With Super Bowl XLVII set to take place on Sunday in New Orleans, fans of the other 30 teams around the league are wondering what it will take for their respective teams to play on the league’s biggest stage a year from now. While player development is different in every organization, there is one clear similarity between both the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens who are matched up in this year’s big game in the Big Easy: success in the NFL Draft.
Now clearly the draft and the Super Bowl are on two totally different ends of the spectrum as one is the genesis of a career in the NFL while the other represents the pinnacle of the sport. You can’t have one without the other however and this year’s participants illustrate that fact perhaps better than any in recent memory.
Of their 53-man rosters heading into this game, the Ravens have just 13 players who weren’t drafted while the 49ers have only 12. Just 25 of the total 106 players taking part in the big game on Sunday didn’t hear their names called on draft day! That is a staggering statistic.
For the Ravens, their one consistent force has been GM Ozzie Newsome who has been with the franchise since 1996. His draft track record is clearly evidenced on the team’s roster and in particular the class of 2008. Their offensive backfield IS the class of 2008 in many respects with Joe Flacco being the first round pick and Ray Rice the second round selection of that year.
Don’t think for a second that the Niners haven’t been just as productive on draft day. San Francisco GM Trent Baalke has been in his current position since the start of 2011, but has been with the franchise since 2005. Both the classes of 2010 and 2011 were incredibly impressive for the Niners who added tackle Anthony Davis, guard Mike Iupati, and linebacker Navarro Bowman in 2010 along with both Aldon Smith and Colin Kaepernick in the first two rounds of 2011.
It may be the most overlooked aspect of Super Bowl week, but for all of those teams watching the big game from the couch, the draft is the lifeblood of the big game. This year is the best example possible of just how important the draft can be to constructing a championship roster and you can bet that whichever teams are vying for the trophy next year will be able to make very similar claims.