Some NFL teams have everything riding on their 2013 draft.
Whether a team is a contender or an up-and-comer, adding talented rookies is the best way to fill out its ranks with depth and increase the overall skill level of its roster.
That’s why NFL scouting and player evaluation is exploding in popularity in the new digital media realm.
While every club can benefit from the draft, there are a few squads in particular facing more pressure than others to find future stars in 2013.
As we saw last season, the Seattle Seahawks went from a borderline .500 team to a playoff contender after one successful draft.
Below we’ll take a look at a couple of teams in similar situations that must ace the draft as Seattle did in order to make a postseason run in 2013.
The Indianapolis Colts had an excellent showing on draft day in 2012, netting a franchise quarterback, a deep-threat wide receiver and two bookend tight ends. That’s a nice haul for a team that reversed its fortunes from a 2-14 season in 2011 into a postseason appearance in 2012.
But just getting to the playoffs isn’t enough. If the Colts want to contend in the competitive landscape of today’s AFC, they’re going to have to nail this year’s draft on multiple fronts.
Adding an explosive stud running back, replacing the likely departing Dwight Freeney with an impact pass-rusher and shoring up the offensive line will be tough tasks to accomplish all in one draft. That’s especially true because the team dealt its second-round pick to Miami to bring in CB Vontae Davis last season.
The Pittsburgh Steelers missed the playoffs in 2013 for the first time since 2009 and only the third time in the last decade. Injuries, an aging roster and lack of depth in some key areas helped lead to this season's disappointing finish.
As of now, the Steelers are roughly $14 million over the allowed spending cap for 2013, although they will likely cut a good amount of salary in the offseason.
"The Steelers could lose every one of their free agents," Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote, "and they might have to lose a few more veterans if they don't agree to take less money in 2013."
Cutting players and letting free agents walk means the team is going to need new players to step in immediately. That’s why this draft will be crucial for the turnaround, or lack thereof, in Pittsburgh this upcoming season.
New York Giants
The defending Super Bowl champions from 2011 failed to even make the postseason the following year after winning the Lombardi Trophy. After winning the title in 2007, the team was easily dispatched in the first round of the 2008 playoffs and didn’t return over the next two seasons.
Like Pittsburgh, New York has little wiggle room in cap space. They had to cut Ahmad Bradshaw, Chris Canty and Michael Boley earlier in the week in order to alleviate a $12 million excess over the cap, according to CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora.
As mentioned previously, cutting salary and getting rid of veterans means there will have to be new players that can step in and make an impact for the team. Finding them through the draft is the only option for a team that’s strapped for cash like the Giants.
After not making the playoffs last year, you can bet the New York media and Giants fanbase will be counting on a return to the playoffs. The only way they get that done is if they deliver a home run on draft day.