Even in the midst of a thrilling postseason, it is never too early to begin thinking about the NFL draft. While it is too early to determine what the draft order will be—as any team can upset any team—we can get a general idea of when each team will select in the 2012 NFL Draft.
No team is without need of improvement, even those with the most dominant records.
Here are the best-case scenarios for each NFL team's first-round pick.
Despite a miserable 2-14 record that will grant them the first overall pick, their poor performance in 2011 will be advantageous.
With an injury to Peyton Manning that sidelined the quarterback for the entire season, it seems apparent that Manning is nearing the twilight of his career. It would be wise to take his successor while one still has the chance to do so.
It may be early to say Andrew Luck is going to be the future Hall of Famer that so many are already touting him as, but Luck has all the tools to succeed in the NFL. He's got a great arm, remarkable accuracy, agility, good pocket awareness and a great level of maturity and a competitive spirit.
They may not have Manning forever, but the Colts will certainly have their quarterback of the future for many years to come in Luck.
The Rams have many weaknesses and quarterback Sam Bradford struggled mightily this season, with the poor play of his offensive line being a significant factor. However, even early on in the season, Bradford appeared reluctant to throw deep and to take more chances with the ball.
This is likely a product of his lack of confidence in his receivers.
And who could blame him? When his wide receivers have been dropping passes left and right, how could a passing offense flourish?
The Rams will need to address their lack of potency through the air this draft. Brandon Lloyd is a good receiver, but he is not the deep threat that an offense needs. Blackmon will provide the Rams with their deep threat and he may even develop someday into a very solid number one receiver.
This selection would give the Bradford the best chance of bouncing back in 2012.
The Vikings, too, would greatly need the services of Justin Blackmon. They seem to have struggled to fill the void left by the departure of Sidney Rice, which has in part contributed to the struggles of all their quarterbacks since then (Brett Favre, Donovan McNabb, Christian Ponder).
But as Blackmon is likely to go to the Rams, Matt Kalil is a great consolation prize.
Minnesota's offensive line was once one to be reckoned with. Not anymore, as injuries have taken their toll and the line has struggled for much of the 2011 season.
To help a developing Christian Ponder, the Vikings must surround him with weapons. But these weapons do not have to come in the form of a receiver yet (although eventually they will). A great tackle to give him time in the pocket will do wonders for a young franchise quarterback.
Kalil is too good to pass up here at third overall.
The Browns are actually no longer the laughingstock of the NFL. Their defense has really come together this season and has emerged as one of the best in the league.
But they still have plenty of issues offensively.
The team needs more talent on the offensive line, playmakers at receiver and possibly another running back if Peyton Hillis walks. It has also seemed that the team has lost faith in its anointed franchise quarterback, Colt McCoy.
With that in mind, the team will likely pass on running back Trent Richardson in favor of Robert Griffin III.
A phenomenal talent, Griffin III has agility to complement accuracy. And speaking of agility, the man is said to be the fastest quarterback in college football history. He may be the perfect player for a rebuilding Browns team, as he can make plays with the legs if protection breaks down or no receivers get open.
It was a shame Colt McCoy could not work out, but Griffin III has far more potential than McCoy does. McCoy's struggles could turn out to be a blessing in disguise.
The Buccaneers, proclaimed an emerging contender for years to come before the season, fell flat on their faces. Quarterback Josh Freeman played poorly and their organization was so disgusted with the poor play they fired the entire coaching staff.
It is possible that even more changes will come in Tampa Bay, but most likely the roster will remain largely intact.
The Bucs are actually a pretty talented team and have no shortage of good players. However, the team struggles in its pass rush. Improvements along the defensive line therefore would do wonders for this team.
The team tried to address this with the signing of over-the-hill Albert Haynesworth, but it is far wiser to build for the future.
Devon Still should give the Buccaneers a solid presence at the line of scrimmage for years to come. While Still may not yet be the dominant pass-rusher the team needs, he tackles well—something this Bucs team desperately needs.
It may seem more logical for the Redskins to select a quarterback to replace the mediocre-at-best Rex Grossman, but with Luck and Griffin III likely flying off the board much sooner, the team can likely afford to wait until the second round to address that position.
Instead, the team can focus on finding a cornerback to supplement their defense.
Morris Claiborne would be the perfect option.
