Looking at the Impact of Good and Bad Drafting in the NFL

The other day I took a big picture look at rookie performance and how teams had performed from 2015 to 2020 and I wanted to expand on that a little bit to see if we could go back in time and try to put more focus on the rookie impact during those rookie years. To do this I went back and retroactively applied the second contract value for a draft pick to the team that drafted them/signed them as an undrafted player as the “player value” while he was a rookie.

To measure the direct impact I grouped rookies into three year bins for each team. Bin 1 would be rookies from 2011 to 2013, bin 2 is 2012 to 2014 and so on. We would then apply each bins value to a record in a given year, that is at least one year beyond the most recent draft class in the bin. Basically what that means is we would take bin 1 and say that that group of players directly impacted the teams record in 2014.

Just to give an illustration to explain it further here is the breakdown for bin 1. The players drafted in 2011 would be in their 4th year with the team, those from 2012 their 3rd year, and 2013 their 2nd year. By throwing out 2014 we are making the assumption that the 2014 classes direct impact is marginal. That may not be true and we could test that somewhat but for a first run through the analysis this should work ok.

Finally, to normalize the data a little bit I inflated each bins value to a $198.2 million cap which was the salary cap in 2020. While this is not the perfect way to really value contracts since the market for most positions is by no means pegged to the salary cap it is the quickest and gives fair values.

Much like the run where we looked at recent performance the impact of good draft picks is clearly important and much more so than the impact of free agents which usually does not lead to anything positive long term and in many cases not anything short term either.

We often measure success in the NFL based on playoff appearances and our typical threshold for success is 10 or more wins. I broke down the groups in above average drafting (approx. $96.5M in value for the three years of players) and below average drafting and then looked at the wins for each group. Here were the results over the five year period.

Draft Value12+ wins10 to 12 wins8 to 10 wins5 to 8 winsUnder 5 wins
Over Avg.202016195
Under Avg311163218

These are pretty damning numbers for teams that draft poorly and try to overcome it through alternate means like trades and free agent signings. 50% of the top drafting clubs wound up with at least 10 wins while over 60% of the poor teams wound up with a losing record.

As for the good teams who didn’t perform well in the draft- the high end teams were the quarterbacked by Ben Roethlisberger (2017), Carson Palmer (2015), and the MVPesque miracle season for Carson Wentz (2017). The 11 teams close to high end featured Andrew Luck (2014 and 2018), Palmer (2014), Roethlisberger (2016), Aaron Rodgers (2016), Russell Wilson (2016), Cam Newton (2017), Drew Brees (2017), and Tom Brady (2018). The other two were Ryan Tannehill (2016) and Ryan Fitzpatrick (2015). While both had good years nobody would consider those two high end QBs but the others were likely covering up flaws from bad drafts. Basically it is high end QBs making up for the level of play. Brady would probably show up multiple times on the list if we took out Garoppolo and Brissett from the mix as they had no value to the team winning but made up most of their drafting success.

Among the teams with good draft performance and over 12 wins you do get sneak ins by players like Andy Dalton (2015), Brock Osweiler and broken down Peyton Manning (2015), Alex Smith (2016 and 2018), Derek Carr (2016), Case Keenum (2017), Mitch Trubisky (2018), and Jared Goff (2018). You can include the Cowboys QBs in that mix a few times too if you want to have that debate. When you move the needle down further you include Joe Flacco (2014 and part of 2018), Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez (2014), Matt Stafford (2014), Smith (2015 and 2017), Teddy Bridgewater (2015), Eli Manning (2016), Blake Bortles (2017), Goff (2017), rookie Lamar Jackson (part of 2018). You can argue the pros and cons of some of these players but these are more the occasions where you can get by with a mid grade QB for a year or more when the draft quality helps out.

