The AFC East is continuing to heat up this offseason, especially now that the free agency market is open for business. With the Bills, Dolphins, and Jets all making moves to strengthen their squads, the Patriots silently wait for some sort of divine sign to take off and get to dealing.
For now though, with the NFL draft a few weeks away, let’s break down what each of the four squads in the division could be looking for with our own 3-round mock draft.
Where does one go with a team like the Bills? The offense needs serious help, especially in the interior offensive line and running back department. They could use at least one new strong receiver to help Stefon Diggs.
And how about finding some help for their offensive line to offer Josh Allen the protection he didn’t have last season?
Even with the defense in need of a little help, especially in its secondary, it’s a given that the Bills should be focusing their first picks in the 2023 NFL draft toward beefing up the offense.
#Bills are under 2023 salary cap after Josh Allen, Von Miller restructure contracts: https://t.co/vJNFeuFkSF
— TheBillsWire (@TheBillsWire) March 14, 2023
What the Team Needs: IOL, RB, OT, WR, CB, S
1st Round: O’Cyrus Torrence, Florida
“Get Allen the protection he needs please!” That should be written atop Buffalo’s NFL draft strategy. Buffalo needs to understand that instead of investing a premier, first-round pick on another defensive stud, the Bills need to land the best lineman available. In this case, Florida’s O’Cyrus Torrence.
The AFC East is riddled with top-tier pass rushers and defenders, which means that if the Bills wish to remain atop the division, protecting Allen is of dire importance.
2nd Round: Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Alabama
Now that the offensive line got some much-needed help, how about the Bills tackle their running back issues?
By snagging Gibbs, a player many experts are seeing as a second-round talent, the Bills could find a rusher in the style of Alvin Kamara to relieve Allen and the team’s pass-heavy offense.
3rd Round: Blake Freeland OT, BYU
You know what, the Bills can address their receiver problem down the line in the draft. For now, I see them doubling up on getting help for their offensive line by picking BYU offensive tackle Blake Freeland. Depth is always welcome, especially in a line that needs so much help.
With Freeland the team won’t get versatility, that’s a given, but what they will get is a player that could give right tackle Spencer Brown a run for his starting position.
The draft is about a month away. Free agency is underway. But that hasn’t stopped the Dolphins, who put the league on notice after trading TE Hunter Long and a 2023 third-round pick Rams star CB Jalen Ramsey.
The trade will become effective on March 15, once the league year officially kicks off. The idea of Miami’s secondary being run by Ramsey, Xavien Howard, and Jevon Holland automatically makes that one of the best in the league.
Remember, Miami forfeited its first-round pick because of owner Stephen Ross’ meddling issues.
So now that the defense is good to go, what is left for Miami to focus on?
Holland. Ramsey. Howard.
The @MiamiDolphins secondary is looking scary. 👀 pic.twitter.com/eBylvw85b8
— NFL (@NFL) March 14, 2023
What the Team Needs: RB, LB, OT, OG, TE
2nd Round: Tyjae Spears, RB, Tulane
Following a strong 2022 season with Tulane, including a dominant performance against USC in the Cotton Bowl where he rushed for 205 yards and four touchdowns, Tulane’s Tyjae Spears could be what Miami’s running game needs.
His instinctive rushing skills, ability to dodge tackles, and superb vision would come in handy to help the Dolphins’ offense.
3rd Round: Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson
Simpson is the kind of player that has a premier skillset, but who lacks the level of game vision needed to be an immediate starter.
Still, the Clemson alum could benefit greatly from being handed a more modest role to get his career going, especially in a team like Miami.
3rd Round: Zack Kuntz, TE, Old Dominion
With the team needing assurance in the tight-end department, seeing the Dolphins snag one of the better TE prospects makes sense here. With starting TE Mike Gesicki reportedly looking for a new team in 2023, locking up a player like Kuntz could work as a wonder for Miami.
With a deep pool from where to choose when it comes to tight ends in this draft, Kuntz stood out just enough in the combine to make his selection a best-case scenario for Miami with its third pick.
New England Patriots
It seems as if while everybody else in the AFC East is moving around to bring depth to their rosters, the Patriots are quietly sitting and waiting for a new dose of “Belichick Magic” to unfold.
Nevertheless, for New England, a team that has missed the playoffs twice in the past three years.
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2023 Patriots Free Agent Tracker: https://t.co/VrfZAxsApN
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) March 14, 2023
What the Team Needs: WR, TE OT, DB, LB
1st Round: Jordan Addison, USC
The Patriots need serious help in their receiver core, and by serious, I mean drop-dead serious help. So why not go after one of the top three WR prospects in the 2023 NFL draft to start working with?
Considering that Quentin Johnson and Jaxon Smith-Nijgba might be gone by the time New England gets to picking, landing Addison would be the best decision for Belichick and his team.
2nd Round: Darnell Washington, TE, Georgia
Name the last great TE for the Patriots since Gronk. Yeah, I know, it’s more complicated than it looks. The former Bulldogs starting TE would come in handy to help Mac Jones continue with his growth in the QB position.
By giving Jones a strong, athletic, and pro-ready player like Washington, the Patriots could see a new duo in the style of Brady and Gronk back in the day, but with a lot of work ahead though.
3rd Round: Darius Rush, DB, South Carolina
New England needs help in the secondary, especially regarding cornerback. While Rush could be a concern because of his injury history, the fact remains that he could fit in well into the Patriots’ defensive scheme on the outside.
With his size, speed, and handles, Rush could become a strong piece in New England’s secondary, with the right development and grooming from NE’s coaching staff.
New York Jets
That whole “the Jets are a QB away from being a contender” is stale. Yes, New York has taken immense strides toward fixing up its roster, but narrowing the team’s issues to QB sells as a bit of a stretch.
As New York prepares for this season’s NFL draft, the goal is simple, trying to score another A+ class as it did in 2022. With the team still in dire need of help in its offensive line, how will the Jets attack the draft this year?
The New York Jets are ‘actively working’ to agree on a contract with Packers free-agent WR Allen Lazard, per @AdamSchefter. pic.twitter.com/uk0boTSRwG
— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) March 14, 2023
What the Team Needs: OL, S, DT, LB
1st Round: Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State
Given that the Jets will once again be hitting the draft trying to find another explosive, young talent for their offensive line, they might as well go for the best player available at offensive tackle, aka, Paris Johnson Jr.
The former Buckeye was one of the main winners in this year’s NFL combine, showing a level of versatility that could amass to the Jets landing a ready-for-the-pros player that can play in any of the five positions on the offensive line.
2nd Round: Chris Smith, S, Georgia
No hate toward Jordan Whitehead or LaMarcus Joyner. They both did a good job at safety in New York’s top-tier secondary last season, but finding a Day-One starter in the draft could be one of the biggest steals. That’s where former Bulldogs star Chris Smith comes into the picture.
Smith has the framework to be a perfect centerpiece for New York’s secondary in the free safety position. With three interceptions in his last two seasons with Georgia, Smith could be one of the draft’s steals.
3rd Round: Jack Campbell, LB, Iowa
The Jets already took care of Quincy Williams. With CJ Mosley still playing at a strong level, but with his salary still being a thorn in New York’s cap, going after one of the top linebackers in the draft will be of the essence.
Campbell’s stock rose after the combine, where the former Hawkeye showed a level of athleticism that caught scouts by surprise. Some experts have talked about his ceiling not being as high as wanted, but when push comes to shove, having a strong prospect to groom could work wonders for New York.