NFL Draft Team Needs: AFC East

As the 2022 NFL Draft approaches, it is time to start preparing for one of the most important weekends of the year, with your favourite NFL team drafting their next generation of young talent out of college.

To help you prepare for and enjoy the draft more, I am putting together an in-depth look at the Team Needs of every team in the league. These articles will be coming thick and fast throughout the month of April, so you can read them all to fully understand who needs what and which picks they have to address it, or you can keep an eye out for the division that your team is in.

Next on our list is the AFC East, home to one of the best teams in the league, a team that used to be the best team in the league, a team that clearly wants to become one of the best teams in the league, and a team who are trying not to be the worst team in the league. So, let’s see what they all need to achieve their current goals.

New England Patriots

Record: 10-7

Needs: WR, CB, LB, S, EDGE

Draft Picks: 1st (21st), 2nd (54th), 3rd (85th), 4th (127th), 5th (158th, 170th) 6th (200th, 210th)

The New England Patriots dominated the league for years, but in a post-Tom Brady world, they’re battling for the second-place spot in the AFC East – and it’ll be a tough battle. Their quarterback position is reasonably set, with Mac Jones showing some promise as a rookie. They could do with giving him some more help, because their wide receiver position is incredibly weak. When you’re assessing the long-term ability of your QB, you ideally want him to have some real weapons to throw to. I want to see them add at least one receiver in the draft. Knowing the Patriots, they won’t spend too much on the position but it’d be worth adding depth.

Once they’ve addressed the receiver position, I think the rest of their draft capital should probably be used on the defensive side of the ball. They lost J.C. Jackson to the Chargers in free agency, which was a big hit, so unless they get their own FA cornerback, they will have to look at the position in the draft, for sure. Behind the cornerbacks, they could also bolster their safety position. As much as New England are famous for their schematic success defensively, they still need good players, and this year’s draft can provide some of those, to elevate their weakened defense.

Finally, I’d like to see them address a couple of defensive positions where they didn’t specifically get weakened this offseason, but would benefit from. They could use some young depth added to their linebacker group. I think behind CB and WR, this is probably their weakest position. They haven’t added anyone there through free agency, so I want to see more, potentially reasonably early in the draft, this year. Then there’s the defensive pass rush. Adding another edge rusher to replace Chase Winovich would be a huge boon to their defense as a whole. Unfortunately, EDGE is an expensive position to draft, but there will be value somewhere on day two if they can’t get one of the top guys and I think the investment would be worthwhile.

Miami Dolphins

Record: 9-8

Needs: Offensive Line, LB, CB

Draft Picks: 3rd (102nd), 4th (125th), 7th (224th, 247th)

When I said that the Patriots were now battling to stay relevant in the race for second place, this was the team that I had in mind. The Miami Dolphins made a big splash this offseason, when they added superstar WR Tyreek Hill for five draft picks, including a first and a second in 2022. This massive deal has shifted their offense in a very notable way, so now I want to see them use the draft to bolster the final weakness of their offense, and then focus on defense.

The most important improvement needed for this roster now is the offensive line. I’d love to see them try to fix that in this draft, or at least try. They have a glaring gap at the centre position, and then once that is filled, they could honestly benefit from just the ‘best lineman available’ mode of drafting. Once they’ve been able to bolster the O-Line, their offense will be in a really good position. The QB battle between Tua Tagovailoa and Teddy Bridgewater will be interesting to watch, but whoever is starting will have some serious weapons to throw to.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Dolphins are more than capable. They have some real playmakers, including some young talent from recent drafts, as well as the veterans who strengthen their secondary. Ideally, they could use a new addition at the off-ball linebacker position, mostly, as that is probably their weakest defensive position. They would also benefit from another cornerback, to give them more depth and hopefully protect them against the fact that their best players at the position are older vets, while they otherwise have a fairly young roster. I consider this organisation to be in what I am going to refer to as ‘win-now… well, soon’ mode. They’re not in a rush, but they’re trying to make it happen much sooner than we may have expected prior to the Hill trade. 

Miami are in a really good spot right now and addressing just a couple of issues will make them yet another serious danger in an absolutely stacked conference.

New York Jets

Record: 4-13

Needs: EDGE, CB, WR, Offensive Line, LB 

Draft Picks: 1st (4th, 10th), 2nd (35th, 38th) 3rd (69th), 4th (111th, 117th) 5th (146th, 163rd)

Unfortunately, not all four teams in the AFC East are quite as equipped for the division battle, however, the New York Jets are more than equipped for this year’s draft. They have both the 4th and 10th overall picks, as well as two picks early in the second round. These picks will be essential to their effort in rebuilding their roster. There are rumours that the Jets will be very likely to trade up early in the draft for the second overall pick to try and get the best available EDGE. With Jacksonville probably taking one, they won’t want to miss out on the second of the two elite prospects at this premium position. There isn’t a particularly good QB pool this year, so the Jets can focus on other things while assessing their long-term plans with Zach Wilson.

After their first pick, which I predict will be an EDGE after trading up, I think the Jets should look to improve their offense next. They have the draft capital to bring in a really strong offensive line prospect or two and a young wide receiver. This would help to protect Zach Wilson and get the most out of him while they decide if he is their QB of the future.

On defense, they could use more help than just that star EDGE I want to see them take. Ideally, they could do with a do-it-all linebacker who can run their front seven, and I wouldn’t say no to some more help in the secondary. The sheer quantity of picks that the Jets have in the first five rounds of this draft (they’re picking nine times in the first 163 picks) means that they could realistically try and address every single one of these potential positions of improvement in one draft, and then any players that they miss on, they can try again next year. They have a chance to hit on some real talent though, and their rebuild can make some big progress this season if they draft well.

Buffalo Bills

Record: 11-6

Needs: CB, OG, DT

Draft Picks: 1st (25th), 2nd (57th), 3rd (89th), 4th (130th), 5th (168th), 6th (185th, 203rd), 7th (231st, 246th)

While the Patriots and Dolphins war over who is next best in the division, and the Jets rebuild their team, the Buffalo Bills are arguably the best team in the whole AFC. There’s debate whenever discussing something so competitive, but the Bills really are a dominant force. Their QB is a superstar, they have fantastic wide receivers, a great head coach, a good offensive line and a very solid defense. What more could you ask for? Well, let’s break down what more they might want.

In their busy offseason, the Buffalo Bills really focused on trying to address their defensive line, which was probably their weakest positional group, even more so after losing DT Harrison Phillips, who was one of their rotation in a somewhat weak bunch, relative to their secondary. However, with the addition of Von Miller, I don’t think that is the case anymore. They can still do with locking down their defensive tackle depth chart for a bit more clarity, as they have added a couple of new players there, but no real stars.

However, with Miller signed, their bigger priority in the draft will likely be the cornerback position. They lost Levi Wallace to Pittsburgh, and so they could do with replacing him sooner rather than later. Their safeties are very good, and Tre’Davious White should be healthy again now, so bolstering that cornerback depth will lock them in for another year with one of the most reliable secondaries in the league.

On the offensive side of the ball, I think they could do with drafting another guard for their offensive line. They lost Joe Feliciano, which offsets their signing of Rodger Saffold to play right guard, so I’d like them to bring in a LG who can provide interior OL depth and if they draft someone high enough, could look to take the starting LG job from Ryan Bates – who only made his NFL debut in Week 16 last year.

This team is really damn good, so now it’s time to just polish a couple of rough edges, and prepare for the Super Bowl push, in an exceedingly competitive AFC.