As for the best draft classes that is hard to say because of the way the QB position is valued. For instance the best run on drafts that we saw was the 2011 to 2013 Broncos but part of that number is inflated by Osweiler who did not contribute at all to that team. The same goes for the Jaguars in from 2014 to 2016 with Blake Bortles. That would leave the 2015 Rams as potentially the best of the bunch with their draft from 2012 to 2014. The Rams really were the team that did the least with some great drafts in that period and were sunk by the Shaun Hill, Austin Davis, Nick Foles types at QB. Here is the big list of teams with their record and inflated draft value.

TEAMYEARDraft ClassesWin PctInflated Rookie Value
Broncos20142011 to 20130.750$179,687,673
Jaguars20172014 to 20160.625$174,922,300
Rams20152012 to 20140.438$173,517,228
Cowboys20172014 to 20160.563$172,960,556
Bengals20142011 to 20130.656$168,846,282
Raiders20162013 to 20150.750$167,699,427
Seahawks20142011 to 20130.750$165,635,789
Jaguars20162013 to 20150.188$161,360,525
Rams20142011 to 20130.375$157,344,939
Raiders20152012 to 20140.438$155,443,182
Chiefs20172014 to 20160.625$154,586,743
Jaguars20152012 to 20140.313$150,132,350
Ravens20172014 to 20160.563$149,965,756
Patriots20152012 to 20140.750$148,101,288
Rams20172014 to 20160.688$146,502,240
Ravens20182015 to 20170.625$142,689,273
Raiders20172014 to 20160.375$142,574,438
Chiefs20162013 to 20150.750$142,442,618
Vikings20162013 to 20150.500$141,774,846
Cowboys20182015 to 20170.625$141,293,745
Chiefs20182015 to 20170.750$137,981,091
Saints20182015 to 20170.813$137,922,705
Rams20182015 to 20170.813$137,132,142
Texans20142011 to 20130.563$136,436,360
Dolphins20152012 to 20140.375$135,861,341
Texans20182015 to 20170.688$134,204,454
Chargers20182015 to 20170.750$133,210,086
Dolphins20142011 to 20130.500$132,816,353
Rams20162013 to 20150.250$131,301,490
Patriots20162013 to 20150.875$129,136,782
Seahawks20152012 to 20140.625$128,743,958
Panthers20142011 to 20130.469$127,763,086
Ravens20162013 to 20150.500$127,715,926
Bengals20152012 to 20140.750$127,613,383
Dolphins20172014 to 20160.375$127,013,760
Chiefs20152012 to 20140.688$126,052,046
Panthers20152012 to 20140.938$124,178,026
Packers20152012 to 20140.625$123,239,832
Buccaneers20162013 to 20150.563$123,021,350
Broncos20152012 to 20140.750$121,890,648
Cowboys20162013 to 20150.813$120,802,285
Cowboys20152012 to 20140.250$120,691,437
Ravens20142011 to 20130.625$119,406,658
Vikings20172014 to 20160.813$117,921,879
Falcons20162013 to 20150.688$117,762,227
Chiefs20142011 to 20130.563$117,376,474
Vikings20152012 to 20140.688$117,368,623
Patriots20142011 to 20130.750$117,330,525
Bills20142011 to 20130.563$117,276,219
Panthers20162013 to 20150.375$117,111,219
Eagles20142011 to 20130.625$116,738,806
Falcons20172014 to 20160.625$116,540,413
Ravens20152012 to 20140.313$115,878,665
Lions20152012 to 20140.438$111,584,427
Cowboys20142011 to 20130.750$111,417,513
Packers20142011 to 20130.750$110,963,437
Panthers20182015 to 20170.438$110,609,305
Titans20182015 to 20170.563$109,786,246
Steelers20142011 to 20130.688$109,774,784
Eagles20152012 to 20140.438$109,606,205
Football Team20142011 to 20130.250$108,577,835
Texans20152012 to 20140.563$108,492,644
Texans20172014 to 20160.250$107,535,381
Football Team20162013 to 20150.531$107,106,121
Bears20172014 to 20160.313$105,838,800
Football Team20152012 to 20140.563$104,391,143
Vikings20182015 to 20170.531$104,266,398
Bengals20182015 to 20170.375$104,058,356
Football Team20172014 to 20160.438$103,728,623
Titans20172014 to 20160.563$103,151,825
