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TEAM NEEDS: Defensive end, outside linebacker, tight end, offensive line.
DE -- Buffalo's anemic pass rush ranked 26th last season. That was in large part because Pro Bowler Aaron Schobel missed 11 games with a foot injury. With no guarantee he'll ever regain his past form, the Bills need to shop for their next great end with the 11th overall pick. While Penn State's Aaron Maybin is often mentioned, the Bills can't afford to risk this pick on a player that lost explosiveness at the combine after adding 20 pounds. Florida State's Everette Brown, on the other hand, has incredible natural burst off the ball and is much better situated to make an immediate impact.
OLB -- The Bills need an upgrade over undersized Keith Ellison on the weak side to complement Kawika Mitchell and Paul Posluszny. Using their first pick on someone like USC's Brian Cushing would not be a surprise. But there are good candidates in later rounds.
TE -- The Bills released veteran Robert Royal and will look to add someone with pass-catching skills. Oklahoma State's Brandon Pettigrew is regarded as the only first-round value -- and also a fine blocker -- but there is good depth at the position. Wisconsin's Travis Beckum, who broke his leg his senior year, is a fierce competitor and an intriguing middle-round possibility.
OL -- If Buffalo trades disgruntled Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters, this need will shoot to No. 1. If a trade were consummated, Buffalo would have an additional first rounder to work with. Possible candidates after Jason Smith, Andre Smith and Eugene Monroe -- who could all go in the Top 10 -- include Mississippi's Michael Oher, Arizona's Eben Britton and Connecticut's William Beatty.
TEAM NEEDS: Wide receiver, cornerback, outside linebacker, defensive tackle.
WR -- Vice president of football operations Bill Parcells may refrain from drafting receivers in the first round but he might make an exception for athletic, tall receivers such as Kenny Britt, Hakeem Nicks or even NFL-ready Brian Robiskie. Britt had 15 TDs his last two seasons, while Robiskie is more of a possession receiver.
Miami's receiving corps of Ted Ginn Jr., Greg Camarillo and Davone Bess caught a combined five TD passes last year and have had 12 in the last two years. They need to groom a field-stretching burner for a strong-armed Chad Henne for when he takes over for Chad Pennington in 2010.
CB -- Although the Dolphins signed Cardinals free-agent CB Eric Green, he is coming off an injury-plagued season in which he was replaced by a rookie during Arizona's Super Bowl run, and he has just two career picks in four seasons.
The loss of veteran CB Andre' Goodman and his career-high five picks to Denver will be felt, and returning starter Will Allen, 30, is in the final year of his contract. Utah's Sean Smith or Ohio State's Malcolm Jenkins would be ideal fits, especially if Jenkins continues to drop. Smith is 6-foot-3, the size that Parcells craves, while Jenkins is the ideal hard-nosed press corner to go with a 3-4 blitzing defense. Unheralded Greg Toler of St. Paul's (Va.) has the speed and instincts (six picks) to be snatched in round seven.
OLB -- The Dolphins improved their overall pass defense, largely a credit to resurgent Joey Porter (17.5 sacks), but that was partly due to excellent press coverage from Allen and Goodman. Solid inside pass rusher Vonnie Holliday was allowed to walk, while promising youngsters Kendall Langford and Phillip Merling are still developing. And Porter, 32, slumped in the tail end of the season with just one sack over the last three games.
Miami signed CFL sacker Cameron Wake (39 sacks the past two years), but he was undrafted and not NFL-tested for a reason, and Charlie Anderson has been a slow work in progress. Late-blooming Clay Matthews is the kind of player that has cachet with Parcells and Virginia's Clint Sintim -- who was coached by Al Groh, a Parcells' disciple -- could be one-year reserves before starting in 2010.
DT -- Incumbent starter Jason Ferguson will be 34 and he's most likely playing his last season in Miami, so it's imperative the Dolphins draft a nose tackle. BC's Ron Brace could be groomed as Ferguson's replacement in the 3-4. However, Brace's injury issue, notably his back problems, has to raise eyebrows. The Dolphins had to deal with Tim Bowens' aching back for years, but he was worth it. The jury is still out on third-year NT Paul Soliai, who the team suspended twice last season for violating team rules. Joe Cohen is a complete mystery. Look for Ireland to draft a project such as Clemson's Dorell Scott.
