Preview: Trading cornerback Darrelle Revis remains in New York’s plans heading into the draft. In fact, I think a deal could happen during the draft. Regardless of his immediate future, he’s in a contract year and the Jets need to look toward the future. There aren’t nine other players better than Milliner in this draft, so the Jets would reap the rewards if he fell into their lap. Most of this draft, however, will revolve around the offense. If a return to ground and pound is in the works, then Bell and Bailey are perfect picks. Bailey’s a nasty guard with experience, and Bell’s the hardest runner in the draft.