Vikings20142011 to 20130.438$102,581,912
Buccaneers20152012 to 20140.375$101,313,289
Seahawks20182015 to 20170.625$101,086,623
Lions20142011 to 20130.688$100,632,055
Giants20162013 to 20150.688$100,387,123
Patriots20172014 to 20160.813$99,887,459
Cardinals20162013 to 20150.469$99,315,191
Steelers20152012 to 20140.625$98,762,530
Bears20182015 to 20170.750$98,021,197
Texans20162013 to 20150.563$97,204,418
Dolphins20182015 to 20170.438$95,679,783
Steelers20162013 to 20150.688$95,556,527
Seahawks20172014 to 20160.563$95,302,512
Jaguars20182015 to 20170.313$95,069,449
Falcons20152012 to 20140.500$95,000,229
Packers20172014 to 20160.438$94,979,339
Colts20142011 to 20130.688$94,945,251
49ers20182015 to 20170.250$94,818,902
Packers20162013 to 20150.625$94,556,773
49ers20172014 to 20160.375$94,507,971
Panthers20172014 to 20160.688$94,174,671
Buccaneers20172014 to 20160.313$93,605,692
49ers20162013 to 20150.125$93,503,545
Bills20152012 to 20140.500$93,366,195
Chargers20142011 to 20130.563$93,191,256
Giants20172014 to 20160.188$91,994,391
Lions20162013 to 20150.563$91,990,060
Eagles20172014 to 20160.813$90,395,613
Cardinals20142011 to 20130.688$89,920,331
Chargers20172014 to 20160.563$89,787,923
Colts20152012 to 20140.500$88,881,800
Bears20162013 to 20150.188$88,010,527
Seahawks20162013 to 20150.656$87,758,421
Eagles20182015 to 20170.563$86,380,522
Patriots20182015 to 20170.688$86,039,716
Falcons20142011 to 20130.375$85,663,605
Falcons20182015 to 20170.438$85,596,786
Jets20142011 to 20130.250$85,426,808
Buccaneers20182015 to 20170.313$85,193,102
Lions20182015 to 20170.375$85,146,586
Browns20152012 to 20140.188$84,167,788
Bears20152012 to 20140.375$82,977,344
Football Team20182015 to 20170.438$82,626,672
Steelers20172014 to 20160.813$81,789,593
49ers20142011 to 20130.500$80,765,111
Steelers20182015 to 20170.594$80,548,950
Dolphins20162013 to 20150.625$80,388,841
Bengals20172014 to 20160.438$79,481,760
Giants20152012 to 20140.375$78,862,518
Packers20182015 to 20170.406$78,297,389
Cardinals20152012 to 20140.813$78,066,953
Browns20182015 to 20170.469$77,463,912
Buccaneers20142011 to 20130.125$75,092,466
Saints20142011 to 20130.438$74,957,105
Chargers20162013 to 20150.313$74,751,027
Browns20142011 to 20130.438$72,479,224
Browns20172014 to 20160.000$71,095,843
Lions20172014 to 20160.563$71,073,724
Eagles20162013 to 20150.438$69,316,388
Bills20182015 to 20170.375$69,210,612
Chargers20152012 to 20140.250$69,006,191
Bengals20162013 to 20150.406$68,418,593
Broncos20172014 to 20160.313$67,140,547
Saints20172014 to 20160.688$66,986,615
Cardinals20182015 to 20170.188$64,939,581
Jets20182015 to 20170.250$64,623,043
Titans20162013 to 20150.563$64,092,368
Bills20162013 to 20150.438$63,760,478
Broncos20162013 to 20150.563$62,436,766
Saints20162013 to 20150.438$62,428,682
Jets20172014 to 20160.313$61,914,950
Jets20152012 to 20140.625$60,072,804
Bears20142011 to 20130.313$59,511,909
Titans20152012 to 20140.188$58,562,235
Jets20162013 to 20150.313$58,179,684
Broncos20182015 to 20170.375$57,744,205
Cardinals20172014 to 20160.500$57,105,930
Colts20172014 to 20160.250$49,719,276
Raiders20142011 to 20130.188$49,604,642
Saints20152012 to 20140.438$49,209,938
Giants20182015 to 20170.313$48,506,430
Colts20182015 to 20170.625$48,303,980
Browns20162013 to 20150.063$45,293,483
Jaguars20142011 to 20130.188$44,874,417
49ers20152012 to 20140.313$42,423,534
Giants20142011 to 20130.375$40,043,851
Colts20162013 to 20150.500$35,944,828
Titans20142011 to 20130.125$33,828,120
Bills20172014 to 20160.563$31,118,587
Raiders20182015 to 20170.250$20,896,566

