NFL Draft Order 2013: Teams in Best Position to Improve Playoff Fortunes

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistApril 24, 2013

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 09:  Quarterback Brandon Weeden #3 of the Cleveland Browns hands off the ball to running back Trent Richardson #33 against the Kansas City Chiefs at Cleveland Browns Stadium on December 9, 2012 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

The best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry. That's very evident each year in the NFL draft.

One good draft can make the difference between lifting the Lombardi Trophy and ending your season in bitter defeat. Success is generally built through years of solid drafting and personnel moves, but one single crop of incoming rookies can immediately turn a team into a playoff contender.

The Cincinnati Bengals looked lost after the 2010 season. Carson Palmer wanted out, and the Bengals had to rebuild off a year in which they finished 4-12. In came A.J. Green and Andy Dalton via the 2011 draft. Largely because of those two Cincinnati found itself back in the postseason.

For the teams regularly in postseason contention, a draft can give a team the last piece or pieces of the puzzle.

The Baltimore Ravens had a good enough team to make the playoffs already. Had they been able to win the Super Bowl, though, without the additions of Courtney Upshaw and Bernard Pierce? Upshaw did well enough covering for the injured Terrell Suggs, and Pierce rushed for 532 yards in the regular season and 202 in the playoffs.

These three teams will be hoping the 2013 can either provide the players necessary to make the postseason and possibly push on to the Super Bowl. For an idea of where each team is picking in each round, you can check out


Kansas City Chiefs

Whether it's Eric Fisher or Luke Joeckel, the Chiefs will be getting the kind of franchise left tackle who will protect the passer for the next decade. Both are extremely skilled, agile offensive linemen with the talent to anchor the unit immediately.

2012 was a disaster for the Chiefs. Kansas City was terrible, and that showed in its 2-14 record. That poor season belies the talent the Chiefs have.

This offseason has been great for the Chiefs. First they hired Andy Reid. Then Dwayne Bowe re-signed with the team.

Even trading for Alex Smith was a very good move. While he's not a prolific quarterback, Smith brings veteran leadership and some playoff experience. He's more than capable of being a signal-caller on a Super Bowl-winning team. Throw in Jamaal Charles and you've got a very good offense.

Don't be surprised when Kansas City sneaks into the playoffs with a wild-card berth.


Cleveland Browns

Despite calling the Super Bowl champions one of its own, the AFC North is up for grabs next season. You could poke holes in each of the teams, even the Ravens, who are looking to replace both Ed Reed and Ray Lewis.

The Cleveland Browns are already having an offseason to forget, what with their owner being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (h/t Judy Battista of The New York Times).

It follows what was a disappointing 2012. But things weren't all that bad last season. Of their 11 losses, the Browns lost five games by single digits. Turn around a couple of those results and the feeling from fans as to this team's chances in 2013 would have been much different.

The offensive side of the ball isn't a major concern as Trent Richardson and Josh Gordon could transition to major stars in 2013, and if Brandon Weeden isn't the guy, the Browns can find a suitable replacement in the later rounds.

Getting a corner like Dee Milliner would be a fantastic move for Cleveland. He would pair with Joe Haden to form what is one of the best young corner tandems in the NFL.


New England Patriots

Anytime you've got Tom Brady, you've got a chance of winning the Super Bowl. He can't do it alone, though, as evidenced by the Patriots' playoff run.

Losing Wes Welker will hurt, but bringing in Danny Amendola will help to replace such a consistent target like Welker. But if New England comes up short in the postseason again, it won't be because of the offense.

The fact of the matter is, the Patriots aren't going to get any closer to the Super Bowl until the secondary improves.

New England only ranked 29th in pass defense, giving up 271.4 yards a game. That poor play in the secondary carried over into the playoffs, as 343 yards and two touchdowns to Matt Schaub in the divisional round and 240 yards and three touchdowns to Joe Flacco in the AFC Championship Game.

Selecting late in the first round limits New England's options, but Jamar Taylor, D.J. Hayden, Marcus Trufant or Johnthan Banks would all be upgrades at the cornerback position.