New England Patriots
TEAM NEEDS: Outside linebacker, inside linebacker, cornerback, safety and tight end.
OLB -- The trade that sent starter and former All-Pro Mike Vrabel leaves a pretty big hole in the starting lineup. Without an obvious answer on the roster, the Patriots' biggest area of need this April could be the addition of an immediate option as a pass-rushing threat opposite returning starter Adalius Thomas. It might be a bit much to find a Jerod Mayo-like rookie capable of stepping in as an every-down contributor in the difficult OLB spot in Bill Belichick's scheme, but finding a guy to rotate through at times with Pierre Woods and Tully Banta-Cain in a draft that filled with interesting edge rushers is a obvious target area.
ILB -- Tedy Bruschi isn't getting any younger and is more of a rotational guy than an every-down player on the inside. While Mayo is a budding star at one inside spot and 2008 rookie free agent Gary Guyton showed the ability to contribute on passing downs, another young option on the inside is key for long-term depth in the middle of the defense. After spending the 10th overall selection on Mayo last spring, using another top pick on an inside linebacker wouldn't normally be a high priority. But considering New England's four picks in the first two rounds and six in the top 100, pairing Mayo with another developmental prospect on the inside is a legitimate possibility this summer.
CB -- The addition through free agency of Leigh Bodden and Shawn Springs and the return of 2008 draft picks Terrence Wheatley (second round) and Jonathan Wilhite (fourth round) takes some of the heat off the need at New England's greatest position of weakness last fall. But that doesn't eliminate the search for a top-level playmaker at corner as the team continues to try and replace All-Pro Asante Samuel a year after his free-flight to Philadelphia.
S -- New England boast a pair of former draft picks in the starting lineup at safety in Brandon Meriweather and James Sanders. But beyond that the position is beyond thin. Even if Rodney Harrison re-signs with the team at some point, increasing the depth and future playmaking ability at safety is a clear need. Any potential pick at the spot might not be asked to contribute immediately, but adding youthful depth and insurance at the spot is a possibility with one of 11 picks on draft weekend. Springs might actually be used at safety.
TE -- The addition of Chris Baker through free agency should help make up for the uncertain future of both Benjamin Watson and David Thomas in New England. Neither player has been able to stay healthy over the years. Nor has either guy established himself as a proven playmaker in the passing game. This year's draft class includes a pretty deep crop of pass catching tight end targets as well as a few well-rounded prospects and block-first options. Belichick has drafted eight tight ends in his previous nine drafts in New England.
New York Jets
TEAM NEEDS: Wide receiver, defensive end, quarterback, running back.
WR -- Laveranues Coles signed with Cincinnati as a free agent, but the Jets were looking to upgrade to a game-breaker anyway. Maryland's Darrius Heyward-Bey or North Carolina's Hakeem Nicks could fill that void, or they could trade up for somebody such as Missouri's Jeremy Maclin. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer is fond of bubble screens and gadget plays such as reverses and end-arounds using the wideouts, so the Jets want more speed at this position.
DE -- Shaun Ellis and Kenyon Coleman will be 32 and 30, respectively, by the season-opener. LSU's 6-foot-4, 296-pound Tyson Jackson appears to be the prototypical 3-4 end, and those are harder to find than 4-3 ends. Pressure off the edge will be extremely important in new coach Rex Ryan's 3-4 defense, which is much more of an attacking defense than the read-and-react schemes of former coach Eric Mangini.
QB -- The Jets don't have a proven starter on the roster and thus could draft someone such as Kansas State's Josh Freeman. But it's unlikely they would look for someone at this position as intently later rounds. A trade up for Southern California's Mark Sanchez also is a possibility.
RB -- Thomas Jones hasn't reported for any of the Jets' voluntary conditioning or practices this spring, so the Jets want to begin targeting his successor. They don't consider the dynamic but diminutive Leon Washington to be an every-down back, and there are no other proven backs currently on the roster.
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