2012 NFL Draft: 5 Teams Who Can Do the Most Damage This April
Every April brings the NFL draft, which is each team’s big annual opportunity to improve their team.
The teams who truly take advantage of their draft picks, by hitting home runs in the early rounds and finding sleepers in the later rounds, are the teams who become championship contenders.
There's no greater formula for success than drafting well, and all 32 NFL teams have a chance to take significant strides with good draft picks this season.
However, these are the five teams that have the best chance to make big strides in the 2012 NFL draft.
1. Philadelphia Eagles
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After being billed as a “dream team” following their tremendous free-agency haul this past offseason, the Eagles had a terribly disappointing season, not even making the NFL playoffs.
That said, the Eagles have a roster filled with talent on both sides of the football, and with a few strong draft picks at the top of the 2012 NFL draft, they can become the championship contender they are supposed to be next season.
The Eagles hold the 15th, 45th and 47th overall selections in the 2012 NFL draft, with the first of the two second-round selections having been acquired from Arizona in the trade that sent Kevin Kolb to the Cardinals last season.
The Eagles have needs to focus upon on the offensive line and at linebacker, but with three prime draft selections, they have the tools to fill the missing pieces that can put them in position to be a major contender in 2012.
The Eagles also hold one of the first selections of the fourth round, acquired from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
2. New England Patriots
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The New England Patriots are consistently among the best drafting teams in the National Football League, and by mastering the art of draft trading, the Patriots always put themselves in position to do some major damage in the NFL draft.
The Patriots hold four picks in the first two rounds of the 2012 NFL draft.
Of course, the Patriots are certain to do more wheeling and dealing with at least one of those four picks, as they set themselves up in good position once again for 2013. That said, there are few teams in the National Football League with a more talented roster than the Patriots.
The Patriots do have some serious needs for upgrades defensively, especially in their secondary, but with their early draft picks, the Patriots will have the opportunity to find the defensive playmakers they need and continue to position themselves among the NFL’s best teams if they execute with strong draft choices.
3. Cleveland Browns
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The Cleveland Browns had a very tough, disappointing season, but are in prime position to do major damage in the 2012 NFL draft.
Coming off a 4-12 season, the Browns will hold the fourth overall pick in the draft but also hold Atlanta’s first and fourth-round draft picks, in addition to having early position in every round with their own picks.
The Browns certainly have some significant needs, specifically in the defensive front seven, along with running back with the likely departure of free-agent running back Peyton Hillis.
That said, with great draft position and extra picks available, the Browns will be able to draft for value early, fill needs as they go along through the draft and have the possibility of moving up and down the draft board to acquire players they covet.
The Browns pulled off a tremendous trade last season when they moved down from sixth overall to pick up a plethora of draft selections from Atlanta, and now, they have the opportunity to maximize that trade’s value by making strong choices in the 2012 draft.
4. Indianapolis Colts
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Yes, the Indianapolis Colts were the NFL’s worst team this season, and no, the Colts do not hold any extra selections for the 2012 NFL draft.
That said, the Colts go into the 2012 NFL draft holding the most valuable No. 1 overall draft selection in many years, which alone merits positioning on this ranking.
The Colts are expected to draft and keep Stanford’s Andrew Luck to be the long-term franchise quarterback, potentially as an immediate replacement to Peyton Manning. Of course, Manning is among the NFL’s all-time greatest quarterbacks, making this a very tough decision for the Colts. Either way, holding the No. 1 overall pick gives the Colts a tremendous pair of options.
The Colts can either draft Luck, one of the best quarterback prospects ever coming out of college, or they trade the pick to the highest bidder. It's guaranteed that if the Colts choose to pursue the latter option, there will be bidders.
Luck is considered to be a very special talent at the NFL’s most important position, and there will be numerous teams with a need at the quarterback position interested in trading up if they have any possibility of doing so.
If the Colts trade down, they will be able to command a massive package of draft picks, which will put them in position to load up on talent in the 2012 NFL draft.
If they keep Luck, the Colts will be selecting a long-term star of the franchise. They will still hold a top-two pick in every round throughout the draft, giving them many opportunities to draft quality players to build around Luck.
5. Cincinnati Bengals
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In addition to their own, yet-to-be-determined first-round selection, the Cincinnati Bengals hold the 17th overall selection in the 2012 NFL draft, which they acquired as one of two major selections from the Oakland Raiders in exchange for quarterback Carson Palmer.
More than any other team this season, the Bengals have shown how a couple of home run draft picks can turn everything around. In the 2011 NFL draft, the Bengals drafted Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green with the fourth overall selection, then drafted TCU quarterback Andy Dalton in the second round.
The duo immediately found a connection, with Dalton having a tremendous season for a rookie quarterback, while A.J. Green is already a Pro Bowl wide receiver. These two draft picks led the Bengals’ turnaround from being one of the NFL’s worst teams to a playoff team just one year later.
In the 2012 NFL draft, with two first-round picks, the Bengals have the chance to strike gold again and make even further strides.
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