Football players and coaches might win championships, but general managers build championship rosters. At least, the good ones do.
With the 2021 NFL Draft inching closer, NFL Network ranked all 32 NFL general managers based on their historical performance in the draft. Following Tampa Bay's Super Bowl LV victory in February, Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht comes in near the top of the list.
3) Jason Licht, Buccaneers
Best pick: Tristan Wirfs | Round 1 (No. 13), 2020
Worst pick: Vernon Hargreaves III | Round 1 (No. 11), 2016
Licht's tenure in Tampa makes the case for being patient. He survived Lovie Smith, Dirk Koetter, Jameis Winston and three double-digit-loss seasons to come out the other side a champion with the help of Tom Brady and Bruce Arians. Despite the flashy free-agent signings in recent years, Licht built the Bucs' foundation through the draft, with Ali Marpet, Vita Vea, Chris Godwin, Devin White, Carlton Davis, Donovan Smith and Sean Murphy-Bunting all playing massive roles in the team's title. These were good players before Brady arrived, and the stellar 2020 draft class (headlined by Tristan Wirfs and Antoine Winfield Jr.) helped put the team over the top.
Licht received his fair share of flak over the years as a drafter, namely for the selections of Winston and Hargreaves, as mentioned above, as well as kicker Roberto Aguayo and defensive end Noah Spence in the second round of the same class as Hargreaves. Aguayo was off the roster within a year while Spence was gone after three seasons. No member of the 2016 Buccaneers' draft class remains on the roster.
Naturally, Licht got a bad wrap for those early misses. But it would be naive to suggest that his improvements as a drafter didn't help secure a championship this past season.
In fact, 12 of Tampa Bay's 22 Super Bowl starters were hand-selected by Licht in previous draft classes, nine of which coming from the last four drafts and six from the last two.
That tally doesn't include the likes of running back Ronald Jones II, who split carries with former free agent aquisition Leonard Fournette, nose tackle Vita Vea, who had recently returned from the injured reserve and played in a rotation, or right guard Alex Cappa, who was injured in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.
Sure, the addition of Tom Brady and a couple of other free agents put the Buccaneers' roster in playoff contention this past season. However, Licht's improvement in the NFL Draft arguably deserves an equal amount of credit in bringing the Super Bowl trophy back to Tampa Bay.