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To the promise land

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During the lockout, the issue of undrafted rookies came up time and again. It was originally thought that the abridged offseason would hinder those players' chances of making a team as they would not benefit from minicamps and workouts.

However, once the dust settled, that hasn't been the case.

A total of 58 undrafted rookies were named to active rosters this past weekend, which happens to be the most since 2003 (63) and one more than last season.

"With a short offseason, that is actually a really surprising stat," said tight end Jake Ballard, who went undrafted out of Ohio State in 2010. 

The Giants contributed to that number with three of their own – linebackers Mark Herzlich and Spencer Paysinger and fullback Henry Hynoski.

"Being in the position I was in, you kind of respect that more," Ballard said. "These guys have made the team. I got hurt and was on the practice squad. So I mean that was better than I did. You definitely respect them and you keep telling them, giving them confidence, like, 'Hey, man, they kept you on the team. That means they know you can play and they think you have a lot of potential. So don't worry about staying on the team. Worry about doing your assignment and getting better every day.'"

The Chicago Bears topped the list with five while the Dallas Cowboys, Indianapolis Colts and Seattle Seahawks all have four.

"The teams are getting smarter with who they are signing as undrafted free agents, and players are getting smarter where they sign," Gil Brandt, the league's draft consultant and a former general manager with the Dallas Cowboys, told the Associated Press. "The players now look at it as: 'Do I have a better chance with Dallas or with Seattle?' And they go where they think they have the chance."

That's one reason. Another is that while coaches sat around without bodies during the work stoppage, they had more time with their scouts to fully dissect the pool of potential signees. Brandt believes that's the reason why the undrafted rookies benefited most.

"That's hitting it right on the head," Brandt said. "The rookies got all that additional time from coaches looking at them (on video), and then all that additional time on the field in camp. It's paid off for them."

Ballard agreed and said that front offices around the league were able to evaluate more concretely.

"Some undrafted free agents might have something against them like maybe they don't have the best combine workouts or something like that," Ballard said. "But you turn on the film, they're players. And then they come into camp and maybe they're not the same player they were in college. That happens and can go both ways."


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