The draft is far from an exact science, but some teams seem to hit more often on picks than they miss. We asked NFL.com writers and NFL Network analysts to name the talent evaluator they would most want running their draft. Here's what they had to say:
Steve Wyche: Leader of the Pack
Wow, very tough call here. There are so many good ones: Ozzie Newsome, Bill Polian, Mickey Loomis, Jerry Reese; and some up-and-comers like Martin Mayhew and Thomas Dimitroff and I like what Gene Smith is doing in Jacksonville. I'd have to go with Ted Thompson in Green Bay, though. He's been a punching bag for how he handled the Brett Favre situation a few years ago but I don't think anyone is complaining now. Thompson and his exceptional staff always seem to find players in each round (even late choices like James Starks), make the right trades on draft day to get guys like Clay Matthews, and identify the best player that also fits a need, like B.J. Raji. The Packers' methods of evaluation are thorough to the point where they've hit on some undrafted rookies, like CB Sam Shields.
Vic Carucci: Colbert's steady approach
Kevin Colbert, the Steelers' director of football operations, could run my draft any day. He continues to do an amazing job of consistently identifying players who are perfect fits. With the team's tendency to avoid signing high-end free agents, it relies heavily on the draft and Colbert's ability to select players who can rapidly develop over two or three seasons and some, such as Maurkice Pouncey, who are immediate standouts. And he does this while usually being strapped with late picks. Quiet and unassuming, Colbert doesn't receive nearly enough credit for the tremendous work he does because he prefers that ownership, coaches, and players get the bulk of the recognition.
Michael Lombardi: This guy fits the Bill
In any sport, success happens when the general manager and head coach think alike. In New England, Bill Belichick is both, and he would be my choice to run the draft. Belichick thinks short-term and long-term, which is rare for most coaches and GMs when working the draft. He has a clear-cut plan and never allows tomorrow to influence his decisions today.
Pat Kirwan: Two deserve the nod
Ted Thompson of the Packers and Kevin Colbert of the Steelers are tied for the top spot. Both guys have history and know the draft, not free agency, is the way to build a team. Mark my words, even though they are both picking at the bottom of each round, they will have outstanding draft classes.
Solomon Wilcots: Ozzie, Ozzie, Ozzie
Ozzie Newsome would make any owner proud of the way he has built a franchise, wisely using draft picks to create a consistent winner. Remember, Newsome has used first-round picks on players like Jonathan Ogden, Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. Now he is transitioning Baltimore's strength from its defense to the offense, with Joe Flacco and Ray Rice as the building blocks from the 2008 draft. I once asked Newsome, "How do you balance drafting the best player available vs. need at a certain position?" He explained, when you take the best player available, the only problem you'll have is that you end up with a team full of good players, and no team can ever have too many good players. With that kind of thinking, Newsome would be my GM every time.
Charles Davis: Tip of cap to Thompson
There are plenty of GMs who I would love to run my draft, if I were so lucky. Guys who have won the Super Bowl easily come to mind. So does the Falcons' Thomas Dimitroff, who has won NFL Executive of the Year twice in the last three years and has his team in position for a run at a ring. Mark Dominik has turned around the Buccaneers in short order. All that being said, here's a tip of the cap to the Super Bowl champs and GM Ted Thompson. He has done a terrific job with his drafts (Aaron Rodgers, B.J. Raji), and also has an eye for late-round, undrafted, and unwanted talent from other teams (John Kuhn, Sam Shields, Tramon Williams). He's also not afraid to make the tough decision (Brett Favre anyone?). Under his leadership, the Packers appear to be ready to contend for multiple Super Bowl titles.
Brian Baldinger: Hard to argue with Thompson
There aren't many proven GMs who can build a team and then draft well enough to maintain consistency. Ted Thompson comes to mind as a guy who has accomplished the feat. He found the QB, and there aren't many in the history of the game that could make the legend of Brett Favre go away so quickly. The offensive line that protects Rodgers is much of Thompson's doing. Not many GMs have two first-round picks in one year and find two big pieces to a great defense (Clay Matthews and B.J. Raji). When Thompson wasn't drafting first-round gems, he was relying on his staff to find starting corners off the street in Sam Shields and Tramon Williams. Many believe that the Packers' current receiving corps is the best in football. His picks of Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, and James Jones to go with TE phenom Jermichael Finley make it hard to argue with that notion. The few times he's dipped into free agency, Charles Woodson and Ryan Pickett have come up big. Thompson hasn't been around as long as some, but it's hard to argue with the success he is enjoying.