21. Howie Roseman, Eagles
Last Year’s Ranking: — —
Consumed with power struggles for the entirety of the Chip Kelly era, Howie Roseman finally emerged triumphant. His first order of business was draining Kelly’s swamp, ridding the Eagles of most of the old coach’s vanity purchases (DeMarco Murray, Byron Maxwell, Kiko Alonso). Next up was one of his own, sending the farm to Cleveland for the right to select Carson Wentz at No. 2 overall. The gamble will define Roseman’s second stint as general manager. Wentz flashed plenty of promise as a rookie, buying Roseman some time to accrue more talent on offense. “More” in this instance being “any” since Kelly’s disastrous attempts at roster building left the cupboard completely bare. Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith were a good start. Roseman is an ordinary executive talent who will live and die with the fortunes of his hand-picked quarterback.
22. Bob Quinn, Lions
Last Year’s Ranking: — —
Bob Quinn’s roster made the playoffs his first year on the job, but don’t let that fool you. There is still much work to be done with an offense that looked stagnant and a defense that lacked reliable playmakers. Quinn seems to have realized this, taking an aggressive approach his first 15 months on the job. Quinn hasn’t been afraid to spend in free agency, handing out big money deals to Marvin Jones, RG T.J. Lang and RT Rick Wagner while making smaller commitments to veterans like Anquan Boldin, DT Akeem Spence, DE Cornelius Washington and CB D.J. Hayden. Although active on the open market, Quinn hasn’t de-emphasized the draft. He’s yet to trade a pick in two years. Quinn went big for his first selection, taking a shot on a left tackle of the future at No. 16. So far, Taylor Decker is looking like an excellent decision. With Matthew Stafford in his prime, Quinn is trying to win now. It’s a mentality that can create duds, but probably the right approach for a franchise seeking its first postseason victory since 1992.
23. Tom Telesco, Chargers
Last Year’s Ranking: 26
Tom Telesco stared in the face of his football mortality and came away with Joey Bosa and Hunter Henry. Telesco’s back-to-back 2016 draft home runs infused desperately needed young blood on both sides of the ball. Coupled with a resurgent Melvin Gordon and ascending Jason Verrett, Telesco has some high-end talent to show for his past few Aprils. Questions still abound. Gordon and Verrett have both undergone serious knee operations in the past 18 months, and, as you may have heard, aren’t the only Bolts with injury histories. This is a fragile team led by a declining quarterback. New coach Anthony Lynn’s fire will be welcomed on the heels of Mike McCoy and Norv Turner’s passivity, but Telesco needs to come away from the draft with another building block or three. He’s running out of time to create the Chargers’ first 10-win roster since 2009.
24. Dave Caldwell, Jaguars
Last Year’s Ranking: 23
Overflowing with offseason Lombardis, Dave Caldwell is going to need a bigger trophy case. January-August has taken on an annual rhythm under Caldwell. No one wins free agency harder than Caldwell, and very few come away from the draft with more “name” talent. Outside observers have tended to like the process. The results have been far less impressive. Luke Joeckel bombed. Blake Bortles is working on it. Dante Fowler has been inconclusive. Buzzed-about Day 2 picks Johnathan Cyprien, T.J. Yeldon and Myles Jack have all fizzled. Caldwell’s free agent spending, admittedly daring and often hard to quibble with on paper, has yet to produce more than five wins in a season. Almost nothing has gone right. As usual, there seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel. Jalen Ramsey flashed as a rookie. The high-priced defense finally took a step forward, and has more reinforcements (A.J. Bouye, Calais Campbell) on the way. You can still make the argument that Caldwell has been more unlucky than bad. 2017 will be Caldwell’s latest, and probably final, moment of truth.
25. Ryan Pace, Bears
Last Year’s Ranking: 20
Ryan Pace inherited an awful situation. Has he made it worse? His first draft pick, Kevin White, is shaping up as a certified bust. Last year’s first-rounder, Leonard Floyd, suffered through a concussion-marred rookie campaign. Pace wisely pulled the plug on Jay Cutler, but his backup plan — lavishing $16 million on Mike Glennon — has Brock Osweiler 2.0 written all over it. Pace handed out similarly questionable contracts to Kendall Wright and Markus Wheaton. Pace knows he has to fix his offense, but his 2017 offseason has contained more than a whiff of desperation. Pace arrived from New Orleans with an excellent reputation. Right now, that’s all he’s going on. General managers need time. Pace is getting his. 2017 will determine how much more.
26. Mike Tannenbaum, Dolphins
Last Year’s Ranking: 28
Mike Tannenbaum presides over the most confusing power structure in football. Chris Grier has the title of general manager. Coach Adam Gase apparently has final say over the 53-man roster. Who does anything in particular is never exactly clear. Clearer is Tannenbaum’s checkered track record, and devotion to big spending and draft daring. Tannenbaum has established a distinctly-Jets trajectory in Miami except for one key difference: Hiring Gase. That brilliant decision helped mask a lot of bad ones in 2016 (hello, Mario Williams). It didn’t stamp them out, however. Restricted free agent Kiko Alonso’s extension was unnecessary and risky. Re-signing 2016 free agent bargain Andre Branch to a three-year, $24 million contract was one of the worst moves of the offseason. Good franchises don’t extend their Andre Branchs. They try to find the next one. Tannenbaum is going to make life hard on Gase. He could make things easier for both of them by letting Gase’s influence grow. The most promising NFL coaching prospect in years, Gase will almost certainly be the best decision of Tannenbaum’s tenure. Tannenbaum should maximize Gase’s impact by lessening his own.
