The 2011 NFL Draft can't be far off the minds of executives and general managers around the league...even with this season still two months away from completion.
We all know the importance of the draft for NFL teams: it's an opportunity to add youth, depth, franchise players, playmakers on either side of the ball, or perhaps projects that will hopefully develop a few years down the line.
The organizations that typically remain at the top of the league year after year are ones that hit home runs in the draft. The ones that struggle, well...they typically miss with their pick or sometimes pass up a sure thing.
So how confident should you be in your GM heading into next year's draft? Are they going to make picks that will help them in much-needed areas or will they miss out on a prospect and set the franchise back a few years?
Let's take a look at how some of the GMs have fared in previous drafts and rank them from busts to gurus. Keep in mind that these rankings have nothing to do with free agency—just how successful they've been in the last couple of drafts (dating back to 2007 at the latest).
As always, starting at the bottom and working our way towards the top...
(Note: not all NFL teams have GMs. Those that don't will be evaluated by the team's overall draft.)
...there are a few teams that have hired or promoted new GMs in the past year or two and thus they can't really be fairly evaluated because we don't really know how the prospects will turn out by 2012 or 2013.
These are the guys that I felt it was too soon to properly determine how successful they've been in the draft:
Buddy Nix (Buffalo)
Hired in '09, Nix hasn't really made a splash in either of the last two drafts.
Tom Heckert (Cleveland)
Showed promise this year with the selections of Joe Haden, T.J. Ward, and Colt McCoy.
Gene Smith (Jacksonville)
Promoted in June of '09, he didn't wow anyone with the Tyson Alualu pick, but it hasn't turned out as a bust at all.
Brian Xanders (Denver)
Hasn't had much luck in the draft the past two seasons but he gets a pass until we see what Tim Tebow can really do at this level.
Scott Pioli (Kansas City)
Starting to do nice things with selection of Dexter McCluster, Tony Moeaki, and Eric Berry.
Bruce Allen (Washington)
Last season was his only draft as GM of Washington—the highlight was first-round pick Trent Williams.
Martin Mayhew (Detroit)
Has made some great moves since being promoted, such as dealing Roy Williams for three draft picks and selecting Matthew Stafford, Brandon Pettigrew, Ndamukong Suh and Jahvid Best.
John Schneider (Seattle)
Hired when Pete Carroll was selected as Seattle's new head coach.
Other than Brian Cushing, the Texans really haven't made much noise in the draft in the past few years.
Amobi Okoye and Kareem Jackson haven't been busts but they are part of one of the worst defenses in the league so it's hard to say they've been successful.
Some nice finds in Lamarr Houston, Jacoby Ford, and Darren McFadden (this year at least), but selecting JaMarcus Russell at No. 1 costs them big time.
The Chargers have a great team and an effective front office but they haven't found (or needed) many starters in the last few drafts outside of bargains Eric Weddle and Legedu Naanee.
Ryan Matthews has battled injuries this year so he can still very much pan out into a high caliber running back.
The Bengals have some potential nice finds in Jordan Shipley and Jermaine Gresham—we just won't know until they find a reliable quarterback.
Rey Maualuga, Keith Rivers and Leon Hall had helped strengthen a stingy defense in '09 until the unit started to fall apart this season.
The Titans have found a few solid pieces here and there in the last couple of years, but the selection of Chris Johnson makes them winners in the long-run.
Dallas has gotten some help on offense with Dez Bryant, Felix Jones, and Martellus Bennett, but defensive backs Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick haven't panned out the way they hoped.
There's great potential for Carolina to move up this list in a few years. Jon Beason, Captain Munnerlyn, and David Gettis have all emerged as starters, while Jonathan Stewart and Mike Goodson make a nice 1-2 combination in the backfield.
And if Jimmy Clausen can become a legitimate starter, things may not be so desolate for the Panthers.
Ireland's in his third season as Miami GM and has some nice pieces in place, starting with Jake Long and finding some lower round bargains like Brian Hartline.