Team Success and the NFL Draft

Following the big trades on Friday there has been so much discussion about the value of draft picks and the importance of the draft that I thought I would have a little fun with the numbers. A few weeks ago I looked at the record of teams following their free agent spending so this time I thought I would look closer at the impact of the draft on teams success.

To start with I went back and looked at all draft picks made between 2014 and 2019 and then calculated their pick values using the Fitzgerald-Spielberger values. I then plotted what was their record in the period following that draft class up to a maximum of four years (2018 would be 3 years and 2019 just two years at this time).

This was a little unexpected as I would have thought there would be a little more correlation between record and draft points but then again there is a thought that bad teams stay bad in the NFL and good teams (with good QBs) overcome limited draft resources. So maybe this isn’t the best way to look at it.

Instead let’s look at the average improvement over the team’s baseline going into each draft.  

This is certainly more in line with expectations and some solid evidence that maximizing draft points through whatever means is going to help teams improve over their priors. Most of the improvement seems to come from maximizing your point allocation in the top 3 rounds of the draft.

If you are curious about just round 1 here is the impact of the first round picks. Note that any team above 3,000 points is clearly a team with multiple 1s in a season (3,000 is the max points for a 1st round pick).

What if we filter out the teams with multiple 1s and no ones and just look at the results of teams with 1 first round pick (includes trade downs and ups)?

I thought this was interesting because there is a clear trend that the higher the points the more improvement we seem to be getting…up to a point. You can argue where that point is but I would say it is in the ballpark of the 6th pick in the draft (around 2,100 points) which I think gets the point where anyone in the top of the draft should strongly consider trading down unless you are picking a QB.

However the most important thing to consider is how teams do with their draft selections. Teams should exploit every possibie advantage than can find in inefficiencies in the way that we approach the draft but ultimately all the points in the world don’t help you when you make bad picks in the draft. You not only want good players in the draft but players who are going to contribute for more than just a few years.

While this is not a complete measurement since we still have players on rookie contracts, the final thing I looked at was the actual performance of the rookies who were drafted. To do that I looked at every player drafted from 2014 to 2017 and determined what was the value of their post rookie contract. For players still on option year I used their option salary as the value for the player. Here is how the teams performed between 2015 and 2020 (I used 2015 since often we say the first rookie year is a bust) compared with what their players earned (earnings calculated as averge per year of the next contract).  

This is much more in line with what we would expect to be a driver of success in the NFL. Teams that drafted generally good players were pretty successful between 2015 and 2020 while those who didn’t were pretty bad. The QB position saved a few teams (the Packers, Steelers, etc..) including New England as well as their draft results were poor overall but their value here was driven by the inclusion of two quarterbacks who barely played with them.

While nobody really has any secret method to beat the draft you need to maximize your chances to sneak into that upper right quadrant as best you can. Teams like the Jets have basically been hopeless turning draft capital into bad selections but they should be the exception and not the rule.

