Four Downs: AFC East
For this May round of Four Downs, we will be looking at each team's biggest remaining need as well as notable undrafted free agents who will be going to camp with each franchise.
Biggest Need: Offensive line/right tackle
This sentence feels as weird to write as it will to read: the Buffalo Bills' roster does not have a position group that poses a clear weakness. Questions about their young quarterback aside, Buffalo's roster is about as squeaky-clean as can be. They may be lacking stars in some position groups such as edge defender and tight end, but every unit at least passes the threshold for quality play in the NFL.
If any non-quarterback position stands out as a question mark for the Bills, it is the right side of the offensive line. Right tackle Cody Ford, in particular, had a rough go of things as a rookie. On just 405 pass-blocking snaps, Ford blew 17 blocks and allowed nine sacks. Ford's 2.2% sacks-allowed rate was the second-most among tackles with at least 300 pass-blocking reps last year, trailing only Panthers tackle Dennis Daley. Being in the same company as any Panthers tackle since Jordan Gross' retirement is never a good sign. However, maybe Ford should be extended some benefit of doubt being that he was a rookie and could turn things around next season.
Notable Undrafted Free Agents: Washington tackle Trey Adams was on track to be a first-round pick after his stellar sophomore and junior seasons in 2016 and 2017, but a slew of injuries -- including an ACL tear that ended his 2017 season a bit early and a back problem that kept him out for most of 2018 -- tanked his draft stock and playing ability. The hope is he may be able to recover in Buffalo. The Bills are also taking a swing on Auburn guard Marquell Harrell. With the Tigers, Harrell started just over 30 games alongside two 2020 NFL draft picks (tackles Prince Tega Wanogho and Jack Driscoll).
Biggest Need: Edge rusher
Miami has a handful of great third or fourth pass-rushers, but nobody who should be considered the cornerstone of a pass-rushing unit. Former Buffalo Bills defensive end Shaq Lawson and former Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah were the Dolphins' biggest free-agent signings this offseason, but neither have earned more than 6.5 sacks in a season since entering the league together in 2016. While the Dolphins also signed Kyle Van Noy away from the New England Patriots, Van Noy is more of a utility piece and hybrid linebacker than he is a legitimate edge defender.
In the draft, Miami's only two swings at pass-rusher came in the fifth round with North Carolina's Jason Strowbridge, who should be more of a "big end" than a traditional pass-rusher, and Boise State sack-specialist Curtis Weaver. At 6-foot-2 and 265 pounds, Weaver has a short and hefty build, but he bends quite well for someone his size. He also racked up 34 sacks in three seasons at Boise State, earning at least 9.5 sacks each year. Our SackSEER projection system liked him as this year's sleeper edge rusher in the draft. Still, a pair of middling free-agent signings coupled with two fifth-round picks is not going to turn around the Dolphins' pass-rush in one offseason.
Notable Undrafted Free Agents: If Ole Miss defensive tackle Benito Jones' college development is any indication, the Dolphins may have found themselves a steal. A four-year contributor at for the Rebels, Jones improved his tackles for loss and sack total each season, going from 4.5 tackles for loss and a half-sack as a freshman to 10 and 5.5 as a senior. Miami also added Montana State defensive end Bryce Sterk. After beginning his college career in Washington, Sterk transferred to play his final two seasons in Bozeman, where he racked up a whopping 23.5 sacks over that span.
New England Patriots
Biggest Need: Wide receiver
You're probably wondering why this spot doesn't say "quarterback." Certainly we've insisted in past articles that analytics see Jarrett Stidham as a very unsure thing, but it's clearly not a hole the Patriots plan on filling. Like it or not, this is their guy and they're going with him. Going into the draft, the lack of pass-catchers was just as glaring a need but getting a lot less attention.
With two third-round picks invested in UCLA's Devin Asiasi and Virginia Tech's Dalton Keene, it is fair to assume the Patriots have found some players who will eat up snaps at tight end. Whether or not either of them will turn out to be quality players is yet to be seen, but at least there is some hope that top-100 picks can produce as fresh faces in the lineup. Wide receiver, however, is still a big ol' "maybe" featuring almost entirely the same cast as last season.
Maybe Julian Edelman will recover well from the handful of injuries that plagued him during the 2019 season. Maybe last year's first-round pick N'Keal Harry will take the next step after a lackluster rookie year. Maybe a healthier Mohammed Sanu will be able to better operate in the middle of the field better with a healthier Edelman to help him out. Maybe 2019 undrafted free agent Jakobi Meyers can build on a surprising rookie season and blossom into more than a role player. The Patriots' only effort to address all this uncertainty was to sign Damiere Byrd, who posted a -4.6% DVOA rating with the Cardinals in 2019.
Notable Undrafted Free Agents: Arizona running back J.J. Taylor was a cult hero for West Coast college football fans before a string of minor injuries hindered his 2019 season. At 5-foot-5 and 185 pounds, Taylor earned a reputation for himself as a "human joystick" type as he ducked and dashed around defenders with incredible quickness. Between the 2017 and 2018 seasons, Taylor ran for over 2,200 yards at 5.7 yards per carry. He also returned kicks in 2018, which may be where he finds value early on in New England. Auburn wide receiver Will Hastings is an athletic pass-catcher who underproduced in college, equal parts because of his raw skill set and poor quarterback play. The Patriots are also bringing in Washington cornerback Myles Bryant, a promising nickel prospect in 2018 who made a switch to safety in 2019.
New York Jets
Biggest Need: Edge rusher
Both in free agency and in the draft, the Jets threw everything they had at one side of the trenches. After signing tackle George Fant, tackle Greg Van Roten, guard Josh Andrews, and center Conner McGovern, New York went out and drafted Louisville tackle Mekhi Becton 10th overall and Charlotte guard Cameron Clark in the fourth round. If they wanted to, the Jets could field an entirely new starting offensive line and still have a new sixth man left out.
The other side of the trenches, however, was mostly ignored. Jordan Jenkins and Terrell Basham remain the team's top-two pass-rushers from last year, with Harvey Langi serving as backup. On any decent pass-rushing unit, none of these players would be more than a third option, yet here the Jets sit needing two of them to start. The only draft pick the Jets used to address this hole was in the third round with Florida edge rusher Jabari Zuniga, who was a moderately productive player for four seasons, yet never really broke out for the Gators. Expectations on this pass-rushing unit should be low.
Notable Undrafted Free Agents: The second-fastest player at this year's NFL combine is now a member of the Jets as an undrafted free agent. Utah cornerback Javelin Guidry measured in at just 5-foot-9 and 191 pounds, but took off in the 40-yard dash for a blazing 4.29s time, trailing only Alabama wide receiver Henry Ruggs. New York also signed Nebraska cornerback Lamar Jackson, who made 15 pass breakups in 2019, which was as many as TCU first-round pick Jeff Gladney. Most importantly, the Jets may have found themselves some wide receiver help with Georgia's Lawrence Cager. A transfer from Miami in 2019, Cager showed a fantastic rapport in his one season with quarterback Jake Fromm as a back-shoulder specialist, but injuries only allowed him to play eight games in his final season. Cager is an NFL wide receiver so long as health permits it.
Portions of this article originally appeared at ESPN+.