I’ve always been in favor of trading down in the NFL draft. It speaks to how many pieces the Browns have needed since being back in 1999. It speaks to my value proposition consciousness in a league with a hard salary cap. Now, it might be somewhat outdated.
I will forever thank Eric Mangini for trading out of the Mark Sanchez pick. I’ve written about it here on WFNY too many times already, so I’ll be brief in mentioning it this time around. Regardless of on-field production, Mark Sanchez was always going to be a very risky proposition. His contract was $60 million for five years with $28 million fully guaranteed. In 2012 Sanchez is scheduled to make $8.5 million and is also due a $2.75 million roster bonus on 3/28. Alex Mack signed a 5-year $12.2 million deal with $8.3 million in guarantees. The tough-as-nails center is due $1.303 million in 2012 and almost $2 million in 2013 before becoming a free agent.***
But the world of drafting changed dramatically with the labor strife of a year ago. The rookies are now capped and with that, the dynamics of value in the first round have changed dramatically. This is especially important with the Browns’ need for a QB and all the touted experts claiming that the Browns could and should trade up in order to get St. Louis’ second pick to get Robert Griffin III.
Without making any actual player comparisons (only financial) to RG3, let’s look at some examples. Sam Bradford was the first pick in the 2010 draft. His contract was 6 years and $78 million with $50 million guaranteed. The average per year in guaranteed dollars is $8.3 million. A year later under the new rules, Cam Newton was drafted by the Panthers first and signed a 4-year deal for $22.025 million fully guaranteed. Not only is the guaranteed money less than half of what Bradford got, but the annual average is slightly north of $5 million compared to Bradford’s $8.3 million. Newton’s deal is two fewer years meaning he hits free agency sooner, but any NFL team will take that trade-off for the reduced Jamarcus Russell-type $32 million risks.
Again, nothing about whether either Newton or Bradford is “worth” the money because nobody knew ahead of time. In fact most “experts” would have told you that Bradford would be a much better QB in the NFL than Cam Newton. The early returns on the two obviously state something different, but more important is the value proposition.
The NFL has been ruled by a draft pick value chart related to trading picks over the years. On that chart the first pick in the draft was worth 3,000 points and the second pick was worth 2,600 points. The Browns have the #4 and #22 picks which carry values of 1,800 and 780 respectively. Add those two up and you get 2,580 or almost exact value for trading up to #2.
Perfect, right? Even better.
The draft pick value chart needs an update. If the #1 pick was worth 3,000 before and a team had to pony up Sam Bradford type of money, then that pick should undoubtedly be worth significantly more today under the new rules where that financial risk is capped and under control.
Meaning if the Browns are truly sold on Robert Griffin III and he is their guy and they deem that they absolutely need to trade up to ensure they add him to the team, trading #4 and #22 is a fair price based on historical values. In fact it isn’t just fair anymore with rookie contracts capped. It actually swings to the Browns’ favor from a pure value and points standpoint.
Obviously, there are a lot of hypotheticals in this as you work through all the game theory. Whether or not they should do it is still up for debate. Most importantly, do the Browns want Griffin? Do they really need to trade up to get him? Is there anyone in front of them who would actually take Griffin? Do any of the suitors for Griffin behind the Browns in the draft have the value to trade up to St. Louis’ spot? Can St. Louis really turn down the opportunity to guarantee themselves Matt Kalil to protect Sam Bradford?
Just know that if the Browns do want Griffin and they trade up to get him they aren’t getting “ripped off” based on the book value of draft picks historically. Also, nobody let St. Louis know that they should probably increase the asking price for #2 and demand more than just the Browns’ first rounders.
*** As an aside, you can put Alex Mack on the list of guys the Browns will be negotiating long-term deals with sometime soon. I think we would all bet big money on that one.