I suppose it's time to get a little more serious.
A little more than a week ago, I offered up a Mock Draft that served its name well. With the offensive players having just got done working out in Indianapolis, the piece was intended to mock us for our 10 second attention spans, offering up a look at what the first round may look like if all the NFL did was draft on knee-jerk responses to the NFL Combine. It was meant to be thematic, not an actual predictor of how the first round will play out. The aim was to breach new possibilities and facilitate discussion.
Some of you got it. Some of you didn't.
Here you will find something much more familiar. And yet, it is still my firm belief that Mock Drafts do not carry a whole lot of value as predictors until April. As such, even this Mock has some important themes that I attempted to hit on.
One such theme is the manner in which the rookie wage scale transforms the risk/reward profile of top 15 picks. I think those that assume the same position priorities as over the last decade are going to find out in the coming years that the absence of large, unwieldy contracts at the top of the Draft changes teams' priorities.
I believe two specific types of player will benefit from this transfiguration. The first is the typical high risk, high reward player. This includes the quarterback position, which is inherently very high risk and very high reward. The fact of the matter is the 'risk' portion of that equation has been reduced significantly by the rookie wage scale. Teams can now afford to play a little more fast and loose with their first round picks attempting to hit home runs instead of singles.
The second type of player that will benefit is the elite level player at a position that is not traditionally thought of as a top 10 or top 15 worthy position.
The prime example of this type of player is Stanford guard David DeCastro. Just two years ago a team would not even consider him for a pick at, let's say, #8 overall. Why? Because the #8 pick in the 2010 Draft collected a contract worth approximately $8 million a year. Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins of the Patriots signed a deal worth that amount after he had already attended Pro Bowls and confirmed his worth as an NFL player. In order to take David DeCastro without a rookie wage scale in place, you would have to be 100 percent certain that DeCastro is another Logan Mankins, and even then you have given yourself no potential for having drafted a player that ends up worth much more than his contract. I would say that most evaluators are about 80 or 90 percent certain that David DeCastro will be an excellent guard at the next level, but the lack of upside possibility really hung heavy over the idea of drafting a man at his position in the top 10.
Now at #8 overall, you only have to pay your draft pick about $3 million a year. Going back to the DeCastro example, if you are about 90 percent sure he will end up a Logan Mankins type player, there is now a strong incentive for picking him. You will be getting a player worth $32 million over four years, at the price of only $12 million over four years, thereby extending your salary cap by a total of $20 million over the time period. That's a tremendous incentive to draft players that you are certain will be top level players at their position, even if it's not a position of traditional worth.
The flip side of all this is how certain players at certain positions will fall in the Draft. For years, offensive tackles have been pushed up into the top portions of the Draft despite not being elite level players, simply because they were safe picks relative to the huge contracts they must be paid. The thinking was, even if the player did not end up a coveted left tackle, you could probably move him to right tackle and still get the approximate worth of his contract out of him. Now, that no longer applies. Because of this, you could see unexciting tackle talents fall further than you were used to over previous Drafts.