2012 NFL Draft: 6 Ways the New CBA Has Changed the Draft
Most of the tens of millions of NFL fans who had to live through the NFL lockout were less concerned of the money tied to which programs, cap floors and ceilings, revenue sharing and the rest of the lawyer stuff that the NFL and NFLPA fought over for months.
However, one thing lost by some with the new CBA is maybe the something that most NFL fans follow closely: the NFL draft. The draft has been changed, for neither the good or bad, not overly major nor all that minor, in six ways.
Cheaper Top Picks for Teams
In years past, the top 10 picks were big investments for NFL teams. The bust factor of the top few picks allowed for teams like the Lions and Raiders to be constantly stuck eating that investment. Now with the new rookie salary cap, teams "stuck" at the top of the draft will be able to not only get the draft's best players, but also get them for drastically less.
Look at this example: 2010 NFL Draft third overall pick Gerald McCoy, made $15 million MORE guaranteed than Marcel Dareus' entire guaranteed contract (credit @AdamSchefter from ESPN).
How about another: Cam Newton's contract is worth $56 million less in overall money and $28 million less in guaranteed money than Sam Bradford's deal (credit @AdamSchefter from ESPN).
Less Reason to Trade Down; More Desire to Trade Up
With the investment so much less for the top tier teams, the desire to get out from underneath that heavy rookie investment means teams will be willing to stay at the top of the draft, and put talent ahead of money. No longer would teams be "clamoring to move down" in the top 10 unless they don't see value or don't have a glaring need.
The same goes the other way, as getting a great player at a reasonable price would mean lower first-round teams will be fighting to get up the draft board.
Harder to Trade Up in First Round
Tagging along with that, because the investment is so much less than in years past, top 10 teams will be more ready to stay in that top 10 pick and get the best value for those picks. In the past, teams would be hesitant to take the "best player available" at times if the player didn't fill a need.
Now, team's can stick in their pick, choose between some players with much lower risk for just about all of them. That way, trades like the Falcons pulled off to get Julio Jones this year will be less and less likely.
Character Concerns Less of an Issue
When scouts and NFL teams as a whole grade players, character is a major part of it. While great talents that fall end up being worth the risk in the second and third rounds, sometimes the talent outweighs the risk of hoping for a player to be there come Round 2, and a character-concern guy still stays in the first round. They fall thanks to the investment. Teams do not want to put $5 or 6 million a year for four to five years if a guy wouldn't fit in an NFL setting.
Now, however, taking the Dez Bryants or the Jimmy Smiths of the world higher where most felt their value was (both fell to the mid-20s) will be more and more likely.
Injury Concerns Slightly Less of an Issue
Injures have become a major part of the evaluation process with more and more tests being available. Just this past year, a one-time top 10 pick Da'Quan Bowers fell out of the first round because of the fact that teams didn't want to take a chance on his knee.
Next year, however, a team in the middle-to-late first round may see Bowers as a worthwhile risk thanks to contracts being down and the longevity of deals potentially down as well.
Change in First Round Value of Position
The positions of importance in the NFL (quarterback, left tackle, pass-rusher) is a staple of the top of the draft. In most top 10s in recent years, it's been these players packed in with the scattered elite talents like Patrick Peterson, Ndamukong Suh and A.J. Green.
Now, however, the top 10 and the rest of the first round will be less about getting the franchise, high impact guys, and more about getting value. No longer are you forced to pay an inside linebacker or center, picked in the top 20, like a starting quarterback or a very good defensive end are paid. Now, because the contracts are more reasonable, taking a center or an inside linebacker in the middle of the first round isn't that farfetched.
Also, taking a player based off of best player available and not reaching for a position will be more prevalent, because spending on a potential two- to three-year backup won't be nearly as costly as in years past.
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