Thursday nights 1st round on ESPN marked the first draft in the last few decades with a rookie wage scale in place. Due to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) consumated after the NFL draft last year and during the summer, old rules were in place as General Managers were not sure how much potential draftees would be compensated.
In the past, 2010 1st Pick Sam Bradford had been guarenteed over 50 million dollars before he had even taken a snap, more guarenteed money that Timmy Brady or Peyton Manning had secured after a decade of demonstrating year in and year out All-Pro dominance. This is backwards, as the league should be geared to rewarding veterans who earned a higher salary rather than gifting an unproven 22 year old kid with such riches. In the past, General Managers were always eager to trade out of the top five. This made sense, given the high potential bust right for top picks and the amount of money they would have had to fork over just to get the rookie into training camp.
This year, it was a whole new ballgame with a rookie wage scale in place. The 1st pick in this draft will receive something along the lines of 4 years and 22 million dollars. Surely, a rich deal by the standards of anybody in a differnent industry, but a 6 million dollar cap hit is more than reasonable for top end talent in the league.
To demonstrate the new wage system, look no further than Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots. Pats fans had spent the last 5 years of drafts clamoring for difference makers year after year. Pass Rusher. Corner. Wide Receiver. All the fans wanted the recognizeable names we all knew from college football. We wanted Bill to trade up and grab somebody notable (the patriots select in the late 20s every year). Yet, come draft day, all we saw was the Patriots trading down and collecting “value picks”, hearing that the 2nd round (and a 1 million/year salary) were the most valuable players in the draft. Nothing frustrates a fan more than waiting around 2 and a half hours for the pick to come, only to see that we had traded down for value, for additional picks, or for an obscure offensive lineman from Fresno State.
This year, Belichick was ruthless, moving up twice in the first round alone. Going into the draft with 2 1st rounders and 2 second rounders, Bill identified targets and went after them. He packaged a 3rd rounder along with #27 to move up to 21 and grab Upstate NY native Chandler Jones, Syracuse Defensive End and brother of UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Bones Jones. Then, after Alabama Linebacker Dont’A Hightower slipped past the Steelers at 24, The patriots once again packaged an extra pick (4th Rounder) with #31 to move up six spots to snag him. All of the sudden, the front seven help had arrived. Two 6’5 young defensive talents with long arms and the ability to get to the QuarterBack. Future results aside, the raw talent that Patriots Nation had been craving was now on the team.
This marked the first time that Belicheck had moved up in the draft since moving up a couple spots to nab Ty Warren in 2003. Since then, all we have seen and heard is trading down and value. This new (and sensible) wage scale all0wed veterans to receive the bulk of the money from the salary pools, and traditionally cautious teams to move up and be aggressive without crippling their future.
It will be very interesting to see how this trend unfolds into the future, as teams will get a feel for the new system and gain a concept of value on draft picks as it relates to the new system. The first year, a record 19 trades were made in the first round alone. Teams can now be agressive, peg a player, and go and get him…making the draft more unpredictable than everyone, specially those following Lord Belicheck