In 2009, the New York Jets came within one good half of the Super Bowl, and spent the offseason beefing up their team in every way possible. Former heavyweights in Miami and New England trailed behind, but Rex Ryan's defensive excellence showed the Dolphins and Patriots the way to future success. And in Buffalo, a spoiler is trying to transcend longtime underground status. Here, in the first of eight division draft reviews, is how things went in the AFC East.
Buffalo Bills: Getting Clemson running back C.J. Spiller(notes) with the ninth overall pick was a very wise move - there are few better short-term fixes for a line-impaired offense than a guy who can bounce outside with ridiculous speed, play in the slot, and split out wide once in a while. Buffalo addressed those line needs later in the draft with Ed Wang(notes) and Kyle Calloway(notes) - Calloway, who played opposite Bryan Bulaga(notes) at Iowa, could be a real sleeper. Arkansas State end Alex Carrington(notes) has pass-rush ability, but the other feature of this Bills draft should be DT Torell Troup(notes), the Central Florida widebody who was climbing up a lot of boards and will fit perfectly as a nose tackle in the team's 3-4 defensive scheme.
Miami Dolphins: When they moved Randy Starks(notes) to nose tackle, the Dolphins eliminated perhaps their greatest draft need in someone to eventually replace Jason Ferguson(notes). Before that, they had crossed off their second-greatest need - a true playmaking receiver with the trade for Brandon Marshall(notes). So it is in today's NFL, where free agency and trades are interchangeable with draft picks. What Dolphans got was the typical Bill Parcells draft - unsexy but very, very productive. First-rounder Jared Odrick(notes) is a great hybrid end/tackle who will replace Starks outside. Utah's Koa Misi(notes) is an underrated pass rusher. Ole Miss guard John Jerry(notes) knows the option game having blocked for Dexter McCluster(notes), so he'll be a great fit in Miami's alternative offensive packages. Hopefully, the team's other big need - safety help - can be mitigated to a point by fifth-rounder Reshad Jones(notes) from Georgia.
New England Patriots: This is Year Two of the Bill Belichick Defensive Rebuild, in which the Pats go from old, smart, and slow to fast, mean, and edgy. With two of his three second-round picks, Belichick took two Florida defenders, certainly informed by his longtime friendship with Urban Meyer. Jermaine Cunningham(notes) provides strength off the edge, and Brandon Spikes(notes), who was downgraded for slow 40 times, is a downhill thumper at ILB. First-round cornerback Devin McCourty(notes) from Rutgers brings demon speed to the field - between McCourty and Darius Butler(notes), the Pats might have the quickest CB duo in the league. Tight ends Rob Gronkowski(notes) and Aaron Hernandez(notes) present indications that Belichick may be moving away from a wide-open offense and back to a little more smashmouth ans seven-man fronts.
New York Jets: Rex Ryan picked up one of the major draft sleepers in Boise State cornerback Kyle Wilson(notes), who was expected to go in the top 15 but fell to the Jets at 29. He's got the potential to bring elite man coverage skills and make the Jets' secondary downright illegal. Vladimir Ducasse(notes) may replace left guard Alan Faneca(notes) immediately. He's a bit raw from a technique perspective, but he's got a lot of power and fits the Jets' offensive scheme. USC tailback Joe McKnight(notes) will be expected to replace Leon Washington(notes), who went to the Seahawks for a fifth-round draft pick. From a pure draft perspective, New York's selections may be seen as unspectacular. However, in this post-CBA era, free agency motion must be considered as well.
- Rex Ryan