We are one week away from knowing the top part of the 2012 NFL Draft. The right to land Stanford's Andrew Luck is still up for grabs, and an Indianapolis Colts victory will give that pick to the St. Louis Rams.
All the attention surrounds who will land Luck, but there are a ton of other talented players looking for a new home. The outcome of the last week of the season could shift a team as many five spots in the draft.
This could mean the difference between filling a major need or having to consider trading up.
The outcome of the last week of the NFL season will result in the St. Louis Rams securing the No. 1 overall pick. St. Louis landing the top pick brings a ton of different scenarios, including a trade. Owning the top pick means the Rams need to either trade the pick or trade Sam Bradford.
Look for the Rams to select Stanford's Andrew Luck and move Bradford. The Washington Redskins were very high on Bradford and would likely jump at the chance to acquire him.
A combination of the Redskins first-round and second-round pick should be enough to land Bradford.
The Indianapolis Colts want Andrew Luck, but they won't be able to add him with the No. 2 pick. Actually, missing out on Luck might give them a better shot at another Super Bowl title. Without Luck, Indianapolis will move forward with Peyton Manning.
Indianapolis could potentially trade the No. 2 pick and pick up extra assets. Baylor's Robert Griffin III will be a hot commodity come April. A team like the Miami Dolphins might be willing to offer a lot for a shot to land Griffin III.
Adrian Peterson's knee injury has painted a grim picture for the Minnesota Vikings. He was one of the few bright spots for the Vikings this season. The best plan of action would be for Minnesota to use this pick to upgrade their offensive line.
USC's Matt Kalil or Stanford's Jonathan Martin could be available at No. 3 overall. Adding a high upside offensive tackle will upgrade both the rushing and passing attack. This selection would allow the Vikings to move on with or without Peterson.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense has plenty of nice pieces, but they need some elite talent. One of the benefits of landing a top five pick is that you can add a game changer. Tampa could use his pick to add someone like Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon.
Injuries and poor coaching landed the Buccaneers in this situation. Josh Freeman's sophomore slump can be attributed to the lack of offensive creativity.
Tampa Bay likely will see some major coaching changes, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
The Cleveland Browns' terrible season can be attributed to a change in philosophy. Mike Holmgren and Co. decided to let go of Eric Mangini and Rob Ryan. This forced a change in the offensive and defensive approach.
Cleveland now needs to focus on adding the necessary pieces to properly run a west coast offense and 4-3 defense.
A lot of the offseason focus surrounds the future of Colt McCoy. He hasn't done enough to solidify the long-term starting job, which may result in the selection of a quarterback early in Round 1.
These last few weeks have proven that Jack Del Rio wasn't the only problem in Jacksonville. This roster just doesn't have enough to win on a consistent basis. Having to start rookie Blaine Gabbert at quarterback hasn't helped the chances for success.
Actually, Gabbert only deserves part of the blame, as the wide receiving corps doesn't possess a lot of talent.
This upcoming draft will provide this team with a great chance to add an offensive playmaker like Justin Blackmon or South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery.
Rex Grossman and John Beck are not to blame for the Washington Redskins' poor season. The struggles fall squarely on the shoulders of Mike Shanahan. He spent the offseason trying to convince the world that both Grossman and Beck were capable of winning.
Landing the No. 7 overall pick might put the Redskins out of the picture to land a top quarterback prospect. Andrew Luck is guaranteed to be the top overall pick, and it appears more likely that Robert Griffin III will land in the top three.
Washington will need to make a trade to land their quarterback of the future.
Losing Jamaal Charles, Matt Cassel and Eric Berry really derailed the Kansas City Chiefs' playoff hopes. However, even bringing all three back into the mix doesn't guarantee the Chiefs a spot atop the AFC West.
Kansas City might be another team considering adding a quarterback to the mix. Matt Cassel possesses the ability to win football games, but might not be capable of leading a team to the Super Bowl.
The Chiefs need to decide if this current roster has reached max potential.
The Carolina Panthers are 4-1 in the last five games, showing that Cam Newton has taken the next step in his development. Breaking the rookie passing record is impressive, but learning how to win is his biggest accomplishment.
Carolina's future looks very bright, and may be only a few key pieces away from contending for a playoff spot. The biggest question marks arise on the defensive side of the ball.
Carolina could use this pick to add a difference maker on defense. North Carolina's Quinton Coples is capable of making an immediate impact.
The Miami Dolphins began to play better football once Matt Moore took over at quarterback. He was able to stabilize the offensive attack and utilize the weapons at this disposal. This football team has a lot of talent, and are an upgrade at quarterback away from contention.
Miami will spend the early part of the offseason focusing on adding a new coaching staff. The new coaches must make the decision regarding the future of Matt Moore.
However, I expect them to be very aggressive in adding a quarterback in the draft.
The early part of the season allowed many in Buffalo to feel a sense of hope. However, the fact remains that there just isn't a ton of talent on this football team. Ryan Fitzpatrick's late-season struggles were more disappointing than the failed playoff run.
