In the NFL, general managers earn their living on draft weekend because the draft is where the most successful NFL franchises are built.
After a frenzied hiring season in January and February, the Chiefs, Jaguars, Browns, Cardinals, Jets, Chargers and Panthers all brought in new decision makers to lead their front offices.
NFL fans looking for potential swing spots in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft should not look any further than those seven teams and their first-year general managers who are each scheduled to make their debut selections in the top 14 picks of the opening round.
Which of these new front office executives will emerge as stars and which will repeat the mistakes of their predecessors?
Of more immediate concern, what are the key questions facing each general manager two weeks away from the start of the draft and how might their answers to those questions impact the rest of the first round?
Here's a closer look at how these seven rookie general managers can shake up what happens in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft:
John Dorsey, Kansas City Chiefs, First Pick
Key Question: Eric Fisher, Luke Joeckel or Trade Down?
Chiefs GM John Dorsey is in the unenviable position of having the first overall pick in a draft that doesn't have a clear-cut top prospect. The safe assumption is that he will stay put and take whichever left tackle prospect Andy Reid prefers between Eric Fisher and Luke Joeckel. Geno Smith visited the team earlier this month, but it's unlikely that the Chiefs will spend their first pick on a quarterback since they won't pick again until the third round because of the price they paid to acquire Alex Smith from the 49ers. However, Dorsey could attempt to leverage another team's interest in Geno Smith or one of the draft's elite left tackle prospects into a trade that would allow the Chiefs to move out of the first slot.
How Dorsey's Choice Could Shake Up the Rest of the First Round
Dorsey could make his biggest impact on the first round if he finds a willing trade partner and decides to move out of the top slot in the draft. If a team moved up and drafted Geno Smith first overall, it would push one of the two top-flight left tackles down the draft board which could lead to one of the draft's top defensive prospects sliding back in the top 10.
David Caldwell, Jacksonville Jaguars, Second Pick
Key Question: Geno Smith or a Pass-Rusher?
Jaguars GM David Caldwell faces one of the toughest questions on this list because NFL general managers are often wed to any quarterback they draft in the first round. Caldwell can look to his predecessor Gene Smith if he needs evidence to support that finding. Caldwell has to determine if he's willing to roll the dice on Geno Smith or if his best bet is to add the game-changing pass-rusher that Jacksonville has been looking for since they traded up to draft Derrick Harvey in 2008.
How Caldwell's Choice Could Shake Up the Rest of the First Round
If Caldwell exercises the opportunity to take Geno Smith second overall, we could see quite a ripple effect in the rest of the first round. First off, Caldwell's decision could force the Eagles to choose between whichever left tackle prospect is still on the board and Oregon OLB/DE Dion Jordan since Jordan would presumably Jacksonville's pick at two if it didn't take Smith.
Once Philadelphia makes its pick, Detroit could be looking at a player that it may not have expected to be on the board. Alternatively, Caldwell could create a similar effect by drafting Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd. Beyond that, Smith coming off of the board early could put heat on other quarterback-needy teams who were targeting signal-callers at the top of the second round.
Michael Lombardi, Cleveland Browns, Sixth Pick
Key Question: Will Dee Milliner, Dion Jordan or Ezekiel Ansah be Available if We Trade Down? What Do We Do If Geno Smith is Available?
The Browns were active on the defensive side of the ball in free agency but the general opinion is that they will still target Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner or another pass-rusher like Oregon's Dion Jordan or BYU's Ezekiel Ansah with the sixth pick. Also, even though the team drafted Brandon Weeden (under Tom Heckert/Pat Shurmur) a year ago, they still traveled to see Geno Smith and Matt Barkley workout.
How Lombardi's Choice Could Shake Up the Rest of the First Round
The use of the term "rookie" in connection with Lombardi is a bit of a misnomer given his extensive player personnel experience in the league, but it's that experience that could lead him to pull of the draft's biggest shocker. It's unlikely, but if Lombardi isn't sold on Brandon Weeden, he could send shock waves through the rest of the draft by passing on a player like Dee Milliner to draft Geno Smith.
The more likely shock wave would come in the form of Lombardi trading out of the top 10 by making a deal with a left tackle hungry team that wants to jump in front of Arizona like San Diego, Miami or New Orleans. If the Browns trade down with Dee Milliner still on the board, the Cardinals, Bills, Jets and Titans could rethink their draft plans.
