Now that the regular season is over, fans of teams that didn't qualify for the playoffs begin to look toward the 2013 NFL draft as a source of optimism. After all, the player who could turn it all around might be waiting in the wings.
The draft is always interesting because there are several different ways a team can attack it. Some general managers prefer to target positions of need, while others would rather take the best player available and build depth that way.
While an argument can be made for both approaches, let's take a look at three teams that should have a definitive target in mind when draft day arrives.
No. 1 Kansas City Chiefs
Matt Cassel played terribly, and Brady Quinn found a way to play even worse. In other words, the Chiefs' quarterback position was an absolute mess this season, and that made it impossible to contend for a playoff spot. It must be addressed.
Enter Geno Smith. The West Virginia star compiled over 4,200 yards passing and 44 total touchdowns in his senior season. He also increased his completion rate by five points to 71 percent—a jump that talent evaluators were hoping to see.
It's important to note there isn't an Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III in the 2013 draft. Smith is a step below those rookie sensations in terms of overall talent. That said, he's still a solid prospect and would be an upgrade for the needy Chiefs.
The Pick: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
No. 2 Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars have no shortage of needs on both sides of the ball. None bigger than finding a player who can put constant pressure on the quarterback. They ranked dead last in sacks with just 20, five less than any other team and 32 behind the league lead.
In today's NFL, the two most important things are a reliable quarterback and pass-rushers. Since there won't be a QB worth taking at No. 2, assuming Smith is off the board, the Jaguars should turn to the defensive side with Bjoern Werner.
The Florida State defensive end was a key piece of a Seminoles defense that finished the regular season ranked sixth in points allowed. He racked up 13 sacks. As long as he declares following his junior season, his combination of size and athleticism would help him thrive in Jacksonville.
The Pick: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
No. 8 Buffalo Bills
The Bills were expecting improved results after spending a lot of money to upgrade the defense during the offseason. Instead, the unit continued to struggle. The biggest problem was against the run, where Buffalo ranked 31st.
It's now been 13 seasons without a trip to the playoffs for the Bills, which is the longest drought in the NFL. They need a defender that's not only going to produce, but one that is going to lead the way emotionally as well.
That's why Manti Te'o is a perfect fit. He has been the heart and soul of Notre Dame's dominant defense all season. Countless times he has gotten his teammates to rise to the occasion in key moments, and that's exactly what the Bills need in the middle of their defense.
The Pick: Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame
Draft Order (as of Wild Card Weekend)
1. Kansas City Chiefs
2. Jacksonville Jaguars
3. Oakland Raiders
4. Philadelphia Eagles
5. Detroit Lions
6. Cleveland Browns
7. Arizona Cardinals
8. Buffalo Bills
9. New York Jets
10. Tennessee Titans
11. San Diego Chargers
12. Miami Dolphins
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
14. Carolina Panthers
15. New Orleans Saints
16. St. Louis Rams
17. Pittsburgh Steelers
18. Dallas Cowboys
19. New York Giants
20. Chicago Bears
21. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins)
22. Minnesota Vikings
23. Cincinnati Bengals
24. Baltimore Ravens
25. Seattle Seahawks
26. Indianapolis Colts
27. Green Bay Packers
28. San Francisco 49ers
29. Houston Texans
30. New England Patriots
31. Denver Broncos
32. Atlanta Falcons