Claiborne is excellent in man coverage and that is what the Redskins need. With the loss of Carlos Rogers and the inconsistent play of DeAngelo Hall, Claiborne could do much to improve the pass defense of this Redskins team.
Unfortunately, Justin Blackmon will likely be far out of reach for the Jacksonville Jaguars. It will be difficult therefore for the Jaguars to provide Maurice Jones-Drew with the help he needs on offense, so the Jaguars will likely have to turn to free agency for their wideout needs.
But they can take Dre Kirkpatrick here.
The Jaguars secondary would certainly benefit from his strong abilities in man coverage. Kirkpatrick also is a solid tackler and effective in run support.
After a season that saw rookie sensation Cam Newton breaking out and making the Panthers offense one to be reckoned with, the Panthers struggled too much on defense to make the postseason.
With that in mind, they will likely select Coples to address that weakness.
Ever since the loss of Julius Peppers, the Panthers have struggled to find a consistent pass rush. With Coples they will be getting a player with a tremendous amount of upside.
Coples is a bit small, but has an excellent motor and a phenomenal amount of strength. He may still need to develop, but the right coaching could turn Coples into a force to be reckoned with on defense.
It is hard to see Richardson slipping past the top 10 picks. Miami likely takes him here.
Richardson has a lot of talent and can be a franchise back for anyone. He possess a great deal of strength and breaks tackles as well as any other player, but he also has speed to complement all this power.
Richardson can form an excellent one-two punch with Reggie Bush in Miami and add some potency to Miami's offense.
Similar to the Redskins, it would make sense for the Bills to select a quarterback. But as they had made the questionable decision to re-sign Ryan Fitzpatrick to a long-term extension, the team is stuck with him for at least the short-term future.
With that in mind, the Bills may decide to supplement their defense here.
This Bills defense has potential going forward. With Kyle Williams on the defensive line and rookie Marcell Dareus turning some heads, this right pieces could help the Bills reach the next level and potentially even the postseason.
Nick Perry could be the final piece to the D-line that the team needs.
Perry is a very talented D-lineman who has seen relatively little action, but has played well whenever he has been healthy. He may be a bit of a risk, but his upside makes it worth it.
The Chiefs have many weaknesses, but lack of depth along the offensive line is one of the most glaring ones. Especially after then-head coach Todd Haley made the strange decision to waive Jared Gaither.
With that in mind, the Chiefs will need to select another tackle.
Jonathan Martin would be a suitable one. With the important job of protecting Andrew Luck's blindside, Martin is as good of a tackle as any in the draft.
He will help give the Chiefs the solid tackle that they need.
The Seahawks are in desperate need of a quarterback, as anyone with any knowledge of the NFL could tell you that Tarvaris Jackson is not the answer. If they do not make a move for Matt Flynn, the Seahawks could target Ryan Tannehill.
Tannehill is a very talented quarterback. He shows impressive mobility for his size and he is very accurate throwing the football, especially on short-range passes. He has a strong enough arm to succeed in the NFL as well.
Any franchise hoping for a quarterback to build around would be very fortunate to land Tannehill.
The Cardinals have had so many problems this season, with an inconsistent running game, Kevin Kolb appearing to be a bust and defensive woes.
The most glaring of these may be the defense.
While Beanie Wells is certainly not a franchise running back, he is still a solid option. The team would be wiser to address other areas of the team where there is higher talent available to them.
Melvin Ingram has quickness and strength. He can immediately help the Cardinals' mediocre linebackers corps. This will do much to aid a Cardinals run defense that struggled mightily in 2011.
It seems that the Dallas Cowboys have had issues in their secondary for most of recent memory. Once boasting one of the league's best cornerback tandems, the Cowboys have suffered from an aging roster and are no longer the talented juggernaut they once were capable of.
The team will have to begin to rebuild its defense bit by bit. Alfonzo Dennard is likely the best CB that will be available.
Dennard is a very physical player and has great closing speed. This makes him both a threat in man coverage and also in zone coverage.
With the improved play of Eli Manning this season and Vick being more of a threat as a passer in Philadelphia, a strong secondary is almost a must for the Cowboys if they wish to remain in contention in the NFC East.
The biggest weakness to the Eagles' "Dream Team" may have been the lack of linebackers. While safeties were also a concern, teams ran the ball on Philadelphia with ease.
