Introducing Our NFL Draft Research Book: A Pre-Screening Offer for NFL Teams & Affiliated Parties

We are excited to announce the debut of a small research book that focuses on the successes and failures in the modern NFL draft:

The Drafting Stage – Creating a Marketplace for NFL Draft Picks

Written by: Brad Spielberger & Jason Fitzgerald 

If you work in/are affiliated with the NFL and are interested in receiving an electronic copy of the book, please email Brad at

The concept for the research was to use NFL salary data to retroactively grade every draft selection from 2011 through 2015 following the conclusion of their rookie contracts, and to use that data to better project the value of each future draft selection. To the best of our knowledge nobody has used this type of metric to value draft selections, as most other papers have dealt with inputs like “years making a pro bowl,” or “games started” to value the contribution and talent level of a draft pick in the NFL. Nothing is more all-encompassing, in our opinion, than the ultimate salary of a player, which should be reflective of every aspect of the player’s game.  

We extended the study to go beyond just the typical “draft pick values” that are usually derived from draft analysis work. In the book we touch on the following: 

  • Assessing every draft pick trade outcome from 2011 to 2015, by round, to determine who was the ultimate “winner and loser” based on the financial outcomes of the trade 
  • Developing Tiers based on a player’s salary to better identify the probabilities of finding a superstar, starter, backup, or replacement level player in the draft based on the draft round and position played 
  • Creating a system to evaluate contracts fairly and independent of position to better illustrate the value that can be found based on position influenced drafting 
  • Examining the success rates and selection rates by position to provide better information on when to strike on a specific position in the draft 
  • Providing some context to the idea of finding “ten-year starters” in the draft through examining the actual outcomes of every draft pick selected during the draft years that were studied  
  • Identifying the typical range and price of free agent talent available to better plan what positions should perhaps be given additional weight in the draft 

Team Building Notes for the NFL Draft

I wanted to just give you guys some notes to consider when watching the draft. When considering what your team should do with its draft picks, it’s important to understand some of the thoughts behind these picks and the things that impact the decisions a team should be making.

Continue reading Team Building Notes for the NFL Draft »

Valuing the NFL Draft Picks

So every year around draft time I usually like to try to take some different looks at draft values. The best received one was using the PFR AV scores for rookies as a baseline to compare against veterans and then translating that to a salary expectation. This would be a rolling scale since each year the draft changes its salary. Rather than rehashing the same stuff this time around I wanted to go with a “wisdom of the crowds” system by letting the actual NFL contract negotiators past decisions set our new values for the draft. Continue reading Valuing the NFL Draft Picks »

#CBA2020: Replace The NFL Draft With An Auction

Saw Mike Silver from NFL Network and Sports Illustrated tweeting about the idea of abolishing the draft in a conversation about the Joey Bosa situation. My first reaction to this was that this could make teams have to pay more than the current draft positions dictate as they could be forced to pay closer to fair market value for a player. I decided to take some notes and explore that idea.

Continue reading #CBA2020: Replace The NFL Draft With An Auction »

@ZackMooreNFL’s 1st Round Review and 2nd Round Preview!

This will be more of a discussion of what the teams did positionally, rather than a debate on the player himself. We don’t know why certain teams drafted certain players because we don’t have all of that information available to us, but we can see what needs and positions teams should address.

I’m going to take the approach of saying the thing I like most and the think I dislike about these picks, so we can look at both sides of the pick, the potential positives and negatives. I’ll try to understand why a team did something, but also show the potential negatives about the pick.

As always, if you like what I’m doing and this kind of analysis, e-mail me at if you’re interested in getting on the e-mail list and receiving our first chapter of the 2000 Ravens that we released last week! Tweet me @ZackMooreNFL to discuss the draft tonight!

  • Bucs: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State

Draft picks: Round 2 (34), Round 3 (65), Round 4 (109), Round 5 (162), Round 5 (168), Round 6 (184), Round 7 (218)

Like: There’s not a lot to like about this pick to dislike. The Bucs have the receivers to be a great passing offense, they have some defensive pieces, and if they draft a tackle in the second round, they’re really moving in the right direction. You just can’t pass up the franchise quarterback when you have a chance to get him.

Dislike: Was Mike Glennon that bad? Regardless, if you can take the guy who you think will be your franchise quarterback, you take him. Plus, your hope is that you won’t be in position to make this kind of pick next year. Now that you have Winston, next year’s draft picks can be the kinds of players that will be more available in the middle of the first round. Defensive linemen, cornerbacks, offensive linemen, maybe a third receiver. So yes, there isn’t much at all to dislike about this if the Bucs did their due diligence.

Moving Forward: Draft a potential left tackle of the future in the second round. Draft one of these great running backs in the third round. They need to have a great running game to let Winston grow into his role as a franchise quarterback. I’m a firm believer that, to be successful, young quarterbacks need a strong running game behind them that will help them as they grow into a bigger role. Once the QB is on his second and third contract and being paid as the franchise quarterback, that’s when the offense needs to be a pass-first offense, but until then, the team should take advantage of his low cap hit to use that money to build a strong running game and defense.

  • Titans: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

Draft picks: Round 2 (33), Round 3 (66), Round 4 (100), Round 5 (138), Round 6 (177), Round 6 (208)

Like: I heard a shocking stat last night that the Titans only have one quarterback since 2003 who has started 16 games, Matt Hasselbeck in 2011. The 11 years of distress at the position solidified the believe in me that they should take Mariota and develop the system to his talents. I’ve always thought he’s a great athlete, player and person, those are three things that lead me to believe that he’s the kind of kid you can trust will help you win in the NFL. He’s got a good work ethic and he had 105 touchdowns to only 14 interceptions in college, one interception every 83 passes, that’s good enough for me. They also did enough in free agency to build a team around him that can have success.

Dislike: Again, nothing, this is the guy they should have picked for the face of their franchise. The only other option that made sense was Leonard Williams because they don’t have great interior linemen, but a Marcus Mariota is harder to find than a Leonard Williams.

Moving Forward: I know they could use defensive help, but I would draft a running back with the 33rd pick. I keep going back to him, but Jay Ajayi would be perfect. They can’t just have Bishop Sankey back there with Shonn Greene, that’s not a one-two punch that makes defenses nervous. You put Ajayi and Sankey and you have yourself a dynamic running back tandem that will allow Mariota, like I said about Winston, grow into his role as the franchise quarterback. I wouldn’t be against a lineman pick early in the second round to, like with Winston, protect that franchise QB. If they’re looking for interior line help, the third round is where they’ll find more value.

  • Jaguars: Dante Fowler, DE/OLB, Florida

Draft picks: Round 2 (36), Round 3 (67), Round 4 (103), Round 5 (139), Round 6 (180), Round 7 (220)

Like: Fowler is exactly who I thought the Jaguars should take for Gus Bradley’s defense. He’s going to help create havoc on a defensive front seven that is just silly now. They’ve done such a good job all over the field improving this offseason and Fowler is just another fit.

Dislike: Again, nothing. This is the perfect fit for them and he’ll be the LEO in their scheme.

Moving Forward: Running back with the 36th pick whether it’s Jay Ajayi or Duke Johnson. If they don’t go that route, go with an offensive linemen as there are quite a few tackles left who could be great for them or, if they think Justin Blackmon is done, give Bortles another passing weapon outside. They did enough work on defense this offseason to wait until a later round.

  • Raiders: Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama

Draft picks: Round 2 (35), Round 3 (68), Round 4 (102), Round 5 (140), Round 6 (179), Round 7 (221)

Like: This gives Derek Carr a legitimate #1 WR to grow with along the rest of his career. He’s a WR whose floor, I believe, is a solid starter in the NFL for a decade. His ceiling is one of the best receivers of all-time. If you have an opportunity to draft him, I’ve got to support that.

Dislike: They just signed Michael Crabtree and James Jones the offseason before. Andre Holmes has also developed into a nice player for them. They could have gone elsewhere, but Cooper’s talents were too much to pass up.

