Nothing is going to get the Kansas City Chiefs into the playoffs—Kyle Orton won't make enough of a difference. Tim Tebow's college-style offense hasn't been stopped yet and Rolando McClain's recent gun charge won't derail the Raiders.
So unless watching the Chiefs continue to lose this season satisfies your masochistic tendencies, the best distraction for Chiefs fans is the 2012 season.
Fortunately, the NFL never stops moving anymore. As soon as the Pro Bowl ends it's time to get ready for the NFL Combine, free agency and the NFL Draft.
The off-season will bring a number of additional benefits for Kansas City, too. The Chiefs' most dynamic players will return to the lineup and should immediately impact a team which lacked focus all season.
But just as their absence alone didn't destroy Kansas City's season, their return won't turn this team back into a playoff contender. They'll need to add talent and depth to be competitive again—the best place for that is the draft.
That said, here's a look at my predictions for next year's draft, from the immediate game-changing top pick to the late-round diamonds in the rough. These picks should put Kansas City right back into the mix for the AFC West title in 2012.
The more I've seen, the more I believe Kansas City will not bring home the Lombardi Trophy with Matt Cassel at the helm.
It's nothing against Cassel—I think he's a solid quarterback and a decent person. But considering the modern game as it is, an NFL team wanting to compete needs an elite quarterback behind center to make it deep in the playoffs.
Cassel is not an elite quarterback. Neither is Kyle Orton, Tyler Palko or any other quarterback Kansas City could find in later rounds.
That leaves this year's top passers and Kansas City finds themselves doing poorly at just the right time. Every year brings a draft class that could challenge the 1983 draft and 2012 is no exception. Even if Andrew Luck wasn't at the top of the list, at least three other quarterbacks should be drafted in the first 20 picks.
Luck should just go ahead and buy a home in Indianapolis and USC's Matt Barkley just doesn't impress me. Barkley lives off of short, quick passes—he relies on his receiver to make plays rather than setting them up for success and his deep ball doesn't provide a warm fuzzy.
That leaves Oklahoma's Landry Jones and Baylor's Robert Griffin III. Nothing against Jones, but Griffin provides considerably more upside for Kansas City. He's quick, agile and has a nice touch on the ball. He comes with no character concerns and notable accuracy pushing the ball deep.
What's more, Griffin's recent concussion could spook a couple clubs from selecting Griffin. If that happens, Kansas City might even take advantage of the situation and trade down a couple spots. The Chiefs will likely pick in the top five and with talents like Jonathan Martin and Morris Claiborne, they'll likely find willing partners to trade with and still get their top choice.
The scene above is one Chiefs fans should be plenty familiar with. Kansas City's pass blocking falls through and their quarterback ends up on the ground.
The biggest offender this year has been Barry Richardson, who regularly gives up on plays. The Chiefs elect to block an opponent's best pass rusher with a tight end and receiver rather than put Richardson one-on-one against him.
Brigham Young's Matt Reynolds can provide the solution to this problem. A forceful lineman with good instincts and aggression, Reynolds will lock down the right side of Kansas City's line.
Unless Reynolds shines at the combine, he won't rate spending as high a pick as the Chiefs will have in the second round. This could provide another opportunity to trade down and stockpile picks, a method that has worked well with New England.
Kansas City could still use a starting left tackle, though an elite option won't likely be available at the top of the second round. Riley Reiff's jumped up on draft boards and could crack the top 10. That pushes Jonathan Martin out, though he'll still be gone by the end of the first round.
So the Chiefs grab the best available right tackle prospect and look for a high-potential prospect in later rounds.
This is a pick that will likely irritate Crimson Tide fans, not because of the selection, but rather for rating him so low.
Unlike his former teammate Rolando McClain, Dont'a Hightower won't hit a first-round payday to start his career. Injury concerns from his torn ACL in 2009, a lack of sideline-to-sideline speed and mediocre pass defense skills will likely push the inside linebacker further down many team's draft boards.
Plus, inside linebackers aren't often valued highly. Much like centers, guards and safeties, they're drafted behind other positions more important to a team's scheme. Top inside linebacker selections like McClain and Aaron Curry haven't panned out in their careers yet.
If all this wasn't enough, Hightower comes in no better than third among inside linebackers in this year's draft.
That should be enough to drive Hightower down to the top of the third round. Much like their bargain selection of Justin Houston last year, the Chiefs can upgrade their depth with a mid-round choice.
Hightower provides stellar run support with his ability to shoot the gap. He possesses great leadership skills, a fearless attitude on the field and a voracious appetite for studying film. He can pair with Kansas City's Derrick Johnson, who will easily compensate for any shortcomings in Hightower's pass defense.
Incumbent Jovan Belcher looked ready to take the next step in preseason this year, but then disappeared through the better part of this season. Belcher and Hightower will compete for starting honors; the other will work with Brandon Siler on special teams and provide one of the deepest linebacker corps in the league.
