One of the things I keep seeing in our draft talk here is this idea that certain positions should be off the board at #2, because the position itself isn’t worth the value of that pick. I think this is dead wrong–an artefact of the pre-rookie wage scale days, and we need to jettison that idea.
Back before the rookie wage scale, through 2011, this argument totally made sense. At that time, when you took someone at the top of the draft, you were committing to pay them among the highest-paid players in the league. In 2009, Stafford got a 6 year deal worth $72 million. In 2010, Sam Bradford got 6 years, $78 million.
But starting in 2011? The top rookie contracts suddenly looked like this:
- 2011: Cam Newton, 4 years, $22 million
- 2012: Andrew Luck, 4 years, $22 million
A decade later, the contract numbers are higher, but still nowhere near what guys like Stafford and Bradford signed coming out of college. Today, even top-drafted rookies are still paid like rookies, not elite pro-bowlers, and they’re signed to shorter deals. Last year, Trevor Lawrence got 4 years, $36 million. Zack Wilson got 4 years, $35 million. Trey Lance got 4 years, $34 million.
These deals aren’t peanuts, but they’re NOT the anchor around a team’s neck that a top-5 rookie contract used to be. Not remotely. Even at the very top of the draft, these guys get reasonable, very team-friendly contracts.
The upshot: teams should forget about old ideas of which positions are “worth” those top picks. No matter who you sign, they will have a palatable contract. If they prove to be an elite player, they’ll be making half of what a vet at their position would get on the free market–and you’ll have a huge bargain. If they totally bust, it’s the equivalent of a mid-tier free agent not working out. The financial/cap risk is just not a big deal.
So pick whoever you want! Get the guy you think is the best pick there, regardless of position. You like the safety? Take the safety! If you think he’s going to be among the top safeties in the NFL, you’d be an idiot not to. Here’s what those guys are getting on the free market:
Jamal Adams, 4 years, $70 million
Harrison Smith, 4 years, $64 million
Justin Simmons, 4 years, $61 million
If you think Kyle Hamilton can be in that class, guess what? You can sign him right now for half of what those guys are getting. (Again, last year Zack Wilson got 4 years, $35 million.)
THAT’S what you’re deciding: which of these players do I think can be truly elite, that I want to sign at a half-off discount for four years? If you think Hamilton is more likely to be that guy than somebody like Thibodeaux or Willis, there is no reason whatsoever not to take him.