Moving Forward: Offensive line to solidify a line that will protect Carr and must open up holes for their running backs or the defensive backfield with one of the good athletes that will be available at the top of this round. Some say that they need help at running back, I don’t think they do with Richardson, Murray and Helu, but it’s up to the Raiders to decide if they trust that group enough. If they have any doubts, draft a running back of the future in the second or third round. I know I keep repeating this, but young quarterbacks, I believe, need a great running game and a solid defense to help them grow into the role they’ll have once their contract figures start become bigger and the team transitions into pass-first mode. With a young quarterback, running the football and defense help mitigate that risk and help him grow into his role as the franchise quarterback. Almost all of the Super Bowl teams that I’ve studied who have QBs on their rookie deals had this formula. I think it’s key to do this with Carr.

  • Redskins: Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa

Draft picks: Round 2 (38), Round 3 (69), Round 4 (105), Round 5 (141), Round 6 (182), Round 7 (222)

Like: The Redskins needed a lineman of any kind, offensive or defensive, they just needed a lineman. Scherff fits a need for them and he was touted as the best offensive linemen in the draft.

Dislike: Nothing, another sound pick. You could argue that they should have taken Williams here, but you won’t hear any complaints out of me. Scherff should be a starter for them for a long-time.

Moving Forward: They handled a few of their main issues in free agency and if RG3 returns to form in some way, they have a team that can compete. What they’re going to need on offense are a WR3 and a pass-catching running back or an all-around back to pair with Alfred Morris and take the load off. On the defensive side of the football, look at one of the defensive linemen or outside linebackers available early in the second like Eli Harold, Preston Smith, Jordan Phillips, or Randy Gregory.

  • Jets: Leonard Williams, DT/DE, USC

Draft picks: Round 2 (37), Round 3 (70), Round 4 (104), Round 7 (223), Round 7 (224)

Like: The Jets got the best player on the board here. He’s only 20-years-old and he can be a dominant player for the next decade. Although this is the sixth pick, he might be the best value pick of the first round considering that he was the best player on everyone’s board.

Dislike: It’s at a position where they have a ton of great players, but defensive linemen are always going down

Moving Forward: Build you team in that 2000 Ravens image, great rushing attack, great defense. I would draft Bryce Petty or Brett Hundley in the second or third round as the quarterback of the future, but outside of that, continue to assemble a team that can run the football to make up for QB inefficiencies and play great defense.

  • Bears: Kevin White, WR, West Virginia

Draft picks: Round 2 (39), Round 3 (71), Round 4 (106), Round 5 (142), Round 6 (183)

Like: They immediately replaced Brandon Marshall and addressed a huge need for them.

Dislike: Nothing, good pick, exactly who I would have chosen here.

Moving Forward: I would almost just draft defensive players the rest of the way. Sprinkle in a WR3 candidate and you’re improving where you need to.

  • Falcons: Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson

Draft picks: Round 2 (42), Round 3 (73), Round 4 (107), Round 5 (146), Round 6 (185), Round 7 (225), Round 7 (249)

Like: This is exactly what their strength is going to be under Quinn, defense. I love the move to go with what you want to do as a franchise. A key to being a Super Bowl champion is knowing who you are and who you want to be, the Falcons have an identity now and they have a great offense to build it with.

Dislike: Nothing. This is who I would have chosen here, but they did add quite a few players like Beasley this offseason in O’Brien Schofield, Adrian Clayborn, and Brooks Reed, although Beasley will be a franchise player.

Moving Forward: Running back. They were 24th in the NFL last season rushing the football and Steven Jackson is gone. If Maxx Williams or Clive Walford are available, they’ve got to take one of them, preferably Williams, ESPN mentions that their 214 receiving yards from their tight ends last year was the least in the NFL. That’s not acceptable after the kind of role that Tony Gonzalez had in that offense, completely changed the dynamic of the offense.

  • Giants: Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami

Draft picks: Round 2 (40), Round 3 (74), Round 4 (108), Round 5 (144), Round 6 (186), Round 7 (226), Round 7 (245)

Like: They got a position of need and they got a player who they can count on at the position. I think Flowers’ floor is a good starting right tackle, which is a great addition to the Giants who are searching for the man to replace David Diehl

Dislike: A lot of people agree that this is a little high to draft Flowers, but the Giants can’t decide where they’re drafting and some say the Rams were very interested in Flowers, so who knows, the pundits may have been wrong.

Moving Forward: Landon Collins. The Giants need safety help and the best one in the draft might just fall to them at #40. Denzel Perryman is my second option here as I believe ILB is a huge need for them with Beason’s injury history and general inefficient play at the position last year. One thing that bothers me is that Beason and McClain are their 7th and 8th highest cap hits, both inside linebackers, because of this, I think they hold off on drafting an ILB until later in the draft.

If someone snaps Collins up, or they decide they don’t want an ILB, then I wouldn’t be opposed to them drafting Devin Smith who could help until Victor Cruz is 100% and could be a difference maker down the stretch for them and eventually replace Rueben Randle unless he improves. Jaelen Strong or Dorial Green-Beckham, who would be a steal here talent-wise, are two great options. I wouldn’t be opposed to Maxx Williams or Clive Walford either here.

  • Rams: Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia

Draft picks: Round 2 (41), Round 3 (72), Round 4 (119), Round 6 (215), Round 7 (227)

Like: Love the idea of a Tre Mason/Todd Gurley backfield, love it. Really going to provide them with a one-two punch that will create the kind of run-first, defensive team in the image of the 2000 Ravens model. With some of their best players returning from injury this year and improvements, they will continue to compete in the toughest division in football. I like the idea of them building a team similar to the Seahawks as well.

Dislike: They could have drafted an offensive lineman now and a running back later and gotten more value out of the picks considering the talents, but they can still get a guard in the third round, which is probably their biggest need.

Moving Forward: Draft a potential WR1 in the second round in Devin Smith or Jaelen Strong. I would stay away from Dorial Green-Beckham because he is from St. Louis, admittedly, I don’t know anything about him other than his college troubles, but like Aaron Hernandez, sometimes taking a hometown player with issues can be a recipe for disaster. Wait until the third round and draft a guard or center who can replace Scott Wells or Davin Joseph.

  • Vikings: Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State

Draft picks: Round 2 (45), Round 3 (76), Round 4 (110), Round 5 (137), Round 7 (228), Round 7 (232)

Like: Just who I thought they would go with if they liked him enough to pass up a lineman. Trae Waynes is a great pick for them and gives them two potentially shut down corners with Xavier Rhodes.

Dislike: Nothing. It’s who I would have taken.

Moving Forward: If Adrian Peterson is not in your plans, then you need a player who can give you the kind of running and pass-catching that Norv Turner’s offense was famous for in San Diego. Like I’ve said, you need a great running game to help a young quarterback grow into his role as the franchise player, so if Peterson’s gone, Asiata and McKinnon are not enough. With the right pieces, Teddy Bridgewater can be a Russell Wilson kind of player, just with less running, but that similar style of mobility that can beat you for first downs. If Ajayi or Yeldon are available here, they’d be great players for the Vikings if Peterson’s gone or even if Peterson’s still there, but going to be cut after 2015. David Cobb would be a nice pick later. If someone like TJ Clemmings is there, take him.

  • Browns: Danny Shelton, DT, Washington

Draft picks: Round 2 (43), Round 3 (77), Round 4 (111), Round 4 (115), Round 5 (147), Round 6 (189), Round 6 (202), Round 7 (229)


Like: Fills a need for them. A buddy of mine who is a Browns fan called this pick weeks ago and explained the logic behind it, a very sound move.

Dislike: Nothing, good value here at #12. They want to build a run-first offense and a great defense, then this is a good place to start.

