Michael Amato is going to study team-by-team each squad's NEEDS over the next few weeks. Enjoy the ongoing series of articles as we explore the upcoming NFL draft.
The Bills own the eighth overall pick and one would think they will be looking to take a quarterback after cutting Ryan Fitzpatrick. Unless for some unknown reason they plan to stake everything on the arm of newly signed Kevin Kolb. While the pivot selection is not as good as last year’s draft, there are still some solid candidates up for grabs in 2013. Geno Smith from West Virginia is rated at the top of most scouts’ lists, and after throwing for over 4,200 yards with 42 touchdowns and just six interceptions in 2012, it’s easy to see why.
Although Smith is predicted to go late in the top 10, the tricky part for Buffalo is that Arizona picks right before them and they might be targeting a quarterback as well. So if the Bills really want Smith they may have to trade up to get him.
Now that they do have Kolb, however, Buffalo can also opt to wait and select a quarterback later on in the draft. Ryan Nassib from Syracuse played for Bills new head coach Doug Marrone in college and the two already have a pretty good rapport. It would probably be a smooth transition for Nassib to learn the offense and many feel he is the third or fourth best quarterback in this draft class anyway. Waiting until the third round could be a risk, but the Bills could probably easily snag him in the second.
Buffalo will also need to address their secondary at some point. They cut both George Wilson and Terrence McGee, and although they still have Leodis McKelvin and Stephon Gilmore at the corner spots, it would be smart for them to look at a strong safety. Robert Lester, who had four interceptions last year for the Alabama Crimson Tide, is projected to go in the fourth or fifth round and could be an under the radar option.
Look for the Bills to also go after a depth receiver since Donald Jones signed with New England and it appears they won’t be re-signing Ruvell Martin and David Nelson.
New York Jets
The Jets pick right after the Bills at number nine and they could also be looking at a quarterback. To say New York’s situation behind center last season was a mess would be an understatement of epic proportions. If the Bills do indeed grab Smith, then the Jets could be looking at Matt Barkley from USC. However, ninth overall could be a little high for Barkley who is recovering from a shoulder injury and we all know what happened the last time the Jets took a quarterback in the top 10 from USC. What could possibly go wrong?
Instead, look for the defensive minded Rex Ryan to target OLB Jarvis Jones from Georgia. Jones is a premier pass rusher and recorded 14.5 sacks for the Bulldogs last season. Jones also fits well into a 3-4 system and his versatility should help the Jets get to the quarterback more often in 2013, since they finished just 27th in sacks last year. If they are not able to get Jones then defensive ends Bjoern Werner from Florida State and Ziggy Ansah from BYU could also be in play.
The Jets will probably want to look at their running back situation as well. They let Shonn Greene go and brought in Mike Goodson, who has only played sparingly so far in his career. Drafting someone like Giovani Bernard from North Carolina in the second round might make sense to help take some of the pressure off Goodson. Bernard led the ACC in rushing and all-purpose yards in 2012, and is a great kick returner as well.
Miami certainly went out and got plenty of weapons for Ryan Tannehill to work with this off-season by bringing in Mike Wallace, Brandon Gibson, and Dustin Keller. Not to mention they locked up his favourite target in Brian Hartline as well, so expect the Dolphins to be throwing the ball with regularity in 2013.
With that being said, Miami will need to find some balance in their attack to compete in AFC East. Now that Reggie Bush has left for Detroit, Miami is down to just Daniel Thomas and Lamar Miller on the running back depth chart. Eddie Lacy from Alabama, who is projected to go late in the first round or early in the second, has a power running style that could be a great compliment to Miami’s aerial attack.
However, the Dolphins pick 12th and may first want to look at cornerback Xavier Rhodes from Florida State to help their secondary, or an offensive lineman to replace the departed Jake Long.
Whatever they decide, the Dolphins own a whopping 11 picks in this draft, including two second-rounders and two third-rounders. So they will have some flexibility to trade up and potentially get Lacy or anyone else that catches their eye.
New England Patriots
Unlike the Dolphins, the Patriots uncharacteristically have just four picks in the draft and don’t have any picks in the fourth, fifth, and sixth rounds at the moment. New England has never been shy about trading down to accumulate more selections, so expect them to make a move or two in that regard.
Although they brought in Danny Amendola to replace Wes Welker, and Michael Jenkins to compete for a spot in training camp, don’t discount the fact that the Patriots may be looking at a receiver late in the first round. They have cut Brandon Lloyd, and Julian Edelman remains un-signed, which means they need to replace those catches. Of course they still have tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, but their durability has been questionable in recent years.
Someone like Tavon Austin from West Virginia will be tough to get without trading up, and with so few draft picks at their disposal, that may not be possible. Instead DeAndre Hopkins, who is projected to go late in the first, may be more realistic. Hopkins had over 3,000 receiving yards and 27 touchdowns during his career at Clemson. His ability to run after the catch is something that Tom Brady will be able to use to his advantage, and the Patriots are a perfect team to maximize Hopkins’ skill set.
Expect New England to also attempt to upgrade their secondary at some point later in the draft. The Patriots were 29th against the pass last season and were giving up over 270 yards per game through the air in 2012.
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