2013 NFL Draft: New Draft Value
March 7, 2013 by luckylester
The NFL Draft isn’t quite what it used to be. It’s not better (unless you’re a lower draft pick), it’s not worse (unless you’re a first or second rounder), but the value of draft picks (especially First Rounders) is different than ever before. Hitting on draft picks isn’t the must that it once was, even if it is a salary cap saver if you do. I’ve read some interesting articles on draft value, this one has some great stuff on the percentages of valuable players from certain rounds but when I’m looking at the draft I’m not looking at the percent chance of getting a good player in some random slot. Good teams draft well, bad teams struggle – if that’s in the 1st 2nd or 7th round, it doesn’t really matter. What I’m talking about when I say the draft just isn’t what it used to be, is the salary impact of a good player, or of a miss (Ryan Leaf, and most recently Jason Smith, here’s looking at you, kids).
I’m arguing that the top draft slots are more valuable now than they’ve ever been, and that the first round is a spot where you can take more chances than you used to be able to before the new CBA. Here’s a breakdown of why rookie salaries under the new CBA are so much smaller. In short, it says that the teams have salary cap rules imposed for rookies and that the lump sum in which the NFL is allowed to spend on rookies now includes signing bonuses (where it didn’t before). This benefits veterans in a way because soon teams will have to spend a certain percentage of the salary cap, meaning vets will pick up the change rookies are loosing. This also protects teams at the top of the draft when they make mistakes (ahem, Jamarcus Russell). Still, the young pups are taking a big hit. How big?
Look at these salary differences from 2009-2012 (the CBA took effect in 2011 for the first time):
1st: Matthew Stafford – 6yrs $72 Million, 42 Million guaranteed
2nd: Jason Smith – 6yrs $61.7 Million, 33 Million guaranteed
3rd: Tyson Jackson – 5yrs $57 Million, 31 Million guaranteed
30th: Kenny Britt – 5yrs $12.25 Million, 6.5 Million guaranteed
62nd: Sean Smith – 4yrs $3.1 Million, 1.36 Million guaranteed
140th: Johnny Knox – 4yrs $1.95 Million
1st: Sam Bradford – 6yrs $86 Million, 50 Million guaranteed
2nd: Ndamakong Suh – 5yrs $68 Million, 40 Million guaranteed
3rd: Gerald McCoy – 5yrs $63 Million, 35 Million guaranteed
30th: Jahvid Best – 5yrs $12.7 Million, 7.1 Million guaranteed
62nd: Brandon Spikes – 4yrs $3.2 Million, 1.4 Million guaranteed
140th: Ed Wong – 4yrs $1.99 Million
1st: Cam Newton – 4yrs $22 Million, all guaranteed
2nd: Von Miller – 4yrs $21 Million
3rd: Marcell Dareus – 4yrs $20.4 Million
30th: Muhammed Wilkerson – 4yrs $7.4 Million
62nd: Daniel Thomas – 4yrs $3.23 Million
141th: D.J. Williams – 3yrs $1.395 Million
1st: Andrew Luck – 4yrs $22.1 Million, all guaranteed
2nd: Robert Griffin III – 4yrs $21.12 Million
3rd: Trent Richardson – 4yrs $20.4 Million
30th: A.J. Jenkins – 4yrs $6.95 Million
62nd: Casey Hayward – 4yrs $3.3 Million
139th: Robert Blanton – 4yrs $2.3 Million
So what do these numbers mean? Aside from the fact that teams pay about a third the total salary for high draft picks than they did a couple years ago, the draft slots at the top of the draft have gone up significantly (in my book). There’s no question that higher draft picks succeed more often – check the first link, I didn’t do the research, but someone did! But that high success rate used to come with a very big cost – now it’s not a big deal. I know that many football fans would rather have Luck, Newton, and RGIII running their teams than Sam Bradford and Matthew Stafford, but lets take the success of the players out of the equation.
When 2011 came around and the draft went down everybody was talking about this “huge risk” that the Panthers were taking by selecting Cam Newton. But looking at how the draft works now, there wasn’t much risk at all, not when you’re considering the reward if that pick hit (and it did, even if you note Cam’s struggles last year and his inability to win football games thus far, it’s still a success). If they missed, it’s not like they were bought in for 40 million guaranteed and nearly 80 million bucks.
The most important thing that I’m getting at here is that the draft has completely changed near the top. Those picks are more valuable than ever, and the Washington Redskins and Atlanta Falcons figured that out before anyone else. The Falcons gave up a little more value than the old draft value chart suggested they should, and many said they gave up too much to get Julio Jones. But did they? No. They grabbed a top pick and went for homerun with Jones, but the financial consequences weren’t there if they missed, not at the rate a pick like that used to be, anyway. The Redskins traded “draft value” in terms of picks and future picks to move up to #2 to select Robert Griffin III. Homerun. That being said, they’re only paying him 21 million over 4 years, so that #2 has to be worth a lot more than it was when it was 68 million over 6 years just two drafts ago.
NFL teams should take note when it comes to trading early draft picks – they aren’t the black money hole they once were, and picks later in the draft are about they same as they always were, making their value differential much less than the top of the draft.
Some teams are looking at the new salary cap restrictions and trying to build with multiple picks in the draft, trading earlier picks for later ones as the Patriots have done throughout the years. But the first round is different now, and soon 1st round picks will go from gold to platinum, more pricy than ever before. Some teams have figured that out – soon nobody will check with the old “pick value chart” when making a trade into the Top 10.
Great players, great possibility, much lower risk. What’s not to like? This year I don’t see a quarterback going in the Top 5. That used to be a must as at least it made sense to pay a quarterback those big bucks. Now guys like Sharrif Floyd, Star Lotulelei, and Chance Warmack, top rated guys at positions which teams would never have wanted to pay 60 million bucks, might just see their names picked early, maybe even the Top 5, because their contracts aren’t eyesores for their positions like they used to be (Suh for 68 million, for example, a good player but a defensive tackle for 68 mill? Yikes).