AFC East Division Draft Recap

April 27, 2009

With the completion of this year's NFL Draft, hope once again springs eternal in the league. Of course, that will all come crashing to a halt in the next few months, when some of these picks get injured, holdout, or just plain don't pan out. Until then, each franchise probably walked away from the draft feeling that they at least addressed some of their off-season needs.

Here is our team-by-team draft evaluation of the AFC East:

Buffalo Bills

Although many so-called "experts" have rated the Bills as having one of the best drafts this year, I beg to differ. When one takes a deeper look at the holes still left on their roster, it becomes clear that their draft was anything but successful.

With their first round pick (11th overall) the Bills drafted defensive end Aaron Maybin. Although a freakish athlete with undeniable burst as a pass-rushing specialist, it is doubtful that Maybin will be able to stay on the field as an every down player. The more probable scenario is that he will remain a situational pass rusher, unless he can pack some extra pounds onto his 250-pound frame to help defend against the run. Still, Maybin has an incredibly inspiring story, a good motor, and a great work ethic, so here's hoping that he proves me wrong.

What made this move so perplexing was that the Bills could have grabbed a player like Mississippi's offensive tackle Michael Oher. Not only would Oher have immediately replaced the recently-traded Jason Peters, but he also would have given the Bills more "play for the pay" than what they will receive for a defensive end who probably won't play every down.

The Bills then compounded their mistake by squandering another opportunity to fill Peters' void by grabbing Eric Wood with their second pick in the first round. Although Wood is a tough and versatile player, he will likely be pencilled in at either guard or center. In drafting an interior lineman, the Bills missed on taking several good prospects who could have filled their more pressing need at tackle, such as Oklahoma's Phil Loadholt, Connecticut's William Beatty, or even Arizona's Eben Britton. All of the above-mentioned players were still on the board at the time.

To their credit, the Bills did make wise decisions with their next two picks. Their second round pick was used to grab Oregon cornerback Jairus Byrd, a play-making ballhawk who will help immediately in their secondary against the tough wideouts found in their division.

Next, the Bills picked Southern Miss tight end Shawn Nelson, a sound selection who could become a safety valve for QB Trent Edwards. However, considering the Bills lauded decision to sign controversial wide receiver Terrell Owens, Edwards better not rely on Nelson too heavily, lest he be accused of conspiring to design secret plays.

The Bills continued to confound with their last 3 picks, as each was spent on defensive backs despite the fact that they already have solid corners in Terrance McGee, Drayton Florence, and Ashton Youboty, as well as respectable safeties in Donte Whitner and George Wilson. Although the DB picks certainly added some depth, and perhaps increased training camp competition, one of those picks could have been used on a running back instead. Starter Marshawn Lynch is to be suspended for the first four games of next season, leaving only the underwhelming Dominic Rhodes as the starter.

Miami Dolphins

As is the case when you are dealing with a franchise guided by the true genius of Bill Parcells, the Dolphins had a fantastic and productive draft.

Miami's first round selection of Maryland cornerback Vontae Davis, gives the Fins a big, strong, and athletic cornerback. This pick was a magnificent move considering that Miami will have to deal with the Randy Mosses and TOs of the AFC East at least twice a year. No finesse player, Davis is a physical corner that excels in both press man coverage and run support. A solid tackler in the open field, Davis reminds me of an Al Harris or Chris McAllister-type. A great get by the Dolphins.

With their next pick, the Dolphins smartly grabbed quarterback Pat White of West Virginia. Miami gave their foes fits last year with their "Wildcat" offense, and with White, Ricky Williams, and Ronnie Brown rounding out a stacked backfield, that trend should continue. Simply put, White will give opposing defenses another threat to include in their gameplans. Although many had White pegged as a wide receiver, the talented youngster steadfastly believes that he can succeed as an NFL signal-caller. White's self-confidence might just be rewarded, as he has landed in perhaps an ideal situation for his unique set of skills.

