The 2013 NFL Draft is upon us, and as the Kansas City Chiefs prepare to make the first selection in a draft deep on big guys in the trench (offensive and defensive line) and lacking the sizzle of super-star quarterbacks, game-changing running backs, and big-time wide receivers, a last minute look at the New England Patriots and their AFC East counterparts is in order as the annual April holiday known simply as “Draft Day” dawns:
The Bills have a simply horrible draft record: too many running backs (C.J. Spiller, Marshawn Lynch, and Willis McGahee) and too many top ten picks who failed to be the impact player they thought they were picking (LB/DE Aaron Maybin; CB/KR Leodis McKelvin). That said, 2013 sees a Bills team in desperate need of a guard after losing their best offensive lineman Andy Levitre to Tennessee in free agency, a playmaking wide receiver, and a franchise quarterback. Unfortunately for the Bills, this draft is weak at quarterback, lacks a consensus superstar wide receiver, and guards are almost never drafted in the top ten.
General Manager Buddy Nix is now looking at a top pick (again) and no impact player at a position of need. If possible, the Bills would be wise to trade back and accumulate picks for their many needs. Buffalo being Buffalo, however, this pick seems destined to be a desperate reach and a player not first round worthy, let alone top-ten worthy, like quarterback Geno Smith, wide receiver Tavon Austin, or guard Chance Warmack at number eight overall.
As bad as the Bills are in the draft, the Dolphins have been desperately seeking impact players as well these past few years. Running back Ronnie Brown number two overall in 2005, defensive back Jason Allen in 2006, wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr in 2007, tackle Jake Long number one overall in 2008, and defensive back Vontae Davis in 2009 were all either disasters or are no longer in Miami. Five straight drafts (with three top ten picks) without an impact player is a recipe for franchise disaster. The Dolphins have been better in the draft these past few years, which has coincided with their re-emergence as a legitimate potential playoff team.
This year the Dolphins are in need of a tackle to replace Jake Long (whether they trade with Kansas City for tackle Brandon Alberts or not), a cornerback to replace Vontae Davis who was traded last year and never fully replaced, and a defensive end/pass rush specialist to line-up opposite defensive end Cameron Wake. At least the draft has some talent available to them at number twelve as there are abundant tackles and some defensive end prospects. Best bet for Miami is to trade-up or hope cornerback Dee Milliner falls to them at number twelve overall, as they do play in the same division as New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and need to shore up their pass defense to compete in the AFC East.
The Jets were one of the best teams in the draft, aggressively moving up to grab playmakers in the early part of the 2000s; unfortunately, the last few years have been marred by bad picks and that has hurt the team. Quarterback Mark Sanchez, cornerback Kyle Wilson, and defensive end Vernon Gholson have been poor production for high draft picks. Instead of making AFC Championship games, this past season was marred by dysfunction, poor play, and the infamous “butt fumble”. With the trade of their best player (cornerback Darrelle Revis) to Tampa Bay for their first round pick at number thirteen, the Jets have two number ones to spend.
The Jets strength has been defense and while desperately needing an impact wide receiver and quarterback, wide receiver and quarterback are weak in the draft. A smart move would be grabbing the two best defensive players at number nine and thirteen and filling their needs at safety, cornerback, inside linebacker, and a pass-rushing defensive end/outside linebacker. If the Jets are drafting offense early, they are reaching and making yet another mistake in the draft. If they stay smart, they will pick players to play in coach Rex Ryan’s excellent defensive game plans and claw their way back into contention through defense and ground-and-pound on offense.
New England Patriots:
The Patriots do not pick until number twenty-nine in the first round. Since 2010, their draft has added a number of solid players and impact players on both sides of the ball. Coach Bill Belichick is nearly impossible to predict (trading down, trading up, drafting all offense, drafting all defense, drafting quarterbacks, and not drafting at a position for years and then filling it the next year with multiple players).
The Patriots value depth and value, and this draft class is pretty similar without a big difference between picks 15 through 90. Expect the Patriots to adopt the “Trader Bill” mentality and try to accumulate a number of picks between the second and fifth round to turn three picks in the first six rounds into at least five or six. A wide receiver, another linebacker, and a defensive lineman are likely areas to be targeted. Look for Bill Belichick to stick with the same script of the past ten plus years and add unspectacular, but solid, pieces to their squad.