It is also important to look at the teams near that bottom right quadrant. These are teams who have had a ton of draft capital and successful individual selection but poor team performance. It is basically a mirror of the top left which was bailed out by QB play. Here we have teams with, more often than not, poor QB play and no matter how good the parts may be in todays NFL there is no path to long term success when the play from the play from the position is replacement level at best. This really leads to the importance of drafting the QB until you hit one but that is a discussion for another day.

Dolphins, Eagles, and 49ers Make a Big Trade

In an absolutely wild flurry of moves the Miami Dolphins triggered an early run of draft day trades that would normally be reserved for April. Miami traded down from number 3 to 12 and then jumped back up to number 6 in what essentially is a three way trade between the Dolphins, Eagles, and 49ers. So here are some thoughts on each of the teams moves here.

Dolphins

The Dolphins will give up the 3rd and 123rd picks this year as well as their first round pick in 2022 and will acquire pick 6, 102, and 156 from this season as well as the 49ers 1st round picks in 2022 and 2023. Using the Fitzgerald-Spielberger chart

PickValue GainedPickValue Lost
62,09232,443
102656123561
1564412022 11,595
2022 11,595
2023 11,595
Total6,3794,599

The difference is basically like gaining the 11th overall pick in the draft. Now some may apply discounts to the draft picks, which I don’t like doing because teams are not always playing for the present and there is no real evidence that teams can predict what is or is not a good draft, nor a good or bad team. Just because I am trading for a 2023 first this year doesn’t make it worth a 3rd round pick. It will always going to be a number 1 and if your time horizon is two or three years that is how I look at it.

I love this for Miami. Clearly, they had no designs of picking a QB this year because if they did they would not have made this trade. Just based on the discussions they had with the 49ers and Eagles they also now know more about the draft. The Jaguars are taking a QB(we all know that) and  they must know the Jets are taking one now because the Jets would have done this trade if they were sticking with Darnold. Now they know San Francisco will take a QB. That gets into the second part of the trade.

With the top 3 picks going QB-QB-QB that meant that the Eagles pick at 6 is a lock that they can pick one of the top receivers/tight end since there are three players in the mix there. If that position is what they were picking at 3, they will now get it at 6 and save a few dollars on the contract while also picking up all those extra 1s. Basically as long as they have three players in mind at any position they are now a lock to get one of those players. It also puts them in a spot where maybe they can even move back with Carolina when draft day hits if Carolina gets wild for a QB and is in a panic that they will lose out at number 8. It gives Miami so many possibilities by doing the trade now. This is a fantastic move.

As their trade with the Texans has shown there are no certainties in the NFL. Those future 1s could be incredibly valuable like the Houston one was.  If the QB flops they may have the assets needed to move back up. If San Francisco is a dud, and in two of the last three years they have finished with no more than 6 wins, they may just get their own access to a top player. As you can tell I just love this for the Dolphins.

Eagles

The Eagles will give up the 6th and 156th picks in the draft and in return get the 12th and 123rd picks as well as the Dolphins 2022 first round pick. Here is our value on this one.

PickValue GainedPickValue Lost
121,74162,092
123561156441
2022 11,595
Total3,8972,533

The return on this is the 25th pick in the draft. Like above the value will fluctuate based on what that 2022 1st round pick is but in any event they will come out ahead on the trade by quite a bit.

The Eagles decision matrix here seemed to be different than the other two teams. Philadelphia initially wanted to trade up for a QB but seemingly wanted to approach this as a traditional trade. Per various reports Philadelphia only had one QB in mind which meant if the Jets selected a QB they would not pull the trigger on a trade with Miami. That would not work for the Dolphins who found the trade partner in San Francisco who would take a blind shot at a QB which left the Eagles with no access to the position they probably wanted.

