NFL roster cuts: AFC | NFC

NFL Nation: Draft Watch 2011 decision makers NFC

Draft Watch: NFC East

March, 31, 2011
3/31/11
12:00
PM ET
NFC Draft Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Each Thursday leading up to the NFL draft (April 28-30), the ESPN.com NFL blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: decision-makers.

Dallas Cowboys

Jerry Jones remains the most hands-on owner in the NFL, as reflected by his title of general manager. That makes him more directly responsible for the Cowboys’ draft choices than a typical owner would be. Jones solicits and seems to value input from scouts and coaches. The group has been together long enough for individuals to have a good feel for one another. Tom Ciskowski, who took over the top scouting job after Jeff Ireland left for the Miami Dolphins, has been with the organization since 1992. Coach Jason Garrett, who helped make the call on drafting Felix Jones in 2008, has been with the Cowboys since 2005. Their voices matter, but Jones is the dominant personality in the organization. He makes the call and everyone knows it.

New York Giants

General manager Jerry Reese is the driving force behind the Giants’ draft decisions. He’s methodical and disciplined in his approach, as are the Giants. The team has had only three GMs since George Young first held the job in 1979. Reese has been with the organization since 1994 and has served in the GM role since replacing Ernie Accorsi before the 2007 season. The Giants’ decision to promote Reese following Accorsi’s retirement allowed them to maintain continuity and stability. Winning a Super Bowl following Reese’s first season as GM served as validation. The Giants seem to have a good thing going with Reese and coach Tom Coughlin working together.

Philadelphia Eagles

Coach Andy Reid remains the Eagles’ primary decision-maker on personnel matters. Like any coach, Reid relies upon his personnel department to do the legwork. Unlike most coaches, Reid makes the final decision on draft choices and has done so since his hiring in 1999. The Eagles’ personnel team has evolved in recent seasons. Tom Heckert, the Eagles’ personnel chief through most of Reid’s run as head coach, left to become the Cleveland Browns’ GM following the 2009 season. The Eagles promoted Howie Roseman as Heckert’s successor, a move that maintained continuity. Team president Joe Banner remains influential, but Reid makes the call.

Washington Redskins

Coach Mike Shanahan has more power than any Redskins coach since Dan Snyder purchased the team in 1999. He has wielded that power over defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth and flexed it repeatedly in his handling of quarterback Donovan McNabb. Shanahan is the boss and everyone knows it. Snyder has taken a lower profile as a result. Bruce Allen, son of former legendary Redskins coach George Allen, has served as general manager since replacing Vinny Cerrato late in the 2009 season. He brings administrative expertise to the front office. This is Shanahan’s show, however.

Draft Watch: NFC South

March, 31, 2011
3/31/11
12:00
PM ET
NFC Draft Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Each Thursday leading up to the NFL draft (April 28-30), the ESPN.com NFL blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today's topic: decision-makers.

Atlanta Falcons

Make no mistake, general manager Thomas Dimitroff is the man running the draft room in Atlanta. He comes with a heavy personnel background from his days as a scout with the New England Patriots and this is the time of year he enjoys most. Dimitroff has a good working relationship with coach Mike Smith and the two often watch film together. That gives Dimitroff a strong feel for what his coach wants in players. So far, this arrangement has worked very well, with the Falcons producing winning records in each of the three seasons Dimitroff and Smith have been together. One last thing on Dimitroff -- he’s not a dictator. He values the opinions of those around him and that includes more people than you’d expect. Even though the Falcons were almost certain they were going to take quarterback Matt Ryan in 2008, Dimitroff was asking an Atlanta staffer who was at some of the pre-draft media events in New York for updates on the quarterback’s demeanor.

Carolina Panthers

In the early years of the regime of coach John Fox and general manager Marty Hurney, there was a lot of talk about them running an equal partnership, and that was very true. But Fox is gone and Ron Rivera is in his place. Even before Fox left, the partnership stopped being equal. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment, but Hurney has been calling the draft shots for at least a couple of years. That was extremely evident last year when the Panthers used a second-round pick on Jimmy Clausen, a quarterback Fox wanted no part of. Rivera and his coaching staff will have input and college scouting director Don Gregory is an important cog. But more than ever, Hurney is the person running the draft in Carolina.

New Orleans Saints

General manager Mickey Loomis isn’t a real public person and that probably prevents him from getting the full recognition he deserves. He and coach Sean Payton are very much in this together and their track record has been very impressive. Loomis is at his best as an administrator. He knows what Payton and his staff are looking for and he matches up that knowledge with what his scouts give him. Anybody can hit on first-round picks, but the Saints have had some big success in the middle (Jahri Evans and Jimmy Graham) and later (Marques Colston) rounds. That’s the mark of a machine that’s working well.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Mark Dominik is the general manager and he prides himself on being a person who carries (the best) parts of people like Rich McKay, Jerry Angelo, Tim Ruskell, Bruce Allen, Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden in his thinking. So far, it has worked out pretty well. In his first draft, Dominik landed Josh Freeman, who has turned out to be the first true franchise quarterback this team has ever had. Amid a lot of distractions, Dominik never has taken his eye off the fact that the Bucs are building everything around Freeman. Coach Raheem Morris and scouting director Dennis Hickey play big roles in the process, but you started to see Dominik’s blueprint take hold last season when the Bucs went 10-6.

Draft Watch: NFC North

March, 31, 2011
3/31/11
12:00
PM ET
NFC Draft Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Each Thursday leading up to the NFL draft (April 28-30), the ESPN.com NFL blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today's topic: decision-makers.

