Grading the Draft

Which team in the AFC EAST graded the highest for their 2012 draft choices?

Grading a draft immediately after it concludes is akin to giving your compliments to the chef before a meal is served. Sure, the food might sound good on the menu, but the true evaluation won't come until after the product has been tested.

It will take at least three years before we can truly assess how the 32 NFL teams fared during the three-day draft. Readily apparent is that teams take different approaches, from going for the best available talent to focusing on team needs -- or some combination therein -- to gambling on character concerns and long-term potential.


Buffalo Bills: B

The Bills attacked free agency, landing defensive ends Mario Williams and Mark Anderson, and remained focused on defense in the draft. South Carolina cornerback Stephon Gilmore was drafted in the first round and talented nickel corner Ron Brooks (LSU) in the fourth, clearly in an attempt to stifle the New England Patriots' vaunted passing attack. The team also added two very productive linebackers in Florida State's athletic Nigel Bradham and may have a steal in TCU's Tank Carder in the fifth. The Bills didn't forget about the offense completely, adding a pair of massive four-year starting offensive linemen in Cordy Glenn and Zebrie Sanders in the second and fourth rounds, respectively, as well as another speedy wideout in T.J. Graham in the third. This draft wasn't as flashy as the rest of the Bills' offseason, but it was a strong effort.

Miami Dolphins: C-

General manager Jeff Ireland has made a career of patiently looking for singles and doubles in the first round while waiting until the second to land quarterbacks, but by investing in Ryan Tannehill at No. 8 overall, the Dolphins swung for the fences. Clearly Tannehill is a gamble; he has limited experience, but his 19 career starts at quarterback came in new Miami offensive coordinator Mike Sherman's offense. Not even Andrew Luck can boast that familiarity with his NFL team's scheme. I do like the pick, but Tannehill had better be good, because the Dolphins didn't help he or incumbent starter Matt Moore much the rest of the way through the draft. Athletic front seven defenders Olivier Vernon and Josh Kaddu have upside but are raw. Stanford offensive tackle Jonathan Martin was a solid value selection in the second, as was Miami running back Lamar Miller in the fourth but for a team that traded away the only game-breaking receiver they had in Brandon Marshall, not enough was done to improve the Dolphins' receiving corps.

New England Patriots: B+

Bill Belichick has traded down so frequently on draft day that it surprised many when he reversed course and took advantage of all the picks he's been accumulating to land defensive end Chandler Jones and inside linebacker Dont'a Hightower in the first. Each is NFL-ready, perhaps an indication that the Patriots realize that Tom Brady's window of opportunity is closing. Of New England's other picks, Arkansas defensive end Jake Bequette stands out for his production and relentlessness as did their final defensive pick -- Nebraska cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, who slipped to No. 224 overall and round seven largely due to an injury-ravaged senior season and off-field concerns after entering the year regarded as a potential first-round prospect. The Patriots are rarely flashy on draft day and after their aggression on day one, they were largely quiet but this draft puts them in position to again defend their AFC crown.

New York Jets: C

The Jets were hoping for a pass rusher at No. 16 and gambled on the most talented senior at the position in the draft with Quinton Coples. A natural 3-4 defensive end with the strength to collapse the pocket, Coples could be used in a similar fashion as how the Houston Texans played J.J. Watt a year ago. Rex Ryan will have his work cut out for him getting Coples' motor to run full bore, but this is a gamble that could pay off in a big way. The Jets took a similar gamble in round two with Georgia Tech wide receiver Stephen Hill at a much more palatable point in the draft. Hill has the size and speed to be a great vertical threat in an offense built on the running game and taking shots down the field. Of the Jets' later picks, third-round linebacker Demario Davis' size and explosiveness make him an intriguing developmental prospect. He could contend for a starting spot a year from now but he'll make his first impressions as a special teams star.

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