2011 NFL Draft: 10 Teams That Are 1 Pick Away from a Super Bowl Run
With the NFL draft closing in rapidly and the last Super Bowl now just a memory in all but Green Bay Packers fans' minds, people are beginning to take a look at which teams may be the next legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
Green Bay surprised everyone after a poor regular season only to find form during the playoffs and earn itself a famous Super Bowl win.
Which teams could be looking to do that this year with the addition of just one more player through the draft?
New England Patriots
It came as a surprise to many that the Patriots didn't reach Super Bowl XLV, having been beaten by their closest rivals, the New York Jets, in the Divisional Round.
The team was on fire through most of the season, especially in December heading towards the playoffs. In fact, it even overcame an early-season defeat to the Jets to humiliate them 45-3 at Foxboro and subsequently winning the AFC East.
Even so, the Jets were able to get revenge in the playoffs, and the Patriots just fell short.
It wasn't the best performance by such a solid group of players, but there seemed to be something missing that night. Not to take anything away from the Jets' strong performance, but the Patriots didn't look at their best.
One more solid draft pick by Bill Belichick could change all of that and give them the run to the Super Bowl that they expected last year.
While the Patriots looked odds-on to get to the Super Bowl, there were many pundits also predicting that the Eagles could go all the way and would be the team to meet them there.
It was the beginning of the Michael Vick era for the Eagles last season, and regardless of his public image, his performances last season were nothing short of exceptional many times.
They've got a great quarterback in place and a solid team around him, but like the Patriots, the Eagles came up just surprisingly short during the playoffs.
If the Eagles can get even one solid pick for an offensive lineman to protect their star quarterback, then next season could be their season.
New York Jets
The most controversial team in the NFL—love them or hate them, the Jets have proved over the last two seasons they have the ability to challenge for top honours.
Mark Sanchez, while not looking close to the standard of an elite quarterback, proved that he could still lead his team when it mattered most, with the highlight arguably being knocking out key rivals the New England Patriots in the Divisional Round of the playoffs at Foxboro.
Sanchez has now tied the record for all-time playoff wins on the road after just two seasons and seems to thrive under pressure.
It's a difficult one to call since the team has a number of free agents that have yet to be re-signed or officially let go. If Santonio Holmes, Antonio Cromartie and Braylon Edwards all leave the team this summer, then they'll need more than one pick to be able to challenge at the top again.
If they re-sign some of them, though, and get the one decent draft pick they'll be looking for, it could be third time lucky for the men in green.
Having taken the Colts all the way to Super Bowl XLIV, Peyton Manning was clearly at the top of his game. This last season, however, despite numerous great performances, there was something not quite the same about the future Hall of Famer.
Manning still has what it takes to be an elite quarterback and beat the very best, and he still has all the experience of having done so in the past, but with age slowly catching up with him, he has to have a very able team around him if the Colts want to reach Super Bowl XLVI.
Having said that, the Colts do have a very able team. They weren't poor last season by any stretch of the imagination, but they do clearly need at least one more good draft pick before being able to make another Super Bowl run.
Perhaps they'll pick up a good pass rusher to liven up what is an aging defensive unit.
New Orleans Saints
Having suffered from the famous Super Bowl hangover last season, the Saints could well be on their way to another Super Bowl this coming season (provided it takes place) provided they get one solid draft pick.
There was a certain element of the Saints game that was missing this just gone season that they clearly had during their Super Bowl-winning season the previous year.
The team has the talent to go all the way already this coming season, although to solidify their chances and ensure they don't fall behind other teams, they may have to make at least one solid draft pick to boost their chances.
A defensive lineman seems to be their biggest need, and there are plenty of them to pick from in the draft this year. If the Saints can pick up a good one, they may be on their way to their second Super Bowl in three years.
So maybe the Bears weren't always at the centre of attention throughout the last season, and maybe they don't seem the most exciting team to watch, but that doesn't mean that they don't have the talent.
Despite his much-derided leaving of the NFC Championship Game with an apparent injury, Jay Cutler is a very good quarterback when he's at his best and has what it takes to lead a team to the playoffs provided he also gets the right players around him.
If they manage to get the right pick in the draft, there's no reason the Bears couldn't make it all the way to the Super Bowl next year. Obviously they'll also need to have a little bit of luck on their side, but then which Super Bowl winners haven't?
The Atlanta Falcons had one of the best regular seasons in the NFL last season at 13-3 and so were expected to prove a big threat to their Super Bowl rivals. Despite this the team eventually went on to lose out to the Green Bay Packers in the Divisional Round.
The team was almost unstoppable during the regular season and with one right pick could also be unstoppable in next season's playoffs.
The Falcons may want to draft a strong linebacker or another wide receiver with high stock, and if they can do that, then they will be in with a very strong shout for a Super Bowl run.
A consistently good team but consistently failing to earn a Super Bowl win. Once again they'll have a strong enough squad heading into next year, but with one extra pick they may actually be able to reach Super Bowl XLVI.
Joe Flacco's offense should be on top form again next season, and their defence should also stand up to the quality they showed last season.
They may wish, like many other teams, to draft a lineman for their defence to strengthen, or if they choose to go the other way, then they could be looking for a strong attacking option to strengthen up their O-line. Either way, one extra touch of quality could take them all the way to the Super Bowl.
San Diego Chargers
It's difficult to say whether one pick could take the Chargers to the Super Bowl for once. Even with one more strong pick, Norv Turner would likely prove their downfall once again. On the other hand, he could finally take his team right to the Super Bowl; after all, they definitely have the talent.
The team has one of the best quarterbacks around in Philip Rivers, but he's not always been recognised due to the team's failure to perform in the playoffs, and occasionally during the regular season.
He could be even more effective if the Chargers choose to draft a receiver this year, perhaps someone in the mould of Jonathan Baldwin.
Regardless of their picks, though, this will likely be one of Turner's last chances to prove himself with the team or risk being let go.
St. Louis Rams
Some people may say that this is a long shot pick, but Sam Bradford showed so much potential in his debut season and even took the team one win away from the playoffs, so there's no reason they couldn't go further next season.
If Bradford makes the step up in his sophomore year, then he'll be key to the Rams if they are to make a surprise Super Bowl run.
Perhaps another offensive option for Bradford to aim for should be on the agenda. If the Rams can get another solid wide receiver, then they could well be in line for a shock Super Bowl run, or at the very least they should be able to reach the playoffs.
It'll be interesting to see the team's odds after the draft.