The New England Patriots don’t have a pick in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft and head coach Bill Belichick only concerns himself with factors in his control. He can’t determine how the draft board falls and he can’t dictate how the Patriots division rivals in the AFC East will draft.
That’s where we come in.
The New York Jets and Buffalo Bills are picking 6th and 10th, respectively, in the draft and neither team is particularly close to competing for a Super Bowl. The Jets have no quarterback, while the Bills have a new head coach. The Miami Dolphins reached the playoffs in 2016 and are picking at 22nd overall- but they fizzled out in the postseason.
All three teams need a lot of work, but this is a relatively deep draft that could help each team take a step forward. Our own Ryan Keiran looked at the biggest draft needs for each of the teams in the AFC East, and with those needs in mind, I present the first round picks the Patriots don’t want the Jets, Bills, and Dolphins to make.
6. New York Jets: Ohio State FS Malik Hooker
The Jets need players at almost every position on the roster, and knowing the Jets draft history, they’ll find a way to add Alabama DL Jonathan Allen. But Hooker compares to All Pro safety Ed Reed and the arch-nemesis of the New England Patriots coaching staff for a solid decade of time.
The Jets were atrocious in pass defense in 2016, allowing 30 passing touchdowns (6th worst) and only recording 8 interceptions (2nd worst). Hooker provides range and a nose for the ball (7 interceptions) that could give the Patriots nightmares.
10. Buffalo Bills: Western Michigan WR Corey Davis
The Bills have two big needs: wide receiver and cornerback. There is a quality starter at each position in WR Sammy Watkins and CB Ronald Darby, but Watkins might be gone after the 2017 season and Darby took a step back in 2016.
I was going to put Ohio State CB Marshon Lattimore as the pick, but I think he’ll be long-gone by the Bills selection, so I put Davis- my favorite receiver in this draft. Over the past three seasons, Davis has recorded a ridiculous 4,348 yards and scored 46 touchdowns.
Davis is a great route-runner with good deep-ball capability. I’m a believer in Tyrod Taylor (in the sense that I believe Taylor is in the Alex Smith-tier of quarterbacks good enough to reach the postseason), and I think that an offense with Davis, Watkins, LeSean McCoy, Patrick DiMarco, and Charles Clay, along with a great offensive line could have the Bills fighting for a wild card spot.
22. Miami Dolphins: Western Kentucky OG Forrest Lamp
The Dolphins definitely need help on their defensive line- both interior and exterior- but this is a deep enough draft for the Dolphins to find a contributor in the second and third rounds. The Dolphins could also use some help on their offensive line, and this is a shallow enough draft that Miami would have to use a first rounder to get their talent.
And there’s no one better than Forrest Lamp. Lamp was an outstanding tackle in college that projects to the interior due to his height. Lamp would join 2016 first round pick OT Laremy Tunsil and 2011 first round pick C Mike Pouncey to form the left side of the line, while 2014 first round pick OT Ja’Wuan James would cover the right side.
Lamp and company would help buy time for QB Ryan Tannehill in the pocket and could block for one of the biggest surprises of 2016 in RB Jay Ajayi. The Dolphins would absolutely be a contender to reach the playoffs again with this offensive line.