Last season was a disappointing year for three NFL franchises that are accustomed to playing postseason football.
The New York Giants, Pittsburgh Steelers and Chicago Bears all missed out on the playoffs in 2012; injuries and poor play down the stretch kept these three teams from competing in January.
The NFL draft isn't a cure-all event for NFL franchises, but as we saw last season with guys like Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck, rookies can definitely make an impact on postseason teams.
As the draft begins to approach and NFL executives are scouring the scouting reports and scanning the combine, here's why these three teams are one successful draft away from making it back to the playoffs in 2013.
New York Giants
The Giants already have the pieces around Eli Manning to make it back to the playoffs next season, but they need a successful draft to push them over the edge.
New York has a ton of offseason needs, highlighted by changes on the offensive line, depth in the secondary and additions to the defensive line and linebacking corps.
Osi Umenyiora's days in New York are likely numbered, and Corey Webster proved down the stretch that the Giants need to address the cornerback position.
A successful draft for the G-Men would be drafting an offensive tackle, a corner and a defensive end, and if they're lucky, a linebacker.
The 2013 draft should be a defensive-minded one for Big Blue, as a majority of the offense is already set with Eli Manning and the receiving corps.
Jerry Reese has proven to be a genius in the draft room, and I don't expect that to change in 2013.
This past season was a disappointing year for the Steelers, who saw quarterback Ben Roethlisberger miss three crucial games and wide receiver Mike Wallace seriously underperform.
Among many positions, the Steelers should be targeting a rushing linebacker, a wide receiver and a safety in this year's draft.
Pittsburgh had trouble forcing turnovers in 2012, which is why drafting a linebacker who can rush the quarterback and a safety who can provide blanket coverage are a necessity for this defense.
On the offensive side, Wallace had way too many drops last season to warrant a big contract, so Pittsburgh should be looking for another option in the passing game.
It was extremely odd not to see the Steelers playing football in January this past season, but if all goes right in April, Pittsburgh will return to the postseason in 2013.
In my opinion, the Chicago Bears need the most help out of the three teams in this piece.
The Bears need a ton of help on the offensive line, a couple of youthful linebackers and a tight end who can produce in the passing game.
Jay Cutler was the fifth-most sacked quarterback during the regular season, and Chicago didn't get nearly as much production from the running game as it would have liked (just 11 touchdowns), highlighting a need for change on the offensive line, especially at the tackle and left guard spots.
At linebacker, Brian Urlacher is aging—he'll be 35 next season—and both he and Nick Roach are free agents this offseason.
And in the passing game, Brandon Marshall was literally the only option through the air. The leading receiver at tight end for Chicago was Kellen Davis, who produced just 19 receptions, 229 yards and two touchdowns.
Other needs for the Bears include defensive tackle, wide receivers and cornerback, but linebackers, offensive lineman and tight ends should be the main concern this spring for Chicago.
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