6 Keys to Building Strong NFL Franchises

6 Keys to Building Strong NFL Franchises

Each year, in every NFL team's war room, the tension is palpable. Hearts pound. Palms sweat. Aspirin is handy. The 2012 Draft will be no different.

Choices made between now and April 26's first round, and then on to the last pick on April 28, will play a large role in determining which teams rise and which teams fall. And, in which coaches and general managers stay and which ones go.

There are many ways to build a professional football team. But no matter how many trades you make, no matter how many free agents you sign, the draft is always critical. A solid draft can quickly change a team's identity, for better or worse.

Teams that consistently draft well have the best chance to sustain success, to avoid long periods of futility. New York Giants GM Jerry Reese makes excellent draft-day decisions. Four of the Giants' first-round picks since 2007 have become starters — Jason Pierre-Paul (2010), Hakeem Nicks (2009), Kenny Phillips (2008) and Aaron Ross (2007). And, not coincidentally, the Giants have won two Super Bowls in that time.

Green Bay Packers GM Ted Thompson has also used the draft as his primary tool for building a championship team. The Packers team that won Super Bowl XLV was built largely with Thompson picks — Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews, Jordy Nelson, Nick Collins, A.J. Hawk, Daryn Colledge, Greg Jennings, James Jones, Desmond Bishop, Mason Crosby, James Starks, Josh Sitton, B.J. Raji and Bryan Bulaga.

But here's the rub—and the most gut-wrenching part for those in charge of personnel: Luck plays a definite part in the process. Not Andrew Luck, but luck as in good fortune.

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