Best teams at developing players

Why these seven organizations are the most skilled at progressing talent

Originally Published: July 23, 2013
By Gary Horton | ESPN Insider

Jim HarbaughAP Foto/Matt SlocumJim Harbaugh and the San Francisco 49ers are among the best organizations at developing players.

In today's NFL, innovative schemes and solid coaching are very important, but the reality is that if you want to win consistently, you simply need good players. There is a premium on acquiring and developing good talent, and every NFL team knows that a strong scouting organization is the heart and soul of success on the field.

There are obviously different ways to go about this -- some teams like to attack free agency and spend big to fill roster holes and needs, while others see better value in building through the draft and maintaining their own core of players; both philosophies can work.

After reviewing all 32 NFL teams, I came up with seven organizations that I think do the best job in acquiring and developing talent.


1. San Francisco 49ers

This may be the most talented roster in the NFL, and most of the talent is homegrown. Their schemes are well-defined and these players know what the coaches want and expect. With Jim Harbaugh's college coaching background, there is an emphasis on fundamentals and teaching and his assistants are great at developing young players. General manager Trent Baalke always seems to have a forward-thinking plan. The 49ers may know their roster better than any other organization in the NFL, and they will pick players accordingly -- although they will use free agency to fill a specific need. Because they are so good at acquiring multiple picks, they have the luxury of taking some chances (like with Marcus Lattimore this past draft). When you study the 49ers, you get the feeling that they are always prepared and never surprised.

Gary Horton spent 10 years in the NFL as a scout and another 10 years at the college level as an assistant coach and recruiter. He is the founder and most seasoned member of the Scouts Inc. staff, and his extensive experience at all levels of football make him an excellent talent evaluator.