What is the Trade Value for the Top Pick in the Draft?


It is premature to presume the Cowboys will finish the season with only one or two more wins, but looking at the schedule there aren’t many gimmie wins. Actually there are zero. Detroit and Arizona may not be dynamic teams, but they are playing tough football. Heck, Detroit would have one additional win if the last minute touchdown to Calvin Johnson against the Chicago Bears stood up. So let’s wallow in a little misery and play what if.

The 1st pick in the draft is payed a ridiculous sum of money despite having no experience in the NFL. With the new collective bargaining agreement expected to be revised, there may be a revision to how rookies are paid. Some have stated that the NFL may adopt a slotting system like the NBA and/or the players may only sign three year deals limiting the amount of guaranteed money that will be doled out. Looking at Sam Bradford‘s contract, the top pick in the 2010 draft, he would have signed a 3 year deal worth 30 million with 25 million guaranteed rather than the 6 year 78 million dollar deal with 50 million in guaranteed money he did sign . Essentially all the “monopoly” money at the back of the deal would simply be eliminated along with the very real guaranteed money.

Either way, the systems appears to be changing for the better. Consequently, teams will not be as reluctant to trade up to the top pick. There will be some talented players in the 2011 draft, but is there a player who can draw enough attention (e.g. Eli Manning) that teams are falling over themselves to trade up?  While some positions are drafted in the top five (left tackle, quarterback, running back, cornerback, etc.), we can eliminate most positions from consideration, other than quarterback, because teams do not mortgage their future for a cornerback or tackle.

As for the Cowboys, why wouldn’t they use the top pick on a player they need?  Following Bill Parcells‘s example, he drafted Jake Long at the top of the first round.  Well, the presumption is that the Cowboys seriously need offensive line help, and as bad luck would have it, there aren’t many high first round grades out there for tackles.  At the very least, not tackles that are graded in the top 5.  So the Cowboys could find value in trading down and taking an offensive lineman in the middle of the round, rather than overpaying a player that is not commensurately talented as his draft position would suggest.  Let’s not relive the Quincy Carter experience.  Carter was projected as a 6th round pick, and he played like a 6th round pick in his first few years.  Simply because he was drafted higher than he should have been, did not make him a better player than he was.

According to Andrew Perloff of Sports Illustrated, Ryan Mallette of Arkansas, Blain Gabbert of Missouri, Jake Locker of Washington, and Christian Ponder of Florida State,  all had first round potential before the start of the 2010 season.  A resource that is frequently updated is CBS Sports prospect tracker suggests that only Locker is a top prospect.  This helps to fan the fire which may lead to a team trading up.  If there is a definitive top QB prospect, anything less than him would be a reach… well, until he finally starts to play.

So we have our golden boy prospect, we have a construct where trading up to the top of the first round isn’t prohibitive, and now all we need are some dance partners.  What we need to find are teams that are competitive that need a final piece to the puzzle and are willing to wait one year for the quarterback to develop or a team where the general manager and coach are one bad season away from being fired and they hope that drafting a quarterback will give them a new lease on life.

The Carolina Panthers, Buffalo Bills, San Francisco 49ers, Minnesota Vikings, Arizona Cardinals, or Washington Redskins.  It is possible the Seattle Seahawks also are looking to solidify their long-term solution at quarterback (though they did trade for Charlie Whitehurst last off-season) and you never know what the Oakland Raiders are planning.

It only takes one team who is willing to trade, but it does take two teams to create a bidding war.  Out of the above teams, only the Cowboys have a legitimate answer at quarterback.  It could be said that the Cowboys should trade Tony Romo, take Locker, and use the picks received on the Romo trade to rebuild the offensive line.  That is probably the smartest situation… IF Locker pans out.  Despite the recent moderate success of Bradford, Stafford, Sanchez, Ryan, and Flacco, the odds of drafting a quarterback who will succeed in the league is still a 33% bet at best.  Let’s not forget the lessons learned from players like (only considering the top 2 rounds) Pat White, Brian Brohm, JaMarcus Russell, Brady Quinn, John Beck, Drew Stanton, Matt Leinert, Jay Cutler (yes, I am throwing him in with this group), Kellen Clemens, Alex Smith, Jason Campbell, JP Losman, Byron Leftwich, Kyle Boller, Rex Grossman, Dave Carr, Joey Harrington, and Patrick Ramsey.

Draft season comes early for the Cowboys this year.  November rather than January.  For those who love the draft, the speculation, and promise that rookies bring, this may be the lone bright spot worth holding onto.