The 2012 NFL Draft can decide the future of your favorite team for the next decade. Need I remind you the different directions the Indianapolis Colts and San Diego Chargers took after the 1998 Draft?
The draft is the general manager's time to shine, and is the base for how he will be judged by both fans and his superiors. In recent drafts, these five GMs have not instilled much confidence.
Jeff Ireland has done an OK job drafting in the first round since becoming the Miami Dolphins' general manager in 2008.
Vontae Davis, Jared Odrick and Jake Long are solid starters, but they are not exactly rolling in Pro Bowl accolades either. The rest of Ireland's first-day picks (where you expect to find starting talent) are marginal contributors, not with the Dolphins or out of the league. This year's second-round pick Daniel Thomas came in with some hype, but he has averaged a mediocre 3.6 yards per carry and reached the end zone just twice.
The Dolphins need a dynamic player and to do that, Ireland will have to knock his first-round pick out of the park. Ireland will again be drafting in the top 10, and has failed with those high picks previously. If I am a Dolphins fan, I do not have the faith for him to get the job done this time around.
Buddy Nix's debut pick as general manager of the Buffalo Bills was Aaron Maybin. It has not gotten much better from there.
Maybin had as many sacks as I did in two years with Buffalo. C.J. Spiller has found the end zone just twice in two years. Marcell Dareus has been by far Nix's best first-round selection, but Nix's ratio of first-day picks turned starters is not good.
For a team close to turning the corner, Nix cannot afford anymore misses. His track record points to another one coming in April.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have not drafted a star since Maurice Jones-Drew, way back in 2006. Gene Smith has done better than his predecessor, but he is not exactly building a dynasty in Jacksonville either.
Smith has yet to draft a Pro Bowler in three years. Blaine Gabbert will likely make or break his legacy with the Jacksonville Jaguars. There has not been enough evidence one way or another to make a conjecture on Gabbert's potential as an NFL quarterback, but many thought he was a stretch as a top 10 pick.
The Jags will likely have another top 10 pick to work with. Smith does not have a whole lot of confidence in the fanbase to make the right selection.
A.J. Smith has had his share of hits and misses since taking over the San Diego Chargers in 2003. Phillip Rivers: Hit. Vincent Jackson: Hit. Antonio Cromartie, Michael Turner and Darren Sproles, all hits but are spending their prime seasons elsewhere.
Shawne Merriman was a big hit, then a big miss. Craig Davis was a bust, and Larry English has just 60 tackles in three seasons. Ryan Matthews has been more of a change-of-pace back than the replacement to LaDainian Tomlinson he was supposed to be.
Smith's problem has not been so much drafting talent as much it is turning it into long-term Charger production. For a team supposedly competing for a Super Bowl, short-term success is not going to get the job done.
John Schneider has drafted mostly linemen in the first few rounds during his two-year reign with the Seattle Seahawks.
The only real way to judge linemen is to watch them play on a regular basis, and the Seahawks are pretty low on my list of teams to watch on Sundays. Schneider is one for two on selecting skill position players early in the draft. Earl Thomas has six interceptions and has been a starter from day one. Golden Tate has two touchdowns in two years.
For a team in desperate need of some playmakers I find it hard to believe the man who gave Tarvaris Jackson eight million dollars is the guy to draft some.