NFL Draft Preparation – Top 10 & Market Value

Market value – the price that an asset would trade in a competitive auction setting.

Usually a term relegated to common stocks, equities, and commodities, “market value” has also been used to keep certain positions out of the Top 10 of the annual NFL Draft.  No matter how valuable the player might be on the field, his “market value” as an offensive guard, or nose tackle, or fullback, or offensive center just didn’t justify selecting him with a coveted Top 10 pick.  Opportunity cost for passing on a quarterback, running back, wide receiver, or defensive corner was way too high to be contemplating an interior offensive lineman at #2, or #5, or even #9.

Stuck in a rut

The rookie contract system was so askew that trying to negotiate a newly drafted safety at #4 against last season’s hottest skilled position player made it next to impossible to stay within the boundaries of “market value”.  Agents ignored the role their player performed on the field and forced negotiations on the positional sequence the player was picked.  The only way around this particular problem was if you were trying to compare “apples to quarterbacks”.  That is quarterback would trump just about every other position because, well because it was quarterback.  Otherwise your new guard’s agent would demand wide receiver compensation because they were both selected #10.

Nothing could put your Cap and contracts guy into hot water with his peer group faster than negotiating off the “market value” of a position.  Veterans kept a close eye on the incoming rookie class compensation and if things got a little too close for comfort, they’d immediately have their own agent on the phone demanding a renegotiation.  “How on earth could you pay a first year tight end more than a 5 time Pro Bowler?”  Thus NFL front offices walked the wire with a Top 10 pick to ensure they didn’t pass on a more spotlighted talent at a more glamorous position, and they didn’t screw up the market value of the rest of the position group across the National Football League.

Wait your turn

So throughout the modern era of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (’93) and free agency, certain positions have languished on the back end of the first round and at times were pushed down to the second…regardless of talent or the ability to improve your team.  Unwritten rules of “market value” said “don’t take a safety, tight end, offensive guard, offensive center, fullback, nose tackle, and at times inside linebacker in the Top 10 picks of the NFL Draft.”

These players usually weren’t allowed to ask for the really big money until their opportunity at the free agent market rolled around 4 or 5 years later. Nope, wait your turn behind all the “busts” at quarterback, running back, wide receiver, defensive end, and so on.

Since the inception of the CBA, the highest selected player at the following positions was;

  • OG – Chris Naoele, Colorado, 1st/10th, 1997
  • OC – Steve Everitt, Michigan, 1st/14th, 1993
  • FB – William Floyd, Florida State, 1st/28th, 1994
  • TE – Kellen Winslow Jr., Miami, 1st/6th, 2004
  • NT – Casey Hampton, Texas, 1st/19th, 2001
  • DS – Sean Taylor, Miami, 1st/5th, 2004

Where the numbers fall

There have been other tight end’s and safeties to crack the Top 10, but these were usually positions reserved for the past season’s playoff contenders picking in the back third of the order.

From 1993-2008, the following stats painted a pretty clear picture of where certain positional values fell for most NFL front office decision makers.  The first player taken at each position;

  • FB – avg #83 (high #10, low #183)
  • TE – avg #24 (high #6, low #61)
  • OC – avg #41 (high #14, low #76)
  • OG – avg #32 (high #10, low #81)
  • S – avg #20 (high #5, low #49)
  • IB – avg #28 (high #4, low #57)

Cracking the Top 10

The new CBA extension and the adjustments made to rookie contracts may have just opened up the market for positions  long time thought to be not worth the value of a Top 10 pick.  Last season we saw S Mark Barron taken at #7, ILB Luke Kuechly at #9, and NT Dontari Poe knocking on the door at #11.  Old habits die hard and it’s going to take a while to change the thought process of many professional football front offices.

But the chances of a Chance Warmack (Alabama OG) sneaking into the Top 10 are much more likely and deserved for what he brings to your team, and what you have to pay for him from a “market value” perspective.  The exceptions to the rule in the past revolved around the “special player”, but perhaps now we’ll see a more equal opportunity regardless of position and the more obscure players placed front and center in the Top 10 of the NFL Draft.

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