Jim Washburn's wide-9 technique left large gaps along the defensive line. The Eagles' pathetic linebackers corps were dreadful in filling gaps and shedding blocks.
Luke Kuechly may be just the player they need to turn the team around and return to the postseason in 2012.
Kuechly is a very intelligent player and reads offenses very well. He has the ability to fill the gap quickly and easily makes his way through traffic.
His pass coverage leaves a bit to be desired, but his capabilities in stopping the run should make him a welcome addition in Philadelphia.
As stout as the New York Jets defense is, it has taken a step back since the 2010 season. The defense has looked less dominant, and Darelle Revis struggled on a few instances, largely due to the lack of safety help.
The loss of Jim Leonhard greatly hurt this team's chances of returning to the postseason. Since Leonhard will likely walk in free agency, the Jets will likely take his successor.
Mark Barron is a reliable zone defender and also has good hands. He is a perfect complement to Darrelle Revis.
With Barron, the Jets defense could make a step back towards its dominant 2010 self.
Marvin Lewis has solidified the Bengals defense, and he now has a promising young quarterback in Andy Dalton to build his team around. Cedric Benson gives the young quarterback the running game he needs, and A.J. Green is emerging as one of the star receivers of the next generation.
The logical move now would be to allow Dalton to develop, partially by giving him added protection in the pocket.
By taking David DeCastro, the Bengals could give Dalton a guard who is among the best blockers in the draft.
A reliable pass-blocker for Andrew Luck, DeCastro can be expected to do the same for Dalton as he continues to improve as an NFL quarterback.
The San Diego Chargers failed to make the postseason for the second consecutive time. The first time was due to poor special teams, and the second to poor quarterback play by Philip Rivers.
But defense was also a factor. Rivers returned to his elite self after the midway point of the season, and the offensive line will be healthier next season.
At this spot, it may be best if the Chargers select Courtney Upshaw and add to their linebacker depth.
With many key veterans leaving throughout the years, the Chargers are thinner at the linebacker position than they have been in years past. Upshaw will help to solidify the defense and take some pressure off of Rivers to carry the team.
The Chicago Bears finally started playing better as an offense, until an injury to Jay Cutler put any dreams of a playoff run to rest. If the Bears are to return to the playoffs, they will need to draft a wide receiver or sign one in free agency.
If they elect to draft one, Michael Floyd would be their best option. Floyd does not have amazing hands or speed, but he is a physical player and has the makings of a possession receiver. His route-running is not superb, but is adequate and the right coaching can develop him into a good receiver.
In any case, he should be a better option at least than the likes of Devin Hester and Roy Williams.
The Tennessee Titans have not been as consistent with their linebacker play as they had been in the past. The team will likely lose Will Witherspoon soon as well as he is entering the final year of his contract.
Zach Brown would likely be as capable if not better if selected to replace Witherspoon.
Brown still has much to learn to play at an NFL level, as his instincts could use some work. However, he has a great deal of speed and could have tremendous upside if developed correctly.
With their second pick in the first round, the Bengals will more than likely address their need at running back by selecting Lamar Miller.
Cedric Benson was a decent rusher, but not a great one. He did reach the 1,000-yard mark with 1,067 yards, however he averaged only 3.9 yards per carry and rushed for only six touchdowns.
After a poor performance in the Wild Card Round, it would appear Benson is not the franchise back that the Bengals need.
Miller is a big-play threat and has some of the highest yards per carry averages out of any college running back. At this spot in the draft, Miller is too good a player to pass up.
Very similar to the Rams, the Browns offense was hurt by poor quarterback play, but that was partially caused by a lack of talent at the wide receiver position. The Browns are devoid of any game-changing players at receiver.
Kendall Wright will likely be the best receiver the team will be able to select here. As the leading receiver at Baylor, Wright can potentially be a reliable receiver for whoever the Browns decide to start at quarterback next season and attempt to solidify a struggling Browns passing offense.
After emerging as a playoff contender this season only two seasons after an 0-16 season in 2008, the Detroit Lions are a rising team in the NFC. But their glaring weaknesses are too real, being the lack of a strong running game and a reliable defense.
The pass defense may be more of a concern, as the team was torched in the Wild Card Round by Drew Brees for over 450 yards.
