The Biggest Myth About the NFL Draft

Scott BrownCorrespondent IMarch 19, 2009

The NFL Draft is broken and it seems only two teams in the league realize it. As I watch NHL teams do everything in their power to lose games right now in order to gain the best odds to draft John Tavares I started to think more and more about the NFL Draft.

In the NHL, drafting Alexander Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, or John Tavares has the potential to put your franchise on the map overnight. With a single first overall selection and some luck in the later rounds, you could see your NHL team go from the cellar to the big show overnight. Take a bow Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins fans.

So why doesn't that happen in the NFL? Why is it that the worst teams in the league are consistently the worst teams in the league? Why is it that the two best teams in all of football are the two teams that haven't drafted in the top 10 in almost a decade?

Again take a bow New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts fans!

The reason for this seems to indicate that picking in the top five of the NFL Draft is more of a curse than a reward. 

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The contract slotting of those top players dictate that the teams who draft them need to invest huge sums of money to get them into training camp. 

The cost of making a mistake in the top five selections is astronomical and can hamper a team for years. This is especially true if that mistake ensures they will draft in the top five again the following year.

New England and Indianapolis seem to have figured this out. They routinely draft at the bottom and scout accordingly. When the Patriots do have a higher pick, they often look to trade down and acquire more later round picks, rather than use the higher slot.

The fact remains that for every Peyton Manning that goes first overall there is also a Ryan Leaf or Tim Couch. 

It is also true that for every JaMarcus Russell or David Carr that goes first overall there is a Tom Brady who goes in the sixth round. Teams that can identify talent can afford to stay away from the top 10 in the first round and the inherent danger that comes with those selections.

Below is a comparison of the last three years which should help to give you insight into what I am talking about.

In 2006, the Houston Texans took Mario Williams with the first overall pick. That selection cost them $54 million over six years with $30 million of that guaranteed to the player. 

While those numbers will prove to be lower than the other two guys who are about to follow, it's worth noting Mario Williams signed ahead of the draft at a discount, which is why the Texans didn't take Reggie Bush that year.

In 2006, the Indianapolis Colts let Edgerrin James walk and replaced him with Joesph Addai at the 27th pick. The cost for that selection was $11.65 million over five years with $4.75 million guaranteed.

To put that into better perspective, New Orleans ended up giving Reggie Bush $52.5 million over six years with $25.74 million of that guaranteed. 

In 2007, the Oakland Raiders made Russell the first overall selection at a cost of $68 million over six years with $30 million guaranteed.

The Cleveland Browns stole projected first overall selection Brady Quinn at the 22nd pick and paid a far more reasonable $20.2 million over five years with $7.5 million of that guaranteed.

Finally, in 2008, the Miami Dolphins selected Jake Long at No. 1 and immediately made him the highest paid offensive lineman in league history. His contract was a bank-busting $57.75 million over five years with $30 million of it guaranteed. 

Sure he went to the Pro Bowl so he was no means a bust, but 23 other offensive lineman went in the first four rounds and none of them cost anywhere near that kind of money. 

For comparison sake, New England selected Defensive Rookie of the Year Jarod Mayo at the 10 spot in round one and paid out $18.9 million over five years with $13.8 million in  guaranteed money. 

I am not saying that teams need to avoid drafting first overall, but the fact remains there might be some worth in spending that money on proven commodities and trading down into the lower picks while filling a few other holes. 

There is certainly a chance that you could draft a player and pay him Peyton Manning money and he turns out to be the next Peyton Manning.  

However, history indicates that it's more likely that you will draft a guy and pay him Peyton Manning money and he turns into the next Ryan Leaf.  

Only three times has the first overall selection also panned out as the Rookie of the Year. Having that first pick guarantees nothing more than a five year, $50 million dollar commitment to an unproven commodity.

The system is broke and needs to be fixed with a rookie salary cap. Until that happens the Colts and Patriots will continue to thrive in this system and the Lions, Raiders, and rest of the bottom feeders will continue to pay through the teeth for untested rookies.

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