AFC East Offseason Report Card/Draft Needs by Team

As the draft rapidly approaches I’ve decided to take a look at how teams have fared up to this point in terms of off season acquisitions and departures.  I decided to examine the AFC East first as I believe that this division has seen the biggest personnel shakeup that will undoubtedly affect things in 2010.   Moreover, based on the moves that teams made I’ll also give my two cents as to what each team should be targeting in next week’s draft extravaganza.

New York Jets:  A- 

As an unabashed Gang Green detractor it pains me to admit that Mike Tanenbaum and Rex Ryan have had a stellar off season.  The trade that netted cornerback Antonio Cromartie for a third round pick will give the Jets a formidable duo at the position and will also help greatly in the kick return game.  Cromartie has regressed since his spectacular rookie season and certainly comes with his fair share of baggage but it’s unlikely that the Jets would have been able to get that kind of talent with a third round pick.   Without a doubt the best move made by the Jets’ brass was the acquisition of troubled Steeler’s WR and former Superbowl MVP Santonio Holmes for a 5th round pick.  Holmes is in his contract season and certainly does not have his head straight on his shoulders but he’s a phenomenal talent at a position that the Jets were in dire need of upgrading.  If Braylon Edwards can return to his 07 form the Jets will have one of the best trio of WR’s in 2010 with Edwards, Cotchery and Holmes.  The only move that I’m critical of is the signing of Ladanian Tomlinson. While San Diego’s line was certainly patchwork last season it became glaringly apparent that Tomlinson was finished.  He had a putrid yards per carry average and lacked the burst that football fans had become so familiar with in his heyday.  Regardless, Shonne Green will likely see the majority of the carries and perhaps Tomlinson will thrive in the reduced role.  Finally, Kerry Rhodes’ departure to Arizona is a classic example of addition by subtraction, as he had clearly fallen out of favor with the  powers that be in New York on top of the drastic regression in his level of play.  Brodney Pool, who signed from Cleveland, should prove to be an upgrade at the position.

Draft needs:  There are several positions of need that the Jets will most likely look to address.  First and foremost, the Jets must look to add an impact edge rusher.  Terrell Suggs was an integral part of Rex Ryan’s vaunted Baltimore defense and there’s no doubt he’ll hope to add that piece to his current squad.  With the 29th pick it’s unlikely that Sergio Kindle will be on the board, but Clemson’s Ricky Sapp and TCU’s Jerry Hughes could be viable options.  In round two I would expect the Jets to try and add a piece to their defensive line, which is a weakness save Shaun Ellis and Kris Jenkins.   Jenkins has been a monster in the Nose Tackle position but has worn down in the latter portion of both of his two seasons in New York.   Cam Thomas out of North Carolina and Brian Price from UCLA are defensive tackles who could make the move to 3-4 defensive end at the pro level.   Ideally, I think that the Jets would love to be able to select Terrence Cody out of Alabama, who has the prototypical size of a 3-4 nose tackle, but that would likely require a trade up into the middle portion of round two.  In rounds 4-7 I believe the Jets will try and add depth at safety and potentially add another running back as it appears that Leon Washington is on the outs.

New England Patriots:  C-

The Patriots had one of the most quiet off seasons in the league after a ’09 campaign that ended in disastrous fashion with the home playoff loss to Baltimore.  The defensive unit, which for so long has thrived up Belichick’s tutelage, regressed greatly and is in need of serious revamping personnel wise.  Defensive coordinator Dean Peas was fired and Belichick will go back to calling the shots, which should help.  In terms of in house solutions I really liked the Leigh Bodden re-signing.  He’s been an under the radar talent at the cornerback since his days in Cleveland and he was undoubtedly the Pats best CB last season.  OLB Tully Banta-Cain was also re-signed, and he was one of the only productive players at the position save Jerod Mayo.  While his numbers certainly reflect the fact that he fits in the system, I believe that the Pats really need to focus on acquiring more athletic 3-4 edge rushers.   They generated little to no pressure on opposing quarterbacks last season and they’ll need to add talented players at the linebacker position.  On the defensive line, New England needs former BC standout Ron Brace to step up in a big way in 2010.  The departure of Richard Seymour was a contributing factor in the defense taking a step back.   If Brace progresses next season, the Pats will have a very good front 3 with Wilfork and Mike Wright.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Pats suddenly have some question marks regarding their weapons in the passing game.  Randy Moss is a year older and in the final year of his contract, and many wonder whether or not this will be the season in which we’ll see him start to decline physically.  Wes Welker is coming off of ACL surgery and will miss a good portion of the 2010 season.  Other than Julian Edelmann there are not many promising in-house fill ins.  Sam Aiken was re-signed, but he’s a #4 at best.  In my opinion, the Pats should have looked at one of the free agent options that were on the market.  Nate Burleson, Antonio Bryant and the like would have been solid fits.  At the tight end position, Ben Watson signed with the Browns and the only successor at this point appears to be the aging, enlarged Algee Crumpler.  They’ll need to address this position in the draft.

Draft Needs: The Pats picked a good year to accumulate a ton of draft picks as they have needs at several positions in what looks to be one of the deepest drafts in recent memory.  First and foremost, they need to add a premiere talent at the outside linebacker position.   In a perfect world Sergio Kindle would  fall to them and the Pats’ brass would spring to the podium to announce the pick.  I do not see him falling to #23, that being said, the Pats would be wise to use the dearth of picks they have to move up and get this guy.  Tight end and Wide Receiver are two other positions that should be addressed early.   Demaryius Thomas out of Georgia Tech would be a great option if he were to slip to the 2nd round.  He’s a physical specimen and could be groomed to eventually replace Randy Moss as the team’s #1 target.  While I love Golden Tate, he’s in the Wes Welker/Julian Edellman mold which is not what the Pats are lacking.  At the tight end position, Rob Gronkowski out of Arizona and Aaron Hernandez out of Florida would be fantastic fits who could come in and start from day one.

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