So they will drop down 6 slots and save about $1.8 million in cap room on that pick this year. They were likely pretty indifferent to players at 6 if they were not married to a receiver which made this a solid trade. The first round pick in 2022 can give them a better chance to find a QB if Jalen Hurts flops and at the least gives them access to another first rounder. Considering the Eagles cap situation and aging roster gaining that first round pick is a big pickup for them.

I’m not as crazy about this trade as the Dolphins one but it is certainly a good move.

49ers

The 49ers will gain the 3rd pick in the draft and give up the 12th and 102nd pick in the draft as well as their first rounders in both 2022 and 2023. Here is the value on this.

PickValue GainedPickValue Lost
32,443121,741
102656
2022 11,595
2023 11,595
Total2,4435,587

This is a massive amount to give up for the 3rd ranked QB in the draft. This is basically the closest that you will ever get to the Rams/Washington trade where Washington gave up the 6th overall pick, two future first rounders, and a second rounder for the 2nd ranked QB (Robert Griffin III). This trade gives up 3,144 points while that one was at 3,776. The value for this is right around what the Eagles paid to move to get Carson Wentz in 2016. Wentz was also the 2nd ranked QB that year. Basically this is like giving up the top overall pick plus more in the draft to get number 3.

The last time a team traded for the 3rd valued QB it was the Jets who gave up pick 6 and three second round picks. This turned into the 2nd ranked QB when the Giants selected a running back with the 2nd pick in the draft. That was about a 2,900 point differential and pretty close to being like giving up the top pick in the draft for the pick.

A few things here. While I valued the picks above the same way I did for Miami and Philadelphia here we really should discount them.  Why?  You have a coach and front office that has had a losing record in two of the last three years and their time horizon is now not two and three years from now. That makes this move a little closer to reasonable and probably is more like giving up a mid 1st for the access to a QB.

Teams get desperate in the NFL because of this position. The team made a questionable decision when they made the move on a big contract for Jimmy Garoppolo a few years ago and it has not worked out. They struck out in a bid to sign Tom Brady last year and probably also realized there was no chance to get Matt Ryan this year or next after the Falcons reworked his contract for cap relief. This is basically the only option and only way they can get better at the position.

From a cap perspective this makes sense. Garoppolo is one of the most overpaid players in the NFL and this should open things up for a pay reduction. The starting jobs and most of the backup jobs are gone now and their job is to sell him on playoff incentives if he starts this year and is successful. They have big money tied up in Trent Williams and Arik Armstead and will likely end up with a monster extension for Nick Bosa after 2022. That is a team built for a rookie QB on a cheap deal not an overpriced veteran QB.

Still it is a lot to give up for the 49ers. They must have been worried that someone else would jump ahead of them to make this trade similar to the Jets move years ago. This is a trade that you really can only evaluate after the pick is made. If whomever they pick plays like Sam Darnold, who the Jets selected, it will be an absolute disaster for the 49ers. They need this pick to be a player who earns a legit high end QB contract three or four years from now. Anything else and it is a failure.

I’m not enough of a draft person to know if this is or is not worth it for any of the top 3 QBs, but I will say just like when the Jets made their move that you have to take risks at this position. You cant survive in the NFL playing the free agency game and going year to year with Ryan Fitzpatrick or finding mid grade starters and convincing yourself they can be great if you pay them well the way the 49ers did with Garoppolo.

This move gives them a chance to get their salary cap in order, to be able to make more moves in free agency, and most importantly give them a chance to upgrade the most important position in football for the next decade. Could they have tried to wait this out a little longer?  Maybe, but if you like a player you may as well just go for broke rather than watching the Panthers or Eagles pass you by leaving you with nothing but replacement level play at QB for the next few years.

The Salary Cap Cost of Rookie Draft Picks

The NFL draft always brings about confusion with the way rookie contracts work with the salary cap so this will be our annual look at what will be the actual impact on teams salary cap space once all rookies are signed to hopefully reduce some of the confusion.

