In the Twitterverse a number of well respected writers conduct an annual draft to assemble what they feel is the best team. 32 people participated and while they are conducting a draft with no salary cap limitations I thought it would be a fun exercise to see how these GMs would approach team building- would they grab young cheap talent or would they draft the most expensive “franchise” players. Thus far they have completed 5 round which should be the 5 top players on a team.
To calculate the numbers I used a player’s 2014 salary cap number. If a player was not under contract I used an estimate for a franchise tag at the position. Those estimates are not based on 120% rules or anything like that and in some cases (Lamarr Houston for example) the tag is going to overstate the cost of the player. For Larry Fitzgerald I used his pre-restructured contract figure, since everyone else would be at the original contract value. Eventually things will balance out because some GM is going to take a Mike Wallace deeper in the draft due to no cap limits, but in general teams are paying their top players to be the most important pieces of the team.
Of the top 75 salary capped players in 2014, 34 went undrafted in the first five rounds of this draft. The undrafted big ticket players include Julius Peppers ($18.18M), Mike Wallace ($17.25M), Antonio Cromartie ($14.98M), Matt Schaub ($14.13M), Will Smith ($13.90M), Lamarr Woodley ($13.59M), Mark Sanchez ($13.1M), Terrell Suggs ($12.4M), Brandon Carr ($12.22M), Carson Palmer ($12M), Dwayne Bowe($12M), Ike Taylor ($11.94M), D’Brickashaw Ferguson ($11.7M), Vince Wilfork ($11.6M), Chris Snee ($11.3M), Jonathan Joseph ($11.25M), Jahri Evans ($11M), Troy Polamalu ($10.89M), Santonio Holmes ($10.75M), Logan Mankins ($10.5M), Brandon Flowers ($10.5M), Ryan Kalil ($10.4M), Champ Bailey ($10M), Cortland Finnegan ($10M), Chris Johnson ($10M), Pierre Garcon ($9.7M), Sidney Rice ($9.7M), Chris Clemons($9.67M), Paul Posluszny ($9.5M), Tramon Williams ($9.5M), Heath Miller ($9.47M), D’qwell Jackson ($9.43M), Carl Nicks ($9.36M), and Antrel Rolle ($9.25M).
That list is filled with players who flopped from day 1 (Holmes, Rice) and others who have just outlived their deals (Suggs, Joseph) but did contribute in years past. What’s interesting to note is that if we take the QB position of the equation there are 59 players with these high cap charges and the GM’s bypassed 31 of them in the first 160 selections of the draft. That’s a pretty huge number for those who are supposed to be best in the NFL. Of the top 10 non-QB’s only two went undrafted (Peppers and Wallace), so of the other 49 non-QB’s 59% went undrafted. That probably lends some credence to the fact that some of the worst deals are those coming in the upper mid range of players where teams often overpay for certain talent in free agency. At least in some of these cases the teams would have been better off finding a lesser known but much less costly player and should be a tale of some caution for real free agency.
The average first round pick in the draft counts for slightly over $10 million in cap room. Round two’s average was just under $6.8 million. In round 3 it was slightly under $8 million, round four just under $7.3 and in round 5 it crashed to $4.8. None of the GM’s had their top 5 draftee salaries rank in top 5 player spending in the NFL. Optimum Scouting had the highest payroll at $61.5 million with Haloti Ngata, DeMarcus Ware, and Joe Flacco as his big ticket items. The next highest paid teams would rank 11th and 12th respectively.
Six GM’s would have spent less on their top 5 players than the Oakland Raiders, who are at an NFL low $24.3 million. Ian Kenyon’s all draft pick team didn’t even crack the $10 million mark. All told 16 teams would rank in the bottom 5 in spending. Again that is going to balance out somewhat by the end of the draft, but it would sure seem as if the group of assembled GM’s certainly sees more value in those draft picks than the big money players. Granted they have the benefit of hindsight but maybe this is a signal that teams should be a little more risk averse in some of these big money contracts that they dole out every February and March.
You can follow along with their draft with #PSRWP on Twitter or here to view their draft chart. If you want a reference point on spending in the NFL you can check out this article I wrote the other week.
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Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.