2011 NFL Draft: 15 Teams One Successful Draft Pick Away From a Title Run
In no way does one player end up winning a Super Bowl on his own; nor does one draft pick rise in one year to single-handedly win a title. But, certain draft picks over the years have changed the mantra and fates of different NFL franchises over the decades.
Many teams will be going into this year's draft looking to solve problems that have been an issue over the course of the last season. Other teams are going to try to address positions that have been depleted for an extended period of time. There are team's like the Steelers and Patriots that have their own method to their madness, and draft players that fit the organization's creed.
I have not included the two teams that were featured in the most recent installment of the big game because they already have reached it (NO Steelers or Packers). Rather, I have looked at team's that watched from home, and could be up on the stage getting the Lombardi Trophy next season.
In this look at the NFL Draft we will evaluate the teams that are close to reaching the Super Bowl that simply need a little extra at certain positions. Who knows the next Ben Roethlisberger or Clay Matthews could be among the crop going onto the big stage.
15. Detroit Lions
The Lions were a team that some expected to be a sleeper coming out of the black and blue NFC North last season. With poor early season performances and injuries to franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford they were not able to get any momentum going.
Next season they will be my sleeper going into the year. With a healthy QB and alot of talent at the skill positions and defensive line they could be a up and coming power in the NFC. Draft picks that would go a long way to solving their defensive issues would be drafting Akeem Ayers out of UCLA or Prince Amukamara, Ndamukong Suh's old college teammate if he somehow fell in the draft to #13.
14. St. Louis Rams
Last season was an impressive run by Sam Bradford and the young St. Louis Rams. In a weak division they were one win away from sneaking into the playoffs where they could have made noise like the Seahawks were able to do. Next season will be a big test to see if Sam Bradford can avoid the sophomore slump.
The Rams have done a fine job in the last couple of seasons getting young key players to build around. This year they have a chance to get Bradford something he lacked greatly last season which is a bonfied receiver. The player that could be his go to guy might be Alabama's Julio Jones or a stretch would be selecting Titus Young out of Boise State. Either way it will be imperative the Rams get a good wide receiver.
13. Dallas Cowboys
All the hype surrounded the Cowboys before last season was underway. With a star-studded group that was eager to be the first team to play the Super Bowl in their own stadium it was easy to see why many people had them penciled into the game in February. However, it was all for not at the Cowboys season went by the way-side with Tony Romo's collarbone.
The Cowboys will be lead by long time coach Jason Garrett who is going to have the support of Jerry Jones and the players 100 percent. This team truly needs to improve on both sides of the line of scrimmage in order to be a true contender in the division next year. If they get Marcell Dareus out of Alabama; or possibly an offensive tackle it would be huge.
12. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs are a team on the rise. With Scott Pioli and Todd Haley calling the shots it seems like it is simply a matter of time before they break through and become one of the great powers in the AFC. Last season they took a huge step with their running game and Matt Cassel getting better.
The defense still could use some work upfront before anybody starts making Super Bowl plans out of KC. This team could really use some inside help; along the lines of a guy like Corey Liuget out of Illinois. They could also use another linebacker as well in later rounds.
11. New York Giants
Despite a collapse of epic proportions at the end of the year in a key game against the rival Eagles; the Giants are still a team to not take lightly at all. They are an experienced team that won the big game not too many years ago, and have alot of their best players returning.
The most pressing need that stands out for the Giants is to sure up the offensive line on the tackle positions. This is an especially weak year for quality offensive lineman but if Nate Solder out of Colorado came to them it would be a good pick. A reach might be Gabe Carimi out of Wisconsin, but he could end up being the better selection.
10. Tampa Bay Bucs
One of professional football's best kept secrets lies on the Bay of Tampa. Down there the Buccaneers are building a crop of young, dynamic and capable football players that could very easily be the winner of the NFC South next season and more. The key to the success last season was a solid defense, and the emergence of budding star quarterback Josh Freeman.
The Bucs are a few pieces away from being one of the best in the NFC. If they can get a running back in the draft it would be huge. Mark Ingram would be a big time pickup if he fell to the 20th spot; which he probably won't. Otherwise, a defensive lineman would be good with Ryan Kerrigan from Purdue or Adrian Clayborn out of Iowa. Clayborn has the potential to be an impact player with the right team, and the Bucs might be that team.
9. Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens seem to be a team that's always in the position to make the Super Bowl. And, looking back at the impressive run that they have over the course of the last decade it is amazing they only made one Super Bowl; in which they won it. But, Joe Flacco and that constantly great defense led by Ray Lewis and Ed Reed should again be a powerhouse team next season.
