With the NFL Draft now in the books, here’s a look back at how the AFC East teams fared:
Overall: There’s a lot to like about the Bills’ draft. They made one of the biggest moves of the first round by trading down from 9 to 16 and drafting E.J. Manuel to be their franchise quarterback. They landed a polished receiver in USC’s Robert Woods in the second round, snagged the scouting combine’s fastest player in WR Marquise Goodwin (4.27 40) of Texas, took a couple of defensive backs in the middle rounds and took potentially the draft’s strongest leg in FSU kicker Dustin Hopkins.
Key player: Manuel. The Bills are going on eight straight years with a losing record, and the answer is simple – subpar quarterback play. They traded for Kevin Kolb to keep the seat warm this year, but the future of the team is now tied to Manuel, the only quarterback taken in the first round.
Boom or Bust: Goodwin. Better known as a long jumper on the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team, the third-round pick is a speedster who could be a menace on kick returns. But he never caught more than 33 passes for 421 yards or three touchdowns in any of his four seasons at Texas.
Overall: GM Jeff Ireland said it wasn’t his intention to use four of his top five picks on defensive players, but after spending a majority of his free agent dollars on offensive players, it made sense. The Dolphins made the biggest play of the first round, trading up to No. 3 to land DE Dion Jordan, considered by many as the best pass rusher in the draft. They doubled down on cornerbacks again with Jamar Taylor (second round) and Will Davis (third round) and landed a solid cover linebacker in Jelani Jenkins. But it was surprising that only one draft pick was used on an offensive lineman (third-round G/T Dallas Thomas), a unit that still needs work.
Key player: Taylor. The Dolphins need young cornerbacks after moving on from Vontae Davis and Sean Smith, and they really need Taylor, picked 54th overall, to develop into a No. 1 cornerback sooner rather than later.
Boom or Bust: Jordan. If he puts on a little weight and refines his moves, the Dolphins could have the next DeMarcus Ware. But he only had 12.5 sacks in his last two seasons at Oregon and might not have the strength to fight through offensive tackles.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Overall: The Patriots didn’t see much value at the top of the draft, opting to trade their first-round pick, but still landed five players in the top 102, the most of any team. Their first pick was used on an underrated pass rusher in Southern Miss’ Jamie Collins, who had 10 sacks and 20 tackles for loss last year. Then the Pats used their picks to improve two positions that badly need it. They drafted Marshall WR Aaron Dobson in the second round and TCU receiver Josh Boyce in the fourth, and took a couple of Rutgers defensive backs in the third round – CB Logan Ryan and SS Duron Harmon.
Key player: Ryan. The Patriots’ pass defense hasn’t been ranked higher than 29th over the past three seasons, and they’re relying on former Bucs castoff Aqib Talib to hold down one cornerback spot. They need Ryan, who had four interceptions and 17 pass break-ups last year, to develop into a No. 1 corner.
Boom or Bust: Dobson. The Patriots have been dominant with Wes Welker (now departed) and their tight ends, but they haven’t been able to find quality outside receivers in recent years, either in free agency or the draft. The Patriots need Dobson to develop more like the player he was in 2011 (12 touchdowns) than in 2012 (three touchdowns).
NEW YORK JETS
Overall: The Jets drafted some quality players, but their strategy was a bit baffling. They desperately need playmakers to help Mark Sanchez (or whoever is playing quarterback), but didn’t take any receivers, tight ends or running backs in the draft. Instead they used their two first-round picks on defensive players (CB Dee Milliner and DT Sheldon Richardson) and also took an offensive tackle, two guards and a fullback. Their one offensive playmaker was QB Geno Smith in the second round, who already has predicted the Jets will make the playoffs and fired his agent because he thought he’d be drafted in the first round.
Key player: Milliner. Trading Darrelle Revis to the Bucs was probably the right thing to do, especially given his salary and how badly the Jets need the cap space. But for the trade to truly be a success, Milliner, the ninth overall pick from Alabama, must be a success.
Boom or Bust: His passing numbers in 2012 were phenomenal – 4,205 yards, 42 touchdowns and six interceptions at West Virginia. But there are big questions about his maturity and leadership, and it remains to be seen if he can handle the big stage of New York City.