Arizona has made some great selections recently under Graves' watch, scooping up quality contributors like Beanie Wells, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Calais Campbell, Early Doucet, Tim Hightower, Alan Branch, and Steve Breaston.
He might face a tough task of finding a quarterback this year—Max Hall and John Skelton may not be the answer.
Devaney is just in his second full year as GM but he's been involved with the Rams' draft selections for the past three years.
He's done a great job turning around the culture in St. Louis with picks such as Chris Long, Jason Smith, James Laurinaitis, and potential franchise QB Sam Bradford.
If the Rams make the playoffs this year, even in a week NFC West, it's a testament to his ability to quickly build a team.
The Niners don't have an official general manager but have done a nice job adding youth on both sides of the ball, most notably on the offensive line this year with Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati and with star linebacker Patrick Willis a few years ago.
Unfortunately the team as a whole took a step backwards this year.
Working to add even more weapons to the offense and steadily improve the defense, Loomis' picks in the past few years have all had significant impact.
Robert Meachem has become a big play threat on offense, Malcolm Jenkins routinely makes key plays on defense (like on Thanksgiving vs. Dallas), and we all know how much Tracy Porter has contributed.
The Colts have found some tremendous talent in the lower rounds of the draft, especially on offense, with guys like Austin Collie, Jacob Tamme, Mike Hart and Pierre Garcon.
Chicago already had a veteran, proven defense and last season they traded for gunslinger Jay Cutler to lead the offense.
Thanks to some good draft picks recently, they've bolstered the offense with weapons such as Matt Forte, Earl Bennett, Greg Olsen and Johnny Knox.
The Vikings offense looks nothing like it did five years ago.
It promises to be potent for a while as well, headlined by Adrian Peterson, Sidney Rice, and Percy Harvin.
Dominik is in just his second season as Tampa Bay GM and normally I would reserve judgment on him but based on the play of Josh Freeman, Arrelious Benn, Mike Williams, and Cody Grimm he's already solidified himself as a great draft evaluator.
The Falcons look to be in prime position to make a run at the Super Bowl this season and that's in large part thanks to Dimitroff.
He selected Matt Ryan and also added Harry Douglas, Justin Blalock, Sean Weatherspoon, and Kroy Biermann.
Baltimore has had a great defense as far back as I can remember and Newsome has been the guy behind it.
In the past few years he's added Michael Oher, Joe Flacco, and Ray Rice to help further enhance an offense that, combined with the defense, could make Baltimore a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
Reese has taken a receiving corp that lost Plaxico Burress and still made them one of the best in the league with Hakeem Nicks, Steve Smith, and Kevin Boss.
The defense has also been enhanced by Jason Pierre-Paul and Aaron Ross.
The Steelers are always competitive for a reason: they have a great front office who routinely finds players that can contribute through the draft.
They did it with Maurkice Pouncey, Rashard Mendenhall, Mike Wallace, and LaMarr Woodley, to name a few, and they'll most likely continue doing so in the future.
The Jets traded several draft picks to move up and select Mark Sanchez at No. 5 in '09. He hasn't been excellent by any means but he's done enough to suggest that he could mature into a legitimate QB.
They've also added Shonn Greene and Dustin Keller as complements offensively and bolstered their secondary with Kyle Wilson and some guy out of Pittsburgh named Darelle Revis.
The Eagles may not have as long of a successful draft list as a few other teams but they've hit home runs with DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy, and Jeremy Maclin—those three are enough to headline and lead a team for a long time.
Whatever they need in the draft, the Packers seem to find a sleeper pick that turns out to be everything they needed and more.
See Matthews, Clay.
Belichick has done a phenomenal job of finding guys that will fit into his system and exceed expectations. Take a look at some of the guys the Pats have selected in the last few years:
Add talent like that in a short period of time and it's no wonder the Patriots seemingly are contenders year after year.