Tuesday, April 27, 2004

A Theory on The Draft (NFL DRAFT)
After watching my Browns trade up one slot and foregoing their second round pick, I can't help but feel we got the short stick. Recap - the Browns traded up from 7 to 6 in order to draft Kellen Winslow Jr., supposedly the next Kellen Winslow Sr./Jeremy Shockey, meaning one of the top two tight ends for the next 10 years. If he ends up being the next great tight end, great - I'd be thrilled.

However, there is a matter of lost opportunity. By picking Winslow they forewent picking other players with their draft picks, trading them for veterans, or trading down for extra draft picks. Further, there is a matter of risk. By having all of their eggs in one basket, a contract holdout, injury, or simple misjudgment of talent becomes ever more costly.

In the past, these costs were belittled by the argument that all the great teams have built through the draft - and that the team trading up is the team that usually gets the better of the deal. However, recently there has been a change in the system that personnel directors have been slow to come to grips with - the salary cap. Players at the very top of the draft are paid significantly more than players just a few slots down. If you are "fortunate" enough to have drafted in the top three for several years, your cap space will be largely used up on three or four players that may be stars, but just as often will be busts or still-developing projects a few years out. To compensate for the loss of salary cap room, mid level veterans, who have just come to their own and would often resign with their drafting team for a cheaper amount than testing free agency are forced out, because the money isn't even there to pay them this lesser amount. When money is finally cleaned to better the team, it ends up being used for a stop-gap solution - either overpaying for a veteran from free agency or taking a chance on an "instant" impact player at the top of the draft (who may or may not pan out, but will be paid high either way restarting the process).

On the other hand, drafting low and trading down can clean cap space. Players go from being decenlty priced in the mid-first round to being downright bargains from the third round onward (if they pan out, they are locked in relatively close to minimum salary contracts for several years, they don't they get cut with little/no damage to the salary cap). These salary cap dynamics may very well be altering the age old dynamic - instead of being better of drafting high sure things, a team can best look after its long term interest by trading DOWN repeatedly, stockpiling picks, signing them for cheap amounts, plug the savings into getting only moderatly priced/value veterans, and finally being able to afford their good drafted players who pan out upon free agency.

Its just a theory. What do you think?

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