The end of the regular season solidified 20 spots in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft, but the final 12 had yet to be determined. After the Wild Card Round of the playoffs, four more teams now know their fate and can officially begin planning for the draft in May.
With the Kansas City Chiefs, Philadelphia Eagles, Cincinnati Bengals and Green Bay Packers all suffering losses in the first round of the playoffs, they are shuffled into the pile according to their record in the regular season and their strength of schedule.
After the divisional round, the San Diego Chargers, New Orleans Saints, Indianapolis Colts and Carolina Panthers were all thrown into the mix. If two teams had identical records in the regular season, the strength of schedule for both teams would serve as the tiebreaker.
Teams picking at the top of the board—like the Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars and Cleveland Browns—are all expected to select quarterbacks, but the final 12 picks of the first round are typically toss-ups. While signal-callers like Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel and Derek Carr all vying to become top-five picks, players that join one of the final 12 teams in the round will join a squad that already has the pedigree to get to the playoffs.
Below is a look at how the draft order shapes up following the Wild Card Round:
|2014 NFL Draft Order as of Jan. 12|
|2||St. Louis Rams (WAS)||3||13||0||0.516|
|7||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||4||12||0||0.574|
|12||New York Giants||7||9||0||0.520|
|13||St. Louis Rams||7||9||0||0.551|
|18||New York Jets||8||8||0||0.488|
|21||Green Bay Packers||8||7||1||0.453|
|23||Kansas City Chiefs||11||5||0||0.445|
|25||San Diego Chargers||9||7||0||0.496|
|26||Cleveland Browns (IND)||11||5||0||0.484|
|27||New Orleans Saints||11||5||0||0.516|
|29||New England Patriots||12||4||0||0.473|
|30||San Francisco 49ers||12||4||0||0.494|
For each of this weekend's losers, the loss marks the end to a good season. For both the Chiefs and Eagles, it marked the end of comeback seasons for two teams that combined to lose 26 games in 2012.
As bad as the Chiefs' secondary looked in their loss to the Indianapolis Colts, they still possess an All-Pro safety in Eric Berry and a stud cornerback in Brandon Flowers. For a team that went 11-5 in the regular season just a year after going 2-14, the defense was actually one of the main reasons for their success.
Kansas City could draft one of two dynamic tight ends late in the round, such as North Carolina's Eric Ebron or Texas Tech's Jace Amaro—if they are still available—or continue to improve the defense with another good piece to go alongside multiple Pro Bowl players.
The Eagles have perhaps the best offensive team in the NFC with Nick Foles, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson and a good offensive line, but they need help on the defensive side in order to return to the playoffs and make a run next season.
Adding an outside linebacker like Ohio State's Ryan Shazier or Clemson's Vic Beasley looks like the best move for Philadelphia, but adding another defensive back to supplement Brandon Boykin wouldn't be a bad move either.
Bengals fans might have dreams of picking up a different quarterback after Andy Dalton once again imploded in the playoffs. While the third-year quarterback threw for 334 yards, he finished the game with one touchdown, two interceptions and a costly fumble on a play where he was never touched.
It also doesn't help your cause when the owner of the organization you play for claims that he wanted to draft a different quarterback, as CBS Sports reports Bengals' owner Mike Brown wanted to do:
This offseason, Cincy will look to make more improvements to a defensive corps that has been great all season. The addition of a cornerback like Missouri's E.J. Gaines or TCU's Jason Verrett via the draft would be a great move to help the team prepare for the future, as Terence Newman and Adam Jones are about to be in the twilight of their careers.
After gaining momentum from a huge regular season comeback and the return of Aaron Rodgers, the Packers were still not able to advance to the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Green Bay was able to get to the playoffs despite the loss of several players during the regular season, but it couldn't hold off the 49ers offense.
With a few holes to fill along the defensive line, and possibly at tight end after Jermichael Finley suffered a spinal injury this season, the Packers have different options that will still be available late in the draft.
For teams like the Chargers and Saints, losing in the divisional round drops them further down in the draft than they would have likely been with a loss in the Wild Card Round. As for the Panthers and Colts, adding to the weaknesses that were exposed in the playoffs will likely be their first priority with late first-round picks.
With the 2014 draft not beginning until May 8, 24 teams will now spend the next several months looking at prospects and analyzing both tape and combine results to find out who will get them to the playoffs in the coming years. It's not a perfect science, but it's something to look forward to.