The confusion with the way that the rookie contracts works is due to two things. The first is that it will be reported that every team has a “rookie pool” or “rookie salary cap” to spend on draft picks. In some places it may be reported that this covers all rookie contracts while other will correctly state that it’s a “cap within a cap”. A “cap within a cap” simply means that there is a limit on what every team can pay their rookies and this salary has to fit within the regular salary cap.

As time goes on there will be reports of each teams rookie cap as determined by the NFL. Those will be official totals but in the meantime you can get the estimates on our draft page, though with a new CBA we cant say if this will remain as accurate this year as in years past or not, though I believe it should be close enough. However this leads to the second confusing aspect of it which deals with the total cap space actually required to sign the draft picks.

The reason for this is because most people will see a big total like $11.8 million for the rookie cap and conclude that a team with $10 million in cap space can not sign their draft class without cuts or contract modifications. What people fail to understand is that during this time of year only the top 51 players have their base salaries count on the salary cap and every team has more than 51 players so each rookie will displace another player’s contract on the roster. Either the old player will have his base salary drop out of the calculation while the new base salary climbs in or the rookie will only have the prorated portion of his contract count on the cap.  So the net cap space required to sign rookies is very different from the total rookie cap number.

The easiest way to estimate the number is to take the rookie pool and subtract from it $610,000 multiplied by the number of draft picks. Why $610,000? It’s the minimum salary a player can earn and represents the worst case scenario for a team. Using that formula here is how teams cap space would look following the signing of rookies based on our current cap space estimates and draft pool estimates. The only exception here was the Ravens who wont displace their entire draft class so I adjusted accordingly.

TeamPlayersCap SpaceDraft PicksDraft CostNet Draft CostCap Space Post Draft
Browns68$40,175,1747$8,786,963$4,516,963$35,658,211
Eagles66$27,138,6548$7,920,408$3,040,408$24,098,246
Lions77$29,487,5559$12,871,035$7,381,035$22,106,520
Colts72$24,036,1547$6,583,425$2,313,425$21,722,729
Bills69$20,925,6687$5,313,893$1,043,893$19,881,775
Titans61$21,896,8017$6,477,016$2,207,016$19,689,785
Texans72$19,655,2227$5,655,762$1,385,762$18,269,460
Redskins73$23,836,4277$10,685,483$6,415,483$17,420,944
Chargers58$22,347,9337$10,023,152$5,753,152$16,594,781
Jets77$18,803,7718$9,122,992$4,242,992$14,560,779
Broncos79$17,850,12010$9,980,667$3,880,667$13,969,453
Dolphins78$22,776,72214$18,965,331$10,425,331$12,351,391
Cowboys70$13,524,8437$7,330,067$3,060,067$10,464,776
Giants70$17,100,29210$12,914,853$6,814,853$10,285,439
Buccaneers64$13,548,7997$7,882,634$3,612,634$9,936,165
Seahawks67$12,631,7477$7,137,232$2,867,232$9,764,515
Bears67$11,025,2547$5,814,643$1,544,643$9,480,611
49ers78$13,367,7997$8,230,120$3,960,120$9,407,679
Packers64$11,086,87010$8,496,323$2,396,323$8,690,547
Jaguars67$14,394,97612$14,054,730$6,734,730$7,660,246
Vikings60$12,267,55212$11,990,666$4,670,666$7,596,886
Ravens57$11,263,7799$8,760,654$5,100,654$6,163,125
Cardinals66$8,972,9026$7,508,855$3,848,855$5,124,047
Steelers72$5,777,7946$4,872,493$1,212,493$4,565,301
Panthers64$9,440,4158$10,166,339$5,286,339$4,154,076
Saints68$5,249,0225$5,258,257$2,208,257$3,040,765
Raiders78$8,165,7657$9,497,871$5,227,871$2,937,894
Chiefs70$2,904,5485$5,192,194$2,142,194$762,354
Bengals66$7,318,4777$11,873,032$7,603,032($284,555)
Falcons63$2,417,6886$6,884,792$3,224,792($807,104)
Patriots66$1,229,89512$10,155,219$2,835,219($1,605,324)
Rams61($5,349,165)7$5,876,430$1,606,430($6,955,595)