The Dolphins phenomenal draft continued when they later selected Sean Smith of Utah. At 6'3" and 215 pounds, Smith has ideal size to deal with NFL receivers who just seem to get taller with each passing year. Although his play has been characterized as more finesse then physical, under the watchful eye of "The Tuna," he should learn to become tougher in due time. More importantly, his rare combination of size, speed, athleticism, and ball skills should also help improve the Miami secondary.

The Dolphins next two picks were spent on a pair of wide receivers, with the most intriguing pick being Patrick Turner of USC. A tall 6'5" receiver, the main question surrounding Turner is whether he will wind up being another in a line of big receiver busts out of the 'SC program, a la Mike Williams and Dwayne Jarrett. Only time will tell, but perhaps the hard-working and humble youngster will flourish under the Tuna's tutelage.

Ohio State wideout Brian Hartline could also prove to be a steal.

After such a commendable crop of picks, Parcells also bolstered another area of concern by signing defensive end Cameron Wake. Wake spent the past few years terrorizing quarterbacks and disrupting defenses for the CFL's BC Lions, and was the best pass rusher north of the border. Wake could prove to be a real diamond in the rough, and at the very least figures to improve the depth along the defensive line. All things being equal, the Dolphins probably had the best draft of any NFL team.

New York Jets

The Jets only had three picks in this year's Draft, but nevertheless made a big splash by trading up to grab USC QB Mark Sanchez. Sanchez was probably the most talked-about prospect in the days leading up to the Draft, and will be called upon to produce almost instantly. Only a one-year starter at 'SC, Sanchez performed well in his only year as "The Man," and was often lauded for his natural leadership skills. In the Big Apple, those skills will have to be on full display from the moment he sets foot on the Jets training facility. As much a PR move as anything, Sanchez will soon learn that a smile and a nice comment will only get you so far in Gotham. Most likely Sanchez will endure some mandatory early rough patches, but look for him to eventually be a solid and reliable QB for the J-E-T-S.

The Jets made a good move with their next pick in shrewdly selecting RB Shonn Greene from Iowa. Because the Jets are still engaged in a contract dispute with incumbent ball carrier Thomas Jones, this pick could pay dividends immediately. Chosen last season as the Doak Walker Award winner and the Big 10 Offensive Player of the Year, Greene is a tough and durable runner. His story is also one of redemption, as Greene began fall camp as the sixth running back on the Hawkeyes depth chart after returning from a year of academic ineligibility. Greene's Iowa coaches praised his humble and hard-working attitude, which should serve him well as he fights for carries at the next level.

With their third and final pick the Jets nabbed Matt Slauson from Nebraska. A powerful player with sound technique and good leverage, Slauson should benefit from playing alongside veterans Alan Faneca, Damian Woody and Nick Mangold.

If there was one negative for the Jets, it is that they still need an elite, big-play wide receiver, as well as some depth at tight end.

New England Patriots

As is usually the case with the Patriots, New England favored quantity over quality, trading down in order to stockpile selections. With 12 total picks, the Pats should have a quality practice squad at the very least.

Their first two selections were certainly their best ones, as they nabbed what is believed to be the first "Chiney-Jamaican" safety in League history with Patrick Chung, and then followed that pick up by grabbing the mammoth Ron Brace, a defensive tackle from Boston College.

Chung is a first-rate athlete, and should step in right away for situational duty in the secondary. If he picks up the intricacies of the Pats defensive system and gains confidence over the course of the year, I wouldn't be surprised if he emerges as a starter by season's end. He should see action on special teams as well.

In picking Brace they made an excellent selection, as Boston College has been producing solid, reliable, and NFL-ready lineman on both sides of the ball for years now. In fact, this could prove to be the steal of the Draft, as Brace not only provides depth behind Vince Wilfork, but also could prove to be his eventual replacement.

Other notable picks for the Pats included versatile wide receiver and return man Brandon Tate from North Carolina, and outside linebacker Tyrone Mackenzie. Rich Orhnberger was also a good pick-up.

By Kweku Turkson
Staff Reporter for

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