Moving Forward: If a true WR1 is available, that’d be nice, but with the kind of team they should be looking to build, they will need better running backs than West and Crowell. Maxx Williams, Clive Walford, Nick O’Leary or Jeff Heuerman are options for them because of the need at tight end. Williams and Walford would be good second round picks, while the other two in the third.

An ESPN mock has them taking Jaelen Strong, while I think TE is a bigger need, especially for the offense I want them to build, Strong would be a great value at 43.

  • Saints: Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford

Draft picks: Round 2 (44), Round 3 (75), Round 3 (78), Round 5 (148), Round 5 (154), Round 6 (187), Round 7 (230)

Like: He’s a freak, an absolute specemin and he’s Stanford educated, so he’s smart.

Dislike: A friend of mine referred to him as a house cat, but I don’t know enough about him to speak to that. I think he should be a good player for them and it was certainly a need here.

Moving Forward: Bryce Petty would be a fantastic value in the second round and fits into the Saints offense. Speedsters who could replace the Kenny Stills deep ball position are Devin Smith and Sammie Coates. With Jimmy Graham gone, they need a TE as well, so Maxx Williams and Clive Walford are second round options, while O’Leary, Funchess and Heuerman are third round options.

  • Dolphins: DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville

Draft picks: Round 2 (47), Round 4 (114), Round 5 (149), Round 5 (150), Round 6 (191)

Like: This could give them a legitimate #1 WR and allow Landry to stay in the slot, where he can serve the team best. This gives Tannehill a young receiver who he can grow with and build chemistry with throughout his career, so I like that reliability.

Dislike: Landry, Stills and Jennings are all already there with Jordan Cameron at tight end. While the pick makes sense, they were the 31st pass blocking team and 27th run-blocking team in the NFL last season according to PFF. They could’ve certainly used an upgrade. They have so many other needs that I thought this was a pick where they choose what they wanted rather than what they needed. With those four legitimate pass-catchers, it reminds me why the Patriots are the Patriots and other franchises aren’t. I fully understand that Wes Welker, Reggie Wayne, Donnie Avery or Brandon Lloyd are nowhere near what Parker is, but the Dolphins don’t have enough draft picks to get something they want and still know they’re covering what they need. I said in my mock that they needed a WR4 that could compete, I thought that Tre McBride, Stefon Diggs, Dezmin Lewis, Deontay Greenberry and Vince Mayle all fall into that category and would have allowed them to handle their needs early on.

Moving Forward: Got to get a running back, a cornerback and an offensive lineman. Without a third round pick, I don’t know what they should do in the second round. They have to decide who the best player available at one of those positions is and go from there. What I think is going to happen is they sign a free agent at running back like Knowshon Moreno as Lamar Miller is the starter, and a good one, so it’s less of a need. Pierre Thomas is also available and he would give them an added dimension. If Jalen Collins or Eric Rowe are available, I’d take them.

  • Chargers: Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin

Draft picks: Round 2 (48), Round 3 (83), Round 4 (117), Round 5 (153), Round 6 (192)

Like: I like that they went and got their guy, a running back who can add a dimension to their offense that they didn’t have last year. This is certainly a need for them and Melvin Gordon is my favorite running back in the draft.

Dislike: They could have gotten a running back later, while giving Rivers a legitimate WR1, which I don’t think they have. This is a pass-first offense, it’s by design considering Rivers’ cap hit, but I like Melvin Gordon too much to be upset with this pick. I’m just such a believer in value based drafting that I thought a later selection at running back would have worked out okay, although I can’t fault them in any way for getting the guy they wanted.

Moving Forward: If Devin Smith, Jaelen Strong, Dorial Green-Beckham or Sammie Coates are available, they would be good picks at 48. If they want to wait until later Justin Hardy, Jamison Crowder, Tre McBride and Rashad Greene are favorites of mine. Jordan Phillips would be a great nost tackle in this defense, while Grady Jarrett and Carl Davis are other options.

  • Texans: Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest

Draft picks: Round 2 (51), Round 3 (82), Round 4 (116), Round 5 (152), Round 5 (175), Round 6 (195), Round 6 (211), Round 6 (216), Round 7 (235)

Like: Kevin Johnson might be the best cover corner in this draft and will replace Jonathan Joseph when he leaves in free agency after the season.

Dislike: I initially believes that safety was more of a need, thus didn’t understand the pick, but after learning of Joseph’s contract, I understand it and agree with it. Gives him a year to improve before becoming the starter.

Moving Forward: The Texans need a tight end. If Maxx Williams or Clive Walford are available, then that should probably be the move and I like the idea of Devin Funchess as well. If Landon Collins is available at 51, then they get the guy I thought they’d get in the first round and have gotten Kevin Johnson, so a win-win. Running back is the other option here with Ajayi, Duke Johnson or Abdullah. David Johnson could be a third or fourth round pick

  • 49ers: Arik Armstead, DE, Oregon

Draft picks: Round 2 (46), Round 3 (79), Round 4 (126), Round 4 (132), Round 5 (151), Round 6 (190), Round 7 (246), Round 7 (254)

Like: They got the guy I thought they should get. He has the potential to be a real game-changing athlete and fortify that defensive line immediately.

Dislike: Nothing, he’s the guy I would have taken.

Moving Forward: They need to replace Chris Culliver and Perrish Cox who left in free agency, so Kevin White, Steven Nelson, Alex Carter, Eric Rowe and Quinten Rollins are all options in the second or, more likely for the 49ers, the third round is where they should take one of them. They need a RB2 for the future with Carlos Hyde, so that’s something I might take a little later since Reggie Bush is there this season. Inside linebacker could be the biggest need with the retirement of Willis and Borland, so Perryman, Kendricks, or McKinney should be taken if they’re there in the second round.

  • Chiefs: Marcus Peters, CB, Washington

Draft picks: Round 2 (49), Round 3 (80), Round 3 (98), Round 4 (118), Round 5 (172), Round 5 (173), Round 6 (193), Round 6 (217), Round 7 (233)

Like: It certainly fills a need, so hopefully they can control him.

Dislike: This guy was arguably the best cornerback in college football and the best player on his team, yet he was such a problem that he got kicked off the team?

Moving Forward: Wide receiver, tackle and inside linebacker are three needs. It’s up to them the order they want to address those needs. If they want a slot receiver, Locker, Hardy or Crowder will be available later, so they could hit on either a tackle or inside linebacker here.

  • Browns: Cameron Erving, G/C, Florida State

Like: He has versatility and many say he’s the kind of guy who can be a Pro Bowler almost immediately. He’s a great player. Just like Ozzie Newsome says, they tried to hit a double here and got themselves a great player.

Dislike: Again, nothing.

Moving Forward: Refer to what I wrote above for the Browns.

  • Eagles: Nelson Agholor, WR, USC

Draft picks: Round 2 (52), Round 3 (84), Round 4 (113), Round 5 (145), Round 5 (156), Round 6 (196), Round 7 (237)

Like: Everything about this is perfect. Nelson Agholor is Jeremy Maclin 2.0, he’s almost the same exact player, so the Eagles essentially let Maclin walk in free agency when the price got too high and replaced him with someone who will be on a rookie deal (that he will outplay), and do the exact same kind of things.

Dislike: Nothing at all.

Moving Forward: I’d draft Bryce Petty or Brett Hundley. Two guys who fit into their offensive scheme and could be inexpensive, but exactly what this team with a strong running game needs. Could provide them with a cap hit that’s low, this allowing them to build a strong team around them.

  • Bengals: Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, Texas A&M

Draft picks: Round 2 (53), Round 3 (85), Round 3 (99), Round 4 (120), Round 4 (135), Round 5 (157), Round 6 (197), Round 7 (238)

Like: They’ve got a great athlete at a position of need who could have been drafted even higher if he didn’t get injured this season.

Dislike: Nothing, a good pick for the Bengals for a player who can eventually replace Andrew Whitworth.

