How the New CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) Affects Draft Picks:
1 – End of the Holdouts
This was one of the more significant impacts of the agreement between the players’ union and ownership last July. A rookie wage scale was implemented to prevent enormous contracts given to players who have yet to play a down. Given inflation and salary history, the top draft picks’ first contact would have continued to increase (for the most part) every year. Fortunately the NFL was able give teams the luxury of spending more of their salary on proven veterans instead of these rookies.
The result of this is a reduction of stress and potential headaches for both NFL franchises and fans alike. With the early draft picks now receiving slotted amounts in regards to their salary (i.e. the 2012 third pick will be paid more than the fourth and less than the second and similar to the 2011 and 2013 third pick), their negotiation power will be lessened. Agents will no longer be able to flex their bargaining muscles by telling teams, especially poor ones, how imperative their client needs to be in camp (on time) in order to improve the franchise exponentially.
2 – Trades a plenty
Taking the new salary implications into account, the ability for teams to trade up or down (especially early in the draft) increases dramatically. 2011 was the first draft where teams were no longer on the hook for the inflated income of top draft picks. Therefore, franchises with recent success would now be more willing to forgo some of their selections in order to grab a player earlier. One example is this, includes the Browns in 2011 – when the Atlanta Falcons traded five draft picks (three in 2011 and two in 2012) to move up 21 spots to select Julio Jones.
One could argue while reviewing rounds two through five, the number of overall trades from the past year is consistent, if not fewer, from previous NFL drafts (54 in 2011, 64 in 2010, 53 in 2009). However, I believe the lockout during last offseason had much to do with this low statistic.
In late April, teams were alienated – coaches, front offices, and management could not confer with players in any regard. Typically NFL teams have voluntary camps a week before the draft, where the staff can further evaluate players to confirm the team’s needs as well as determining who could be trading chips during the impending draft. This follows several months of scouting, traveling, and watching hours of film in order to decide how best to improve the team for years to come. The fact that despite this period never occurring last season, and there were still more trades than in 2009 is pretty remarkable; prepare for more wheeling and dealing next week.
3 – Selecting Players with More Risk Early
The final large adaptation in a general managers’ thought process appears to be that it’s acceptable to be more aggressive early. This refers to the idea of selecting players; while some may be more risky than others, they could have a larger upside (and payout) in the future. Therefore, teams that have historically chose “safer guys” (like offensive and defensive lineman) could now lean more towards quarterback (or running backs or wide receivers).
This would help explain the run on quarterbacks in 2011 and the possible run in 2012. Entering the NFL draft last year, the only highly regarded signal caller available was Cam Newton; the others had flaws here and there, according to experts. However, this did not deter teams from selecting these players early anyways; Jake Locker (8th selection), Blaine Gabbert (10th selection), and Christian Ponder (12th selection) were the beneficiaries of teams needing perceived franchise quarterbacks. This was the most quarterbacks taken this early in the draft since 1999. With the new CBA rules, expect similar trends.
Entering the NFL draft this year, everyone (for all intents and purposes) knows that Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III will be selected first and second overall. Couple that with the fact that Ryan Tannehill has been soaring from a second round pick to now a possible top ten choice, one can see signal callers will once again be in demand for teams needing them. Once these players go off the board early, expect other quarterbacks like Brandon Weeden, Nick Foles, Brock Osweiler, and Kirk Cousins to be “overdrafted” as well – this refers to a player being selected sooner than they project to be.
Therefore, while watching the anticipated 2012 draft, keep a few things in mind when forming your expectations. Do not be surprised to hear Roger Goodell announce, “there has been a trade” at the podium, especially multiple times. Also, teams might buck conventional thinking of draft “experts” and reach for athletes with perceived “higher ceilings” in the first couple of rounds; those skilled positional players can stabilize franchises for several years – should they pan out. If they do not end up meeting expectations, the franchise will not be in as much financial trouble as in years past.