With not many holes to fill for next season the Ravens can go a multitude of ways in the draft. I think that they should and will go in the direction of drafting a lineman on either side of the ball. If they go offense then Tyson Smith out of USC would be a solid pick. On defense, Cameron Heyward would fit the Ravens mentality to a "T".
8. Atlanta Falcons
For the regular season no team; especially in the NFC seemed as good and together as the Atlanta Falcons. Matt Ryan had his team clicking on all cylinders and it looked like they could not be stopped going into the playoffs. In the playoffs they were abruptly shut down by the eventual champion Packers at home.
The Falcons don't need many pieces to add on more last season, but one or two role players could get them over the hump and into the Super Bowl. A linebacker like Martez Wilson out of Illinois or even a sleeper pick of a wide receiver such as Jonathan Baldwin from Pitt would make them even more of a threat.
7. Chicago Bears
Some may feel that the Bears need alot to make the Super Bowl next season. Simply put the Bears were only bested in the league by two other teams in terms of where you want to be at seasons end. The defense may be getting up there in age, but one or two seasons of productivity should be available. The offense will need more consistency however with Jay Cutler behind center for year three in Chicago.
The Bears could really use a tackle in the draft with players like Gabe Carimi from Wisconsin and Tyson Smith from USC being guys that would be great for the Bears. Receiver is definitely a need, but it could be addressed via free agency or another round in a receiver deep draft.
6. New York Jets
Another team that people thought was going to be playing for the Super Bowl last season are the Jets. No team however faced the many controversies that the Jets had going on; under the world's largest microscope New York City. They responded beautifully to the pressure though making it all the way to the title game.
The Jets need to address a lot of different areas this off-season before they can be picked to be a favorite of anything next season. The futures of both their starting wide outs is uncertain; so I think they will look for a standout receiver if available, and might trade up to get one. Otherwise a defensive tackle would help with aging players at that position currently.
5. Indianapolis Colts
A year from now we might be calling the 2011-2012 season "Peyton's Last Stand". Yes, Manning may go on to play a few more years for the Colts, but next season will go a long way to determine what he and the Colts have left in the tank. They filled in with young talented players last season after suffering injuries like Pierre Garcon, Jacob Tamme, and defensively Pat Angerer.
The Colts are going to have to take a look at themselves and determine if they want to continue to go on with bringing in young players; or are they going to have a couple more seasons with the old guns. Bob Sanders will be one of the players in question. They will need to get another pass rusher and perhaps Aldon Smith out of Missouri would fit right in.
4. San Diego Chargers
Norv Turner at some point has to bring this team out of the realm of the (good to very good) and make them an elite football team. The talent is certainly there and he has one of; if not the best quarterback in the game right now in Phillip Rivers. The Chargers should get one more crack at it before a major overhaul should take place.
Rivers would benefit even more if the Chargers decided to go in the direction of drafting a receiver in the first couple rounds of the draft. Otherwise they should look at the fall reaching crop of defensive lineman this year has to offer or a linebacker.
3. Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles started what many expect will be the "Michael Vick Era" for the foreseeable future, and the key to all things that they do should be to build a good football team around him. Andy Reid knows what he is doing, and the Eagles should be a top team next season after some decisions are made.
Depending upon if the Eagles trade Kevin Kolb, and what they get back for him; they should look to stock up on offensive lineman to protect Michael Vick. Previously mentioned tackles Carimi or Smith would be solid picks; or even an interior lineman would be a beneficial pick.
2. New Orleans Saints
By the time that next year's season rolls around (granted if it comes around) the Super Bowl hangover for the Saints should in fact have worn off. This year's Saints team never seemed to recapture the explosiveness that made them near unstoppable the year before. That being said they are a team that is full of guys that have done it before, and will be hungry to do it again.
The Saints seem to be like the Patriots in that they have been pretty darn successful in drafting players that fit there system. This year's draft has a lot of talent at defensive lineman which they need. Adrian Clayborn or J.J. Watt out of Wisconsin would fit. Also, they need a solid starting running back and Mikel LeShoure from Illinois would be an impact player right away with the Saints.
1. New England Patriots
This last season it looked like the reign of the Pats had returned to take control of the NFL once more. It was not supposed to be though, with the lackluster performance at home against the Jets. Still, the Patriots showed that they had evolved once more, and had younger players making contributions along with franchise player Tom Brady.
This is already a team that has strengths at a lot of different positions, but they somehow found ways to have an abundance of draft picks. Re-building the offensive line will be a priority, along with getting a running back that can get it done.