Moving Forward: They need a WR who can give them more than their current WR3’s and step up when Green or Sanu go down. They also could need a tight end as they haven’t resigned Jermaine Gresham yet, but Tyler Eifert should be their tight end of the future, so the TE they grab should be later in the draft if they don’t plan on resigning Gresham. They should also get a third running back later in the draft, they can’t afford to have just one running back if Hill or Bernard go down with the Dalton at QB. Cornerback, safety, defensive end and outside linebacker are four positions I could see them taking in the third round if they don’t draft a WR.

  • Steelers: Bud Dupree, OLB, Kentucky

Draft picks: Round 2 (56), Round 3 (87), Round 4 (121), Round 5 (160), Round 6 (199), Round 6 (212), Round 7 (239)


Like: The Steelers were 26th in the NFL in sacks last season, which is unheard of for them. Bud Dupree has a great attitude and is a great athlete, because of that he will be fine. To paraphrase Ozzie Newsome, the Steelers tried to hit a double here, rather than a home run. Dupree is a sure thing as a starter in my opinion.

Dislike: I feel like safety and cornerback are bigger needs for them and that Dupree is one of those guys who has moved his way up draft boards during the process because of things other than his abilities.

Moving Forward: Another team who I could see taking a tight end. If Williams or Walford aren’t there, then wait for later and draft a cornerback or safety here. Eric Rowe, Landon Collins, PJ Williams, Jalen Collins are all option.

  • Broncos: Shane Ray, DE, Missouri

Draft picks: Round 2 (59), Round 3 (92), Round 4 (133), Round 5 (143), Round 5 (164), Round 6 (203), Round 7 (250), Round 7 (251), Round 7 (252)

Like: Not much. Can Shane Ray be a great player? Sure and he fulfills a need for the Broncos, but too many red flag to justify the trade last night in my opinion.

Dislike: They just traded up, traded away Manny Ramirez, an offensive linemen when I see OL at one of their biggest needs, to take a guy who doesn’t have the self control to not get caught with marijuana during the week of the NFL Draft. So now, Shane Ray is going to the state where you can legally get weed almost anywhere and he’s going to have the self-control to not partake in this drug when it’s legal?

Ramirez didn’t have the best season last year, but he was versatile to play over 500 snaps at center and right guard. That kind of versatility is of tremendous value in the NFL.

Moving Forward: OFFENSIVE LINE. The Broncos need an offensive line. A huge reason Peyton Manning has been such a legendary quarterback is that for much of his career, I’ve been watching a guy who has consistently had the cleanest jersey on the field. Granted that they did grab Shelley Smith and Gino Gradkowski in free agency, I think they need more. I believe you can never have too much depth on the line. I want to see them draft a safety at some point, plus receiver and tight end are big needs for this offense. A Peyton Manning offense needs weapons everywhere and they don’t have enough at receiver and tight end yet. I like Justin Hardy, Jamison Crowder, Rashad Greene, Jeff Heuerman, Maxx Williams, CJ Uzomah, and Dezmin Lewis. Remember, Emmanuel Sanders can play inside and outside and they have Cody Lattimer who they believe can be a player, but still, let’s get a little bit talent in the group.

Devin Funchess could be a sneaky second round pick that they could develop into the next Julius Thomas-style tight end. He will have a lot to learn as a blocker, but his size and abilities could make him an incredible tight end. He will probably be available in the third round, so I’d take him there, unless the Broncos believe he has what it takes to be that kind of player, then he could be worth it. (I’d probably look for a more sure thing in the second round rather than a project with potential.)

  • Cardinals: DJ Humphries, OT, Florida

Draft picks: Round 2 (55), Round 3 (86), Round 4 (123), Round 5 (159), Round 6 (198), Round 7 (241), Round 7 (256)

Like: They needed an offensive lineman more than any other position that makes sense here, although have drafted a cornerback to replace Cromartie.

Dislike: A good move for them, but Byron Jones could have given this defense the kind of athletic versatile defensive back they need in it.

Moving Forward: ESPN mentions that their 35 sacks since 2010 were their lowest sack total since 2010. They think they should draft OLB, Hau’oli Kikaha from Washington. He was college football’s sack leader, so I can’t disagree with that one. If they don’t draft him and their guy at running back is available, that’s another option. If neither of those, then Eric Rowe would be a great pick.

  • Panthers: Shaq Thompson, OLB, Washington

Draft picks: Round 2 (57), Round 3 (89), Round 4 (124), Round 5 (161), Round 5 (169), Round 5 (174), Round 6 (201), Round 7 (242)

Like: Shaq Thompson is going to be a very, very versatile player for them and will be a lot of fun to watch.

Dislike: No one had him projected to go in the first round, I wouldn’t be surprised if they could have gotten him in the second round and have instead drafted a receiver or a lineman for Cam Newton.

Moving Forward: They still need a WR2, RB2 who can hopefully outplay Stewart and an OT. ESPN mentions they should take Mario Edwards Jr. here due to Greg Hardy’s departure and because Charles Johnson could be come a cap casualty due to his huge contract and deals coming soon for Kuechly and Newton, so I can’t disagree with that, but that means those three big needs are still there. They did add Michael Oher and Jonathan Martin, so that helps, so if they don’t draft Edwards, then Jay Ajayi, Duke Johnson, Ameer Abdullah, Sammie Coates, Devin Smith, and Dorial Green-Beckham are all options. If they draft a receiver, David Cobb or Matt Jones are good late RB options.

  • Ravens: Breshad Perriman, WR, UCF

Draft picks: Round 2 (58), Round 3 (90), Round 4 (122), Round 4 (125), Round 4 (136), Round 5 (158), Round 5 (171), Round 5 (176), Round 6 (204)

Like: I like everything about this move, this is exactly how great organizations draft. Per my article titled “The Ravens Way,” they’re masters at replacing more expensive or aging pieces with guys who fit what they’re trying to do. Ozzie Newsome has also coined the awesome phrase of “looking to hit doubles” in the first round rather than home runs. It’s all about getting guys who fit what you do and who you know have high floors, guys who will, at the least, be a starter for you. Perriman fits this mold and gives Flacco a tremendous deep threat with his 4.2 speed.

Dislike: Perriman drops the ball a ton, but because he fits the Torrey Smith role so perfectly, I can’t dislike it too much. I do think they could have

Moving Forward: ESPN’s second round mock again gives us a great opinion. Ameer Abdullah would be absolutely perfect for this offense! Fits the exact Ray Rice/Justin Forsett mold that the Ravens offense is perfect for. If they don’t draft him, then a cornerback could be needed and a running back could certainly be drafted later in this class. If they get Abdullah, then a cornerback like Kevin White or Alex Carter will hopefully be there in the third round for them.

  • Cowboys: Byron Jones, CB, UConn

Draft picks: Round 2 (60), Round 3 (91), Round 4 (127), Round 5 (163), Round 7 (236), Round 7 (243)

Like: This kid seems to be a better human being than he is an athlete and he’s a great athlete.

Dislike: Nothing. The Cowboys needed a cornerback to replace the atrocity that is the Brandon Carr contract and experiment.

Moving Forward: They need a running back who can carry the load for them as McFadden, Randle and Dunbar aren’t that guy. I think the second round is where they should take him whether it’s Ajayi, Abdullah, Duke Johnson or Yeldon. Ajayi and Yeldon are my two favorite choices for the Cowboys out of that group.

  • Lions: Laken Tomlinson, G, Duke

Draft picks: Round 2 (54), Round 3 (88), Round 6 (200), Round 7 (231), Round 7 (240)

Like: Like Jones, this is a kid who is a better human being than he is a football player and he’s a fantastic football player. He’s one of my favorite stories in the draft and the embodiment of the American Dream. I love that they traded back, got Manny Ramirez, and a couple later round picks for the future. They finally addressed their massive offensive line issue and have vastly improved.

