NFL Nation: Draft Watch 41410

Draft Watch: AFC East

April, 14, 2010
4/14/10
1:06
PM ET
» NFC decision-makers: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

» Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

Each Wednesday leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today's topic: The decision-makers.

Buffalo Bills

Several key members of the Bills' front office will be in unfamiliar roles for the draft. Rookie general manager Buddy Nix has been a consigliere for decades, but he has never overseen a draft. Assistant general manager Doug Whaley will be in Buffalo's war room for the first time after handling pro personnel for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Chan Gailey hasn't gone into a draft as the head coach for 11 years. The most prominent holdover is vice president of college scouting Tom Modrak. The Bills fired pro personnel chief John Guy after last season.

Miami Dolphins

This will be the third Dolphins draft for football operations boss Bill Parcells, general manager Jeff Ireland and head coach Tony Sparano. There's little doubt whose voice is most authoritative in the command center. Parcells handpicked Ireland and Sparano. Each is beholden to him. But that doesn't mean they're "yes" men. One of the qualities Parcells values most from his support staff is the ability to proffer a dissenting opinion. With that in mind, it's interesting Miami's director of college scouting is Chris Grier, son of former Patriots and Texans executive Bobby Grier. Parcells eventually left the Patriots after a disagreement with Bobby Grier about drafting receiver Terry Glenn. Parcells didn't want Glenn. Grier did. Patriots owner Robert Kraft sided with Grier, instigating Parcells' infamous "buy the groceries" lament.

New England Patriots

Patriots overlord Bill Belichick is entering his second draft without right-hand man Scott Pioli, who is now running the show in Kansas City. Belichick manages every personnel move within the organization. He receives help from senior football adviser Floyd Reese (the former Tennessee Titans general manager) and director of player personnel Nick Caserio, but Belichick has the first, second and final say. We've already noted Kraft reserves the right to get involved. But he won't go against a coach who has brought him three Lombardi trophies.

New York Jets

Parcells protégé Mike Tannenbaum is entering his fifth draft as general manager and his second with Rex Ryan. The opinionated coach has considerable say on whom the team selects, especially when it comes to defensive players. Tannenbaum isn't afraid to make moves on the fly, executing several trades to move up and select key players: quarterback Mark Sanchez, running back Shonn Greene, cornerback Darrelle Revis and linebacker David Harris. Tannenbaum and Ryan lean on top college scout Joey Clinkscales, who interviewed to be Dolphins general manager before Ireland got the gig.

Draft Watch: NFC West

April, 14, 2010
4/14/10
1:03
PM ET
» NFC decision-makers: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

» Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

Each Wednesday leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: The decision-makers.

Arizona Cardinals

President Michael Bidwill and general manager Rod Graves are the highest-ranking personnel people, but the draft is clearly a collaborative effort in Arizona.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt has earned additional input after helping Arizona produce back-to-back division titles and a Super Bowl appearance. A stronger say in personnel was reportedly part of the understanding when Whisenhunt recently agreed to a contract extension through the 2013 season.

Director of player personnel Steve Keim plays a leading role in identifying talent at the college level. Keim and Graves have been together in Arizona since the late 1990s.

This appears to be a stable situation.

San Francisco 49ers

The situation in San Francisco appears far less stable than the one in Arizona.

Scot McCloughan's abrupt departure as general manager five weeks before the draft raised legitimate questions about how the power structure would shake out -- both in the long and short term.

Player personnel director Trent Baalke has taken over for McCloughan. It's clear the 49ers want Baalke to serve as a stabilizing force through the draft and probably longer.

It's still fair to wonder how draft day might go.

Coach Mike Singletary has stepped up his role in scouting. Team president Jed York and executive vice president Paraag Marathe remain influential. Their profiles are higher than they were a couple years ago.

What will it all mean when the 49ers are on the clock and various draft scenarios are playing out at full speed? That's a little tough to say at this point, though the 49ers appear determined to prove they'll proceed as usual.

Seattle Seahawks

Coach Pete Carroll is the highest-ranking football decision-maker in the organization and that's fine by GM John Schneider, whose role should be significant nonetheless.

Most head coaches with strong personnel power lean heavily on their GMs and scouting departments. Carroll's recent experience at the college level makes him more personally familiar with the talent in this draft, adding an important dynamic to the Seattle front office, particularly in this first draft under Carroll.

