UPDATED 4/28/11 - Wednesday marked the end of the Broncos' pre-draft visits, meetings and workouts, and as promised we've been tracking them all. The prospects are listed in groupings by position, along with their school, the nature of their reported interaction with the Broncos (whether it be a Dove Valley visit, private workout, Combine meeting, or reported interest) and the most recent source (with link) to confirm those interactions.
Aside from the change to its modern name in 1922, the biggest change in the NFL's history to this point in our story was created out of a foundering attempt to buy a baseball or a football franchise. A quiet, genteel progeny of a Texas-sized family fortune listened to a man named Branch Rickey - the same Branch Rickey who invented baseball’s farm system, became president of and managed the Brooklyn Dodgers, broke the color barrier by signing Jackie Robinson, and who would in 1967 be voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Rickey was trying to put together a third baseball associations to compete with the National and American Leagues, and his concept was the Continental Baseball League. He wanted backers, men who could buy franchises but who had been shut out of the first two leagues.
With the merger of the AAFC teams into the NFL, the league was poised to change the way that people viewed the game culturally and literally. The 1950s saw a wide variety of changes to the NFL game that would have repercussions that still reverberate today, and none was bigger than the movement of the games to the newly developed technology, the television. As NFL legend Tex Schramm, who would coordinate the merger of the AFL and NFL, would note, “The Fifties were the decade in which everyone became a watcher instead of a doer.” Television ownership rocketed from around 172,000 in 1949 to over 25 million in 1954. The effects on the game of football were beyond imagining.
As we move along from the Combine to Pro Days and private workouts, many of the players who may end up on Denver’s board this year are showing what they do - and don’t - do well. There’s no doubt that Denver needs help on the defensive line, especially after yesterday's release of Justin Bannan and Jamal Williams. And if we can believe Brian Xanders and his Mouth of Sauron tendency to speak for Head Coach John Fox, Denver may need some linebackers as well. They do need another safety, and the situation with Ryan Harris, unless solved prior to the draft, may make finding a RT necessary. At the very least, a backup tackle with actual skills seems to be essential, given the time that Harris has spent on the injury report throughout his career. A running back is likely in the mid to later rounds - Denver has one 1st-, two 2nd-, one 3rd-, one 6th- and one 7th-round pick - and they may parlay any of them into more picks. As things stand, they have four picks in the top 67, and that’s nothing to sneeze at.
Back in 2008 at about this same time of the year, with both the Combine and the draft upcoming, I found myself looking back through the history of the NFL to try and learn exactly how each of those two essential processes had begun. I quickly found that there was a vast wealth of information available on the subject, and starting collecting books that referenced them, articles that covered their past as well as the present, and I also started questioning people who I knew were familiar with those subjects. The history of the draft is interwoven into the NFL, which was the first league to hold a reverse-order draft for its teams. Last Monday, we examined the league's formative decades -the 1920s and '30s; today we'll take a look at the monumental developments that followed in the 1940s. I hope you'll enjoy it.
As we prepare for the upcoming draft, it's worth looking back to discover the history of the event, which is intricately tied to the birth and development of the league, and its attempts to deal with salaries, eligibility and team building. Over the next several weeks, I'm going to offer a partial history of the patterns and practices of the NFL Draft that will touch on those issues, as well as those of the practice of scouting, team success and even the beginnings of the computer age, each of which has played its own role in the history of the league. Come along with me as I stroll back into the past, to a time before the Great Depression, when an organization changed its name and became a national institution that would endure, flourish and grow over the next 90-plus years into the remarkable entity we know as the National Football League.