Seven NFL general managers who need a big draft


NFL general managers are always only a draft away from changing their careers. New York Giants general manager Jerry Reese made his name in his first try back in 2007. He's been living off the embers from that first go-around and subsequent championships ever since.

For former Eagles coach Chip Kelly, his first draft in charge in Philadelphia was his last. Between his free-agent spending spree and the underwhelming early results of Philadelphia's 2015 draft, Kelly found himself out of a job.


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In the ultimate year-to-year league, every decision-maker is under pressure to deliver in every draft. Here are seven general managers under extra pressure to deliver this year:

Trent Baalke, San Francisco 49ers general manager: It has been breathtaking to witness the total collapse of the 49ers' roster. They devolved from a top-five team in talent three years ago to a depth chart that ranks among the very worst in the NFL.

Ownership in San Francisco has proven to have a quick trigger after Jim Harbaugh's ugly departure and Jim Tomsula's season in the fog. Baalke denies that his shotgun marriage with new coach Chip Kelly has issues, but he knows Kelly forced out the last personnel executive who hired him. Baalke built a strong reputation early in his run with the 49ers, but he could badly use early impact rookies.

Jerry Reese, New York Giants general manager: Normally a new coach means a franchise reboot and a few years to change the roster. This Giants team feels different. Even owner John Mara said this draft was more important "than usual" and noted that the front office needs to "pick it up."

Reese needs to find rookies who can start right away, which is never a good thing. Despite the team's free-agent shopping spree, there are big holes at linebacker, safety, wide receiver and tight end. The Giants organization has valued stability over the years, but it's hard to see Mara preaching continuity if the Giants take another step back this season. After all, the coaching staff has barely changed. They just shuffled chairs and said goodbye to Tom Coughlin.

Les Snead, Los Angeles Rams general manager: The pressure is off Snead for the first two days of the draft. He has only one pick in the first three rounds, and that pick will presumably be Cal quarterback Jared Goff. The pressure comes in betting a career on one player.

The Rams lost two key members from their secondary last season and have a top-heavy roster full of stars without a ton of depth. Snead's 2015 draft is under particular pressure to develop. He added five offensive linemen to the roster and he needs them to block better for Todd Gurley and the quarterback. If the quarterback is half as good half as quick as Gurley, the Rams will be just fine.

Sashi Brown, Cleveland Browns executive vice president of football operations: The logic behind the Browns' trade down makes a ton of sense. Cleveland definitely got the safer side of the deal and the Browns need the extra swings at the plate with a talent-poor roster. Brown and the newly configured Browns front office gets its first chance to prove it can pick players. Who exactly picks the players and how that process works remains mysterious, but Brown will get the credit or the blame.

Doug Whaley, Buffalo Bills general manager: It's never a good sign when ownership has to release a statement at the end of the season stating that the general manager and coach will keep their jobs. A contract extension for Whaley a week later was a strong measure of support, but it also is typical practice for NFL teams to avoid decision makers entering contract years.

Whaley precedes the current Bills ownership group in Buffalo, and has had a mixed record since taking over for Buddy Nix in 2013. Coach Rex Ryan has made it clear that he needs more starters from this draft for his defense, which is reminiscent of a problem Rex's teams had in New York. They always paid more attention to the defense in the draft and it showed on the field.

John Elway, executive vice president: Elway's pressure is different than the other men on this list. He was a made man in Denver even before winning Super Bowl 50 and has undoubtedly been among the best executives in football over the last five years.

His pressure comes from the high expectations he's created for the organization and for a dry spot in his record. While Elway has done an incredible job in free agency, he hasn't had many draft successes over the last three years (his best draft pick since 2013 is ... Bradley Roby?) That hasn't hurt the Broncos much because he drafted so well early in his tenure and he's filled out the team with savvy veterans. But the Denver roster risks getting thin and older if he can't find some above-average starters.

Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis, New Orleans Saints: Loomis has the executive vice president and general manager title for the Saints, but he's also the head of basketball operations of the NBA's New Orleans Pelicans. It's a mystery who is actually picking the players in New Orleans, but it's safe to say that Payton wields more power than your usual head coach. Perhaps no one wants credit for struggling so consistently to find the right fits for the Saints' defense.

The Saints know they can only squeeze so many more years out of the Drew Brees era. They need foundation pieces on both sides of the ball, especially in the front seven on defense. After consecutive 7-9 seasons, the Saints need to find difference makers or risk becoming the bizarro Rams on a treadmill of mediocrity.