Previewing AFC East rookie camp battles

May, 1, 2013
5/01/13
11:00
AM ET
The NFL draft brought several big-name rookies to the AFC East. But this is the NFL, where every player has to earn their spot on the roster.

Here is a look at top rookies who will have to compete for starting jobs in training camp.

Miami Dolphins, defensive end

Incumbent: Jared Odrick

Rookie challenger: Dion Jordan

Analysis: This will be a good battle between two former first-round picks. Odrick is solid, but not spectacular, at defensive end. The 2010 first-round pick is stout against the run but only average as a pass-rusher (five sacks in 2012). Jordan, the No. 3 overall pick this year, is the opposite. He brings tremendous potential as a pass-rusher but doesn’t have the ideal bulk to be a run-stuffer as a 4-3 defensive end. The Dolphins must figure out how to use Jordan to maximize his abilities. There is a lot of speculation that Odrick will eventually move inside. But with defensive tackles Randy Starks and Paul Soliai both under contract, I don’t think that happens right away to start the season unless an injury takes place.

Prediction: Odrick

New York Jets, cornerback

Incumbent: Kyle Wilson

Rookie challenger: Dee Milliner

Analysis: We’ve written a ton about the pending, three-way quarterback battle in New York between Mark Sanchez, David Garrard and rookie Geno Smith. So we want to switch things up a little bit and provide more focus on the cornerback competition. Wilson and Milliner are both first-round draft picks just three years apart. Both can play and will have a big role on the team. However, the question is who will start in Week 1? Milliner has to learn Rex Ryan’s complicated defense. Wilson has a three-year head start and played pretty well last season in the absence of Darrelle Revis. He barely holds off Milliner to start the year, but that’s always subject to change.

Prediction: Wilson

Buffalo Bills, wide receiver

Incumbent: T.J. Graham

Rookie challenger: Robert Woods

Analysis: Like with the Jets, we spent a lot of time on the quarterbacks in Buffalo and want to shift that focus. The Bills also will have competition at wide receiver opposite veteran Steve Johnson. Woods was a good value pick for the Bills in the second round. He will battle 2012 third-round pick T.J. Graham, who caught 31 passes for 322 yards and a touchdown as a rookie last season. I think Woods is one of the most NFL-ready receivers in this draft. He’s polished and does nearly everything well. Graham, meanwhile, had lapses in concentration and suffered from drops last year. I think this is Woods’ job to lose.

Prediction: Woods

New England Patriots, receiver

Incumbent: Not applicable

Rookie challenger: Aaron Dobson

Analysis: This is a tough one to predict. The Patriots have brought in a half-dozen new receivers and this is their first time playing in the new system. Veterans like Michael Jenkins and Donald Jones will compete with Dobson, New England’s talented second-round draft pick. It will come down to the receiver who can quickly grasp the offense. That probably rules out the rookie for Week 1.

Prediction: Jenkins

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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