As you can see based on the numbers we currently have only five teams are likely in danger of not having the cap space to sign rookies. Those teams are the Chiefs, Bengals, Falcons, Patriots, and Rams. The Bengals are close enough that they probably have the space if you account for the actual salaries displaced which will be a few $675,000 players rather than $610,000 ones. The Chiefs, Rams and the Patriots will be the ones that will likely have to make some minor tweaks (the reason I’m including the Chiefs is I don’t have any idea what Bashaud Breelands cap number will be this year but assume it will move them negative). The Rams used a June 1 release (Todd Gurley) which will clear around $5 million, but will likely still need to do some changes to get their guys in after that is processed. I would not expect the Rams to rush for anything since they are generally the last team to sign their rookies and do them all on the same day following a seminar they present to their incoming players. Atlanta wait until June 2nd to sign any players as they will pick up over $10.75 when Desmond Trufant June 1 designated release becomes official.

One last thing to keep in mind is if you see things being reported about a minimum rookie allotment or minimum year one allotment for each team and/or draft pick. That is a minimum number the NFL must pay for a draft pick while the rookie pool represents the max number. In the 9 prior years almost no one has been under the highest possible number and most of that happened in 2011. The only reason an agent should ever consider under would be if the team gave up a big concession like a no tag provision which would be an interesting scenario but to the best of my knowledge has never even been broached. So if you hear those numbers just tune them out.

The other thing you can look at with the table above is the max players under contract if you add in the draft picks. NFL teams are limited to 90 contracted players. Following the draft each rookie is tendered a contract to make things official so they after the draft ends. Miami will be over the 90 person limit so they will have to cut at least two players if they don’t trade any draft selections. The Broncos, Lions, Jets, 49ers, Raiders, Redskins, and Giants will all have at least 80 players under contract. Why is this important?  As soon as the draft concludes teams sign undrafted free agents and the average amount of undrafted players is around 17 per team. Generally every team signs at least 10 (I think last year the only team under and they were way under were the Panthers) so the teams around 80 contracted players will likely make cuts just to sign undrafted players. So unfortunately, decisions made during the draft will likely cost a few players their opportunities before “virtual” workouts even give them a chance to work with the team.

On the opposite end of the spectrum the teams with few players should be the ones that are heavily active in signing undrafted players. These include the Chargers, Ravens, Rams, Titans, and Falcons who will all be under 70 players post draft.

This should be an interesting year for the undrafted process. Since front offices wont be in the same location there may have to be a pecking order in the chaos that usually ensues to make sure they can sign the players. The lack of a rookie showcase practice will also potentially hurt players who often go unsigned but are given tryouts with the other rookies which sometimes leads to a contract. With no practice session to occur teams will either agree to sign even more undrafteds than usual and evaluate them if and when camp opens or those players simply wont get an opportunity at all.

Using Salary Data to Better Value NFL Draft Picks

Every now and then around draft time I try to do some type of look at the NFL draft and value of the players selected through some financial means and I decided to go back and do that again this year. This time around I wanted to look back at the first five years of the current CBA, which introduced the rookie wage scale, and look at some summary data that may help us place a better value on a draft pick. Continue reading Using Salary Data to Better Value NFL Draft Picks »

Kyler Murray Has the Potential to Make Much More Money in the NFL

To lead off, who cares what the public thinks about Kyler Murray’s decision. I see a lot of people questioning the decision or saying this is the better decision for him, so I’ll cover the financial side of the decision, but I just hope that Murray chooses the sport that he is most passionate about because that will likely lead to the best path for him, one he will be less likely to second guess. The word is that he’s chosen football, so hopefully that aligns with what is most important to him.

Continue reading Kyler Murray Has the Potential to Make Much More Money in the NFL »