27. Mike Maccagnan, Jets
Last Year’s Ranking: 12
Sooner or later, it all gets Jets. It was sooner for Mike Maccagnan, who got food poisoning on the way home from his honeymoon season. After everything worked in 2015, none of it did in 2016. Darrelle Revis’ transmission died. Brandon Marshall’s started to lurch. Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson didn’t even bother to start the car. Ryan Fitzpatrick played quarterback like he was on mushrooms, and coach Todd Bowles was bewildered on the sideline. It was a bad, bad year. Things could still get worse. 2016 first-rounder Darron Lee looked lost as a rookie, and second-rounder Christian Hackenberg was a wasted pick from the second it was made. Help is not on the way. Maccagnan made only cosmetic additions in free agency. He has accepted that the Jets cannot be reloaded. They must be rebuilt. It’s anyone’s guess if Maccagnan is the man for the job.
28. Les Snead, Rams
Last Year’s Ranking: 18
Les Snead still has his job, but he no longer has his alibi. With Jeff Fisher gone, there’s no one to hide behind. Snead has to own a roster that’s been historically inept on offense and riddled with underachievers on defense. To his credit, Snead has approached 2017 with a sense of urgency. He replaced Fisher with his polar opposite, making offensive-minded Sean McVay the youngest head coach in NFL history. Next, he lured LT Andrew Whitworth from the Bengals, filling a hole the Rams have had since Orlando Pace left St. Louis. Letting Kenny Britt walk in favor of Robert Woods was questionable, but clearly at the behest of his new head coach. Snead’s biggest problems as he untangles the headphone cords of the Fisher era are directly related. He doesn’t have a first-round pick. He flushed it down the toilet in last year’s calamitous trade for Jared Goff. With no signal caller or first-rounder, it’s going to be hard to get this gas guzzler out of neutral. It will likely end up a job for another man.
29. Doug Whaley, Bills
Last Year’s Ranking: 17
The Buffalo News believes it’s “only a matter of time” until Doug Whaley is fired. If true, Whaley won’t be able to claim he didn’t see it coming. Whaley tied one hand behind his back before he was even officially hired, orchestrating the Bills’ doomed selection of E.J. Manuel at No. 16 overall in 2013. Since, he’s trafficked in big names and bold moves, but not enough wins. Whaley has been a bad drafter whose best pick, Sammy Watkins, was made only after a questionable trade up in the deepest receiver class of all time. Even when Whaley makes good moves he has trouble reaping the benefits. Tyrod Taylor was an afterthought stroke of genius in Whaley’s typically expensive 2015 free agent class. Instead of trying to build around Taylor, he sabotaged him, benching him in Week 17 last season for Manuel(!). He lost the argument he never should have started when ownership sided with new coach Sean McDermott on Taylor, retaining him on a restructured contract. Whaley has never lacked for big ideas. It’s a brave way to attack roster building. What we forget about bravery is that it often ends in failure. It appears that’s what the Bills have deemed Whaley.
Chris Ballard, Colts
Chris Ballard arrives hyped, but is stepping into a pressure cooker. Led by a deceptively-imperious owner in Jim Irsay, the Colts have struggled to back-to-back 8-8 records, squandering two years of Andrew Luck’s prime. With Irsay demanding bad moves and ex-GM Ryan Grigson making plenty on his own, Indy’s roster has become dangerously thin. Knowing he can’t sit back and wait to draft and develop, Ballard has been active in free agency, signing OLB Jabaal Sheard, OLB John Simon, OLB Barkevious Mingo, ILB Sean Spence and Kamar Aiken. Hardly flashy, but necessary depth moves. Known as an expert scout, Ballard’s next order of business will be coming away from the draft with 2-3 immediate contributors. Ballard has a top-three building block in Luck. His chances of success will depend on how often Irsay tears up the blueprint.
John Lynch, 49ers
John Lynch got the 49ers job through a cold call. Seriously. The longtime safety and excellent T.V. analyst dialed up new coach Kyle Shanahan and “volunteered for the job.” It was so crazy, everyone in the Niners’ front office apparently thought it might work. Lynch, a 15-year veteran and former All-Pro, doesn’t lack for football knowledge. After learning from Dennis Green and Bill Walsh at Stanford, he played for Sam Wyche, Tony Dungy, Jon Gruden and Mike Shanahan in the pros. Lynch oozed Xs and Os working alongside Kevin Burkhardt at FOX. His résumé is decidedly more impressive than Matt Millen’s, someone he will be compared to often in the early going. All that being said, there’s still no way to sugarcoat it: Lynch is a massive gamble. The 49ers needed a fresh perspective after the decay of the Trent Baalke era. No one can say they didn’t get it.
Bruce Allen, Redskins
The Redskins’ former general manager finds himself back in his old job by way of a shameful power struggle. Bruce Allen undermined Scot McCloughan into the unemployment line, then made sure to smear him with enough innuendo and insinuation to fill a book. McCloughan flatly denies he was let go because of his past drinking problems. He believes it had more to do with Allen’s glaring insecurity. It’s one man’s word against another. Allen’s past — and tacit approval of owner Daniel Snyder — loses him the benefit of the doubt. McCloughan may be the one out of a job, but it's the Redskins who are the real losers. Allen isn’t up to the challenge. He was a disaster in Tampa Bay and an even bigger one in Washington. Fans can only pray his second go-around is temporary.