General Managers
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Who Are The Best General Managers In The NFL?

A good general manager can be franchise-altering for an NFL team. They ultimately make the biggest decisions like hiring a head coach, being the lead voice in draft rooms, and making tough choices for the greater good of the team. Every couple of years we see general managers fired and hired for several reasons; they couldn’t get the quarterback right, moved off guys too early, or did not get enough in return for some trades. I think the best general managers have similar qualities; they are elite in the draft, they hire the right guys and make aggressive but calculated moves with their personnel. With that being said, here are the five best general managers in the NFL.

Chris Ballard- Indianapolis Colts

Notable Draft Picks: Quenton Nelson, Darius Leonard, Nyheim Hines, Michael Pittman, Jonathan Taylor, Julian Blackmon

In my eyes, Ballard is the best general manager in the league, and I don’t think it’s close. He has only been with the Colts for five years and has put together an amazing roster despite being in quarterback limbo. In five years, Ballard will have had four different quarterbacks start the season. That includes Andrew Luck, Jacoby Brissett, Philip Rivers, and now Carson Wentz. While Ballard has nailed the draft and free agency, I think the most impressive thing was handling who to hire as their head coach. Chuck Pagano had been with the Colts for six years, and after Ballard’s first season as GM, they let go of him. Firing Pagano was not exactly impressive but rather how Ballard and the Colts pivoted from offering Josh McDaniels the job only for him to withdraw at the last moment. It ultimately led to the Colts hiring Frank Reich, who has been a huge success in Indianapolis. In two of the three seasons Reich has been head coach, this team has gone to the playoffs.

Jason Licht- Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Notable Draft Picks: Mike Evans, Chris Goodwin, Devin White, Vita Vea, Sean Murphy-Bunting, Tristan Wirfs, Ali Marpet, Donavan Smith

Kevin Colbert might give him a run for his money, but Licht is one of the best general managers when it comes to the draft. Since arriving in 2015, Licht has consistently drafted foundational pieces on both sides of the ball. Devin White has been one of the top linebackers in the league, Mike Evans is a top-five wide receiver, and Tristan Wirfs looks like a perennial pro bowl offensive tackle. It all paid off in 2021 as the Buccaneers won a Super Bowl in the first year with Tom Brady. Licht gets a lot of credit for going after Brady. After the 2019 season concluded, Brady looked like he was showing signs that he was getting old. The Buccaneers seemed like the only team who aggressively went after Brady, and they signed him to a very team-friendly contract. Licht and the Buccaneers entered a rare class after winning the Super Bowl. They managed to retain all 22 starters, and they look like the favorites to come out of the NFC again going into the 2021 season.

Mickey Loomis- New Orleans Saints

Notable Draft Picks: Alvin Kamara, Ryan Ramczyk, Marshon Latimore, Marcus Williams, Trey Hendrickson, Michael Thomas

Like Colbert and Licht, Mickey Loomis has nailed the draft over the years. New Orleans is not exactly a free-agent hot spot, so being elite in the draft has been crucial for the Saints. The Saints have been a playoff team for the past four years and one of the most consistent teams in the NFL. I don’t know if Loomis is in charge of the salary cap for the Saints but whoever manages that deserves a raise. It seems the Saints have the money to sign all their draft picks to long and expensive extensions, the latest extension involved Ryan Ramczyk. I do not have a ton to say about Loomis because the Saints do everything right. I feel like Sean Payton and Drew Brees get a ton of credit for New Orleans’s success, as they should, but Loomis is just as integral to the franchise’s continued success.

Kevin Colbert- Pittsburgh Steelers

Notable Draft Picks: Cam Heyward, David DeCastro, Ryan Shazier, Stephon Tuitt, Bud Dupree, TJ Watt, Juju Smith-Schuster, Devin Bush, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool

Bill Belichick should call up Colbert before every draft and talk wide receivers. Colbert seems to land a star receiver late in the draft every year while Belichick cannot hit on his first-round pick. Sorry, N’Keal Harry. Colbert has been with the Steelers for 10 years and has drafted elite players in the years he has been there. Colbert also made one of the more impactful trades in recent years as they traded for Minkah Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick has shown to be a leader in their secondary and has become one of their best defensive players. The Steelers have had the third-most wins in the NFL since Colbert took over as general manager. A large part of that is Colbert hitting on most of his draft picks. The only criticism I have for Colbert is how the 2021 offseason has unfolded. They only return one starter on the offensive line and most recently released David DeCastro. Additionally, the 2020 season showed us that Big Ben’s time in the NFL is coming to an end. They have whiffed on some quarterbacks in the draft, but I think you have to aggressively start looking towards the future.

Les Snead- Los Angeles Rams

Notable Draft Picks: Cooper Cupp, Todd Gurley, Rob Havenstein, Aaron Donald, John Johnson

Les Snead and the Rams do things a little differently when it comes to the draft. The 2021 draft marked the fifth year in a row where the Rams did not have a first-round pick. The last picks they made in the first round were in 2015 and 2016, where they took Todd Gurley and Jared Goff, respectively. Instead of drafting guys in the first round, Snead and the Rams front office has made a living off trading their picks for proven players in this league. They traded a couple of first for Jalen Ramsey, who is considered the best corner in the league, and this past offseason traded for Lions’ quarterback Matt Stafford. While these moves bolstered the roster, none of these moves were as important as the hiring of Sean McVay. The Rams hired McVay when he was only 30 years old, and he has turned this team into a perennial playoff team which included a trip to the Super Bowl. Snead’s only misstep was signing Jared Goff to a long and expensive deal after he reached the Super Bowl. But where I will give them credit is that McVay was done with Goff, and in the offseason, they went and upgraded their quarterback position by getting Stafford.

Honorable Mentions: Brett Veach, Brandon Beane, John Lynch, Rick Spielman

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