With this pick, Buffalo could potentially add a defensive playmaker like Alabama's Courtney Upshaw. This football team needs to continue to improve the defense. The first step is to add an outside linebacker capable setting the edge and creating a pass rush.
This Arizona Cardinals organization is going to face some major offseason questions. John Skelton has outperformed Kevin Kolb and might have created a bit of a quarterback controversy. He finished the season with a 5-2 record.
Regardless if the Cardinals go with John Skelton or Kevin Kolb, they need to improve several other positions to content for a playoff spot. Adding some talent along the offensive line would help the effectiveness of either quarterback.
The San Diego Chargers' erratic play will finally cost Norv Turner his job. Missing the playoffs in back-to-back seasons is unacceptable for such a talented roster. Their presence in the average AFC West only increases frustrations.
One of the problems with letting Turner go is that it impacts the offense. Despite the struggles of the team, the offense has continued to perform at a high level. The new coaching staff needs to find a way to keep this offense heading in the right direction.
Many expected this to be a rebuilding year for the Tennessee Titans. However, they were able to pull off a successful season and even make a run at the playoffs. Tennessee is in a strange position, they need to focus on building towards the future but still find a way to be competitive.
This current Titans roster isn't capable of winning a Super Bowl, so their main focus should be adding pieces to help Jake Locker. The future success of this franchise depends on the development of Locker.
At No. 14, the Titans could look to add a receiver like Notre Dame's Michael Floyd.
Pete Carroll and his coaching staff deserve a lot credit, and maybe even some Coach of the Year consideration. The Seattle Seahawks were able to overcome several major injuries to key players and play some excellent football.
Marshawn Lynch's emergence will allow the Seahawks to move forward with an offensive identity. Look for the Seahawks to either target a quarterback or defensive help in the draft.
This football team is only a few key pieces away from playoff contention.
After another season of inconsistency, the New York Jets seriously have to consider moving on from Mark Sanchez. His two strong playoff performances are the only reason he has any type of job security. Still, the expectations in New York are Super Bowl or bust.
However, New York might struggle to find a quarterback to replace Sanchez. Picking at No. 16 doesn't exactly offer any great quarterback options. The Jets could focus on adding a veteran quarterback via free agency or trade.
Arguably the biggest game next week is between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants. This game decides who represents the NFC East in the playoffs. The winner lives to fight another day, and the loser's season comes to a disappointing end.
Dallas is 1-3 in their last four games, and aren't exactly playing their best football of the season. The big storyline this week will be the health of Tony Romo. He suffered a painful-looking hand injury in the beginning of the game against the Eagles.
An injury to a quarterback's throwing hand causes all types of problems. Even after a week of rest, Romo will struggle to grip the football. This will impact this throws and give the Giants the edge.
A four-game losing streak at the beginning of the season is what ultimately kept the Philadelphia Eagles out of the playoffs. Their late-season surge likely has saved Andy Reid's job, and also provided some hope for next season.
Philadelphia's two wins over the Dallas Cowboys will result in finishing the season at No. 2 in the NFC East. Look for the Eagles to use the draft to upgrade the linebacking corps. An aggressive approach to improving the defense could result in a playoff berth next season.
Prior to Jay Cutler's injury, the Chicago Bears looked like a legitimate Super Bowl contender. The offense was putting up enough points to help lead the Bears on a five-game winning streak.
However, the Bears haven't won a game with Cutler out of the lineup, and the losing streak has hit five games.
A loss this weekend to the Minnesota Vikings could propel the Bears into the top 15 of the draft. The Bears need help along the offensive line and at wide receiver. There is a big difference in talent at those positions between the 14th and 19th pick.
The Cincinnati Bengals will be disappointed if they fail to make the playoffs. However, no matter the final outcome of this season, Cincinnati can feel great about their future.
The duo of Andy Dalton and AJ Green have developed into one of the top quarterback-wide receiver tandems in the NFL.
Nobody expected the the Bengals to have any type of success this season. However, Marvin Lewis found a way to overcome some offseason controversy and put his team in a position to succeed.
Cincinnati's upcoming game against the Baltimore Ravens will determine their fate.
Thanks to a late-season collapse by the New York Jets, the Oakland Raiders find a way to sneak into the playoffs. Oakland's pick belongs to the Cincinnati Bengals because of the trade of Carson Palmer.
When Cincinnati orchestrated this trade, they were hoping Oakland would collapse and give them a much higher pick.
However, landing a first-round pick for a retired quarterback is a major steal. The Bengals could look to trade both of their first-round picks to move up and grab Alabama's Trent Richardson.
This trade offers the Bengals plenty of options.
The New York Giants will use an injury to Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys' recent struggles to earn a playoff berth. New York will sneak into the playoffs, but won't advance past the first round. This team has too many holes to be a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
Picking at No. 22 will allow the Giants to address some of their issues along the offensive line. Stanford's David DeCastro or Georgia's Cordy Glenn would be nice additions. Both would provide an upgrade over the current starters.
