Ranking the AFC East (Defense) – Despite departures, Patriots still have best overall unit

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There has been and will be a lot of talk about how the Patriots stack up with the rest of the AFC East after the departure of Tom Brady. We decided to see exactly where the Patriots stand on offense and defense (since the Patriots don't have a kicker, special teams is kind of moot) heading into the draft. We mixed together opinions from personnel executives and coaches, along with our own data and analysis.

It's a good exercise to see where the Patriots do stand and where they can improve. It becomes pretty glaring where they need upgrades out of this draft.

On Monday, we took a look at the offense — where the Patriots still have the best top-end talent but their lack of depth left them behind the Bills overall — so we'll turn our attention to the defense today.

There's better news for the Patriots. Despite the departures of Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins and Duron Harmon, the Patriots still own the best defense in the division thanks to a dominating secondary and special teams units (yes, New England doesn't have a kicker but we're going to Rick Gosselin's annual rankings).

And, like the offense, there is an underlying positivity to these numbers in this regard: the Patriots are the best unit while being middling on the edge, and at the second linebacker spot. Both places could be upgraded in this draft, which could boost the Patriots up even more by the end of the season.

Here are the numbers, then we'll offer a comment on each spot: