Twelve NFL teams earn their way into the playoffs each season. A few of them appear to be missing an impact player or two, a shortcoming keeping them from Super Bowl status.
While the 20 non-playoff teams have ideal scenarios of their own, here are ideal scenarios for the 12 playoff teams.
No. 21: Detroit Lions
Matt Stafford had a good year despite playing at least a quarter of it with an injured finger that clearly impacted his play. Despite a slowed-up offense late in the year, the Lions' needs appear to be on defense, perhaps beyond the first round.
Ezekiel Ansah could use some pass-rush help and the Lions' safeties and linebackers were exposed in pass coverage on medium routes.
PICK: Reuben Foster, ILB — Alabama
The one thing Foster does not lack is athleticism, offering the Lions sideline-to-sideline coverage from Day 1. He's tough and fast and is a terrific tackler.
One look around football's best defenses produces one common result: The middle of the field is taken care of at safety and linebacker and Foster can be part of the answer for Detroit.
The only way Foster gets to Detroit at No. 21 is if one or both of the following occur: At least two QBs go in the Top 20 and teams prefer ILBs Zach Cunningham and Jarrad Davis more than Foster. It's plausible, but not likely, which makes this the ideal scenario for the Lions.
No. 22: Miami Dolphins
Many mocks have the Dolphins taking a tight end or one of the ILBs mentioned above but it might end up making sense to draft a defensive end and allowing Mario Williams to walk via free agency.
PICK: Zach Cunningham, LB — Vanderbilt
Some see Cunningham as an inside 'backer, others like him in an outside role. That versatility plays well with Miami, who have needs in both areas. Most mocks have Cunningham being selected in the Top 20, including HERO Sports' own Todd Worly mocking the Vandy star to New Orleans at No. 11.
No. 23: New York Giants
The Giants were one of the scarier teams heading into playoffs; tested veteran quarterback know to get hot in January and much-improved defense led by a playmaking safety and two edge rushers. They ran into the other scariest team in the postseason — Green Bay — and the Giants find themselves wondering what went wrong.
On the surface they were a little too one-dimensional offensively and not consistent in that one dimension. They also suffer from some of the same issues as the Raiders — a leaky middle of the defense at the wrong time. They'll also have to spend to keep Jason Pierre-Paul or find a replacement.
PICK: Taco Charlton, DE — Michigan
Charlton is not a great bet to get to the Giants at No. 23 but it's a great scenario for them if he does. He steps in right away, perhaps as the natural replacement for Pierre-Paul, saving the team cap space and offering immediate production from a first-round pick for the first time in three years — not to say Eli Apple can't play.
No. 24: Oakland Raiders
The Raiders' defense needs help at all three levels, particularly in the middle of the front seven at middle linebacker and run-stuffing defensive tackle. They appear to have a deficiency at corner still, too, but may be able to address that later in the draft or again in free agency. A surprising need considering one of the elite defenders in football leads the defense? Pass rush.
At No. 24 overall, Oakland will get a shot at one of the top three inside linebackers, but they may be better off addressing that in Round 2 or 3, as well. With Latavius Murray a free agent, running back could be on the table, too.
PICK: Teez Tabor, CB — Florida
Tabor is too good a talent on which to pass at this point and there is a great chance the best defensive tackles (Caleb Brantley, Malik McDowell) will be gone.
If the Raiders get close enough to Florida State running back Dalvin Cook and need to make a deal to move up 3-5 picks to get him… whether or not they like him that much or even have the draft capital to do it, it's a very intriguing and scary possibility, but Tabor answers a question and is expected to be able to play right away. Adding such a player may allow the Raiders to let D.J. Hayden walk via free agency.
No. 25 Houston Texans
Houston's biggest problem is a lack of playmaking in the passing game and it all stems from poor quarterback play. With a lot of money guaranteed to Brock Osweiler through the 2019 season, a young QB may not be a Round 1 call.
The Texans have other needs, however, including ILB and the offensive line. The best-case scenario for Houston might be to get one of the top three ILBs in the class or one of the top two tackles.
PICK: Cam Robinson, OT — Alabama
Robinson's strength is run-blocking but his athleticism suggests he can at least be adequate on pass pro on the left side.
No. 26: Seattle Seahawks
Seattle has one significant need and it may be the most critical need of any legitimate contender: Offensive line. While the 12s might suggest they need four of five new OL, the truth is they need two legitimate NFL tackles before they can call themselves a legitimate NFL-caliber line.
While that's not exactly easy to go get, they could split the task by grabbing an Andrew Whitworth or better yet a Riley Reiff or Matt Kalil via free agency — the Hawks are set to have nearly $30 million in space to begin the offseason — and spend a pick on a projected starter on the other end.
The 2017 class of tackles is again razor thin, however, and it appears a pipe dream to suggest Robinson or Ryan Ramczyk could reach Seattle at No. 26.
PICK: Teez Tabor, CB — Florida
Tabor is a ball-skills corner with size that could be not only the perfect option opposite Richard Sherman but perhaps his successor as one of the elite corners in the league.
