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2014 NFL Draft Preview: AFC East
By Matt Horkman

Buffalo Bills

Recent Selections: ILB Kiko Alonso, DT Marcell Dareus, CB Stephon Gilmore, OT Cordy Glenn, QB E.J. Manuel, & S Aaron Williams

Recap: Buffalo landed four defensive starters over the last three drafts, with Dareus finally beginning to live up to his first-round status, and Alonso emerging as a rookie of the year candidate in 2013. Much of Buffalo’s success over the next few seasons will depend on whether head coach Doug Marrone can develop Manuel into a high-level starting quarterback. Manuel flashed good things early into his rookie season, but tailored off as the year went forward. Should Manuel display major progress, the Bills have a good enough team to challenge for a postseason berth in 2014, in large part because of their drafting.

Best Scenario: OT Taylor Lewan, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, & WR Davante Adams

Draft Preview: The Bills already have a playoff caliber defense, so using this draft to surround Manuel with more talent would be an excellent strategy. Lewan paired with Glenn would give Buffalo bookend tackles for their young quarterback. On day two, they could focus on surrounding Manuel with viable pass catchers. They can start with Seferian-Jenkins in round two. The 6-foot-5, 262-pound tight end has a skill set that mirrors New England’s Rob Gronkowski. This year’s draft is deep at receiver, so someone may luck into Adams in round three.

Miami Dolphins

Recent Selections: DE Dion Jordon, C Mike Pouncey, QB Ryan Tannehill, CB Jamar Taylor, DE Oliver Vernon

Recap: A breakout year from Tannehill could put Miami in the playoffs. He did make strides last year, but he has yet to emerge as a high-level starting NFL quarterback. The Dolphins are hopeful he’ll do just that this season. They’re also hoping Jordon and Taylor show major progress in their second seasons, after neither started a game in 2013. Former general manager Jeff Ireland’s body of work throughout his tenure in Miami disappointed. His draft classes were no exception.

Best Scenario: OT Zack Martin & OG David Yankey

Draft Preview: Improving an offensive line that allowed a league-high 58 sacks is Miami’s objective in this year’s draft. Martin along with Auburn’s Greg Robinson, Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews, and Michigan’s Taylor Lewan are this draft’s first-round offensive tackles. There’s no chance Robinson, Matthews, and Lewan fall to Miami at No. 19. There is an outside shot -- albeit a small one -- that Martin does. Trading up is Miami’s best course of action, though it’ll take too much to move from No. 19 into the top 10 to secure one of the draft’s top three tackles. However, they may find a trading partner with Pittsburgh (No. 15), as the Steelers could move down to target a cornerback or receiver. Putting together a package consisting of their first-round pick and third-round pick should be enough to secure a deal, allowing the Dolphins to take Martin ahead of Baltimore. With their second-round pick, the Dolphins could target Yankey, who is strong, tough, and ready to play immediately. Adding Martin and Yankey to an offensive line that already consists of Pouncey and newly signed left tackle Branden Albert would complete Miami’s off-season overhaul of their offensive line.

N.Y. Jets

Recent Selections: CB Dee Milliner, DE Sheldon Richardson, QB Geno Smith, & DE Muhammad Wilkerson

Recap: The Jets missed badly in 2012 with Quinton Coples in the first round and Stephen Hill in the second round. To be fair, Coples is still young (23) and entering just his third season, so there’s still time for him to develop. However, Hill has been unable to breakthrough on a team desperate for receiver help. Because he is a bust, the Jets may target a receiver early in this year’s draft. They also paid top money to free agent Eric Decker this off-season. Still, with Wilkerson and Richardson, the Jets have arguably two of football’s best defensive lineman playing along the same front. In addition, the franchise expects Milliner to make a major leap forward in 2014.

Best Scenario: CB Darqueze Dennard, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, & WR Jared AbbrederisJared Abbrederis

Draft Preview: After releasing Antonio Cromartie and failing to sign Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, New York remains in the market for a cornerback. Their hunt would stop with Dennard, who is the best man-coverage corner in the draft. He may not make as many plays as Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert, but he’s a physical, lockdown corner with better than advertised speed. The Jets shouldn’t think twice about adding two more receiving threats to their offensive arsenal, even with the addition of Decker. Two years from now, I suspect we’ll view Seferian-Jenkins as one of the best value picks of this class, especially with North Carolina’s Eric Ebron and possibly Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro going in the first round. Should the Jets pass on drafting a receiver in the first two rounds, Abbrederis is an excellent third-round option. The Wisconsin receiver could settle in as the team’s No. 2 or No. 3 receiving threat.

New England Patriots

Recent Selections: OLB Jaime Collins, CB Alfonzo Dennard, OLB Dont’a Hightower, DE Chandler Jones, RB Stevan Ridley, OT Nate Solder, & RB Shane Vereen

Recap: Even football’s best minds underachieve. The Patriots produced back-to-back underwhelming drafts in ‘08 and ‘09. Over the last three drafts, however, they've come roaring back, producing seven starters with 23 picks. Collins, a second round pick in 2013, improved as the year went on, and Dennard was an excellent value pick (seventh round) in 2012. The team landed a franchise left tackle (Solder) in 2011 and Jones improved substantially in his second season. Throw in Vereen, who is prime for a major role in 2014, and New England has position themselves for another run at the Super Bowl through their drafting.

Best Scenario: WR Marqise Lee, OG David Yankey, & DT Ego Ferguson

Draft Preview: No defensive coordinator is going to lay awake at night worrying about defending Julian Edelman. He had a good year in 2013, but the Patriots need to give Tom Brady another target. Lee is a polished route runner, who is dangerous after the catch. He’s also versatile enough to play each of the three receiver positions. Brady could make him into a star. Yankey, who I believe compares with New England’s Logan Mankins, should go much higher than the No. 62 pick in the draft, but he’s failed to generate much pre-draft buzz. He’s going to be a draft day steal. The Patriots won’t forget about their defense. Ferguson could compete with Tommy Kelly for a first-team role in New England’s 4-3 package.

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