The NFL draft is the primary vehicle teams use to rebuild, reload and contend. It is where they find the future core of their teams, the needed upgrades short term and the necessary depth to succeed throughout an entire season.
Most of the best franchises in the league now use the draft as their springboard to success the following season. While teams like the Washington Redskins continue to exist in mediocrity due to their front office philosophy, other teams ascend to the top due to the draft.
This article is going to focus on six NFL general managers that are sure to ace the draft in New York City next month.
You will find one common theme with all six of the general managers that I have selected: They lead the front offices of the most successful franchises in the entire league.
Sorry, Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins fans; look elsewhere.
The 2010 NFL draft brought the 49ers a myriad of different players that were involved in their run to the NFC Championship Game last season. Going against conventional wisdom, they selected two offensive linemen in the first round that season.
Anthony Davis has been somewhat of a marginal player so far, but he continued to progress a great deal throughout his sophomore season.
Mike Iupati was the real steal in the first round that season. He made an immediate impact in the 49ers run game and is now considered the second-best guard in the entire league according to our very own Matt Miller.
The only blemish was that San Francisco reached for Taylor Mays in the second round. The decision-making process there has to be considered that of Mike Singletary, who pressured the 49ers front office into drafting the talented safety.
Later in the 2010 draft, San Fransisco traded down in the third round with the San Diego Chargers, acquiring NaVorro Bowman from Penn State. In that trade, the 49ers picked up a fourth-round pick in last year's draft, which was used to trade up for Colin Kaepernick.
Bowman made the All-Pro team opposite teammate Patrick Willis in his first full season as the 49ers' starting inside linebacker. Doesn't get much better than that.
Last season also yielded the 49ers some amazing results. While many people were confused by the selection of Aldon Smith in the top 10, he proved to be anything but a reach, leading all rookies in sacks.
San Francisco also drafted a running back of the future in Kendall Hunter, who had over 700 yards of total offense as a rookie. His lead blocker ended up being Bruce Miller, who they selected in the seventh round. Between those two picks, the 49ers added a talented corner in the form of Chris Culliver.
Expect much of the same from this up-and-coming general manager in April.
Ozzie Newsome became the first African-American general manager in the history of the National Football League in 2002.
The 2003 NFL draft saw Newsome bring in Terrell Suggs with their first-round pick. The former Arizona State star has 82.5 sacks in his nine seasons with the Ravens.
In the seven seasons that followed, this talented personnel man has drafted the likes of Haloti Ngata, Ben Grubbs, Marshal Yanda, Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, Michael Oher, Lardarius Webb, Terrence Cody, Ed Dickson and Torrey Smith.
Not a bad bounty if you ask me.
The Ravens have been good for so long that they are able to draft best player available over need a majority of the team. This puts them in the enviable position of being able to choose from a larger list when the time comes for them to pick.
Obviously this puts them in a better situation.
Teams strive to have the ability to do this. The Ravens have been able to hold firm with that philosophy over the course of the last decade; Newsome is a primary reason for that.
Now the Ravens are in a situation to remain viable in the AFC for the near future. They have a solid core of young players mixed with some of the best veterans in the league. You can expect them to continue building on this nice mix of talent in April.
All the Pittsburgh Steelers have done since Kevin Colbert took over their general manager duties prior to the 2000 season is win double-digit games eight separate times and hoist the Lombardi Trophy twice.
Not bad for just a 12-year span.
The primary reason for the Steelers success during the last decade has been their ability to draft players that fit their specific schemes on both sides of the ball. This is a front office that strays as far away from free agency as possible, so they make up for it in April.
