Patriots will have most improved D

Pats, Colts among teams bound to improve after adding impact rookies

Originally Published: June 19, 2012
By KC Joyner | ESPN Insider
Chandler Jones and Donta HightowerStew Milne/US PresswireChandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower are expected to improve the New England Patriots' defense.

Last year, eight teams took an all-in approach toward the NFL draft, making six or more selections on one side of the ball. The Houston Texans' defense saw the most immediate benefits to "flooding the zone" with rookies -- Houston's defense jumped from third-worst in the NFL to second-best in one season, giving up 1,459 fewer yards than in 2010. The New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers both devoted six picks to the other side of the ball, and their offenses surged.

This year, nine teams have taken the Texans' approach to revamping a platoon. The ultimate goal for these upgrades is to see a bump of 0.5 yards per play, which would go a long way toward vaulting these teams to the top third of the league in either offensive or defensive production.

So how will these moves pan out? Let's take a look at the metrics to find out.

Offense

1. Cleveland Browns: +563 yards

Key additions: QB Brandon Weeden, RB Trent Richardson, OT Mitchell Schwartz

The Browns fared quite poorly in the yards per attempt (YPA) metric on short passes (those thrown 10 or fewer yards downfield) last year, as Colt McCoy's abysmal 5.3 total in that category ranked 30th in the league. Weeden displayed a superb ability to raise the level of play of those around him and thus should be able to improve that number to at least the league short-pass YPA median mark of 6.3. Over 300 short passes, that would add 300 aerial yards.