By Leo Silbert
It is getting to the point of the year that fans are trying to figure out who their team needs to draft or what position needs the most help. Some teams like the Patriots don’t have a glaring need so they are able to pick for desire and are allowed greater risks. Other teams like the Browns have needs all over the map so they are best suited to just take the best available player. I’m going to sort this out by division and within the divisions I’ll sort them by 2016 records.
First off, the AFC East:
- New England Patriots- The Patriots have finished a season 14-2 so calling any position a need is reaching a bit, but they can definitely have some improvement from their pass rushing. Their passing defense was the weaker part of their top 10 defense as they had the 2nd best run defense and the best scoring defense in the league. They were only middle of the pack as it come to sacks at 16th in the NFL. Recently the team has traded away both Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins so they don’t have the same level of talent that they are accustomed to having there. They still ended up tied for 9th in defensive hurries due to defensive coordinator Matt Patricia’s schemes. If the Patriots are able to add a top level pass rusher to their team, I don’t see any reason why they can’t be the favorites to win the Superbowl (as they pretty much have been since 2004).
- Miami Dolphins- The Dolphins surprised many by making the playoffs this season while last season they finished last in their division and the 2 teams between them and the Patriots seemed to be teams on the rise, but head coach Adam Gase did a phenomenal of turning the team around and helping Ryan Tannehill finally develop into a quality quarterback. If you look at their defense though, it is hard to see how they made the playoffs in the first place if you look at all the yards they’ve given up. They have a highly talented defensive line with a lot of big names so that wasn’t the problem. That leaves either the secondary or the linebackers as the primary problem. Now they gave up the 6th most passing touchdowns in the league, but that wasn’t the worst part of their defense. They really missed Reshad Jones after he went down with an injury which definitely hurt their coverage deep over the middle and former Philadelphia Eagles castoff Byron Maxwell played quite well throughout the season so their biggest need is linebacker. Their only passable linebacker was Kiko Alonso and he isn’t good enough to be good as a team’s #1 linebacker. Also, the Dolphins still had a solid pass defense between the 20s with being 15th in passing yards given up, but their rushing defense was horrendous. They allowed the most yards per attempt in the league so a run stuffing middle linebacker would be a godsend for the team.
- Buffalo Bills- This one spot is probably the most circumstantial biggest need of any team in the league. The Bills have a history of front office blunders that lead them into overpaying for a player who is more or less an average player while they have also let great players (think Jason Peters) get away in free agency. The general manager of the Bills had Tyrod Taylor sit for the final game to ensure they wouldn’t have to pay his injury guaranteed salary for the 2017 season if he were to get injured. This seems like a team trying to cut ties with a quality qb in the worst way. But I can’t just assume that they will decide to cut ties with him either because they have hired a head coach who has had a history with making his defense work with a mobile quarterback. With the assumption that they keep their Taylor at qb, the biggest need for the Bills is wide receiver. Now yes, they have Sammy Watkins who is great when healthy but therein lies his problem. Marquise Goodwin is a good deep threat at wr, but he is only good at that one aspect of the game which is also something that Sammy Watkins excels at when healthy. A big, physical wide receiver would probably be their best shot at balancing their offense and then Sean McDermott can do what he needs to do on defense with the change to his 4-3 cover 2 heavy wide 9 scheme from Rex Ryan’s press-man blitz heavy 3-4 scheme.
- New York Jets- This team has their biggest need a lot clearer. In 2015, Ryan Fitzpatrick became the qb of the Jets. He seemed to be a revelation like he has so many other times in his career, only to ruin the expectation the next season. But this time looked like it could be different. He had the same offensive coordinator from his first breakout with the Bills. He had the best offensive talent surrounding him in his career with Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker, and Matt Forte. He’d have had it all set, if the Jets could’ve agreed to a contract with him earlier in the offseason, but this is where it seems the Jets have made one of their smartest decisions in years. They gave Fitzpatrick a $12 million contract for 1 year so he can prove he wasn’t a 1 hit wonder yet again. Fitzpatrick was not able to prove that. He threw 17 interceptions to 12 touchdowns. He was replaced a couple of times during the season by the likes of Geno Smith and Bryce Petty, who both got hurt to cede the job back to Fitzpatrick. The Jets did take Christian Hackenburg last year in the first round, but he is incredibly raw and might not be ready to play even next season. They need to finally find the right qb for their team if they want any chance at success in this league.
This is the first in a series of 8 articles that I will be making for each division. For each article in the series I will post the links to all the previous articles at the bottom of the page.