Dislike: I think that they could have gotten him later in the draft, but considering what was available here, I don’t disagree with the idea. I do think that Phillip Dorsett or Malcom Brown could have improved them at positions of need in WR3 and DT. Jay Ajayi could give them a running back who does everything they wanted to get out of Bush and Bell last year, but he could be available later. I had Tomlinson going in the second or third, but I can’t disagree with this pick because he’s a kid who has a high floor. Due to the kind of hard-working, incredible American he is, he’s not going to fail.

Moving Forward: I’ve already mentioned it in the dislike, they need a WR3, DT and RB. The ESPN mock has them taking Carl Davis, which is a good move, Grady Jarrett is another good move here. I would rather they take a running back who can give them what they need in that Saints-style offense, so if Ajayi is here, that’d be a great choice for them and give their offense an incredible dimension to it.

  • Colts: Phillip Dorsett, WR, Miami

Draft picks: Round 2 (61), Round 3 (91), Round 4 (128), Round 5 (165), Round 6 (205), Round 6 (207), Round 7 (244), Round 7 (255)

Like: Phillip Dorsett can be great in this offense, but a lot of people can be great in this offense. The main thing I like about this is if they just drafted TY Hilton’s replacement and have realized that he won’t be there for them once his contract runs up considering that they can’t resign everyone from that incredible 2012 class. He did average 24.2 yards per catch last season, so he sure will stretch the field and he will be exciting to watch in this offense. He was also apparently the highest player left on the Colts draft board when they picked him, so I assume that they were just going with the best available strategy. Their defense should be better with the players coming back from injury as well as their free agent additions.

One thing I have to commend them for is that they know who they are, they are an air-it-out attack and they’re going to make sure it stays that way and they never leave Andrew Luck without weapons. While they have a great group of pass-catchers, we don’t know if Moncrief and Carter are 100% going to be the kinds of players who get them to where they want to be. If you’re committed to being the kind of team the Colts have committed to being, then this pick makes 100% sense.

Dislike: When I first saw this last night I was just floored by it. I thought, this is why the Patriots are the Patriots and the Colts can’t beat them. In the matter of about a half an hour, you saw the Patriots draft exactly what they needed, while the Colts seem to have just drafted something they wanted. The Colts are making the same errors that they’ve now made for the last 15 years, they just draft offensive weapons and hope that their defense is going to get better. Their pass catchers are now Hilton, Donte Moncrief, Andre Johnson, Duron Carter (who is apparently very talented with Chad Johnson, who played with him in Canada, saying that he has what it takes to be a #1 WR right now), Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener and, of course, Dorsett. I just don’t understand where he fits into all of this with their other needs.

*With more time to think about it all, I like the pick. He was the best player on their board, the Colts improved their defense in free agency (Trent Cole, Kendall Langford, Nate Irving) and the Colts know exactly who they are, a passing team. I must say, they probably could have gotten a good receiver in the middle of the draft and gotten a tackle like TJ Clemmings to protect Luck, but with Luck throwing 38 times a game, I understand getting someone like Dorsett who can stretch the field.

Moving Forward: They need a DT, OL, CB and a RB. I’m sure they’ll just go best available there too. I think running back is more of a need than we think of it as being because you can’t rely on Frank Gore to be your only real running back as Boom Herron is primarily a pass catcher. We must remember that Vick Ballard will be back, but he’s too injury prone to rely on that. If Duke Johnson or Ameer Abdullah are available in the second round, that’d be great, but David Cobb, Jeremy Langford or Matt Jones could provide better value. Jones might be my favorite running back in the draft as his running style reminds me of Marshawn Lynch and he will be available in the sixth or seventh round. He would be a fantastic pick up for the Colts at the right price.

Ali Marpet, Andy Gallik, Tre Jackson, Josue Matias and La’el Collins (if he’s going to be cleared) are all great options here for the Colts.

If they decide to draft a cornerback then Eric Rowe, Ronald Darby, PJ Williams or Kevin White would be sound picks.

Grady Jarrett or Gabe Wright could give them DT depth.

  • Packers: Damarious Randall, S, Arizona State

Draft picks: Round 2 (62), Round 3 (94), Round 4 (129), Round 5 (166), Round 6 (206), Round 6 (210), Round 6 (213), Round 7 (247)


Like: He fills a need, the Packers need better secondary and lost a few players. Capers likes to play with six defensive backs, so this could be a great move for them. Randall has already commented on the fact that he believes he can play anywhere and is willing to do so.

Dislike: I think they needed an ILB more than a safety and I think Randall would have been available later in the draft. Maybe they like a player who they think will be available then, who knows? You never know how these teams grade players that we have graded out in the middle or late rounds, so maybe Randall was just the best player on their board and, considering his athleticism and what the Packers are looking for in their secondary, I can believe it.

Moving Forward: ILB needs to be addressed or, if they decide to move Clay Matthews inside like he played last year, they could go with an OLB, but I wouldn’t advise that. Jay Ajayi or TJ Yeldon would be the perfect back-up to Lacy and take the load off of him a bit. Matt Jones would be a great option later in the draft. The Packers should address their cornerbacks in the middle of the draft after going with Randall early. They could certainly use a DT, so maybe they take one here.

  • Saints: Stephone Anthony, LB, Clemson
  • Patriots: Malcom Brown, DT, Texas

Draft picks: Round 2 (64), Round 3 (96), Round 3 (97), Round 4 (101), Round 4 (131), Round 6 (178), Round 7 (219), Round 7 (253)

Like: Per usual, the Patriots made one of the most “duh” picks of the draft, they just always do something that makes sense once it’s done, but still has an air of brilliance while it’s going on. Just like the Eagles, the Patriots let a superstar leave in free agency and replaced him with a much cheaper, younger player who is almost a spitting image of Wilfork. They are both 6’2”, and Wilfork is listed as only six pounds heavier.

Dislike: Nothing, this was one of their most pressing needs for a Super Bowl champion with very few holes. I think that Brown is better than the cornerbacks who were still available, which is their next biggest need, and there are better cornerback values in the middle rounds.

Moving Forward: I think they could use another young running back for the future. Blount is old and he’s their lead back, but I don’t think any of their young guys can 100% be relied on. They could also use another tall outside receiver like Jaelen Strong or Sammie Coates. Dorial Green-Beckham could be persuaded to behave here, while Devin Funchess could allow them to do some really creative stuff. Offensive line can always be improved, while they certainly need a cornerback whether they address that in the second or third round is up to them. Wouldn’t be surprised to see them go with Kevin White, Quinten Rollins, Alex Carter, Steven Nelson or Josh Shaw in back-to-back picks in the third after drafting a pass-catcher or a running back. The ESPN draft has them taking Ali Marpet, I can’t disagree with that pick.

*The write ups below are the same ones from the mock draft I did yesterday and they’re the same because they didn’t pick yesterday obviously.

At the bottom are my value picks again, guys who I think will provide more value than where they are drafted.

2/50) Bills

Draft picks: Round 2 (50), Round 3 (81), Round 5 (155), Round 6 (188), Round 6 (194), Round 7 (234)

As I wrote above, I’m a believer that you trade up in the draft if you’re someone like Chip Kelly and you believe that Marcus Mariota is the future of your organization. What I really disliked about what the Bills did last year for Sammy Watkins was that they traded away a first and fourth rounder this year to get one of a handful of elite pass catchers in last year’s first round, especially considering that Oakland and Atlanta both seemed to be looking elsewhere last year, while Tampa Bay wanted Mike Evans, they still could have gotten Watkins at #8. Of course, who knows if the Browns would have drafted him at #4 were it not for the trade. Still, even if Watkins and Evans were gone at #8, they had Odell Beckham available, they could have traded back with someone and compiled picks like the best organizations do and drafted Brandin Cooks or Kelvin Benjamin. While hindsight is always 20/20, they could have made a bunch of different decisions that still resulted in them with a dynamic receiver without giving up important draft picks in the rebuilding of this franchise.

