One bad draft puts a general manager on notice. Two straight bad drafts can result in a league source with knowledge of the situation leaking your firing to an NFL Media insider.
In the ultimate win-now league, the draft is like 16 games wrapped into one for decision-makers. Let's take a look at the men under the most pressure to deliver a great haul this year.
Kevin Colbert, Pittsburgh Steelers
The Rooney family is famously patient, but Colbert and coach Mike Tomlin risk testing that patience with another season out of the playoffs. Colbert, one of the best general managers in football since taking over in 2000, has watched his draft-and-development system slump for the last few years. It feels like we are on the precipice of major change if Pittsburgh suffers through a losing season in 2014.
The Steelers have holes, especially on defense, like few other times during Colbert's career. The Steelers' system is largely based on allowing their young players time to learn from the sideline, but this is a team that needs starters now. Colbert needs this class to hit, and needs his last few classes to contribute more.
Jerry Reese, New York Giants
The Giants, like the Steelers, are led by patient owners. But even Reese knows this is a win-now year for New York. Reese was wildly active in free agency, trying to fix problems that his sagging draft history helped to create. The Giants are perpetually trying to fix their offensive line, "emphasize the run" again, find competent linebackers and recreate the pass-rush magic of their Super Bowl runs.
Ray Farmer, Cleveland Browns
The Browns' last GM, Michael Lombardi, was able to select one draft class during his second chance in Cleveland. Lombardi and Joe Banner never even picked their own quarterback, and plenty of general managers only get a chance to draft one high signal-caller to turn the franchise around. With two first-round picks, including No. 4, Farmer is in position to take a big swing.
Farmer and new coach Mike Pettine were brought together in an arranged marriage that gives the entire setup an interim feel until they prove themselves. There is already some chatter about a difference of opinion between ownership and the football staff when it comes to Johnny Manziel, which isn't a great sign.
Les Snead, St. Louis Rams
The Rams were the biggest losers possible when Snead arrived. They won 15 games in five seasons before Snead and coach Jeff Fisher came to town, and have won 14 games in two seasons since. Snead deserves credit for turning the Rams from awful to respectable, but they are hunting bigger game.
The road from respectable to championship level is much tougher. Snead doubled down on Sam Bradford when the Rams traded out of the No. 2 pick two years ago, and he will double (quadruple?) down again on Bradford if he passes on Johnny Manziel this time around. The Rams have a strange roster. It doesn't have a lot of holes, nor does it have a lot to get excited about outside of the defensive line. In the league's toughest division, the Rams still look closer to a five-win season than a playoff berth. Snead will never have a better chance to make a big impact than this year with the No. 2 and No. 13 overall picks.
Reggie McKenzie, Oakland Raiders
McKenzie faces a different sort of pressure than most of this list. He not only needs a good draft; he needs his free-agent crop to pan out or he could be looking for work along with coach Dennis Allen. The expectations on this Raiders draft class will be unfair because Oakland needs to find contributors who can help the team win early. A slow start to the season could mean a November housecleaning in Oakland. Essentially, McKenzie is looking for fallback options for some of the free agents who inevitably don't pan out.
Rick Spielman, Minnesota Vikings
Spielman has been a top personnel executive in Minnesota since 2006 and was promoted to general manager in 2012. This is an organization that tends to take turns blaming the coach or the front office, and it's Spielman's turn next if things don't turn around.
Coach Mike Zimmer and offensive coordinator Norv Turner should provide clarity in the kind of players the Vikings go after because this is a team without an identity. (They tend to change their plans every few years.) Spielman struck out with Christian Ponder, and he knows he has to hit on a quarterback this time around.
Dave Gettleman, Carolina Panthers
The Panthers have massive roster holes at offensive tackle, wide receiver and in the secondary. It's almost like Gettleman has been daring Panthers fans to doubt him, creating the toughest possible scenario for Super Dave to overcome. Give Gettleman credit: He hit a home run in his first draft in Carolina, starting with defensive tackles Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short.