The Seahawks did maintain significant continuity in their personnel department. Will Lewis, Ruston Webster, Scott Fitterer and Mike Yowarsky remain in prominent roles. Each has been with the team for several years or longer.

St. Louis Rams

General manager Billy Devaney, executive vice president Kevin Demoff and coach Steve Spagnuolo are the primary decision-makers for a second consecutive draft.

One question in St. Louis is to what degree the pending ownership change might affect the team's thought process. There are no indications so far that the Rams will do anything other than proceed as they normally would.

Devaney, Demoff and Spagnuolo appear unified. They've been together for a couple of seasons and seem to have a good working relationship.

Draft Watch: AFC South

April, 14, 2010
4/14/10
1:02
PM ET
» NFC decision-makers: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

» Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

Each week leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: Decision-makers, who makes the call in the draft room.

Houston Texans

Gary Kubiak was hired ahead of Rick Smith in 2006, so it was a coach endorsing a general manager as opposed to the more traditional way around. They both have roots in Mike Shanahan’s Denver regime and the compatibility from their long relationship makes for a decision-by-consensus environment as opposed to a big division-of-power setup. Smith’s got a large scouting staff -- some argue too large -- but resources are not an issue for a first-class organization where owner Bob McNair spends what is needed to produce the best chances at success.

Indianapolis Colts

Team president Bill Polian has an excellent track record as a talent-finder and his team is built almost exclusively through the draft, a formula that’s worked for a team that’s consistently won double-digit games during his tenure. He trusts his scouts and the team’s systems, which are evolving under Jim Caldwell as he heads into his second year as coach. Polian has a shrewd feel for who’s overvalued and who’s undervalued and for what will be available when. He also knows he’ll be able to fill some roster spots with undrafted rookies ideal for what the Colts do. Owner Jim Irsay has full faith in Polian’s record and résumé.

Jacksonville Jaguars

General manager Gene Smith has control over the draft and the roster. But having come up as a scout and with an early background in coaching, he knows the value of input from people he trusts. Jack Del Rio is no shrinking violet, and his strong opinions are certainly factored in as Smith hits on the popular “consensus” model. Owner Wayne Weaver is looking to be more involved as the Jaguars press to sell tickets and get into the playoff picture. But those who think that means he’ll be moving name cards on draft day are overreaching.

Tennessee Titans

Jeff Fisher has never sought to be a coach/GM but his power in personnel decisions certainly increased a few years ago when Floyd Reese was dumped and Mike Reinfeldt was hired. The Titans talk constantly about consensus. Reinfeldt controls a well-organized scouting staff and measures input from Fisher’s staff as well. Then the two ultimately come to an agreement. It seems to me Fisher is far less likely to wind up with a player he doesn’t want than Reinfeldt is to call a name that might not be his first choice at a specific slot. While Bud Adams made the call on Vince Young in 2006 when it was still Reese’s operation, he’s not regularly meddling.

Draft Watch: NFC North

April, 14, 2010
4/14/10
1:01
PM ET
» NFC decision-makers: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

» Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

Each Wednesday leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com 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 is preparing for his ninth draft with the Bears, and his approach has changed significantly during that time period. He had a number of hits early in his career, from cornerback Charles Tillman and linebacker Lance Briggs in 2003 to receiver Bernard Berrian in 2004 to kick returner Devin Hester in 2005. But a few stumbles since then -- defensive end Dan Bazuin in 2007 among them -- have coincided with a move away from the draft focus; Angelo has gutted the 2009 and 2010 drafts to acquire veteran players. Angelo takes into account the opinion of coach Lovie Smith but has final say on the entire draft approach.

Detroit Lions

General manager Martin Mayhew emerged from the staff of former president/CEO Matt Millen with a strong understanding of the failures in that regime. Mayhew revamped the draft process, added more people to internal conversations and listens carefully to coach Jim Schwartz. It's hard to find a trend for Mayhew's thinking so early in his career, but his first draft produced nine players who saw action in 2009. At least four -- quarterback Matthew Stafford, tight end Brandon Pettigrew, safety Louis Delmas and linebacker DeAndre Levy -- will be starters at some point in 2010. Private as a player, Mayhew operates in near secrecy with the Lions.

Green Bay Packers

General manger Ted Thompson is entering his sixth draft as the Packers' top football decision-maker. All personnel men value the draft, but you would be hard-pressed to find one who puts such unequivocal faith in it as the sole avenue for stockpiling the roster. Thompson has signed only a handful of notable free agents during his tenure and none in the past three years. On the other hand, the Packers' regular starting lineup in 2009 included 18 players originally drafted by the team. Thompson lost a valued adviser in new Seattle general manager John Schneider, but he also leans on director of college scouting John Dorsey and director of football operations Reggie McKenzie.