In terms of Doug Marrone, I don’t blame him for being upset with the move, if the team wins or loses, that’s all on you and your organization is making massive decisions that you don’t approve of with your first round picks. That’d rub me the wrong way and certainly ruin the trust between my bosses and me.

Anyway, here they are with their first pick of the 2015 draft at #50 after a tremendous offseason for the franchise. I’m very happy for Rex Ryan, yes, he’s a loud-mouth and he can rub people the wrong way, but Jenny Vrentas’ MMQB article about Rex in Buffalo really got me excited for his future there.

With Kiko Alonso in Philadelphia, they’re going to need some help at linebacker to give Rex Ryan the kind of defense he’s known for and without a fourth round pick, they need to make two great picks in the second and third. I’d like to see them draft Denzel Perryman or Stephone Anthony in the second round from Miami and one of the guards I’ve mentioned already from Florida State or Laken Tomlinson in the third. I believe the third round will be a place that teams will be able to find good value for guards this year.

Considering their need for a quarterback, I really don’t know how they address that this year, but I also don’t think they need to yet. The Rex Ryan style doesn’t need a great quarterback, they need a game manager who doesn’t turn the ball over, they need to implement the strategies of the 2000 Ravens.

Matt Cassel was great during the 2008 season where he was surrounded by a great offense with four running backs with over 275 yards rushing in Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk, LaMont Jordan, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis and the 6th best rushing offense in the league. He had Wes Welker and Randy Moss with over 1000-yards and Kevin Faulk and Jabar Gaffney with over 450 to help him have the 12th best passing offense in the league. Their offense and defense ended up 8th in the NFL in points and points allowed. Cassel also threw 21 touchdowns to 11 interceptions. It might be something to look at next season when there’s a deeper class that could have a quarterback in the middle of the first round that could help them.

The Bills can succeed with Cassel or even Manuel under center if they supply him with weapons and a great defense. This offseason, the Bills did that with the additions of LeSean McCoy, Percy Harvin and Charles Clay, this offense can be very good. Behind those new additions are the offensive players that were already there to help them to a 9-7 season last year, Sammy Watkins, Fred Jackson, Anthony Dixon, Chris Hogan, and Robert Woods. They could certainly use a developmental receiver late in the draft or undrafted, but what the NFL doesn’t know yet is that Chris Hogan might just be the second best athlete to ever train at DeFranco’s Gym only behind Brian Cushing. That includes guys like Deion Branch, Miles Austin, and others. Once and offense figures out how to use him, he will be a 1000-yard receiver, so I don’t think the Bills need anything more than a late round receiver.

I do believe they need to draft one of the late round running backs, preferably a ground and pound style runner, which leads me to look at Kenny Hilliard, Cameron Artis-Payne and Matt Jones. Those three would outplay their sixth or seventh round value in this offense.

Their secondary is filled with great, young players, so a late round pick could be used here or wherever they think they need the most help.

2/62) Seahawks

Draft picks: Round 2 (63), Round 3 (95), Round 4 (112), Round 4 (130), Round 4 (134), Round 5 (167), Round 5 (170), Round 6 (181), Round 6 (209), Round 6 (214), Round 7 (248)


Just like the Patriots, another team without many holes to fill, they’re also a team that I find very hard to predict for a couple reasons, the first one being the reason already mentioned, but also, they get so much value out of inexpensive players that it doesn’t matter who or where they draft players, they’re going to get value no matter what happens.

I like what they did last year in this round drafting Percy Harvin’s replacement, Paul Richardson, it’s another aspect of team building that I find to be critical: finding players who can replace players who have, or soon will, a cost that exceeds the value they create. This is why they were able to get rid of Harvin so easily last season.

What I really love is their plethora of mid and late round draft picks, this is where the Seahawks eat. So at #63, I originally thought they would try and draft a tackle here, then look for a center in the third round, which I have declared on Twitter as the place to go if you’re looking for a center at a great value. I was thinking that they would try and draft a tackle high because of the great players available in the first two rounds, but, with the middle of the draft chock full of great interior linemen, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Seahawks drafted a few great prospects in the interior line there. Of course, if a guy like DJ Humphries or TJ Clemmings are high on their boards and drop to them at #63, they might make that kind of move.

Ali Marpet, the athletic freak from Hobart, looks like he’ll be available in the third or fourth round and he’s a very intriguing prospect that I think has piqued the Seahawks interest. With his versatility, they’d be able to play him in multiple places on the line and could get a solid player for the next ten years in the middle rounds. Add in some guys like Laken Tomlinson, BJ Finney, Andy Gallik, Josue Matias, Arie Kouandjio, Tre Jackson, and Max Garcia, there are some very good prospects that the Seahawks could draft in the middle rounds and get a lot out of.

Robert Turbin and Christine Michael showed a lot of improvement last season in a limited role with Turbin averaging 4.2 yards per carry and Michael averaging 5.1, but I think they’re going to draft a running back in this RB rich draft to a) improve depth, b) create competition, and c) give themselves a quick replacement for Turbin or Michael if/when they leave within the next two seasons in free agency. Seattle has become a place where teams come to poach talent, so I think that if Turbin or Michael do well before they hit free agency, they will be grossly overpaid by someone and this is the draft to draft your running back of the future.

With that in mind, I keep saying this, but this is a running back draft and I doubt the Seahawks will come out of these 11 picks without a solid running back. I’m sure they’ve prepared a list of the backs they think would best fit their system and with the toughness that Tevin Coleman (5’11”, 206) played with this season on a broken foot, he’s the kind of tough guy that could fit into this offense. TJ Yeldon is another guy who’s a big, physical back at 6’2”, 226 who could replace Marshawn one day and both could be available in the second and third round.

With eight picks in the fourth through sixth rounds, some options at running back in those rounds could be David Johnson, Javorius Allen, David Cobb, Jeremy Langford, Cameron Artis-Payne, Josh Robinson, Matt Jones, Terrence MaGee and Kenny Hilliard.

SB Nation had a great article about all the running backs who said at that combine that they try to emulate Marshawn Lynch in their running style and the players who they mention who do show some of Lynch’s traits are:

  • Jay Ajayi: “Ajayi’s running style and body type are very similar to Lynch’s and Ajayi features an improving stiff arm and physicality that has become Lynch’s calling card.”
  • Josh Robinson: “Ajayi is an interesting comp to Lynch, but for my money the player with the most Beast Mode in him might be Mississippi State’s Josh Robinson. He alluded to that “zone” or state of mind, when he told me that, “[on the field], I’m a different animal. Every time [I] step onto the field, nothing on film can really show you what I do.”

So, naturally, when I asked him which NFL player he sees in himself, he responded without hesitation.

“Beast Mode Two, you know, yeah-yeah-yeah. Coming soon!”

This was no surprise to me and ability to break tackles, to me, is one of his most defining features. How does he do it? “Relentless effort. That’s all that matters. Relentless effort.””

  • While Robinson is small, he’s got that Beast Mode that we saw in the Kentucky game this year.
  • Mike Davis: “Davis is another big back with fast feet, and while he’s not as much of a tackle breaker as some of his classmates, he’s got a little more zuzu in his cuts than his 215-plus-pound cohorts. Davis played through a couple of injuries in 2014 and even though his production dipped from 2013, he said coaches have given him good feedback on his ability and willingness to play through those issues.”
  • Matt Jones: “Jones’ isn’t being immodest when he talks about Lynch, because of the backs that I’ve watched in this year’s class, he is probably near the top in terms of his ability to churn his legs through arm tackles. As Lance Zeirlein put it in his scouting report on the Gator running back, Jones has “pistons for feet, chomping and churning through contact to extend [the] run.”

These guys, David Cobb, and a few other physical backs could be good running back options for the Seahawks to prepare for Post-Beast Mode.

The cornerback position is very interesting to me with these guys because of the prospects that feel like they could end up on the Seahawks due to circumstances that could make them real value plays for them. No one knows where Byron Jones is going to end up, leading into the draft process, he was more of a third or fourth round prospect, but he jumped his way into the first round conversation.

