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NFL Mock Draft: New England Patriots & AFC East

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(credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

(credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

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By: Tony Meale

The 2012 NFL Draft is just one week away so we’ve pulled together a mock draft featuring the first and second rounds for the NFC East. Do you agree with the picks? Comment below.

AFC East

Patriots

That the Patriots almost won a Super Bowl with the 31st ranked defense in football is almost unfair – and a sign that if this unit improves just a little bit, New England will be the team to beat.

The Patriots are one of three teams with two first-round picks (the others are Cincinnati and Cleveland) and will likely spend both upgrading their non-existent pass rush. Southern Cal linebacker Nick Perry would be a borderline steal at Pick 27, as would Alabama’s Courtney Upshaw and Penn State’s Devon Still.

New England, which also owns two second-round picks, needs serious help in the secondary. All things considered, Julian Edelman did a decent job last year, but there’s no way a wideout should be playing pass defense in the NFL.

The Patriots only have six picks in the draft, but all are in the top four rounds; in fact, they have four of the first 62 picks and five of the first 93. Don’t be surprised if they use all six picks on defense, but they might want to consider taking a running back at some point. People talk about Tom Brady no longer having a Randy Moss-type game-breaker – Brandon Lloyd will make the Pats’ pass offense virtually unguardable – but imagine this offense with a stud tailback. Bill Belichick likes to piece together a committee – and he’s had success with it – but letting go of the sure-handed BenJarvus Green-Ellis might leave a bigger void than he thinks. The Law Firm, allergic to fumbling, accounted for 11 of the team’s 18 rushing touchdowns last year.

New England’s top returning touchdown rusher? Tom Brady.

The offense will be fine even if it passes on a tailback, but if the defense becomes even mediocre, watch out.

Bills

Signing Mario Williams is big for any franchise, but for a recently lifeless one like Buffalo, it’s huge. After starting 3-0 and 5-2 last year, the Bills stumbled to a 6-10 finish, losing eight of their last nine. Williams brings instant credibility to the defense and allows Buffalo to focus on its biggest draft need, offensive line.

The Bills committed to Ryan Fitzpatrick last year, and the biggest thing they can do to show they mean it – aside from throwing tens of millions of dollars at him – is to protect him with linemen. Iowa’s Riley Reiff would be an excellent selection at tenth overall.

Re-signing Stevie Johnson was a good move, but he needs some help. David Nelson is probably better suited as No. 3 or 4 than a No. 2.

Defensively, Williams will make the back seven look a whole lot better all by himself, but attention needs to be given to linebacker and the secondary. After selecting tenth overall, Buffalo must wait 31 picks for its next selection, which could be spent on the likes of Central Florida cornerback Josh Robinson or Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith.

Five of Buffalo’s 10 picks are in the fifth round or later.

Dolphins

After trading Brandon Marshall – their top, and perhaps only, playmaker – the Dolphins have an immediate and pressing need at wide receiver. Unfortunately for them, Justin Blackmon will be long gone by the time Pick 8 rolls around. Miami could draft Michael Floyd but might instead opt for Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannenhill, whose stock has risen in recent weeks.

While taking Tannenhill eighth would be a little too rich for my blood, what exactly is Miami doing at quarterback? David Garrard has never been elite, and at 34, what does he even have left in the tank? The Dolphins are still trying to replace Dan Marino, and given how desperate they’ve been to do just that, perhaps taking a chance on Tannenhill is worth it.

After finding fixes at quarterback and wide receiver, Miami should focus on bolstering the trenches on both sides of the ball. If the Dolphins pass on Tannenhill and Floyd, their best – read: safest – bet is Iowa offensive tackle Riley Reiff or Stanford guard David DeCastro.

But after missing out on Peyton Manning and Matt Flynn, it’d be surprising to see Miami use its first pick on any position other than quarterback.

Jets

First of all, Tim Tebow will be the starting quarterback for the New York Jets. He might not be the starter in Week 1, but sooner or later, it’s going to happen.

And it should.

People say Tim Tebow can’t throw. Fair enough. But can Mark Sanchez? Sanchez finished with 207 passing yards or fewer in 10 games last season. Yes, 10 games. That’s pretty awful for your run-of-the-mill, drop-back passer. The Jets got away from ground-and-pound way too much last year; 2012 will be a different story, as Tebow – not Sanchez – is the better fit to run Rex Ryan’s offense.

Speaking of offense, the Jets should draft Virginia Tech running back David Wilson in the second round and use a late-round pick or two to give Tebow some weapons in the passing game, preferably wideouts who can block.

Defensively, signing safety LaRon Landry certainly helps, but his ability to stay healthy is a concern. Look for the Jets to use their first-round pick to improve the secondary; Alabama safety Mark Barron would be a prime candidate to do just that.

Regardless of who they choose, the Jets better make those early selections count; seven of their 10 picks are in the fifth round or later.

>> more: Mock Draft AFC North | Mock Draft AFC South | Mock Draft AFC West | Mock Draft NFC North | Mock Draft NFC South | Mock Draft NFC East | Mock Draft NFC West

Tony Meale is a freelance writer for MLB.com, cincinnati.com and ffjungle.com, among others. His fantasy football work has led to guest appearances on several radio outlets, including ESPN Radio and Sirius Radio. He has a Master’s in Journalism from Ohio University and has been recognized by the Society of Professional Journalists for outstanding work. A Cincinnati native, he is currently writing a book on one of the great sports stories never told. Follow Tony Meale on Twitter @tonymeale.

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