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A thorough assessment of a team’s draft can’t truly be reached for another three years or so. That said, with tighter rosters and larger rookie contracts, a successful draft must yield at least some immediate help. With that in mind, here’s a look at how AFC East teams fared over the weekend—both from a big-picture NFL standpoint as well as a fantasy perspective—taking into account how key needs were (or weren’t) addressed and the impact potential of the players acquired.
Conventional wisdom suggested that Buffalo would use one of its two first-round selections to address the loss of LT Jason Peters, and on the surface that void went unfilled. However, the Bills project C Eric Wood—taken with the pick acquired for Peters—as a starting guard and second-round selection Andy Levitre could play either guard or tackle. The Bills significantly upgraded their pass rush with DE Aaron Maybin and added depth to their secondary with Jairus Byrd (a corner who projects at safety and should see nickel work this year), press CB Cary Harris, and athletic DB Ellis Lankster, who if he makes the team will contribute initially on special teams. Nic Harris also played safety in college but projects to OLB in the NFL.
Fantasy nugget: The Bills were extremely fortunate to find TE Shawn Nelson in the fourth round. At worst he should emerge as Buffalo’s primary pass-catching tight end this year—and we all know how young quarterbacks love to rely on their tight end. And if Nelson’s blocking improves, he’ll be on the field enough to contend for fantasy relevance as a rookie.
In a draft class relatively deep in pass-rushing 3-4 linebackers, the Dolphins were expected to find a complement (and eventual heir) to Joey Porter—but unless that’s where they’re projecting seventh-round pick J.D. Folsom, that itch went unscratched. Miami aggressively tackled its other defensive need, taking CBs Vontae Davis in the first round and Sean Smith in Round 2. Sandwiched in between those picks was Pat White, whom (based on the release of John Beck you would assume) the Dolphins intend to develop as a quarterback but whose immediate impact might come in the Wildcat formation. Miami also addressed a need for help at wide receiver, using third- and fourth-round picks on Patrick Turner and Brian Hartline. Fifth-rounder John Nalbone is the kind of complete tight end NFL teams love and fantasy teams can’t appreciate. FS Chris Clemons and OT Andrew Gardner have athleticism for their position the Dolphins hope to develop.
Fantasy nugget: Miami already has Ted Ginn to threaten the defense vertically; in Turner and Hartline, the Dolphins have a pair of bigger possession types who could contribute immediately—especially if Greg Camarillo, who will be just nine months removed from ACL surgery when the season starts, is slow to return to form.
New England Patriots
The Patriots made three picks on Day One from other teams’ draft positions before making their own second-round selection, and that set the tone for the weekend; three of their picks were compensatory and therefore untradable, but New England traded out of five of their seven regular spots and turned those five selections into seven picks in this draft and a pair of second-rounders next year. Sans Scott Pioli, the shockingly tie-clad Bill Belichick effectively addressed most of his team’s needs: SS Patrick Chung fills the Rodney Harrison role, CB Darius Butler made Ellis Hobbs expendable, DT Ron Brace will study under Vince Wilfork, and OT Sebastian Vollmer is just the type of lineman the Patriots love to develop. And that was just the second round! WR Brandon Tate will have time to recover from last year’s torn ACL, Tyrone McKenzie is a versatile linebacker the Patriots could use inside or out, OG Rich Ohrnberger and OT George Bussey both offer versatility and depth, and DTs Myron Pryor and Darryl Richard will contend for a spot in the rotation. New England even added a Wildcat quarterback (Julian Edelman, who will be developed as a wideout) and a long snapper (Jake Ingram). Not a bad haul, made even more impressive by the pair of 2010 second-rounders the Pats pocketed on draft day.
Fantasy nugget: Aside from Edelman, who is at best a developmental project, the only skill position the Patriots drafted was Tate. More than one draft analyst referred to 2009 as a “redshirt year” for the former Tar Heel whose senior season was ended prematurely by a knee injury, but dynasty leaguers should file him away as a potential late-round steal; both Randy Moss and Joey Galloway are on the plus side of 30, meaning about the time Tate is healthy enough to contribute his path to playing time will be significantly less difficult.
New York Jets
Gang Green went for quality over quantity, packaging picks first to move up and snare QB Mark Sanchez, then pouncing on RB Shonn Greene with the first pick on Day Two. The Jets’ only other selection was OG Matt Slauson; the fact that former Nebraska coach Bill Callahan, who wooed Slauson to Lincoln, is now the Jets’ offensive line coach can hardly be viewed as a coincidence. With just three selections the Jets were unable to address the departure of WR Laveranues Coles, the lack of tight ends on their roster (Dustin Keller is the only holdover), or depth issues along the offensive and defensive lines—at least until the post-draft free agent signing frenzy, where they found a pair of Cornhusker defensive linemen (DT Ty Steinkuhler and DE Zach Potter) and three tight ends including Cleveland State basketball player J’Nathan Bullock.
Fantasy nugget: Sanchez will compete for the starting job right away, and he’ll enter a situation similar to that of Joe Flacco last year—a solid running game and stout defense providing a safety net and removing the burden of carrying the team from the rookie’s shoulders. Greene not only gives the Jets leverage should Thomas Jones hold out, he also has many Jones-like qualities that would make him a nice complement to Leon Washington; as an added bonus, Sanchez and Greene could mature together in the Gang Green backfield.