Marcus Peters is someone who might have been the top cornerback in the draft if it weren’t for some issues with the new coaching staff at Washington that led to his dismissal. Considering that the school is in Seattle, I’m sure that Carroll and company know what went on there, so if things check out, they could be interested in him. He’s a first round talent, much like Janoris Jenkins and Tyrann Mathieu, two guys with their own issues in college, but who fell into the second and third round respectively, so he could be available at a huge value if the team who drafts him can control him.

Quinten Rollins from Miami (Ohio) is a cornerback/safety who was the 2014 MAC Defensive Player of the Year in his first season of college football after starting for their basketball team there. He’s just a freak who has a lot of room to grow and he’s projected between the second and fourth round.

Eric Rowe from Utah is another versatile defensive back who could play corner or safety at the next level and at 6’1”, 205, has the kind of size that the Seahawks look for.

Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is someone who according to quite a few sources, could have been one of the top ranked cornerbacks coming into the draft before suffering a knee injury that some sources are saying could be at the level of the Marcus Lattimore or Willis McGahee injuries. According to Walter Football, some teams are questioning if he’ll ever play again, while some have him listed as a sixth round to undrafted free agent.

Nick Marshall is an interesting play for them at 6’1”, 207, he fits into the kind of size that they look for in their cornerbacks and, as a former quarterback, he has the football intelligence to be a quick study. Walter Football mentions that he needs development and could need a year or two to “redshirt” in the NFL before being prepared and the Seahawks are the best team in the NFL at using this method. For a sixth or seventh round pick, Nick Marshall is the perfect kind of player for the Seahawks. They’re more than willing to take a late round flier on a guy that might need some time to contribute because if things work out, he could be a very nice player.

Josh Shaw from USC is a corner/safety type projected in the third to fifth round and at 6’, 201, with the kind of physicality he plays with, he could be a great fit in Seattle. Ladarius Gunter is 6’1”, 202, but ran a 4.69 at the combine, so he could fall further than his fourth to sixth round grade, in which case, he could be a good seventh round value. PJ Williams from Florida State is 6’, 194 and hurt his draft stock with a DUI arrest in the last few weeks. Projected in the second or third round, he’s another guy who could see himself fall through the draft.

Especially with Peters and Ekpre-Olomu, these are the kinds of players that could fall to the Seahawks in the right spot and be great potential value plays for them. There are quite a few cornerbacks with various question marks that could become the kind of prototypical late round success stories that the Seahawks dominate with.


Below are some value picks that I love, guys that I think will be drafted lower than the value that they will provide for their teams. Basically, they will outplay their rookie contracts, in no particular order.


Jamison Crowder

Kevin White (TCU)

Tre Williams

Rashad Greene

Dezmin Lewis

Jordan Hicks

Kevin Monangai

Lyle McCombs

Justin Hardy

Tyler Lockett

Jay Ajayi

TJ Yeldon

Zach Zenner

Taylor Belsterling

Carlif Taylor

Jean Sifrin

Antwan Goodley

Dorial Green-Beckham

Quinten Rollins

Cameron Artis-Payne

Jake Ryan

Grady Jarrett

Matt Jones

Tre McBride

Ali Marpet

Rob Havenstein

Rory Anderson

Ameer Abdullah

David Cobb

Josh Robinson

Vince Mayle

CJ Uzomah

Duke Johnson

Drafting Decisions and the Salary Cap 2015

Normally this time of year I’ll do some different financial looks at the draft and ways to price draft picks, so here we go with this year’s entry.  The idea for this actually came from a post on Chase Stuart’s Football Perspective where there was a consideration as to how much, in terms of cap room, would a team creatively give up to acquire a draft pick.  While there are a lot of different ways to look at that question I thought it might be worthwhile to try to actually compare the expected rookie performance over a 4 year period with a comparable veteran player performance over the same time period. Using the veteran player’s contract as a “market price” we can re-value a draft pick in veteran dollars.

The Metrics

I went back and forth with a few ways to compare players, which is by no means easy in the NFL. It came down to either using my games/games started/honors matrix or Approximate Value as defined by Pro Football Reference. I decided to use AV for this since I think games/starts won’t be a fair barometer for veteran NFL players who are already proven to be gameday active most weeks whereas many rookies, specifically later round rookies, are not given  that opportunity.

Secondly I wanted to only look at four year windows since the four year period is our rookie contract length. While first rounder’s have fifth year options, those prices are based on a veteran marketplace so I didn’t think that would be used in the evaluation. So when we look at AV we are looking at a draft picks AV from year 1-4 in his NFL career and a veteran’s AV from year 5 onward.

I looked at every draft from 1994 through 2011 and compiled the combined AV for every draft pick made in that time frame. Each slot was then broken into quartiles to determine performance ranges that we can expect for the players. We set our upper limits using the IQR for each slot (the lower limit in almost all cases was going to be 0). Originally I was going to adjust for outliers but once I started looking at the data in many cases that didn’t seem to make sense since there is no logical reason for say a player drafted at 13 to be an outlier for that individual selection but be fine for pick 14-20.

Similarly I looked at every veteran player that has been in the NFL since 2011 and determined their combined AV for that four year period. Each player’s APY was then used as the salary basis for the player. The one limitation of that is that for some players that had multiple contracts over that time period I am using their most current negotiated deal. While that may not be perfect I think for the sake of these posts it’s fair to use. For players with a 0 AV quartile I used the cap charge vet minimum salary plus full bonus ($665K).

The Salary Calculation

With that data we can now create a matrix that allows us to determine the average veteran salary that corresponds to the expected AV range for each draft pick. There are different ways to use the financials, which I’ll touch on in some later posts, but the most basic method is to simply average the dollars across each quartile.

So let’s look at the number 1 overall pick for a quick overview of how the process works:

Draft Pick AV RangeAvg. Veteran Salary Per Year

What those numbers tell us is that we have a 25% chance of drafting a player whose AV will be above 47.8 over the first four seasons of his career. Veterans in the NFL who accounted for totals in that range had an average salary of $14.37 million per year.  The team has a 25% chance of drafting a player worth $7.44 million, a 25% chance of drafting a player worth $4.325 million, and finally a 25% chance of drafting a player worth $1.975 million.   That averages to a bit over $7 million a year, which is the expected return for a player deemed worthy of a number 1 pick.

Because we get some fluky draft results, such as draft pick number 10 performing far worse than a pick after, I wanted to smooth the expectations by taking a forward average approach. This should take into account the fact that every team selecting in a given slot is likely considering drafting a player valued a few spots ahead. This also makes pretty much all our individual outliers that don’t make much intuitive sense to classify that way fit in with the expected results with few exceptions.

This was a purely subjective decision on my part just based on how we often hear draft grades give or mock draft debates on decisions.  I’d be more than happy to adjust results based on alternate draft possibilities if people had any ideas on the subject. Here is the way I broke things down:

Draft PicksForward Average Range
1-22 picks
3-53 picks
6-324 picks
33-975 picks
98-2558 picks

Here is what our results look like using that formula

NFL Draft Value

We can further (really we could have just done this initially) work with the data by determining a best fit line to use to calculate the draft pick value in terms of veteran dollars, which I will do in the following sections.

The Draft Pick Benefit

In the coming days we will look at a few different ways to interpret the numbers, but for this post let’s look at where the draft is most underpriced.

NFL Draft Value Chart

The biggest benefit to drafting in the NFL is the top of the second round.  This is somewhat expected as the NFL put a relatively large devaluation between the end of the 1st and start of 2nd round despite there being little difference in performance.  The top four picks in the second round are expected to give a team about $1.65 million per year in benefits. I was a bit surprised to see the top picks of the third round providing similar discounted prices. A team is essentially getting $2.5 million in value for just  $750,000 per year. The 16th pick in the draft is our initial first rounder to make the list, adding about $1.6M in value. As I’ve discussed before the best values in that first round really come into play in the mid first round.

