Nov 12, 2011; Manhattan, KS, USA; Texas A

Overdrafting isn't just for Banks Anymore

Top players have always gone at the top of their respective drafts and that hasn’t changed with the new CBA and rookie wage scale. The rookie wage scale is overall a good thing for the league for a number of reasons.

The days of drawn-out contract talks are gone. You’re drafted at X, you make Y money. It’s that simple. What that means is the veterans who have EARNED respect and a roster spot through their play actually get paid fair value now instead of seeing some cocky rookie come into camp with $50 million in guaranteed money not having ever played a single down.

The Law of Unintended Consequences means that this “redistribution of income” gives teams a freer hand in the draft and the ability to slide up and down the board more as they see fit. There have been previous seasons where a team might really want the #2 or #3 pick for a particular player but didn’t make the move up because the cost was too high in both money and draft picks. Sure, you can still waste a draft pick on risk/reward guy but that hasn’t changed.

What has changed is the financial commitment to these guys – it’s been cut by more than half from 2 years ago.

The other more unintended result is that teams are more willing than ever to part with draft choices because the double-whammy of a bad decision is now gone.

The result is another good thing for both the league and the fans. If RG3 winds up an unlikely bust, Washington will still be out a number of first-round draft picks, but the financial hit won’t be nearly as smackdownish. RG3 should get a contract similar to Cam Newton’s last year, a 4-yr $22 million deal with a $14.5 million signing bonus.

As a second-derivative consequence, the skins will have a lot more cap room over the next 2-3 years BECAUSE of that lack of high picks. The result of THAT means they’ll be even more heavily involved in Free Agency, with the cash and cap room to actually do it, than most others will be. They won’t be servicing even the reduced salaries of highly-touted rookies.

Certainly not chump change, but these days if you want a $60+ million dollar guaranteed contract, you better be an established superstar (Mario Williams, Peyton Manning, Megatron) who is in his prime (or in Manning’s case, hopefully not far removed from it) with an incredible body of work behind you.

And that’s who SHOULD be making the big money.

We fans had known this for decades, and the NFL and NFLPA finally fixed it. You want a pick, money’s now not an issue. You go get him if you have the trade bait to deal, whether it’s draft picks, veteran players, or some combination of the two.

The other result is much more activity and uncertainty on draft day itself. We’ve had one completed draft with the second of the new era nearly upon us, and there have already been two blockbuster trades involving the first round. Last year, it was Atlanta trading up with Cleveland to get Julio Jones, a #2 WR to Roddy White that the Falcons thought would be the final piece that would allow them to overtake stubborn division rival New Orleans.

We all know about Washington’s trade. BTW off the subject a little here, but am I the only one who sees the total irony that it was Washington that completely overpaid to move up 4 spots? I guess art imitates life in this respect with the budget shenanigans the politicians in Washington have been up to for a long time. I just thought it was was funny that it HAD to be Washington that profusely overpaid!

Now that this trade has been done, it doesn’t mean the wheeling and dealing is over.

Ryan Tannehill is a second-round talent at best who could wind up going in the top 10 because of the premium on the QB position. The NFL has been headed for more of a 7-on-7 style passing league with the run as somewhat an afterthought these days and we see that in how teams draft.

RBs and MLBs slide down the board as opposed to previous years while QBs, pass rushers and CBs are moving upward. It wasn’t that long ago that Ronnie Brown, Cedric Benson, and Cadillac Williams went 2-, 4-, and 5- in the draft. These days it’s rare for 3 RBs to go in ALL of round one and I don’t see 3 going in the top 5 again under current rules. Ever.

It’s the QBs that are now filling the void. Because the prices got cheaper in 2011 (for rookie arms), teams are much, much more willing to roll the dice, expose some future draft choices, and trade up to grab that player that they feel could put them into playoff contention. In a QB-driven league, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what position that usually is.

We will know how much and how desperate a certain team is depending on where Tannehill is drafted. My money is on either the Dolphins at 8, or the Browns at 7, using their pick from last year’s Atlanta/Jones deal to package with a 2nd rounder and possibly next year’s first to pry the 7th overall from Jacksonville, one of the NFL’s neediest teams.

In the past 10 days or so, the talk is now that a team will have to trade with the Vikings at #3 to be certain of getting Tannehill. If you look at RG3 and Andrew Luck vs. Ryan Tannehill, in NO WAY, SHAPE OR FORM is Tannehill even close to the level of the likely top two young arms in the draft. He shouldn’t normally even go in the first round, but again, we saw Gabbert and Ponder go 10th and 12th last season and the pressure in Miami is very high and fans are really focusing their anger on owner Stephen Ross and GM Jeff Ireland. It’s now almost expected they’ll move up to #3 and nab Tannehill or risk being literally run out of town. Amazing that (Miami Marlin manager) Ozzie Guillen isn’t even the most hated sports figure in his own city!

Teams are still punished on the field for poor drafting; they just aren’t paying out the cash for poor play which emboldens them to take chances.

The point to all this is simply that, with the rookie wage scale and QBs being as sought after as ever, we have a recipe for a lot of unexpected movement up through draft day along with QBs being overdrafted by an entire round or more simply due to the combination of need and relatively cheap price (in dollars) they can be had for…and it also makes stockpiling of picks (you listening, New England?) even that much more of a smart thing to do.

This leads to another effect we’ve yet to witness. Teams like the Pats who love to stockpile picks now don’t have such a barrier to actually move UP and draft someone they like. The better teams generally have fewer weaknesses (thus the Atlanta/Jones deal last season) so if the Patriots see someone sitting at, say, 14 or 15 that they “gotta have,” they might be smart to spend those 2 first-rounders to jump up and grab a sliding Quentin Coples or a Fletcher Cox, or perhaps they stay put in hopes a Dontari Poe slides down to them. We’ll know by the end of the month!

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Tags: Atlanta Falcons Cadillac Williams Cam Newton Cedric Benson Dontari Poe Fletcher Cox Jacksonville Jaguars Julio Jones Miami Dolphins Quentin Coples RG3 Ronnie Brown Ryan Tannehill

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