Say what you will about Tim Tebow, but the Denver Broncos earning a playoff berth is a major accomplishment. This football team was expected to bring up the rear of the AFC West, not win the division title.
Denver's future depends on what direction management decides to go at the quarterback position. If they are all-in with Tebow, then they need to focus on adding pieces to fit his skill set. This actually means putting an emphasis on the defensive side of the ball.
Tebow is only part of the reason for the Broncos' success. The majority of the credit should be given to the defense.
The Chicago Bears loss last night guaranteed the Atlanta Falcons a spot in the playoffs. They are now fighting for seeding, and need keep pace with the Detroit Lions to avoid playing either the San Francisco 49ers or New Orleans Saints.
Atlanta's first-round pick belongs to the Cleveland Browns because of the Julio Jones trade. The addition of an extra pick will allow the Browns to address some of their many needs. This would be a great spot for the Browns to add either a wide receiver or offensive lineman.
Cleveland might have to decided between players like Georgia's Cordy Glenn or Notre Dame's Michael Floyd.
The Detroit Lions secured their first playoff berth in 12 years. However, their work isn't done, as they still have an opportunity to get a more favorable first-round matchup.
Detroit would much rather play either the Dallas Cowboys or New York Giants. Both of these teams would give them a better shot at advancing to the next round.
Picking towards the end of the first round is a very different feeling for this franchise. They are use to evaluating prospects in the top 10 of the draft. One of the keys to sustained success is finding good talent at the end of the first round.
Detroit's defense needs to add a cornerback, and Nebraska's Alfonzo Dennard should be available at pick No. 25.
The Houston Texans organization is very pleased to be making its first-ever playoff appearance. However, all the injuries have left this team a shell of itself. This will likely result in an early exit, and the thought they could have done a lot more.
At No. 26, the Texans have an opportunity to add some explosiveness to the receiving corps. Baylor's Kendall Wright could help draw attention away from Andre Johnson, as well as open things up for the running game.
This San Francisco 49ers football team poses a major problem for every playoff team. They play a physical type of football that opposing teams don't face often. This style helped put the 49ers in contention for the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye.
San Francisco is lucky that one of their biggest needs is at the cornerback position. This draft class features several top-level prospects that will be available around pick No. 27.
Nebraska's Alfonzo Dennard would be an excellent fit for the 49ers.
The New England Patriots have already secured a playoff berth and a first-round bye. However, their defense will fail them and result in an early playoff exit.
The likely scenario has the Patriots facing the Pittsburgh Steelers in the second round. New England really struggled with the Steelers during the regular season.
Picking towards the back-end of the first round is a familiar spot for the Patriots. They typically use a pick like this to pick up extra assets by trading down. However, at some point Bill Belichick needs to find some elite talent in the first round.
New England should consider trading both of their first-round picks to move up and add a player like Alabama's Courtney Upshaw.
The Pittsburgh Steelers will end up as the No. 5 seed in the AFC playoff picture. This means they won't be able to land a first-round bye or home-field advantage. However, they have experience winning games on the road in the playoffs.
Pittsburgh will likely use this pick to add some help along the offensive line. Ohio State's Mike Adams would give them a player capable of playing either left or right tackle. Willie Colon and Max Starks don't possess the upside of Adams.
The New Orleans Saints are playing at a very high level and appear poised for a long playoff run. Of all the NFC playoff teams, the Saints have the best shot of unseating the Green Bay Packers. However, their first-round pick belongs to the New England Patriots because of the trade for Mark Ingram.
As I mentioned earlier, Bill Belichick needs to avoid his desire to trade down and add more picks. This Patriots team needs to add an elite defender, and this only happens by moving up in the draft. Packaging their two first-round picks would allow them to move up to around pick No. 10.
Alabama's Courtney Upshaw possesses the talent to improve this Patriots defense immediately.
Green Bay has already locked up the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoff picture. This provides them with home-field advantage and a first-round bye. They obviously have the talent needed to repeat as Super Bowl champions.
However, injuries along the offensive line will eventually result in a playoff loss. I predict that Green Bay will get back to the Super Bowl but lose to the Baltimore Ravens. This will result in Green Bay landing the No. 31 overall pick.
The Packers should use this selection to either add some depth to the offensive line or pass rusher to help Clay Matthews. Oklahoma's Ronnell Lewis would draw some of the double teams away from Matthews.
This is the year Joe Flacco finally gets over the hump and leads this team to a Super Bowl title. The Baltimore Ravens current roster features several aging stars, including Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. This might be one of the last chances for Lewis to earn another Super Bowl title.
Owning the last pick of the first round is actually a decent position. It will allow the Ravens to scoop up someone who has fallen in the draft.
Ideally, one of the offensive linemen like Ohio State's Mike Adams will be available at this spot. Baltimore needs to find a long-term replacement for Bryant McKinnie.