Minnesota Vikings

Rick Spielman doesn't have the title of general manager, but as vice president of player personnel, he has run the Vikings' past three drafts. Spielman uses an intricate numbering system that places players in groups by their potential and then assigns a number -- sometimes carried out to decimal points in the ten-thousandths -- to rank each of them within that group. The approach led Spielman to choose receiver Sidney Rice over Dwayne Jarrett in 2007, among other decisions. He has also been willing to take injury and/or character risks in the first round if he's comfortable with his staff's research and evaluation.

Draft Watch: AFC West

April, 14, 2010
4/14/10
1:00
PM ET
» NFC decision-makers: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

» Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

Each week leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: Decision-makers.

Denver

This is the only team in the AFC West without a clear-cut draft leader, publicly at least. Coach Josh McDaniels, general manager Brian Xanders and college scouting director Matt Russell are part of the team’s draft decision-making team. Make no mistake, McDaniels plays a very big role in the team’s drafting philosophy as he does in every football decision. The Broncos are reluctant to address who makes the final call, but everything goes through McDaniels. If he doesn’t want to coach a player, he won’t have to. He has a lot of power in Denver.

Kansas City

General manager Scott Pioli makes the call in Kansas City. When the Chiefs hired him away from the New England Patriots -- where he was Bill Belichick’s top lieutenant -- after the 2008 season, it was made clear that he would run the football operations in Kansas City. The Hunt family believes in one-voice leadership. Pioli has embraced his role very well. He is a believer in leadership starting at the top. He runs a tight ship and it is clear he will make the final call. He has a good relationship with coach Todd Haley (whom Pioli hired). I know Haley has some voice in the team’s drafting plans. But it’s Pioli who pulls the trigger on the draft decisions.

Oakland

Is there any question about this? There may not be a more undisputed leader than Al Davis on any professional team. This is Davis’ show. Davis, 80, makes the final call on everything in Oakland. He has others in the organization, including coach Tom Cable, do leg work and give input, but Davis doesn’t need any help making the call. There have been pleas from Oakland fans for Davis to hire a general manager, but he has been reluctant to do so. It's clear Davis still relishes making the decisions and he trusts his judgment more than others. Despite slowing down in recent years, Davis reviews film of college prospects and is in constant contact with Oakland scouts.

San Diego

This is a classic leadership situation. A.J. Smith is the general manager in San Diego. He is responsible for making all football-related decisions since he took over in San Diego in 2003. Smith has become known as one of the best drafters in the NFL. He is an aggressive draft-day trader. He has no problem trading up or down. Smith is a very confident leader. He’s in charge and he isn’t afraid of doing his job.

Draft Watch: NFC East

April, 14, 2010
4/14/10
1:00
PM ET
» NFC decision-makers: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

» Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

Each week leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: the decision-makers.

Dallas Cowboys

Everyone knows that owner/general manager Jerry Jones makes the final call in the draft room. But he receives plenty of input from son Stephen and the highly underrated director of scouting, Tom Ciskowski. If there are a couple of safeties the Cowboys are torn between, Jones might send for secondary coach Dave Campo. But in the end, Jones makes the final call. In '08, he turned to offensive coordinator Jason Garrett to get a final opinion on whether running back Felix Jones was the right pick ahead of Rashard Mendenhall, who eventually went to the Steelers. At the time, the Cowboys were in need of a complementary back to Marion Barber. Jones is actually a good listener, but he's making the final decision. When Bill Parcells was head coach from '03-'06, there was obviously a different dynamic. He had far more say than Wade Phillips currently has in the draft room.

New York Giants

Coach Tom Coughlin has a strong voice in the draft room, but general manager Jerry Reese is making the final call. Reese has a ton of trust in his scouting department, so he lets them do a lot of talking. But the mild-mannered former scout doesn't have any problem making a decision. Reese has a strong vision of what he's looking for in a player. And he almost never reaches. The Giants hit on a lot of picks late in the draft, in part, because Reese takes so much pride in the second day of the draft. Now that will be the third day in the draft, and he'll have more of an opportunity to re-set the board.

