On the field and in the front office in the NFL, there are staff who play checkers.
These are men and women who are great in their day to day capacity, and help to develop players and keep football operations running along.
Such individuals are important to an organization and should not be taken for granted.
However, there are others who have the special ability to assess the current needs of a team, while still keeping an eye on the future.
Their ability to hit on draft picks, strike swiftly in free agency, and improve the overall talent of a roster is what allows certain general managers to play chess.
Here are three of the best general managers heading into the 2021 season, who have built their teams impressively, and whose rosters are setup for future success.
3. Brandon Beane
It certainly looks like the Buffalo Bills have struck gold with the duo they plucked away from the Carolina Panthers.
Head coach Sean McDermott has received more attention in recent years for the job he has done on the sidelines in Buffalo, but general manager Brandon Beane deserves a major pat on the back as well.
His most masterful stroke of genius came during the 2018 NFL Draft, where Beane had to decipher which of the five round one quarterbacks he would choose to lead his team into the future.
He traded up to seventh overall to grab Allen, who has been one of the best young quarterbacks in the league.
Beane has also built a nice receiving corps for Allen to work with, trading for Pro Bowler Stefon Diggs before last season.
— Brandon Beane ➐ (@brandonbeane17) December 10, 2020
2. Chris Ballard
Throughout the Andrew Luck era in Indianapolis, the constant theme always seemed to center around the lack of protection the former number one overall pick had each year.
When Chris Ballard took over as general manager before the 2017 offseason, his vision for the construction of the roster started from the trenches.
He hit a home run with the selection of Quenton Nelson in the 2018 NFL Draft, who for all intents and purposes, is on track to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame someday.
Ballard also scored big later in that draft, selecting linebacker Darius Leonard from South Carolina State.
All Leonard has done is make two All-Pro teams in his three seasons in the league.
It looks like Ballard may also have found lightning in a bottle in his backfield, selecting Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor in second round of last year’s draft.
Taylor really came on down the stretch of last season, rushing for multiple touchdowns in three of his last four games.
1. Jason Licht
It’s entirely possible that before March 2020, only die-hard football connoisseurs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans knew who general manager Jason Licht was.
He has actually served as Tampa Bay’s general manager since 2014, but the team had not qualified for the postseason until their Super Bowl run last year.
Licht certainly deserves credit for preparing an appealing case to living legend Tom Brady, who decides to take his talents to Tampa last offseason.
Just a couple ex bartenders hanging out. pic.twitter.com/C9Z7BQYSZH
— Jason Licht (@jasonrlicht) February 8, 2021
That move alone will be enough to catapult his NFL resume amongst his peers, but don’t lose sight of the team he built in order to tempt Brady in the first place.
Talented defenders like Shaq Barrett, Jason Pierre-Paul, Vita Vea, Carlton Davis and Jamel Dean were brought in by Licht throughout his tenure, in addition to all of the more famous offensive weapons the team has.