Will a Rookie Wage Scale Change the Way Teams Draft?

Written by Chad Davis on February 5, 2011

When a collective bargaining agreement is finally agreed upon by the players and owner one thing will be for sure: There will be a new rookie wage scale in place. The odds are it will be structured similarly to the NBA model, where players are paid a set amount based on where they are drafted. The question remains though if a wage scale will affect the way that teams draft.


Up until now the general consensus has been that there are really only four positions worthy of the number one overall pick: quarterback, offensive tackle, defensive tackle, and defensive end. Since 1960 the breakdown of number one overall picks is as follows: 20 QB’s, 12 RB’s (none since 1995, Ki-Jana Carter), 7 DE’s, 6 DT’s, 4 WR’s (none since 1996, Keyshawn Johnson), 4 OT’s, and 3 LB’s (none since 1988, Aundray Bruce). The 12 running backs are particularly surprising until you consider 11 of them came before 1987.


AJ GreenLast year Sam Bradford was drafted number one overall and received a contract of 6 years for 78 million dollars, with 50 million guaranteed and a maximum value of 86 million. It was the largest contract ever for an NFL rookie. All this money with having never played an NFL game. This, and other rookie contracts in recent drafts, led to the discussion of the rookie wage scale which seems to be inevitable.


In the past teams have shied away from drafting a position, such as cornerback for instance, with the number one pick knowing how much money that pick demands. But with a wage scale in place that is sure to drive down the cost of the number one pick, will teams finally consider other positions a possibility? This year’s draft has a chance to be a great test of this issue. The Draft Breakdown big board currently has A.J. Green a WR at No. 1 overall, and Patrick Peterson a CB at No. 2. If they truly are the best players in this draft shouldn’t they be a consideration for the Carolina Panthers with the number one pick? But the consensus is that they will not be. Most mock drafts floating around focus on DT or DE for Carolina. Why? Because the money has forced it to become that way.


The question is: Are we coming towards an era of change in which the best player gets drafted number one overall regardless of position? Unfortunately I don’t think so. Such a premium is put on the positions mentioned above, and for good reason, that teams will continue to look that way at the top of the draft. I do think that we may see a bit more variety in the top 10 with the implementation of the wage scale, but overall I think it will remain the same at number one. I wish it wasn’t that way but that’s reality.


So who would I draft at number one this year with all else being equal? A.J. Green. He’s the best player in this draft with the highest potential for super-stardom. Will it happen? Absolutely not.


Chad Davis

Chad Davis is an avid draft fan who has been writing and evaluating for Draft Breakdown since September of 2010. A native of the Pacific Northwest, he is a Seattle Seahawks season ticket holder, and part-time contributor to the Seahawks blog www.fieldgulls.com. He is a member of the Football Writers Association of America.

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