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Three General Managers With a Lot at Stake in the NFL Draft

Teams can shape the trajectory of their franchises in the draft, and these three General Managers have a lot riding on their rookie class.
General Managers Draft

The 2024 NFL Draft has a chance to change the future for teams. Every year, a player or pick defines the story of the draft. This year, three general managers face pressure to nail the draft.

3 General Managers With the Most to Lose In the NFL Draft

Ryan Poles: Chicago Bears

The Chicago Bears fanbase is excited about landing Caleb Williams (the presumed #1 pick), but the Bears still have questions at a few key positions. Not only does Poles have to address needs along the offensive and defensive lines, but he has to prove that he nailed the Justin Fields situation. Fields is no longer on the team, but Chicago stuck with the former Ohio State star instead of selecting last year’s first overall selection. While Bryce Young has been off to a rough start in Carolina, C.J. Stroud looks like a bonafide star in Houston.

Hindsight is always 20/20. But Chicago’s 2023 blockbuster trade with Carolina came in early March when there was still plenty of scouting to do on the top quarterbacks. The Bears were fortunate that Carolina’s 2023 season was bad enough to put them in a position to draft Williams and not settle for the next tier of quarterbacks.

Poles has done a commendable job in most respects in rebuilding the Bears. He has mixed aggressive trades for proven veterans with a few solid free-agent signings. Last year’s draft class provided a handful of promising players. But the fate of the Bears under his watch rests solely on this draft. Williams might be the consensus top quarterback in this class, but the team must also nail their second first-round pick. How Poles handles this draft will have much to do with the team’s future and could determine the General Managers long-term future with the team.

Trent Baalke: Jacksonville Jaguars

Like Caleb Williams, Trevor Lawrence was considered by many to be a generational prospect. After picking Lawrence first overall in 2021, the Jaguars have underwhelmed.  Lawrence has failed to throw for more than 25 touchdowns in a season and has two seasons with more than 13 interceptions. He has a lot to prove in 2024. Baalke was promoted to General Manager of the Jaguars months before Lawerence was drafted, but the former 49ers executive has also underwhelmed in Jacksonville. His decision to spend big money on wide receivers and select Travon Walker over Aidan Hutchinson has not aged well.

Jacksonville’s free agency spending in 2024 was at least buoyed by the signings of Ezra Cleveland, Mitch Morse, and Arik Armstead. But Baalke again spent big on Gabe Davis, who has been anything but consistent throughout his career. While there’s justification to keep surrounding Lawrence with weapons, the team must capitalize on his cheap rookie deal by making a big playoff push in 2024. Lawrence is in line for a massive extension, which means the team will have to nail this draft to find young, cheap talent. With only one playoff win under his watch, Baalke must do more to push this Jaguars team over the top and contend deep into the postseason. That starts with having a successful draft.

George Paton: Denver Broncos

Perhaps no other General Manager faces as much pressure in the 2024 NFL Draft as Paton. After botching the trade for Russel Wilson and making an aggressive move to trade for Sean Payton, Denver enters this season with minimal draft capital and a tight salary cap. Paton has been in charge of the Broncos since 2021. His history in the draft has been far from stellar, and he has moved on from two key players (Justin Simmons and Wilson) not long after signing them to massive extensions. Sean Payton has significant power in the building, which leaves speculation behind how safe Paton’s job is as General Manager.

The Broncos are in rebuild mode, but they must use this upcoming draft as a platform to expedite that rebuild by picking cornerstone players with high floors. With the 12th overall pick, Denver should be able to move around if they receive a favorable trade offer. Teams will likely be looking to move up for a quarterback or receiver of their liking, which should allow the Broncos to trade back. While there’s speculation that Payton wants to land a top quarterback, it will likely require them to move up by leveraging significant draft capital. The Broncos are better off using this draft as a vessel to rebuild a roster that has been gutted. Paton is one of the three General Managers with a lot at stake in the NFL Draft.

Main Photo: Trevor Ruszkowski – USA Today Sports


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