Chicago Bears

General manager Jerry Angelo remains in place for what will be his 10th draft with the Bears, but this will be his first under the new structure he established last spring. Director of college scouting Greg Gabriel left the organization, and director of player personnel Tim Ruskell is now Angelo's right-hand man on all personnel issues. There have been some changes in the internal process, but ultimately Angelo has the final say on draft day. It's been a while since Angelo had a full complement of draft picks after gutting the past two years in trades for quarterback Jay Cutler and defensive end Gaines Adams. He'll pick No. 29 overall this year, the first time he's had a first-round draft pick in three years. Angelo's success in the first round has been mixed. Two of the six players he's selected in the first round over his tenure, tight end Greg Olsen and offensive lineman Chris Williams, figure as starters in 2011.

Detroit Lions

In two drafts since the Lions named him general manager, Martin Mayhew has upgraded the team's talent level and given its fans hope for continued success. It's true that Mayhew has benefited from high selections in those drafts -- he's made four picks in the top 33 over that stretch -- but it's worth noting all of them appear set for long careers. Those who have followed the Lions closely over the years know that hasn't always been the case for high draft picks. Moreover, Mayhew has refused to allow his style to be classified. In 2009, he drafted tight end Brandon Pettigrew at No. 20 overall, his top-ranked player remaining on the board, despite bigger needs at other positions. On the other hand, he targeted tailback Jahvid Best last year as the answer to a specific need. All of which makes him difficult to predict next month, which I'm sure is just the way he likes it.

Green Bay Packers

We might as well start calling this time of year "TTT" -- "Ted Thompson Time." The Packers' general manager has steadfastly relied on the draft to build his team, eschewing veteran free agency in all but a handful of cases, and the approach paid off with last season's victory in Super Bowl XLV. Most of the Packers' top players are Thompson draft picks, from quarterback Aaron Rodgers to receiver Greg Jennings to nose tackle B.J. Raji to linebacker Clay Matthews to safety Nick Collins. True to his personality, Thompson has half-jokingly lamented the time he lost to draft preparation during the Packers' Super Bowl run. He'll have a few extra hours in the first round, where he'll pick No. 32 overall thanks to that little championship thing his team won in February.

Minnesota Vikings

Vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman has run the team's draft for the past four years, although former coach Brad Childress had considerable influence when it came to quarterbacks. That's a big part of the reason why the Vikings are all but barren at the most important position in the game, and that's why it's been almost a singular focus for Spielman and his staff over the past few months. Spielman has a good working relationship with new coach Leslie Frazier, but it's reasonable to assume he will have more complete control over this draft than any other in his tenure.

Draft Watch: NFC West

March, 31, 2011
3/31/11
12:00
PM ET
NFC Draft Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Each Thursday leading up to the NFL draft (April 28-30), the ESPN.com NFL blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today's topic: decision-makers.

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals' leadership team remains basically unchanged for a fifth consecutive offseason.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt is the face of the organization, even during the draft, in part because general manager Rod Graves keeps a low profile. Both earned contract extensions last offseason. Whisenhunt was coming off back-to-back division titles and had been to a Super Bowl at that point, so his profile within the organization was growing. One losing season hasn't changed that.

Whisenhunt, Graves, team president Michael Bidwill and player personnel director Steve Keim are the primary decision-makers. Whisenhunt appears most prominent among them.

San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers pulled a surprise of sorts when they named Trent Baalke general manager and made him the No. 1 personnel decision-maker in the building.

The feeling previously had been that the 49ers might have to hand over personnel power to their next head coach if they were serious about landing Jim Harbaugh or another top candidate. That did not happen. Baalke, whose profile became more prominent following Scot McCloughan's departure from the organization one year ago, will make the call during the draft.

The rapport between Baalke and Harbaugh appears much stronger, by all accounts, than the relationship between Baalke and former coach Mike Singletary. That is natural because Baalke played a leading role in hiring Harbaugh; he wasn't part of the process when the team promoted Singletary.

Seattle Seahawks

Coach Pete Carroll has the final say on personnel matters. It's in his contract, but not something he flaunts. Carroll played a role in hiring John Schneider as general manager last offseason. Their personalities mesh and the two worked together well in making multiple draft-day moves in 2010.

This is the Seahawks' most comfortable front-office arrangement in recent memory, largely because Carroll and Schneider were brought in together. Each is invested in the other to a degree that did not exist when Mike Holmgren was working with Bob Whitsitt, Bob Ferguson and Tim Ruskell over the years.

The Seahawks' decision-making process has more clarity heading into this draft now that Alex Gibbs has retired as offensive line coach. Gibbs' strong preference for a very specific type of offensive lineman affected how the team approached personnel decisions, especially at guard. His retirement has freed the team to more comfortably pursue the bigger guards its personnel department preferred.

St. Louis Rams

The Rams have new ownership with Stan Kroenke purchasing a majority stake, but the day-to-day decision-makers remain in place for a third consecutive offseason.

General manager Billy Devaney takes the lead in personnel matters with input from coach Steve Spagnuolo and executive vice president/chief operating officer Kevin Demoff.

Kroenke hasn't said whether the team will eventually hire a president. It doesn't matter heading into this draft.

The organization is coming off a transforming 2010 draft in which it landed quarterback Sam Bradford and left tackle Rodger Saffold with its first two choices. Two other recent high picks, Chris Long and James Laurinaitis, are also working out well.

That has to work in Devaney's favor as Kroenke assesses where the organization stands.

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