Every year, teams that miss the playoffs and their fanbases—especially those who sit near the top of the draft board—treat the offseason with a sense of bittersweet hope.
Sure, last year was bad, but who knows? Maybe we're a player or two from turning it around. Perhaps we'll find the next franchise superstar in the draft. We can only go up from here, right?
After watching teams like the Washington Redskins and Indianapolis Colts completely turn their seasons around after excellent drafts (Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris for the Redskins, Andrew Luck and T.Y. Hilton for the Colts), surely other organizations are hoping they can hit the jackpot like that and turn things around.
That may be easier said than done, but there are a few teams out there that may be just a solid draft pick or two from competing for a playoff spot once again next year. Here, we'll attempt to gaze into the future and predict a few teams that could shock the NFL next season.
Kansas City Chiefs
Perhaps I'm naive. Maybe I'm just a sucker for division champions from three years ago. It's possible that I'm still stung after predicting that this team would win the AFC West this season. Whatever the case may be, I truly believe that the Chiefs can turn things around and be a very solid team next year.
I like the backfield with Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis. Dwayne Bowe and Jon Baldwin would be a solid pair at wide receiver if they could stay motivated. Derrick Johnson, Eric Berry, Justin Houston, Tamba Hali and Brandon Flowers are all very good players.
More than anything else, the Chiefs desperately need a quarterback. Might Geno Smith be the next big thing? I don't know, but Kansas City has to come out of this draft with a quarterback, one way or another.
If Smith is the guy, and he's a baller, the Chiefs could very easily be an 8-8 team next year. You heard it here first.
There is plenty of young talent in Philadelphia, especially at the skill positions. Sure, some of the more expensive veterans—Michael Vick and Nnamdi Asomugha, to name two—are probably all but gone or will have to take major pay cuts to stick around.
But this is still a team that could very easily go from 4-12 to 9-7 or even 10-6 next year.
The Eagles need to solidify the offensive line and seriously improve the safety position, but beyond that, there is plenty of talent on the roster. The major question mark will be whether or not Nick Foles is the future franchise quarterback, but he flashed potential as a rookie.
If the Eagles nail this year's draft, it's not crazy to think that they could compete for a playoff spot next season.
The Lions need to do three things, all of which are totally feasible: They need to learn to play with discipline, they need to improve the secondary, and they need to improve the running game. If they can do all three, the Lions have a chance to repeat 2011's playoff berth.
The quarterback is in place, though Matt Stafford did take a step back this year. Calvin Johnson is arguably the most dangerous offensive weapon in football. The defense isn't great and played really poorly down the stretch, but drafting a cornerback (Dee Milliner, anyone?) should help.
Remember, the Lions were 3-9 in games decided by one possession or less this year. Generally, they were competitive against everyone that they played. If they can get out of their own way and make several improvements to the roster, the Lions could make some noise in 2013.
Below, you'll find this year's draft order. Note: The order for the teams in the playoffs is not yet set. For now, I've simply listed the order if the draft was based on regular-season results.
1. Chiefs (2-14)
2. Jaguars (2-14)
3. Raiders (4-12)
4. Eagles (4-12)
5. Lions (4-12)
6. Browns (5-11)
7. Cardinals (5-11)
8. Bills (6-10)
9. Jets (6-10)
10. Titans (6-10)
11. Chargers (7-9)
12. Dolphins (7-9)
13. Buccaneers (7-9)
14. Panthers (7-9)
15. Saints (7-9)
16. Rams (7-8-1)
17. Steelers (8-8)
18. Cowboys (8-8)
19. Giants (9-7)
20. Bears (10-6)
21. Bengals (10-6)
22. Rams (via Redskins) (7-8-1)
23. Ravens (10-6)
24. Vikings (10-6)
25. Colts (11-5)
26. Seahawks (11-5)
27. Packers (11-5)
28. 49ers (11-4-1)
29. Texans (12-4)
30. Patriots (12-4)
31. Falcons (13-3)
32. Broncos (13-3)
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