Our least value received comes with the 4th pick in the draft, which gives us just $320,000 in additional value. The fifth pick in the draft is also poor with just $400,000 in benefits. These rank with all the 7th round picks that provide limited value.

As for the first pick, it is a mid value pick. A team gains about $1.2 million per year in benefits. It’s the best value among the top 7 picks in the draft, despite having the highest price tag.  When we go back and look at the old CBA it is pretty clear how overpriced those picks were. Sam Bradford, the final number one pick of the non-slotted system, would have been overpriced by about $5.2 million per year.  To justify that pick you would have had to be one of the top picks ever at the position.

We can also look at the charts to better identify the gain that teams realize by being awarded compensatory draft selections. A third round pick is worth close to $2 million per year in true value and the team gains over $1.2 million per year in value. I think a team needs to strongly consider that when giving up comp picks for lower valued players. In general if you are in line for a 3rd-5th round comp you probably should protect that if possible.

The following chart shows the values per draft slot

Draft PickTrue ValueActual CostGain

Updating the Trade Value Chart

By using our expected salary values we can now create a new trade value chart that can be used to evaluate a trade.  With each player we can determine salary above replacement (again the 665K veteran) and re-assign the old trade value chart which overvalues the top picks by too much. However this is only part of the puzzle, which we’ll focus on a in part 2 later this week.

Draft PickNew Trade ValueOld Trade Value

Explaining the NFL’s Rookie Salary Cap

Troy asked me the other day a good question on NFL rookie contract’s impact on the salary cap so I thought this would be a good time to give another primer on the NFL rookie pool. It can be a confusing topic and often I see many people get the impact of the rookie pool incorrect when making salary cap projections for the summer. I’ll do this as Q&A style to hit on the main questions I usually receive on the topic. In case you don’t know it we also have a draft resource page which lists all our contract projections for the 2015 rookie class.

What is the “Rookie Pool”?

In the old CBA the NFL had a cap on how many cap dollars could be spent on rookies. This was called the “Entering Player Pool” and was generally considered the “Rookie Pool” or “Rookie Salary Cap”.  The league allowed a player’s cap hit to rise by 25% of his first years cap charge which in theory would keep rookie salaries in check. However, in practice it was not the case as teams and agents used all types of neat little cap mechanisms to render the 25% rule invalid, especially for highly drafted players.  This was a major renegotiating point in the 2011 CBA.

Per the current CBA, each NFL team is allotted a maximum amount of dollars to spend on their draft picks not only in year 1 cap charges, but also in total value.  Those loopholes that existed in the prior CBA were all eliminated and thus rookies are limited to increases that equal 25% of their first years cap charge. The new CBA refers to these allocations as the “Total Rookie Allocation” and “Year One Rookie Allocation”. The values for each team are determined by the round and position in which the player is drafted. I just call them “Rookie Pools” because I’m used to using that term.

While the formula itself is a secret for calculating the charges those of us who track the numbers are able to get a good idea of how the process works. In general it’s an exponential decay where there are rapid drops at the top of the draft in terms of value and minimal drops as you get into the 3rd and 4thround of the draft. This gives us a good idea at forecasting the charges, though the NFL and NFLPA made it a bit easier due to the way that they grow the rookie pool.

The various rookie pools are supposed to grow (or fall) by about the same percentage as the salary cap. However the sides quickly realized that the formula failed to account for the normal growth of minimum salaries by $15,000 a year in the event the cap rose at a slow rate (approximately less than 3.7%), which it did in 2012 and 2013. Since it would not make sense to lessen bonus money in a year where the cap is growing the NFL and NFLPA agreed to freeze bonus money to allow for the natural growth of the year 1 salary.

Despite the fact that the 2014 salary cap rose significantly the freeze still remained in place and because of that we are assuming it will remain frozen in 2015, though we do have estimates for an unfrozen pool if someone has information pointing in that direction.  So keeping all of this in mind we should get a pretty decent idea, barring some big changes by the League, as to what each team will spend on their rookies.

How does the “Rookie Pool” Impact the Salary Cap

This is probably the most confusing aspect for most people. Some people think that this is additional money added on top of the salary cap which is not the case at all. The “Rookie Pool” is a cap within the salary cap. It is essentially money that your team needs to place aside for your rookies. It is not added to your salary cap at all and it has to fit in the $143.28 million cap limit that is set for each team. If signing a rookie puts a team over the cap they will not be permitted to sign the player until they have the cap room to do so.

The second thing that confuses people is the amount of cap space required to fit in a rookie class. This is probably the biggest mistake made regarding rookie salaries and their role in cap management. Usually someone will see that rookie salaries are expected to total $6 million and then make the assumption that the team needs $6 million in cap space to sign their rookies. That’s not really correct.

During the offseason NFL roster expand to 90 players and only the top 51 players count against the salary cap.  Every rookie that is signed will either replace a player currently in the top 51 or not count enough against the cap to be in the top 51, in which case only their prorated bonus money will count against the cap. This is why it is important to understand the concept of effective cap space.

To illustrate let’s look at the Jets. I project that the Jets will have a rookie pool number of $6,046,013 to spend on 6 draft picks. That is a lot of required cap space for a team that just spent like the Jets did in free agency. But when we look at effective cap space it will paint an entirely different picture.

The number 6 pick is projected to count $3,002,182 against the cap. But once he is signed he will bump out the number 51 player on the roster. I currently estimate that player to be IK Enemkpali whose base salary of $510,000 will fall off the cap books once number 6 is signed. That makes the effective cost of pick 6 to be just $2,492,182.  When we do that for every pick in the Jets draft we get the following:

Year 1 Cap Charge$3,002,182$985,153$602,813$554,250$450,933$450,682$6,046,013
Replacement Cost$510,000$435,000$585,000$435,000$435,000$435,000$2,835,000
Effective Cap Cost$2,492,182$550,153$17,813$119,250$15,933$15,682$3,211,013

So really what the Jets will need is around $3.2 million in cap space to sign their rookies despite the total cap charge being over $6 million. You simply due this for your team to determine the charge. The quickest way to do it is to simply take the rookie pool we have listed and subtract from it $435,000 multiplied by the number of draft picks you have. This will represent the maximum possible amount the rookies will take up and is much faster than what I did above.

Do Rookies Immediately Count Against the Cap

No 99.9% of the time a drafted rookie will not count against the salary cap. The only time a drafted rookie will count against the cap is if a team has less than 51 players. Technically when a rookie is drafted they are tendered a minimum contract so if a team has less than 51 players the rookie would count for $435,000 against the salary cap, but not for the full cap charge. A team does not need to account for the full cap charge until the player is actually signed to a contract, which for most players will not happen until the summer, giving the team ample time to make any moves they need to be able to sign their rookie class.

So What Teams Need To Create Space for Rookies?

I’ll do the quick and dirty calculation here to get an idea of how much effective cap space is required for a rookie class. Please note that these numbers may be slightly off due to the changes tonight in draft order, which I attempted to account for but I may have made a possible mistake.

TeamNo. PicksRookie PoolEffective Cap Cost

Based on the above I would say three teams will likely need to think about tweaking their rosters over the next few months. Based on our current cap estimates the Cowboys and the Chiefs would both have under $250,000 in remaining cap room after signing rookies, which is a pretty tight number to work with. New Orleans would be about $2.8 million over the salary cap once rookies are signed so clearly there is work that needs to be done before July when they will begin to sign their top draft choices.

For those curious about teams that could absorb Adrian Peterson’s $12.75 million salary the list would include the Chargers, Falcons, Raiders, Bengals, Buccaneers, Packers, Titans, Browns, and Jaguars.

Any questions feel free to ask and make sure to check out our draft page which we will update soon for the new draft order. We’ll have some draft articles up over the course of the next few weeks as well and for fun head over to Fanspeak and use their really cool draft sims to run your own draft.