The NFL draft is all about player evaluation and you won’t find many better evaluators than the men we’ve listed here. While mistakes will always be made because player evaluation is a subjective process, these guys didn’t make very many over their careers.
Gil Brandt/Vice President of Player Personnel/Dallas Cowboys
Brandt has been called the “father of modern day scouting” because he was the first NFL executive known for using computers as far back as the 1960s. Brandt was responsible for discovering several Hall-of-Fame players over the 30 years he spent with the Cowboys.
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Ron Wolf/General Manager/Green Bay Packers
While many have given him praise for acquiring Brett Favre and signing defensive end Reggie White, Wolf was the architect of the early teams for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that eventually made it to the NFC Championship game in 1979. But he’s best known for putting together the Super Bowl team for the Packers of 1996.
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Ozzie Newsome/General Manager and Executive Vice President/Baltimore Ravens
Known in scouting circles as one of the best talent evaluators in the last 10 years or so, Newsome is responsible for putting together several successful drafts. He made calls in drafts which produced Pro Bowlers such as free safety Ed Reed, running back Jamal Lewis, cornerback Chris McAlister, tight end Todd Heap, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, inside linebacker Ray Lewis, left tackle Jonathan Ogden and several others since 1996. Newsome was also responsible for putting the 2000 Super Bowl winning team together.
Getty ImagesGreg Fiume
Bill Polian/President/Indianapolis Colts
You won’t find many personnel evaluators more accomplished than Polian. He put together four teams with the Buffalo Bills that made it to the Super Bowl in consecutive seasons. And he made one of the best decisions in NFL draft history by selecting Peyton Manning over Ryan Leaf in 1998. That decision paid off down the road when the Colts won the 2006 Super Bowl.
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Bobby Beathard/General Manager/Washington Redskins
Despite drafting Ryan Leaf when he was the GM of the Chargers, Beathard put together rosters for three Super Bowl championships with the Redskins over a 12-year period. And one of his teams with the Chargers still made it to the Super Bowl.
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George Halas/Owner/Chicago Bears
“Papa Bear” as he was known in NFL circles was the first known coach to have semi-daily practices in season. But Halas was also responsible for drafting players over the years like Hall-of–Famers linebacker Dick Butkus and running back Gale Sayers.
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Al Davis/Owner/Oakland Raiders
Say what you want about him, but Davis has selected some great players such as defensive end Howie Long, wide receiver Fred Biletnikoff, guard Gene Upshaw, offensive tackle Art Shell and many others in his nearly 50 years with the Raiders. Davis was one of the first decision makers to emphasize speed and the deep passing game on offense.
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Bill Walsh/Head Coach/San Francisco 49ers
While he’s known as the mastermind of the West Coast offense, Walsh was responsible for drafting such players as quarterback Joe Montana, wide receiver Jerry Rice, tight end Brent Jones, defensive end Charles Haley and many others. He was known in NFL circles for preferring to trade down in order to acquire as many draft selections as possible.
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Vince Lombardi/Head Coach and General Manager/Green Bay Packers
While he inherited a lot of veteran players after being named as head coach and general manager in 1959, the legendary coach put together five NFL Championship and Super Bowl winning teams. He added players like wide receiver Boyd Dowler, cornerback Herb Adderley and defensive end Lionel Aldridge.
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Art Rooney Jr./Director of Player Personnel/Pittsburgh Steelers
Rooney was responsible for the great Steelers drafts of the 1970s which yielded several Hall-of-Famers like quarterback Terry Bradshaw, running back Franco Harris, wide receivers Lynn Swann and John Stallworth, linebackers Jack Ham and Jack Lambert and cornerback Mel Blount. The 1971 and 1974 Steelers drafts were widely recognized as two of the best in NFL history.