NFL Front Office Management – Elements of team building 2

The Football Educator’s guest blogger Jonathan “JP” Fox presents Part II of his position on the various elements of building successful teams in the NFL.  Here’s Part I if you missed it.

Two teams that come to mind are the Patriots (again) and Eagles. The Patriots have ended up with a plethora of picks more times than not in the Belichick era, while the Eagles have done the same in the Andy Reid era.

Belichick’s magic

For example, the Patriots traded veteran defensive lineman Richard Seymour before the 2009 season to the Raiders for their 2011 first round pick. That pick was used to draft Colorado offensive tackle Nate Solder, the Patriots left tackle of the future. The jury is still out on the trade. Another example was the Patriots trading their 2011 first round pick (#28) to the Saints for (#56) and their 2012 first round pick. The Patriots went on to use the two first rounders they now had in 2012 to select defensive end Chandler Jones and linebacker Dont’a Hightower. Jones and Hightower are a big part of the Patriots future on defense.

Just a few weeks ago, the Patriots traded a 2013 fourth round pick to the Buccaneers for cornerback Aqib Talib and a seventh round pick. A gamble, for sure, but the Patriots traded a day three draft pick for a veteran cornerback and a day three draft pick as well. The silver lining is that the Patriots may decide to keep Talib beyond 2012, but if they don’t, the Patriots are very likely to acquire a compensatory pick for the 2014 draft as a result of Talib signing elsewhere. A gamble that may strike gold, or a trade that the Patriots may receive two draft picks, the services of a proven cornerback for however long for only a fourth round pick. Time will tell on this trade.

Reid’s savvy

The Eagles are famous for ending up with double-digit draft picks. Reid has been a huge fan for trading down and obtaining multiple picks. The more  that a team ends up using leads to better odds of a few of those players turning into contributors.  In 2012 the Eagles used a seventh round pick on RB Bryce Brown. Brown had a very spotty college career with two universities after being the #1 overall recruit out of high school. The Eagles took a chance twenty five picks from the end of the draft and Brown just put up a twenty three touch performance resulting in 189 total yards and two touchdowns. Talk about a gamble.

Brown looks like he will be a part of the Eagles backfield for the near future. One big trade that benefited the Eagles was quarterback Kevin Kolb to the Arizona Cardinals for Pro Bowl cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a 2012 second round pick. Cromartie came to the Eagles with thirteen career interceptions while the Eagles used the Cardinals pick to trade down. With that eventual pick, the team drafted defensive end Vinny Curry, who very much looks like a big part of the Eagles future. Kolb has flamed out with the Cardinals. Andy Reid at his finest.

Evaluating the decision makers

Front office success in the NFL is based on results. How did the GM draft? Did his first round picks pan out? Did his later round draft picks develop? How did he do with free agency? Did he spend big and get little results, or did he spend little and get big results? Did he make any noteworthy trades? These questions can be asked when evaluating a GM’s success. Now, when diving deeper into it, a GM puts a lot of eggs into other people’s baskets, hoping they can help out his track record. Scouts scour the country all season long for the next big thing and don’t get enough credit for a successful pick.

Game tape is evaluated, postseason all-star games are watched  (practices included), and the NFL Combine has become an “event” with the NFL Network setting up shop. Results of all three of these phases of player evaluation build a draft board that a GM holds onto like a lottery ticket. Draft day comes, picks are made, and years down the road will be the deciding factor if that particular draft was successful. Look at free agency with a definitive idea. Are we big spenders or are we looking for smaller contracts to fill needs?

Piecing it all together

All of this goes into building a team; player evaluations for the draft, in-season pickups, grading out a draft down the road emphasizing first round picks (success or failure) and late round hits. Was money well spent in free agency? Has the team kept their own players with contract extensions? How did the team fare making off-season trades and/or trades in the draft that helped  now and in the future? Above all else, did the team win? Have they won division titles, how did they do in the playoffs?

In a nutshell, develop a plan in the draft and free agency, stick to it, all with the goal of sustaining success for years.

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