Philadelphia Eagles

Coach Andy Reid is the main decision-maker, but he gets a lot of input from president Joe Banner and new general manager Howie Roseman. Reid was always Donovan McNabb's biggest defender, but obviously he came around to thinking it was time to move the veteran quarterback. Reid's one of the few coaches in the league with final authority in the draft room. He's very respectful, though, of his scouting department and doesn't often try to trump them with impulsive decisions. Reid has a clear vision of what type of player he hopes to produce. He lets the scouts bring him the best value and then he normally goes along with their recommendations. Some would argue that Reid has too much on his plate. But this is the way he prefers to work. And for now, owner Jeff Lurie's not looking to change that dynamic.

Washington Redskins

Mike Shanahan immediately became the most powerful head coach in the division. Coughlin and Reid have a lot of authority, but they don't wear it on their sleeves like Shanahan. He's made it clear that money's not an issue when it comes to dealing with belly-aching players such as Albert Haynesworth. Dan Snyder has stepped aside and given Shanahan the ultimate authority. Is that too much for one man to handle? Well, we're about to find out. Fortunately for Shanahan, Redskins general manager Bruce Allen seems to be a less impulsive personnel man. His expertise is in doing contracts and working with the salary cap, but he has enough gumption to challenge Shanahan on certain issues.

Draft Watch: NFC South

April, 14, 2010
4/14/10
1:00
PM ET
» NFC decision-makers: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

» Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

Each Wednesday leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: decision-makers.

Atlanta Falcons

General manager Thomas Dimitroff has final say and this guy has a strong background as a scout and personnel evaluator that has shown through in his first two drafts. Dimitroff is a true student of the game and watches countless hours of film. Coach Mike Smith also is heavily involved in the process, but Dimitroff has the strongest voice here.

Carolina Panthers

General manager Marty Hurney prides himself on saying there really is no “final say" in Carolina. He and coach John Fox make decisions together and the scouting department is heavily involved. Usually, this approach brings a consensus. Hurney says if there is strong disagreement on a player the team steers clear of that guy and moves to the next one on the list.

New Orleans Saints

General manager Mickey Loomis is the ultimate voice here, but it’s interesting to note how much better his track record has been since coach Sean Payton arrived. Loomis may have more power now than he did when Jim Haslett was coaching. He certainly has a better relationship with Payton than he did with Haslett, who might have been the driving force behind some bad personnel decisions.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

General manager Mark Dominik makes the final call or the Buccaneers. Much like Dimitroff, he came up through the ranks in the personnel department and has a strong scouting background. Coach Raheem Morris also has a strong voice in the room and was instrumental in the team selecting quarterback Josh Freeman last year. Dominik and Morris have collected 11 picks in this draft and know they need to succeed on most of them to really kick their rebuilding program in the right direction.

Draft Watch: AFC North

April, 14, 2010
4/14/10
1:00
PM ET
» NFC decision-makers: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

» Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

Each week leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: Decision-makers.

Cleveland Browns

There is no question who calls the shots in Cleveland this year. New team president Mike Holmgren joined the Browns with the unofficial title of "football czar." In other words, "The Big Show" has final say on everything inside their building. To Holmgren's credit, he's delegated some of his vast power to general manager Tom Heckert in the front office and Eric Mangini on the coaching side while overseeing the entire operation. But rest assured, next week's draft will have Holmgren's fingerprints all over it.

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers are very traditional when it comes to personnel decisions. The coaches coach during the season and the front office picks the players afterward. That firm line makes for very little confusion on the South Side. Pittsburgh's Kevin Colbert is one of the league's best general managers and probably doesn't get enough credit. For the most part Colbert avoids the spotlight and sparingly does interviews, although he spent some time with the AFC North blog recently. Instead Colbert prefers to stay behind the scenes most of the year until it's time to make moves on draft day.

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals don't put nearly as many resources into scouting as their rivals, and it's a major reason they haven't had back-to-back winning seasons in 28 years. Without a normal front-office setup, the final calls are made at the ownership level led by Mike Brown. It's somewhat of a mystery exactly how Cincinnati scouts its players with such a scant front office, but the coaching staff plays a large and active role with scouting in the offseason.

Baltimore Ravens

"In Ozzie we trust" is a saying you hear often in Baltimore this time of year. Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome is one of the best in the business at replenishing Baltimore's roster with young talent via the draft. In the past couple of years alone, Newsome has hit home runs with Ray Rice, Joe Flacco and Michael Oher. Director of player personnel Eric DeCosta is Newsome's right-hand man in Baltimore, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a better pairing of talent executives in the league.

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