Each week leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: Decision-makers.
This is the only team in the AFC West without a clear-cut draft leader, publicly at least. Coach Josh McDaniels, general manager Brian Xanders and college scouting director Matt Russell are part of the team’s draft decision-making team. Make no mistake, McDaniels plays a very big role in the team’s drafting philosophy as he does in every football decision. The Broncos are reluctant to address who makes the final call, but everything goes through McDaniels. If he doesn’t want to coach a player, he won’t have to. He has a lot of power in Denver.
General manager Scott Pioli makes the call in Kansas City. When the Chiefs hired him away from the New England Patriots -- where he was Bill Belichick’s top lieutenant -- after the 2008 season, it was made clear that he would run the football operations in Kansas City. The Hunt family believes in one-voice leadership. Pioli has embraced his role very well. He is a believer in leadership starting at the top. He runs a tight ship and it is clear he will make the final call. He has a good relationship with coach Todd Haley (whom Pioli hired). I know Haley has some voice in the team’s drafting plans. But it’s Pioli who pulls the trigger on the draft decisions.
Is there any question about this? There may not be a more undisputed leader than Al Davis on any professional team. This is Davis’ show. Davis, 80, makes the final call on everything in Oakland. He has others in the organization, including coach Tom Cable, do leg work and give input, but Davis doesn’t need any help making the call. There have been pleas from Oakland fans for Davis to hire a general manager, but he has been reluctant to do so. It's clear Davis still relishes making the decisions and he trusts his judgment more than others. Despite slowing down in recent years, Davis reviews film of college prospects and is in constant contact with Oakland scouts.
This is a classic leadership situation. A.J. Smith is the general manager in San Diego. He is responsible for making all football-related decisions since he took over in San Diego in 2003. Smith has become known as one of the best drafters in the NFL. He is an aggressive draft-day trader. He has no problem trading up or down. Smith is a very confident leader. He’s in charge and he isn’t afraid of doing his job.