As fans try and get their head around who the Cowboys will select with the 14th pick in the draft, a common theme among opinions and posts is the concept of Best Player Available. I want to introduce a new theory that might provide some valuable insight into an additional factor that front offices are likely to consider heavily when selecting a first round pick.
The collective bargaining agreement provided a huge bonus to organizations when it placed limits on first round draft choices. The new rookie wage scale is supposed to cut top rookie contracts by more than 50 percent. As a result of the new system, first round players offer a huge financial bargain for teams. So my theory is that now more than ever, first round selections are being valued not just on the Best Player Available, but also from a financial viewpoint that I will call Best Value Available.
Say for example your team's biggest needs are guard, edge rusher, and cornerback. You know that whatever holes you don’t fill through the draft will have to be addressed through free agency. You have a limited budget to work with, so an important question becomes which player will be more cost effective to replace via free agency. The answer to this question is basic math. Guard salaries are nearly 50% cheaper than edge rusher salaries. So all things being nearly equal with regard to the players overall grade, the Best Value Available theory ranks Edge Rushers higher than cornerbacks, and cornerbacks higher than Guards from a purely financial consideration. Draft history adds credence to this theory even before the new cap system, as Leonard Davis was last guard to be drafted in the top 12 picks back in 2001.
The decision to select Tyron Smith is consistent with the BVA Theory. Of the available players on their board in 2011, not only did Tyron Smith grade out very high, he offered the best overall value from a financial perspective. JJ Watt was probably the next best option available with the 9th pick, but JJ Watt is a defensive end in a 3-4 defense. That position is much cheaper to address via free agency than offensive tackle. Tyron Smith’s 2012 salary is $943,000 and the average salary for the top 5 tackles is $10,640,000. That is staggering value for a starting tackle.
I’m not saying this theory is by any means the deciding factor in first round selections. I am saying that with the new cap system, first round players offer a huge value opportunity for teams and that compared to other positions, guards offer a very low financial value as a high draft pick.
Average Salary of top 5 players at the following positions:
Edge Rusher $11,960,800
Offensive Tackle $10,640,000
Inside Linebacker $7,720,000
Defensive Tackle $6,867,200