2011 NFL Draft

NFL Draft 2012: Teams That Will Use Draft to Become Contenders

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 02:  Justin Blackmon #81 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys celebrates after Oklahoma State Cowboys won 41-38 in overtime against the Stanford Cardinal during the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl on January 2, 2012 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
Donald Miralle/Getty Images
Adam SpencerCorrespondent IJanuary 11, 2012

For every team that botches their draft picks, there's a team using their picks wisely to become playoff contenders.

In the 2012 NFL draft, there will be plenty of teams that can improve their position with a solid first-round pick.

Nailing the first-round pick is an absolute must if you want to have a good all-around draft.

Let's take a look at the teams who, after missing this year's playoffs, will become contenders next year after a smart first-round selection.


St. Louis Rams

The Rams have a young offense, featuring quarterback Sam Bradford and a solid offensive line.

Veteran running back Steven Jackson will be back, and the team should seriously consider signing wideout Brandon Lloyd to a long-term deal.

That's a pretty good offense with those guys healthy. Injuries really hurt this team this year.

Adding a guy like Justin Blackmon to the receiver mix with the No. 2 overall pick would make this team so much better.

Giving Bradford more offensive weapons should be a top priority in this year's draft for the Rams. If they do that, they can compete for an NFC West title.


Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs are another team that was bitten by the injury bug this season, losing guys like Jamaal Charles, Eric Berry and Matt Cassel for the season.

With those guys back in the mix, the Chiefs are legitimate AFC West contenders in 2012.

Adding a Top-15 pick to the mix will only make things even better in Kansas City.

If they can get a pass-rusher like Whitney Mercilus from Illinois or Courtney Upshaw from Alabama, the defense will be greatly improved.

They might even be the favorites to win their division next year.


Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys need a defensive makeover, especially in the secondary.

Terence Newman is getting old and can't play at the elite level he used to.

They need some fresh blood at the cornerback position. Getting a guy like Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick with the 14th overall pick would help this team immensely.

In a division that features guys like DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, having good cornerbacks is necessary for success.

The Cowboys can win the tough NFC East if they can get their hands on a corner like Kirkpatrick.

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