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National Football League
Draft King Analysis

February 7, 2011
Lou Pickney,

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Congratulations are in order for the Green Bay Packers, the winners of Super Bowl 45 (XLV) in a slow-but-exciting 31-25 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. The smallest market in the NFL did it again, winning its fourth Super Bowl and capturing NFL Championship #13. Enjoy it, Green Bay fans. The Packers lost Charles Woodson and Donald Driver to injury in the game and still came out on top. Impressive job.

I watched the Super Bowl at a party hosted by a friend of my brother Matt. Apparently Christina Aguilera butchered the National Anthem, though I missed hearing most of it. They would have been better off playing her video for Genie In A Bottle based on what I witnessed from the kitchen during the performance.

The game itself was competitive and went down to the wire, which was nice to see. That has been the norm and not the exception in recent years, a refreshing departure from the mid 1980s when Super Bowls were often blowouts. For your consideration:

1/1984, Super Bowl XVIII: Los Angeles Raiders 38, Washington Redskins 9
1/1985, Super Bowl XIX: San Francisco 49ers 38, Miami Dolphins 16
1/1986, Super Bowl XX: Chicago Bears 46, New England Patriots 10
1/1987, Super Bowl XXI: New York Giants 39, Denver Broncos 20
1/1988, Super Bowl XXII: Washington Redskins 42, Denver Broncos 10

It was refreshing in Super Bowl 23 (XXIII) to see a last-minute finish between the 49ers and the Bengals, which was especially nice after five non-close Super Bowls in a row. Bengals fans might not have enjoyed the finish, but

To be sure, not every Super Bowl is going to be a classic. But with the changes the NFL made in 1993 with the advent of modern free agency and a salary cap, teams simply were no longer able to stockpile the kind of depth that they used to have. Pete Rozelle's vision of parity moved even closer to reality, making the evaluations by general managers and scouts become even more important. If you're not constantly replenishing your depth as an NFL team, you're asking for trouble.

This upcoming off-season will feature a unique challenge for teams in a number of ways if a new CBA isn't hammered out soon -- and there is no sign that any deal is imminent. There will be a draft in April no matter what, but the common practice of rushing to sign undrafted players following the draft won't be able to happen absent a new CBA. It might not seem important on the surface, but the undrafted free agent market provides potential diamonds in the rough that can end up being great help for teams.

To point, consider that Green Bay CB Sam Shields was an undrafted free agent signing, and he ended up playing in the Super Bowl for the Packers and filling the nickel corner role very well, especially considering that he fell all the way through the draft. Oregon RB LeGarrette Blount went undrafted, in no small part because of him punching a Boise State player following a game in 2009, but he signed with the Titans after the draft. He was a late cut, with the hope by Tennessee that he could end up on their practice squad, but the RB-needy Buccaneers sniped him off the waiver wire. He went on to have a 1,000+ yard rushing performance in 2010 for Tampa Bay.

Results will vary with free agent rookies, but they can help fill spots on special teams and provide depth for teams needing relatively inexpensive talent to fill the roster. If this isn't able to happen in April (which it won't without a new CBA), there will be teams having to do some creative things to fill their rosters. It also means that, whenever a new CBA goes into effect, there will be a land rush style blitz to sign the best rookie free agents available.


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