The Lions are a team that relies primarily on its offense to win shootouts. With that in mind, they should add depth to the cornerback position to better compete with other high-flying offenses.
Janoris Jenkins is a good option to take at the 23rd overall pick. A solid man and zone coverage man, Jenkins is a very well-rounded and versatile cornerback and could make an immediate impact if drafted.
The Steelers, once a powerhouse in the AFC, fell to the underdog Denver Broncos. Many problems showed in the matchup against Denver, with defense perhaps being the most glaring weakness.
While Roethlisberger did not play his best, the offensive line has still showed to be a mediocre one at best. Cordy Glenn could solidify the line more and provide some much-needed solid play at guard with his excellent pass-blocking and serviceable run-blocking.
Even if the Denver Broncos were to advance further in the postseason, there is still a good chance Alshon Jeffery will still be available to them. Despite the heroics of Tim Tebow in Denver, the quarterback's lack of accuracy is too big of a flaw for the team going forward.
It is imperative that the Broncos get him some help in the passing game.
Jeffery is a good option for the team going forward. While his route-running is an area of concern, he has phenomenal hands and is capable of making spectacular catches. Also, his speed after the catch is something to be reckoned with.
He is the perfect receiver for a player like Tebow, who specializes in making big throws but not necessarily accurate ones.
Ever since the departure of Jeremy Shockey, the Giants have lacked production at the tight end production. Kevin Boss's departure left an even bigger void at the position.
At this spot in the draft, the Giants are in position to nab Dwayne Allen, and it would be a solid acquisition. Allen is a great young tight end who will give Eli Manning another weapon in an underrated Giants offense.
With a good running game and a stout defense, the Houston Texans have finally emerged as a contending team and gotten over the hump to make the playoffs.
However, the team leaves a bit to be desired in its pass rush.
Dontari Poe could make this stingy Wade Phillips-led defense even more formidable. Poe is a very talented defensive tackle and has humongous upside.
A steal as the 27th overall selection.
The New England Patriots have by far the worst defense in the NFL, but continue to win games due to the strength of their offense. Yet, they cannot delay adding much-needed help to their passing defense.
The best cornerback available to them would be Stephon Gilmore. Gilmore is not the best in man coverage, but can excel in zone coverage.
This may be the best option for the Patriots as they slowly rebuild their once formidable defense.
The Ravens need a center to take over for the aging Matt Birk. That is one of their most dire areas of need. Konz is likely to still be available, so the Ravens should select him here.
Konz is the best center in the draft and has been well praised for his play in college. He is likely a solid starter at center for many years to come.
Under new coach Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers have shocked the NFL world by emerging not only as an improved team, but as one of the best in the league. Their excellent defense and running game have made them a challenge for anyone in the league.
Alex Smith has played better and looked more like the player he was expected to be when drafted. The 49ers need help at the wide receiver position, though, where both Michael Crabtree and Braylon Edwards have failed to be very productive.
The 49ers could get their receiving playmaker by selecting Mohamed Sanu. Sanu is a huge target, being 6'2" and 218 pounds. He is too large for most corners to beat in man coverage. He also possesses great hands and good speed.
If developed properly, Sanu could turn the 49ers into a potent passing attack and an even more well-balanced team than they are currently.
With their second first round pick, the Patriots will undoubtedly continue to rebuild their horrid defense. Andre Branch would be their best option at the 31st overall pick.
Branch lacks explosiveness, struggles to beat double-teams, and overall will likely not be much of a pass-rushing threat, but he is a very gifted tackler. He can help the Patriots get much-needed stops when the team needs them.
That alone should make him a suitable starter on that team.
The Green Bay Packers were once hailed as one of the best defenses in the league. This was true during the 2009 season and their Super Bowl-winning 2010 season. But this season, while still emerging as the best team in football, the defense is one of the worst.
This is partially due to the lack of a playmaker opposite of Clay Matthews to help make plays.
This is where Jared Crick may be the best value for the 32nd overall pick.
Crick, like Branch, also lacks the explosiveness and athleticism to get to the quarterback. He relies largely on effort rather than technique and speed, but Crick is a good tackler and he also has strong hands, which may help him to shed blocks.
In either case, Crick could help draw away attention away from Clay Matthews, which may be all that the Packers really need from him.