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AFC East Draft Preview

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Posted: Thursday April 13, 2000 10:57 PM

By Don Banks, Sports Illustrated

 

BUFFALO BILLS

Total picks: 8

Priority positions: DE, CB, S, LB

The state of things: The Bills won't wind up taking an all-defensive draft, but you couldn't blame them if they did. They have depth needs at running back, receiver and offensive line, but their most pressing demands are for an edge rusher to replace the departed Bruce Smith (fat chance) and for a potential starting cornerback to take over for Thomas Smith, who jumped to Chicago in free agency. With Smith, Thurman Thomas and Andre Reed all finally out of the picture, these are not your father's Bills. But Buffalo isn't likely to find the next Bruce Smith drafting 26th, so cornerback makes more sense for that slot. Jackson State's Rashard Anderson figures to be valued at or near this spot, and Buffalo might be able to give him a year to get rid of the rough edges, starting Antoine Winfield, last year's No. 1 and Ken Irvin in 2000. Buffalo is also said to be high on Boston College's Chris Hovan, a hard-working, overachieving defensive tackle who is in the mold of Buffalo's entire defense. The Bills also need a replacement at free safety for Kurt Schulz (now with Detroit) and could address the position as high as the second round.

The hunch: Buffalo will concentrate on defense in the first three rounds and then look for spots to add a mid-round receiver and running back. Anderson would give the Bills twin No. 1s to work with at cornerback, something not many teams can boast. Hovan is the wild card, in that he would provide the Bills with more mix-and-match combinations on the defensive line.

 

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

Total picks: 7

Priority positions: DL, MLB, OL, CB

The state of things: Unlike so many years past, the Colts will have to make their improvements from the bottom of the draft order this year. With Indianapolis' young offense so well stocked, look for the Colts to spend their highest two or three picks on help for their defensive front seven. In the middle of the club's plans is middle linebacker, where Michael Barber has been released and Jeff Brady is coming off knee surgery. The Colts are very enamored with Rob Morris, the BYU product who some consider the finest pure middle linebacker of the past several drafts. The Colts also would like to upgrade their run defense and could use their No. 1 on Boston College's Chris Hovan or Tennessee's Darwin Walker. Both are tackles who would add depth to the Colts front and allow them to play more fresh bodies. Guard and receiver are positions they would like to get around to in the third to fifth rounds. Indianapolis also is in the market for a more physical receiver to complement speed threats like Marvin Harrison and Co.

The hunch: If the Colts covet Morris badly enough, they might have to trade up to ensure he's still around when they pick. With Indy's offense being the envy of the league, linebacker and defensive line both deserve and will garner the first and second-round attention.

 

MIAMI DOLPHINS

Total picks: 5

Priority positions: G, OT, TE, WR

The state of things: No team has fewer picks than Miami's five, and the Dolphins' first selection falls late in the second round. But don't be shocked if Miami uses that pick to trade down and acquire more selections later in the draft. Not expecting too much quality at No. 53, the Dolphins may settle for quantity. Miami has serious needs on its offensive line, at guard and right tackle, where franchise-player Richmond Webb probably is in his final season. Tight end is another big need, thanks to Miami making Troy Drayton a cap cut. With hometown collegian Bubba Franks long gone by Miami's turn, West Virginia's Anthony Becht might still be available in the late second round. If the Dolphins can come out of this tough spot with a tight end and two serviceable prospects on the offensive line, new coach Dave Wannstedt will have to feel fortunate.

The hunch: The Dolphins will trade down, figuring their only pick of any value is their second rounder. Wannstedt won't be able to parlay his one decent pick into a Jimmy Johnson Dallas-like haul, but it's a start. If there are no takers, look for Miami to address quietly the tight end slot with Becht.

 

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

Total picks: 11

Priority positions: OL, RB, TE, DL

The state of things: In a virtual instant replay of the 1997 Bill Parcells to the Jets situation, the Patriots had to send their No. 16 first-round pick to the Jets this year for the right to hire Bill Belichick as their coach. That leaves New England with 11 overall picks -- tied for second most in the league -- but without one until No. 46, midway through the second round. Want another instant replay? Last year the Pats traded up to the 46th slot to take LSU running back Kevin Faulk. He could be decent in a third-down role, but New England this offseason is right back in the position of needing a featured back. Arizona State's J.R. Redmond might still be around when the Pats' turn rolls around. Pro Bowl stalwart Bruce Armstrong was released in a cap move, meaning the Pats will probably look to draft his successor. You can't count out New England spending early-round picks on receiver, where Shawn Jefferson is gone and Terry Glenn is now demanding a Keyshawn-like renegotiation, and defensive line, which has gotten very spotty production since that Super Bowl season of 1996.

The hunch: The Patriots haven't done much with great draft position in recent years, and now they must sit out the first 45 picks this time around. With still no replacement for Curtis Martin in sight, a quality running back remains the ingredient that would take the most pressure off the up-and-down Drew Bledsoe. Give them Redmond and put a no-beach-touch-football clause in his contract.

 

NEW YORK JETS

Total picks: 8

Priority positions: WR, DL, OL, TE, S

The state of things: The Keyshawn Johnson trade changed what the Jets will do on draft day. New York wound up with an almost unmanageable four first-rounders -- from a cap standpoint. Wide receiver is now a huge need now that Johnson has been moved. New York could look to fill that need with the first of its four first-round picks at No. 12, which they acquired from the 49ers in a trade on Thursday. If the Jets sit tight with their abundance of four picks and take their turn at No. 16 (obtained from New England in exchange for coach Bill Belichick) and No. 18, they might have Miami tight end Bubba Franks and Virginia Tech defensive end John Engelberger in their sights. Tennessee defensive end Shaun Ellis is another option at either spot. This much is safe to say: The Jets pass rush needs help, and New York could use an offensive tackle to fill the hole left by the retired Jumbo Elliott. The name to watch there could be Wisconsin's Chris McIntosh.

The hunch: With the Johnson trade, the Jets are probably the most entertaining team in this year's draft. The possibilities range all over the board, and New York could move up or down depending on the scenario. Now that Johnson is a Buc, perhaps look for New York to parlay its four first-rounders into a Saturday bonanza of some sort.


 
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