Just look at the consistent success he has had in the draft.
|2000||Plaxico Burress and Marvel Smith|
|2002||Chris Hope, Larry Foote and Brett Keisel|
|2003||Troy Polamalu and Ike Taylor|
|2004||Ben Roethlisberger and Max Starks|
|2005||Heath Miller and Bryant McFadden|
|2006||Santonio Holmes and Willie Colon|
|2007||Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley,|
|2009||Evander Hood and Mike Wallace|
|2010||Maurkice Pouncey and Antonio Brown|
The Steelers are in need of help at a myriad of different positions. They need to find multiple upgrades along the offensive line, especially on the outside to protect Ben Roethlisberger. They also need to focus on getting a running back somewhere in the draft.
There is no reason to distrust Colbert after just one disappointing season.
Let us take a look at what Jerry Reese has done as an executive and chief decision maker for the New York Giants during his tenure in the Big Apple.
In 2007, his first season as the Giants general manager, Reese compiled a list of draft picks that would make Bill Walsh proud.
Steve Smith was selected in the second round and helped this team a great deal before that unfortunate injury.
The fifth round brought Kevin Boss, who played an important role for a few seasons. Then the seventh round came along and Reese added Ahmad Bradshaw to the mix. The one black eye from his initial draft with the Giants was selecting Aaron Ross in the first.
2008 really wasn't anything to write home about. Kenny Phillips and Terrell Thomas have produced marginally for the Giants in four seasons, while Mario Manningham just took his act to the San Francisco 49ers.
Michael Crabtree was considered the consensus No. 1 receiver in the 2009 NFL draft despite the fact that the Oakland Raiders reached for Darrius Heyward-Bey.
No one gave consideration that Hakeem Nicks would be the most productive pro receiver of the bunch. The Giants landed the talented North Carolina product with that 29th pick that season.
2010 brought the Giants a need for a pass-rusher and they got their man in Jason Pierre-Paul, who is now one of the best sack men in the entire National Football League.
Despite winning the Super Bowl last season, the Giants are in need of upgrades on both sides of the ball. They could use help at tackle, guard, tight end, linebacker and safety. Expect Reese to touch on all these needs in April.
Do we really need to get into this too much? Not only is Bill Belichick one of the best head coaches in the modern history of the league, he is a mastermind in the war room.
You have to remember that he selected a skinny kid from Michigan by the name of Tom Brady in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft. While we already know how that turned out, Belichick has been one of the best at not only finding late-round talent but hosing opposing general managers of additional picks.
The Patriots have two picks in both the first and second round of the upcoming 2012 NFL Draft. There is absolutely no reason to believe that he wont be able to turn these selections into stars and a couple additional picks moving forward.
At this point, opposing general managers just shouldn't pick up the phone when the Patriots come calling on draft day.
Since taking over the Green Bay Packers' general manager job in 2005, Ted Thompson has pretty much done everything right. He has built an extremely strong front office structure and seems to work extremely well with the coaches in the process.
This is why the Packers have had tremendous amount of success in the draft.
His first draft in 2005 brought them Aaron Rodgers with the 24th overall pick. While we don't really need to get into much further detail about the franchise quarterback, it is important to note that Jason Campbell was selected by the Washington Redskins the pick following Rodgers.
Talk about a story of two different careers. The obvious factor here was the San Francisco 49ers selecting Alex Smith with the first overall pick.
The 2006 draft wasn't entirely great for the Packers. They selected A.J. Hawk in the first round. While the linebacker has been a decent player for Green Bay, it doesn't seem like he was worth the No. 5 overall pick. With that said, many teams had the former Ohio State linebacker ranked that high.
Green Bay's success in the draft has mostly been predicated on their ability to find steals outside of the first round. Greg Jennings, Desmond Bishop, Josh Sitton, Matt Flynn, T.J. Lang, Morgan Burnett and James Starks all fall under that category.
The 2012 NFL Draft
Green Bay has a myriad of different holes to fill on the roster despite going 15-1 in the regular season. Most of what they are going to look at in April will be on the defensive side of the ball. This is a team that needs a more consistent pass rush and some young depth in the secondary.
The good news is that the draft is extremely deep at those positions this season. Look for Thompson to yield the Packers some really good players in April.