Apr 10, 2012
The 2012 NFL Draft is nearly upon us, and this edition is much clearer than last year, at least in terms of team needs, because free agency has already taken place. Here on the staff blog, I’m going to break down each team’s top needs and fantasy outlook for the draft, going division by division. First up is the AFC East. Got a player you want your team to target? Let me know in the comments.
Picks: 10, 41, 71, 105, 124, 144, 147, 178, 217, 251
1. Offensive Tackle – The Bill offensive line actually held up well last year, giving up a league-low 23 sacks in the regular season. However, this area is still a concern, as starting LT Demetress Bell signed with the Eagles, leaving them with Erik Pears and Chris Hairston, a 2011 4th-round pick, as the tackles. The ideal scenario for Buffalo in the 1st round appears to be Iowa OT Riley Reiff falling to #10 overall. Our Greg Cosell also likes Ohio State’s Mike Adams, although the Bills may be able to trade down a few spots if they want to target him.
2. Wide Receiver – Yes, the Bills locked up top WR Steve Johnson, but they still need additional help. The WR corps was decimated by injuries last year, and while Donald Jones isn’t bad and Marcus Easley has potential if he’s actually healthy, the Bills need to add someone early in the draft. If Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon falls, the Bills would have a hard time passing him up, and they may also consider Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd. They could also wait and draft a speedy WR like Wake Forest’s Chris Givens or a slot receiver like Arkansas’ Jarius Wright.
3. Cornerback – The Bills spent an early 2nd-round pick on Aaron Williams last year, but they could be in position to use another fairly early pick on a CB. Williams joins top CB Terrence McGee, Leodis McKelvin, and Drayton Florence in a very inconsistent unit that could use some competition.
Fantasy Outlook: Aside from targeting a WR, the Bills could also add a QB and a TE. They re-signed starting QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and starting TE Scott Chandler, but both went downhill in the second half of the season. Fitzpatrick is obviously the starter, but that doesn’t mean the Bills can’t draft a developmental prospect like Arizona State’s Brock Osweiler with an eye toward the future. Also, at TE, they could target an athletic TE like Ladarius Green of Louisiana-Lafayette as a complementary piece next to Chandler, who’s more of a short-area and red-zone target.
Picks: 8, 42, 72, 73, 103, 145, 196, 215
1. Wide Receiver – The Dolphins traded #1 WR Brandon Marshall to Chicago and have failed to sign anyone else, leaving them
with arguably the league’s worst WR corps, featuring Brian Hartline, Davone Bess, and Clyde Gates, among others. Bess is a good slot receiver, and the young Gates has potential, but this team desperately needs a WR. The Dolphins will have to think hard about taking Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon with the 8th overall pick if he’s there. If not, someone like Illinois’ A.J. Jenkins would be a good target on Day Two. Of course, the WRs don’t matter a lot if the team can’t get stable QB play.
2. Quarterback – The Dolphins whiffed on Peyton Manning, and their consolation prize was David Garrard. Matt Moore proved he can be serviceable if managed properly, but the Dolphins need to get new HC Joe Philbin a QB of the future. The logical candidate is Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill, who could fall to #8 overall if the Browns pass on him at #4. Tannehill is clearly the draft’s #3 QB, and he’d be a great fit for the Dolphins, especially with his college coach Mike Sherman taking over as Miami’s OC.
3. Offensive Tackle – The Dolphins are set at LT with Jake Long, but the right side is up in the air with RT Marc Colombo and RG Vernon Carey both unsigned free agents. If the Dolphins don’t opt to draft Tannehill or Blackmon in the 1st round, Iowa OT Riley Reiff would make sense.
Fantasy Outlook: QB and WR are the clear needs for the Dolphins in terms of fantasy. They’re set at RB with Daniel Thomas and Reggie Bush, but they could add an athletic TE to pair with Anthony Fasano, like Louisiana-Lafayette’s Ladarius Green.