Not a bad deal for a third round selection.
Kansas City could have a number of options in the fourth round to upgrade their offensive line.
Andrew Datko from Florida State could drop this far with his injury concerns and inconsistent play this year. Boise State's Nate Potter rates a third or fourth-round selection, as does Wisconsin's Ricky Wagner.
The best situation would be to find Mike Adams still sitting in the fourth round. After missing seven games, Adams comes with more than a couple character concerns.
That's what happens when you're involved in a scandal that ends in your head coach getting canned.
Adams has all the talent and skill to dominate at left tackle in the NFL. While the Chiefs should spending a higher pick on him, a fourth-round choice would be worth gambling on if Adams can turn things around with his life choices.
With Adams, Branden Albert would eventually move inside to left guard and compete with Ryan Lilja for starting time. Lilja and Albert's versatility would play right into the team's tendency to keep a minimal amount of linemen on the roster.
Last year, Kansas City invested first and fifth round picks in their starting safeties. Both picks paid huge dividends with Eric Berry making the Pro Bowl as a rookie. Kendrick Lewis, meanwhile, came into his own with three interceptions, including a textbook pick-six against Oakland.
But Berry's season-ending injury exposed a severe lack of depth beyond Kansas City's starters. Jon McGraw is underrated as a reserve and special teams player, but he's no starter.
The rest of the Chiefs safeties can't even claim that. Players like Sabby Piscitelli, Donald Washington and Reshard Langford simply lacked the ability needed to keep the Chiefs defense going.
Don't expect Tavon Wilson to earn Defensive Rookie of the Year honors or make the Pro Bowl. He only has three interceptions for his collegiate career and certainly hasn't led the 6-6 Fighting Illini to any BCS bowl games.
What Wilson does, though, is work tirelessly for his team. He brings strong leadership skills and a team-first mentality. He proved that when he shifted to safety last year despite preferring to play cornerback.
In short, he's just the type of guy for Romeo Crennel's defense, and Scott Pioli's model for the Chiefs organization as a whole.
Wilson will likely shift back to safety in the pros, but should get plenty of looks in the dime package on man coverage.
Another weak position group exposed by injury, the reserve tight ends couldn't begin to match Tony Moeaki's receiving production from last year.
The passing game wasn't the only thing that missed Moeaki's abilities. Kansas City's reserve tight ends, Leonard Pope and Jake O'Connell, committed more penalties than any other Chiefs players.
That type of inconsistency plagued Kansas City all year. Holding calls killed Chiefs drives on more than one occasion.
Pope and O'Connell can't be held entirely accountable. When a tight end matches up against star linebackers like Von Miller, it's a choice between a holding call or a sack more often than not and neither player has the size or ability to handle the task.
Alabama's 6'6" Michael Williams could solve that problem, though. Williams doesn't get many chances in the passing game, which hurts his draft ranking. However, he moves well despite weighing 270 pounds and should be considered a solid project player with tremendous potential.
Next year, Kansas City will be taking applications for a new running back.
Father Time has simply caught up with Thomas Jones. A bruising rusher whose commitment to his preparedness is second to none, Jones spent many years hammering defenses with his aggressive running style.
Despite his "300" physique and amazing locker room presence, Jones cannot keep up with the NFL game anymore. This season's provided the Chiefs with plenty of opportunities to assess Jackie Battle's ability to shoulder the burden, but they'll need to add another man capable of working between the tackles.
Brandon Bolden comes into the league with some injury concerns, but is a hard runner with reliable hands.
What's more, he has some familiarity with this same role. For years at Ole Miss, Bolden played as a change-of-pace back for current Chief Dexter McCluster.
As Kansas City works to build their "team first" roster, there isn't much room for hard luck cases or rehabilitation projects.
If the Chiefs were going to take a major flier on someone, this would be the pick to do it. A consolation prize for Jarrad Page, the Patriots' seventh round pick will likely come near the very end of the draft.
And a late seventh round pick usually has difficulty making a team anyway.
Enter Janzen Jackson. Jackson currently plays for McNeese State, but last year he wore a Tennessee Vols uniform.
With Tennessee, Jackson paired with Eric Berry to form a formidable safety duo. With his skill he should be about a third round pick.
Instead, though, Jackson found himself kicked off the team in Tennessee for unspecified reasons, leading to his enrollment at McNeese State. This isn't Jackson's first time in trouble, either.
Jackson faced armed robbery charges in 2009. The charges were later dropped after the investigation determined Jackson didn't know about the planned robbery attempt until it happened.
Jackson brings plenty of baggage with him, wherever he goes. But perhaps a team with a familiar face like Berry's could help Jackson move on and build a productive career.
If he can solve the off-field issues, the on-field should almost take care of themselves. Jackson possesses solid coverage skills and isn't afraid of contact.
That type of play could make a difference for the Chiefs—a seventh round pick is worth the risk.