Steve Keim, Arizona Cardinals, Seventh Pick
Key Question: Do We Address Our Offensive Line with Lane Johnson/Chance Warmack or Do We Add The Best-Available Pass-Rusher?
Arizona's decision to add Carson Palmer decreased the odds of the Cardinals taking a quarterback here, but they're still likely to be faced with an interesting decision at seven. The Cardinals are expected to address their offensive line but will they take a tackle or a guard? What if Dee Milliner or one of the draft's better pass-rushers falls to them?
How Keim's Choice Could Shake Up the Rest of the First Round
Keim could affect San Diego, Miami and New Orleans' plans by drafting Oklahoma left tackle Lane Johnson if those teams don't trade up in front of the Cardinals to get him. However, Keim would be in the best position to influence the rest of the first round if one of those teams trades up for Johnson and and causes someone like Dee Milliner to fall to Arizona.
If that scenario played out, Keim could make some noise by passing on Chance Warmack and taking Milliner to pair with Pro Bowl cornerback Patrick Peterson. If Keim decided to take Warmack, you could see North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper come off the board a little earlier than expected.
John Idzik, New York Jets, Ninth Pick
Key Question: Do We Take An Offensive Playmaker Like Cordarrelle Patterson or Tavon Austin?
Talk about being on the hot spot. Jets general manager John Idzik will be front and center as soon as Roger Goodell puts New York on the clock since Jets fans are traditionally one of the louder groups inside of Radio City Music Hall on draft night. It's no secret that the Jets have been in discussions to move Darrelle Revis, but what will the team do with their own pick at nine? The conventional thinking is that the Jets will take whichever pass-rusher falls to them, but what about adding a playmaker to their anemic offense?
How Idzik's Choice Could Shake Up the Rest of the First Round
A Darrelle Revis trade while the Bucs are on the clock at 13 would probably be Idzik's best opportunity to impact the first round, but he may not have to wait that long. Plenty of teams looking for wide receiver help in the middle of the first round would cringe if Idzik chose to take Cordarrelle Patterson or Tavon Austin with the ninth pick. Better yet, how about a scenario where Idzik trades Darrelle Revis to Tampa Bay and comes away from the draft with Cordarrelle Patterson/Tavon Austin and Dee Milliner? That would certainly be the kind of sexy splash that a lot of Jets fans are craving.
Tom Telesco, San Diego Chargers, 11th Pick
Key Question: What Do We Do If All Three Elite Left Tackle Prospects Are Gone?
Like Arizona, San Diego is expected to go after offensive line help with its first-round pick. The problem is that the Chargers need a left tackle and the top three left tackles in the draft will probably be off of the board at 11. Will Tom Telesco try to move in front of Arizona to try and nab Lane Johnson? If not, should the Chargers go after one of the top guard prospects like Chance Warmack or Jonathan Cooper?
How Telesco's Choice Could Shake Up the Rest of the First Round
If he wants to be aggressive, Telesco could get Michael Lombardi on the phone when Cleveland's on the clock and trade up to take Lane Johnson if he's on the board. If the Chargers take Johnson off the board at six, then some of the scenarios we discussed about with the Cardinals come into play. If he doesn't move up for Lane Johnson, Telesco could also throw a curveball by passing on both of the top-flight guards and drafting a defensive prospect like Star Lotulelei. If the Chargers draft Lotulelei, you could see Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson come off the board soon afterwards.
Dave Gettleman, Carolina Panthers, Fourteenth Pick
Key Question: Tavon Austin, Cordarrelle Patterson, Star Loutelei or Kenny Vaccaro?
Many draft observers expect the Panthers to go with a defensive player, but the Panthers can make a strong argument that they are one offensive playmaker away from competing for a playoff berth based on how they finished the regular season last year. Since he's probably facing a make-or-break season, perhaps Carolina coach Ron Rivera will convince Gettleman to give Cam Newton another weapon on offense.
How Gettleman's Choice Could Shake Up the Rest of the First Round
Gettleman could turn a lot of heads by selecting an offensive skill position player like Cordarrelle Patterson or Tavon Austin if either one of them is available at 14. Teams like St. Louis, Minnesota and Houston may be seeking wide receiver help later on in the draft, and the earlier the first receiver comes off of the board the earlier those teams start thinking about moving up for a wideout. Gettleman could also influence the Rams' draft plans by taking Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro.
Seven teams with seven first-year general managers may very well dictate the outcome of the first round of the 2013 NFL draft. We'll get an early look at which teams made the right hiring decisions over the winter when the draft kicks off in less than two weeks.
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