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Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Quarterbacks will always reign at the top

By Mike Sando

Fun question/point from Mark via my Facebook wall: Positional selection in the draft seems to be driven in part by a given position's franchise value. Defensive tackle, for example, is often considered for a Top 5 selection, as are quarterback, defensive end, etc. Defensive tackle has a franchise tag value of what, $12.5 million?

This seems to be a guiding tenet in determining what players hit the draft lottery and those that don't, like guard, center, cornerback, safety, etc. That may be justifiable since salaries, in theory, follow valuations around the NFL, team by team.

Will a rookie salary cap change the draft to a more best-player-available design and make it feasible that the later positions someday might go No. 1 overall?

Mike Sando: I do not expect changes in valuation. We could, however, see more teams trying to trade into the top spots. We might also see fewer teams willing to trade out of those spots.

Teams will always value quarterbacks more than they value other positions. They already pay a premium for quarterbacks in the draft, and that doesn't stop teams from spending. Also, it's not like anyone has forced teams to pay what they have recently paid the top picks. The money teams have paid to these players reflects how much teams value them. So, from that standpoint, the way teams value certain positions will lead them to favor those positions anyway.

If the NFL and its players agreed to cap salaries for draft choices, it might be easier to justify taking, say, a linebacker -- think Aaron Curry -- over another position. A team would not be paying such a premium for a non-premium position. But it might also be smarter for teams to target the higher-valued positions at lower prices, allowing them to more comfortably lock in a starter at a premium position.

The chart shows the positional distribution by team for the last 20 players drafted first overall. There isn't a linebacker, defensive back, tight end or specialist among the group.