New England Patriots
Picks: 27, 31, 48, 62, 93, 126
1. Defensive End – The Patriot defense was atrocious last year, and they desperately need to improve their pass rush, especially after Mark Anderson signed with the Bills and Andre Carter missed much of the 2011 season.. The Patriots use a versatile front seven with both 4-3 and 3-4 looks, and they’ll almost certainly use one of their two 1st-round picks on an edge rusher like Boise State’s Shea McClellin, who our Greg Cosell really likes, or Syracuse’s Chandler Jones.
2. Cornerback – The pass rush deserves a lot of blame for the Patriots’ struggles in coverage last year, but they also had big problems with depth in the secondary. Promising young CB Devin McCourty struggled, and while the Patriots spent an early pick on Ras-I Dowling last year, his durability is a big question. With two 1st-round picks and two 2nd-round picks, the Patriots could have plenty of options, including Alabama’s Dre Kirkpatrick, North Alabama’s Janoris Jenkins, and UCF’s Josh Robinson.
3. Safety – The Patriots missed on free agent LaRon Landry, and they were so thin in the defensive backfield that Matthew Slater and Julian Edelman played some defense last year. The Patriots did sign Steve Gregory to pair with Patrick Chung, but they need to add another young player, ideally with one of their four picks in the first two rounds.
Fantasy Outlook: The Patriots are one of the most unpredictable teams in the league, so while everyone expects them to target defense early and often, you can never know for sure. Still, there’s little for them to do at the fantasy positions. They’re set at QB and took Ryan Mallett as a developmental backup last year, they bolstered their receiving corps by signing Brandon Lloyd, franchising Wes Welker, and re-signing Deion Branch, and they have the most dangerous TE duo in the league. The only question is RB, where they lost BenJarvus Green-Ellis, but they used Day Two picks on both Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley last year. A RB can’t be ruled out, but it’s hard to imagine the Patriots taking one early.
New York Jets
Picks: 16, 47, 77, 154, 187, 202, 203, 232, 242, 244
1. Outside Linebacker – The Jets get a lot of attention for their defense, but they lack a consistent pass rush. Situational pass rusher Aaron Maybin ended up coming over from Buffalo and leading the team with just 6 sacks, so it’s pretty clear the Jets need to get some young talent at OLB in their 3-4 defense with starting LBs Bart Scott, Bryan Thomas, and Calvin Pace all in their 30s. Alabama OLB Courtney Upshaw could be a prime target with the 16th overall pick.
2. Wide Receiver – All the talk in New York is about QB, where Mark Sanchez, perhaps inexplicably, got a contract extension and the Jets signed Tim Tebow. So, what do these two inconsistent passers have to throw to? Well, Santonio Holmes is back, but, other than that, the receiving corps currently consists of the frequently injured Chaz Schilens, slot receiver Jeremy Kerley, and Patrick Turner. The Jets want to run the ball a lot, and it’s possible they’ll sign a cheap veteran like Braylon Edwards, but they need to seriously consider Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd if he’s available with the 16th pick. If not, a 3rd-round WR like Wisconsin’s Nick Toon – son of former Jet Al Toon – would make sense as someone who could transition fairly quickly to the pro game.
3. Offensive Tackle – The Jets are set with left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson on one side, but they’re in need of help on the right side, where Wayne Hunter is undependable and Vladimir Ducasse doesn’t exactly inspire confidence if he has to play. The Jets would be wise to spend a Day Two pick on some competition for those two.
Fantasy Outlook: WR is the clearest need, but RB is also a big question for the Jets. At the moment, their backfield consists of Shonn Greene, Joe McKnight, and 2011 4th-round pick Bilal Powell, and this position could use some help. New OC Tony Sporano will surely want to rely on the ground-and-pound philosophy, but Greene has been unable to prove that he’s capable of being the foundation of an offense. Of course, the Jets have now paired Greene with Wildcat packages from Tim Tebow, but this is still a position of need because it doesn’t appear that Greene is the future.