The AFC East is always one of the more interesting divisions to watch during the draft. That was true again this season. Would the Dolphins draft Ryan Tannehill as their quarterback of the future? With a wealth of draft picks, was there a chance New England wouldn’t employ their strategy of accumulating extra draft picks?
The Dolphins, of course did draft Tannehill and the Patriots were mobile throughout the draft, moving up and down as they felt necessary. But both teams, as well as Buffalo and New York made some seemingly strange selections at one point or another during the draft. Will those selections damage these teams’ chances for success in 2012 and beyond?
10. Stephon Gilmore, cornerback, South Carolina
41. Cordy Glenn, offensive tackle, Georgia
69. T.J. Graham, wide receiver, N.C. State
105. Nigel Bradham, outside linebacker, Florida State
125. Ron Brooks, cornerback, Louisiana State
144. Zebrie Sanders, offensive tackle, Florida State
147. Tank Carder, inside linebacker, Texas Christian
178. Mark Asper, offensive guard, Oregon
251. John Potter, kicker, Western Michigan
Analysis: Buffalo had an outstanding start to their offseason by adding all-pro talent to their defensive line with Mario Williams. Thanks to that move, the Bills entered the draft with one of best front sevens in the league. They were able to drastically improve their secondary in the first round by selecting Stephon Gilmore, who is considered by many to be the best cornerback in the draft. He’ll be an instant contributor on a defense that suddenly is very, very scary.
Offensive tackle Cordy Glenn surprisingly fell out of the first round, and the Bills were able to wait until pick number 41 to add a player who should at the very least be a consistent starter at right tackle, and has the potential to develop into a stud left tackle. Don’t sleep on their fifth round pick, either. Offensive tackle Zebrie Sanders was a steal here and should develop into a reliable option at right tackle.
Cornerback Ron Brooks was overshadowed by his superstar teammates at LSU, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be a solid player in the NFL. He’s one of the better inside cornerbacks in the draft, and he’ll be able to contribute on Buffalo’s third down defense from day one.
The only truly questionable pick in this class was taking T.J. Graham in the third round. He’s a track star with great measurables, but there isn’t enough evidence that he can be a good wide receiver at the next level to draft him in the third round, especially considering the other wide receivers that were still on the board. Both Mohamed Sanu and T.Y. Hilton would have been better values in the early third round.
8. Ryan Tannehill, quarterback, Texas A&M
42. Jonathon Martin, offensive tackle, Stanford
72. Olivier Vernon, defensive end, Miami
78. Michael Egnew, tight end, Missouri
97. Lamar Miller, running back, Miami
144. Josh Kaddu, linebaker, Oregon
183. B.J. Cunningham, wide receiver, Michigan State
215. Kheeston Randall, defensive tackle, Texas
227. Rishard Matthews, wide receiver, Nevada
Analysis: There are numerous concerns surrounding the Dolphins’ draft class, but they are nearly all centered around Ryan Tannehill. Taking him in the top ten was a huge risk. Because of that risk, the rest of the draft should have been dedicated to make sure Tannehill will be in the best position to succeed in 2012 and beyond. However, it’s not clear that actually is what played out.
The best pick Miami made was selecting Jonathon Martin in the second round. Martin should be an instant starter at right tackle and will give Tannehill great protection at both offensive tackle positions. Unfortunately, the Dolphins didn’t do much else to help their new quarterback.
After trading Brandon Marshall to Chicago, Miami has no real threat at wide reciver, and they didn’t address the position until the sixth round. Michael Egnew, an athletic tight end, will likely be his best reciving option. That's not exactly a situation where a raw, rookie quarterback can thrive in.
Lamar Miller is a talented running back, but functions in the same capacity as Reggie Bush. Considering that the Dolphins drafted Daniel Thomas last season, the selection of Miller just doesn’t make much sense.
The Dolphins’ draft wasn’t all bad. Olivier Vernon is a good fit in Miami’s defensive scheme, and is a good value in the third round. But defense wasn’t Miami’s problem last season, and they didn’t do much to improve the offensive outlook in 2012.
New England Patriots
21. Chandler Jones, defensive end, Syracuse
25. Dont’a Hightower, inside linebacker, Alabama
48. Tavon Wilson, defensive back, Illinois
90. Jake Bequette, defensive end, Arkansas
197. Nate Ebner, defensive back, Ohio State
224. Alfonso Dennard, cornerback, Nebraska
235. Jeremy Ebert, wide receiver, Northwestern
Analysis: Without a doubt, the Patriots were one of the most interesting teams to watch during the draft. There were times when they looked like geniuses, and there were other selections that left many scratching their heads.
If he develops like the Patriots think he will, Chandler Jones could be the best pass rusher in the draft. Dont’a Hightower and New England’s defense seem like a match made in football heaven. He and Jerrod Mayo will be a great pair and should help to improve the Patriots’ dismal defense. Jake Bequette should contribute early on in his career. Alfonso Dennard may be a knuckle head, but he’s a good cornerback and a tremendous value in the seventh round.
Although there were some moments of what looked like brilliance out of the New England war room, there were definitely some odd picks. Selecting Tavon Wilson in the second round is a massive reach, as most teams had him as a late round pick only. Nate Ebner rarely saw the field on defense in college, so it’s doubtful he’ll be anymore than a special teams player in the NFL. Jeremy Ebert finds himself on a roster with tons of receivers and will have to be a great special teams player to even make New England’s final roster.
New York Jets
16. Quinton Coples, defensive end, North Carolina
43. Stephen Hill, wide receiver, Georgia Tech
77. Demario Davis, linebacker, Arkansas State
187. Josh Bush, safety, Wake Forest
202. Terrance Gannaway, running back, Baylor
203. Robert T. Griffin, offensive guard, Baylor
242. Antonio Allen, safety, South Carolina
244. Jordan White, wide receiver, Western Michigan
Analysis: When the Jets decided to trade for Tim Tebow shortly after extending Mark Sanchez’s contract, many around the league wondered what exactly Rex Ryan and company were thinking. After the Jets put together one of the stranger classes of the draft, that question is heard louder than ever in New York.
Quinton Coples is a talented defensive lineman who has enormous character and motor issues. He desperately needed to go to a team with a strong locker room that could keep him on the right path. Instead, he’s going to a locker room with more prima donna personalities than anywhere else in the league. Stephen Hill is a wide receiver with plenty of straight line speed, but needs time to develop. Sanchez needed a receiver who can contribute immediately in more ways that running down the seam.
New York has huge holes at the safety position, but in trading up for Hill they gave up picks where they could have addressed that position. Instead they had to wait until the sixth round and seventh rounds to take Josh Bush and Antonio Allen, who figure to only be depth players (assuming they make the roster).
It wasn’t all bad for the Jets. Demario Davis is an under rated but talent line backer who should fit in nicely on the outside of the New York defense. All in all, the Jets put together a draft that will either boom or bust, and the chances of the gambles paying off look to be very slim.
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