It seems like a longshot Tabor would get this far, particularly with Oakland drafting two spots ahead of them with similar needs and most draftniks ranking Tabor in the Top 20. Crazier things have happened, however, and the quarterback class could muck up the first round quite a bit.
Backup plan for Seattle? How about two? Malik McDowell, perhaps becoming what Jordan Hill could not (injury) or trading down.
No. 27: Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs are the first playoff team here that may consider a QB in the first two rounds with Alex Smith's contract expiring after the 2018 season when the cap number rises to more than $20 million.
KC is another potential landing spot for an ILB such as Davis, but defensive line and corner also are needs.
PICK: Marlon Humphrey, CB — Alabama
Washington's Sidney Jones and Clemson's Cordrea Tankersley also could be options here at No. 27. Humphrey may have the most upside of the group, however, offering the size of Tankersley and the technique of Jones. Adding Jones would give the Chiefs two Washignton Huskies cornerbacks with All-Pro Marcus Peters already in town.
No. 28: Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys have all they need on the offensive side in terms of their plan for the first round, including a young running back and quarterback, a Pro Bowl WR1 and a veteran tight end that remains a weapon despite his advanced age. Of course, the offensive line makes it all happen.
Defensively, Dallas isn't barren with linebacker Sean Lee and defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford leading the way. More talent at corner is necessary with Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr both free agents and if Barry Church isn't re-signed, they'll need safety help, too.
PICK: Charles Harris, DE — Missouri
Dallas' leader in sacks in 2016 was Benson Mayowa with six and the team's overall pass rush was average at best with a 5.4 percent sack rate, No. 18 in the league. Harris isn't nearly the risk of Randy Gregory and Greg Hardy and offers at least some immediate production.
No. 29: Green Bay Packers
The Packers have the quarterback in Aaron Rodgers and a terrific offensive line that only needs to remain healthy.
Like every team including the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, the Packers have more than one area of 'need' heading into the offseason. Cornerback perhaps being the position of greatest need. But this year's draft class is loaded with starter-level corners, suggesting GM Ted Thompson and staff can get what they need after Round 1. For the greatest impact on the 2017 team, a pass rusher might be the best bet.
Selecting at No. 29 overall, the Packers aren't going to get a shot at Myles Garrett and maybe not even Michigan's Taco Charlton or Stanford's Solomon Thomas. But it's not even the least far-fetched the Packers can land one of the draft's Top 5 pass rushers.
PICK: Takkarist McKinley, OLB — UCLA
The Packers seem to love their Pac-12 Players McKinley is generally thought to be one of the top few pure pass rushers in the draft. He possesses the elite speed off the edge the Packers currently lack. Green Bay can get a very good corner in Round 2, but the drop-off in pass rushers is much steeper.
McKinley may be on teams' radars starting just outside the Top 10 but considering the depth of the draft and the fact at least two quarterbacks will be over-drafted there's at least a chance the UCLA star gets to the Packers at No. 29.
No. 30: Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh appears to have more 'needs' than at any time in the last decade or more, but certainly have more questions than at any point in the Mike Tomlin era. Will Le'Veon Bell be back? If not, the Steelers need running back help. Finally, the age of James Harrison has caught up, suggesting a need there, too.
PICK: Tim Williams, OLB — Alabama
Williams isn't as consistent as some would like but there's no denying his speed and big-time star-level ceiling, something the Steelers should be able to take advantage of from Day 1.
No. 31: Atlanta Falcons
With the backs and receivers at Matt Ryan's disposal the Falcons have just two 'areas' of need: Offensive line and defense.
The O-Line was solid all year but was far from flawless and if the right players fall into their laps another piece to better protect Ryan and open holes for Devonte Freeman and Tevin Coleman can't be a bad pick.
PICK: Derek Barnett, DE — Tennessee
Barnett's stock is all over the map yet firmly in Round 1 (although that never guarantees a player is drafted in the round in which they are graded). If the Falcons look up on Draft Day and see Barnett, Harris, McKinley, Williams or interior rusher McDowell available, a cartwheel may be in order.
No. 32: New England Patriots
The Patriots could use more pass rushers, another playmaker in the secondary and more offensive line help, suggesting a Tankersley, Jones, Quincy Wilson or Gareon Conley could be in play, or Garrett Bolles, Forrest Lamp, et al, if the Pats look for more OL help.
But when most needed due to age, free agency and injury, New England comes up big in the draft — see 2009 (Patrick Chung, Sebatsian Vollmer, Julian Edelman), 2010 (Devin McCourty, Rob Gronkowski) and 2012 (Chandler Jones, Dont'a Hightower). Watch out.
PICK: Christian McCaffrey, RB — Stanford
The Super Bowl champs may take the best player available at No. 32 but in a scary-as-heck scenario, it's conceivable Stanford's Christian McCaffrey still is on the board.
If there is one team in the NFL that will find a way to maximize what McCaffrey can do it's the Patriots and with a deep DL and DB class the Patriots can get value after Round 1.