NFL Draft Review: Who Gained the Most Contract Value

With the NFL draft complete, I thought it would be good to back to the discussions concerning different ways to measure draft value and apply it to this year’s draft. For those of you new to OTC, what I am doing is assigning an average veteran salary for the expected Approximate Value of each draft slot. This page will contain links to the various draft articles that explain it in detail, but this allows us to describe the salary cap (and cash) benefits a team will realize over the next four seasons if a team get’s average draft performance at each slot.

Now since I wrote the prior articles the rookie salaries have risen greatly based on reports of the Buccaneers contract with Jameis Winston reaching $25.35 million. I’ve now adjusted the numbers accordingly and that actually makes a few of the top picks actually overpriced rather than underpriced. Here is how each team made out in the draft.

TeamNumberEst. CostTrue ValueGain
Cleveland Browns12$12,229,130$23,984,540$11,755,410
New England Patriots11$8,625,569$18,737,421$10,111,852
New Orleans Saints9$10,052,496$19,916,756$9,864,260
San Francisco 49ers10$8,889,677$18,426,890$9,537,213
Cincinnati Bengals9$7,999,277$17,272,276$9,272,999
Kansas City Chiefs9$8,121,292$17,226,724$9,105,432
Baltimore Ravens9$7,769,289$16,868,229$9,098,940
Minnesota Vikings10$9,585,131$18,650,373$9,065,242
St. Louis Rams9$8,994,074$17,437,162$8,443,088
Washington Redskins10$11,903,730$20,262,182$8,358,452
Tennessee Titans9$12,061,362$20,176,386$8,115,024
Oakland Raiders10$12,245,913$19,907,269$7,661,357
Indianapolis Colts8$6,634,782$14,256,901$7,622,119
Pittsburgh Steelers8$7,123,930$14,678,711$7,554,782
Green Bay Packers8$6,726,054$14,279,827$7,553,773
Denver Broncos9$7,588,853$15,104,104$7,515,251
Miami Dolphins7$7,011,200$14,439,824$7,428,624
Seattle Seahawks8$5,414,076$12,654,887$7,240,812
Arizona Cardinals7$6,464,026$13,647,879$7,183,853
Dallas Cowboys8$6,891,954$13,918,320$7,026,367
Detroit Lions7$6,418,952$13,422,025$7,003,074
Atlanta Falcons7$8,246,244$15,213,024$6,966,781
Jacksonville Jaguars8$11,242,246$17,938,722$6,696,476
Houston Texans7$6,991,627$13,632,499$6,640,872
Tampa Bay Buccaneers7$11,300,383$17,775,264$6,474,881
Chicago Bears6$8,260,603$14,680,215$6,419,613
New York Giants6$7,700,959$13,718,124$6,017,165
Philadelphia Eagles6$6,083,553$11,967,524$5,883,971
New York Jets6$8,787,108$14,496,569$5,709,461
San Diego Chargers5$5,822,331$11,493,822$5,671,492
Buffalo Bills6$4,293,975$9,823,735$5,529,761
Carolina Panthers5$5,512,837$10,903,335$5,390,498

The Big Gainers

Since the majority of the draft is underpriced, obviously teams that have more picks are going to skew higher. No team had more picks in the draft than the Browns and they clearly led the way with a gain of nearly $11.8 million per year by using rookies instead of an equivalent veteran player. The Browns made out great in part because they had two mid first round picks which are extremely valuable.

The Patriots came in second with 11 picks and just over $10 million in gains with the Saints coming in third with $9.8 million in salary gains.

Of those three teams the Saints have the most upside potential if we take positional drafting into account. They came away with a potential left tackle. Quarterback, a few pass rushers and corners in the draft.  Those are all big premier pay spots and the benefits are tremendous if you hit on those players. The other two teams were nearly as focused on those high impact/pay positions. Given the Saints cap situation they need the help.

All told, 9 teams will receive over $9 million in value if they get average performance for their rookies over the next four years. So those teams clearly have some leeway in the event a pick underperforms his slot.

Highest Upside Players

Despite having just 5 picks, the Chargers received very good value in those top three picks, which brought their class average to over $1.1 million per draft pick in expected cap savings. The enthusiasm should be tempered a bit based on their top pick being a running back, but they really positioned themselves well in the draft.

New Orleans came in second even though they had all those picks, which really goes to show the potential strength of their draft this year. We round out the top 5 with the Panthers, Bears, and Dolphins. Miami may have the most ultimate upside based on a few of the positions they targeted.

The Limited Gains

Five teams project to less than $5 million per year in salary gains if their picks are just average. That doesn’t mean a bad draft, it just means the teams may require above average performances from their picks to make up for the low amount of picks/less than ideal slot locations.

Carolinas lack of a third round pick is what hurt them the most though they also didn’t have those late round picks to help them either. With no first or fourth round pick, the Bills were always going to be near the bottom of this list. The Chargers, Jets, and Eagles round out the bottom 5.