As the NFL regular season dwindles down, most teams will be seeing the final three weeks of their beloved football teams before the postseason begins.
For those fans that have suffered and endured living hell every Sunday afternoon, the NFL Draft is the light at the end of the tunnel that keeps you going.
The NFL Draft’s first round has become such a smash hit ratings-wise, it is broadcast on two channels and totally separated from the rest of the draft. It’s got its own primetime television slot on a Thursday night now. Fans love it, and why not? What’s not to love?
Looking ahead to the annual selection show in the spring, the question comes to mind as to which teams will be the movers and shakers and cause the most noise to be made. Fortunately, those answers are predictable this late in the season.
Combining what we know now and what each team needs to do to improve, it’s appropriate as we enter Week 15 to look ahead to the draft to find out who could cause the most commotion amongst the rest.
Here are the seven teams most likely to make noise in the 2012 NFL Draft:
The Colts have the best chance of any team to “shake things up” because they currently hold all the cards with the No. 1 overall pick.
Indy hasn’t come out and said what it plans to do with that selection. There’s a number of ways they can go about it, though. Some have speculated that the Colts would draft Stanford QB Andrew Luck just to trade him. They could also trade down if the price was better and get more picks.
There areeven rumors circulating that Peyton Manning may be on the trading block. He hasn’t done much football activity in some time now and it looks like his season will be over before it starts. Who knows what he will bring to the field next season.
It will be incredible to see the trickle-down effect of what Indy does with their pick and what the teams immediately behind them do.
Nonetheless, the Colts have all the power in this draft.
He won’t be around for much longer, so Carolina Panthers fans should enjoy as much of wideout Steve Smith as they can before it’s too late.
The Panthers will most likely have a Top-10 selection in this spring’s draft and while they have many defensive needs to fill, wide receiver will soon be a problem, too.
Last year’s No. 1 overall pick Cam Newton needs a young receiver to grow and develop with if Carolina wants him to have a long and successful career. This is where a guy like Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon or South Carolina’s Alshon Jeffery could go.
Carolina needs to fix some other holes on defense, but there is some great young talent in the wide receiver department atop this draft. Don’t be shocked if they call dibs on the first major one.
The Patriots have two first-round picks this year—one is their own while the other was compensation for trading down last spring as the Saints picked up Mark Ingram near the end of the first round.
Because both the Pats and Saints are doing well, both will be very late first-round picks in 2012.
This gives New England ammo to package them together hypothetically or combine them with second and third-round choices to move up high into the draft.
Maybe New England finds some plugs for its leaky secondary? Those picks would surely appeal to the Eagles, who have a plethora of talented corners.
Either way, the Pats have options and that’s what makes them dangerous.
Depending on where they finish the 2011 season and how far into the playoffs they go, New England has a chance to make some serious noise with two first-rounders. It could make for very exciting television in April if they make a deal.
Who knows what the Browns will do with a high draft pick this year? The team defensively is so-so, but offensively it needs drastic upgrades.
Is he or isn’t he? That’s the million dollar question regarding current starting QB Colt McCoy. Is he the answer going forward or does he serve better as a member of another team? Does he have what it takes to be an every-week starter for years to come?
Don’t be shocked if the Browns entertain the thought of bringing in a young quarterback for head coach Pat Shurmur to develop. Shurmur is to thank for grooming Donovan McNabb in his youth and Sam Bradford as recently as a year ago.
Another direction Cleveland could go would be at receiver. The Browns haven’t had that true No. 1 caliber wideout in some time. A player like that certainly makes things easier for young quarterbacks trying to learn the ropes in the league.
Finally, and what’s looking more and more like a possibility to me, is that the Browns will need a running back. It’s highly doubtful Peyton Hillis returns with the amount of money he wants. A guy like Trent Richardson from Alabama would make perfect sense here. And thus, the Browns could control the first of the elite backs.
Cleveland, like the Patriots, also has two first-round picks because of its role in the Julio Jones trade with the Falcons last spring. There are big moves to be made and the Browns have the wheels to do it now.
Here’s maybe the most intriguing team heading into the offseason—the Chargers.
The relationship between signal-caller Philip Rivers and head coach Norv Turner is turning sour, and someone’s going to have to pay for a bad season. Rivers has the turnovers but Turner calls the shots. It’s no surprise who would be first to go.
Let’s play devil’s advocate and assume one of the two is gone before the start of the 2012 season. Does San Diego stick with Rivers under center or do they bring in a new offensive-minded coach to make things work with what they’ve got now.
If it is Rivers who wants out, the Chargers would likely think draft-day deals to relocate him. High-picking teams who need quarterback upgrades (Dolphins, Browns, Chiefs, Colts, Jaguars and Redskins) could look down this road as a solution.
No camp will be more entertaining to watch because of the 2011 season fallout than that of the San Diego Chargers.
It’s no secret that the Redskins need a damn sense of direction. Aside from their head coach who can’t start the same running back each week, regardless of how poorly he plays, the quarterback has a share of the blame too.
Then there are the Rex Grossmans and John Becks of the world.
When gambling on what position the Redskins will draft first, it’s a smart bet to place half your chip stack on “Quarterback.”
What direction could the Skins go? They could try and trade up to get Andrew Luck if the Colts take him at No. 1 or outright trade the pick. Maybe Robert Griffin III fits here. USC’s Matt Barkley makes a lot of sense. Maybe even Landry Jones if Washington wins some late-season games and moves down in the order.
What looked like a promising, young and talented squad a season ago has turned out to be a complete disappointment. To say “the wheels fell off” would be putting it mildly.
Other than a few changes at wide receiver, the biggest offseason moves last summer for St. Louis came in the coaching staff. That couldn’t explain the fall from a 7-9 team to a 2-11 group of disappointments, could it?
When it comes to the Rams and the draft, the largest need to be corrected is the rushing defense. The Rams allow 157 yards on the ground on average each week. Their pass defense (209 yards/week) ranks amongst the league’s top-ten, but it’s a product of their schedule.
The NFC West has four bad quarterbacks in it (Sam Bradford, Kevin Kolb, Tavaris Jackson and Alex Smith). It’s no wonder teams elect to rush more often than throw (Steven Jackson, Beanie Wells, Marshawn Lynch and Frank Gore). It’s not a pass-happy division.
A defensive player fits the bill here best. The two top prospects at their respective position are LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne and North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples. Both would make sense. Both could go to the Rams.
St. Louis will surely get the ball rolling on defensive players.
Brett Lyons is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand or from official interview materials.
Follow Brett Lyons on Twitter @BrettLyons670.