Draft preparation is mostly an introvert process with fans and media alike looking primarily at their own teams or at those picking just ahead of them to see if any trade-up opportunities would present themselves. However, with the big event merely two weeks away now might be a good time to look beyond the New England Patriots and at their immediate rivals in the AFC East.
2020 record: 13-3 (2-1 playoffs)
2021 draft picks: 1-30, 2-61, 3-93, 5-161, 5-174, 6-213, 7-236
After investing its first-round pick last year in trading for wide receiver Stefon Diggs, Buffalo is entering this year’s draft with a Day 1 selection in the fold and few needs to actually address. As defined by Matt Warren at Buffalo Rumblings, the primary positions that will have to be updated through the draft are on the defensive side of the ball.
The Bills need to upgrade their edge defender depth — Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison are 33 and 34 years old — and find a new starting-caliber cornerback opposite Tre’Davious White. On the offensive side of the ball, meanwhile, the Bills will have to bolster their running back corps and might also benefit from adding further depth along the interior offensive line as well as the tight end and wide receiver positions.
All in all, however, the club has built a solid roster over the last few years and taken advantage of fielding a starting quarterback on a rookie contract.
2020 record: 10-6
2021 draft picks: 1-6, 1-18, 2-36, 2-50, 3-81, 3-102, 4-156, 7-231, 7-258
While there has been some speculation that Miami might try to go after a quarterback despite picking Tua Tagovailoa fifth overall last year, the more reasonable approach appears to be building the offense around the youngster. This means investing in some additional help at the skill positions.
While Miami already added Will Fuller and Robert Foster to a receiving corps headed by DeVante Parker, more talent at wideout could be in the pipeline in the first round. The Dolphins could also try to go after the top tight end in this year’s draft, Florida’s Kyle Pitts, to upgrade a position group that lacks the depth of the team’s wide receiver position. Given that they own two picks on Day 1, they can certainly be aggressive in addressing those needs.
Elsewhere, Miami might try to improve its offensive line and also add more depth to its defensive edge and running back groups.
New England Patriots
2020 record: 7-9
2021 draft picks: 1-15, 2-46, 3-96, 4-120, 4-122, 4-139, 5-177, 6-188, 6-197, 7-242
The Patriots were the most aggressive team in football during free agency, improving a stagnant roster all over the board. One major need has remained, however: despite re-signing Cam Newton to a one-year deal and having third-year man Jarrett Stidham under contract, New England has no clear long-term solution at the quarterback position under contract right now.
Bill Belichick and company might have to be aggressive in order to get one of the projected top-five guys, but a deep roster with few obvious holes would allow the club to be just that and possibly move up the board in the first round to get a bona fide prospect. If none becomes available, the Patriots also could go after the other major needs.
The future of the cornerback and offensive tackle positions is unclear beyond 2021, while more inside linebacker and wide receiver depth would also help raise the talent floor. All in all, New England is in a solid position heading into the draft, even if no QB becomes available at a reasonable cost.
New York Jets
2020 record: 2-14
2021 draft picks: 1-2, 1-23, 2-34, 3-66, 3-86, 4-108, 5-147, 6-186, 6-226
After trading away Sam Darnold to the Carolina Panthers, the road is clear for the Jets to go after a new starting quarterback with the second overall selection. BYU’s Zach Wilson is the favorite to become the selection, filling the biggest need on a roster with multiple holes on both sides of the ball.
Luckily for the Jets, they also own another first-rounder as well as three more picks in the top-100. This, in turn, would allow the organization to get some early impact players at the other positions that will have to be addressed: New York needs to improve its interior offensive line in order to give a rookie quarterback the best possible chance to compete, and also upgrade the tight end and running back positions.
On defense, the two main areas of concern are off-the-ball linebacker and cornerback. The Jets attacking those aggressively within the first two days of the draft would therefore not be a surprise.