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Investing in the draft

The top pick in the draft this year is going to be a very, very rich man. The general consensus says that the first overall pick is likely to get $30 million in guaranteed money, give or take a million.

The bean counters at Rams Park had better have a spare green visor and one of those carpal tunnel syndrome braces for themselves (note, there is nothing funny about carpal tunnel syndrome or the bowling glove like apparatus sufferers must wear...nothing) because with just $7 million in cap space and mess of needs, the number crunchers have their work cut out for them. Obviously, several contracts are going to have to be restructured or ties cut completely. (Miami is certainly not having a problem cleaning house...and rightfully so when your team wins just one game.)

The second overall pick in the draft may not get $30 million in guaranteed money, but he'll command something pretty damn close to that. Let's compare, shall we?

The following list runs down the top four draft picks from '07 and their contract info.

#1 - JaMarcus Russell, QB, OAK: 6 year, $61 million, $32 million guaranteed (including a one-time performance bonus).
#2 - Calvin Johnson, WR, DET: 6 year, $55.5 million, $27.178 million in guaranteed.
#3 - Joe Thomas, OT, CLE: 5 year, $42.5 million, $23 million guaranteed.
#4 - Gaines Adams, DE, 6 year, $46 million, $18.56 million guaranteed.

I think that the offensive skill players - QB, WR, RB - usually command more money. Thomas raked since the Browns drafted him as their left tackle, one of the most important offensive positions after QB and typically one of the highest paid players. I included Adams since he was the highest drafted defensive player last year and a plays a position that the Rams have a good chance of drafting this year. It's pretty big drop off, almost $10 million, between Johnson and Adams. I can't reasonable speculate what kind of contract the second pick this year would earn, but it's safe to say that it's probably guaranteed money closer to what Johnson pulled in than Adams. If the Rams draft Michigan OT Jake Long, I would assume Thomas' deal serves as a starting point in the contract negotiations, with the final figure getting awfully close to $30 million in guaranteed money.

For the sake of comparison, Adam Carriker, the Rams first rounder last year and 13th overall pick, signed a 5 year, $12.8 million contract with $9.4 million in guarantees. Looks like a bargain already.

It looks like a lot of money (and it is), but it's an important and worthy price to pay given that top picks are supposed to be the kind of players you build teams around. $30 million-ish is a small price to pay (again, I'm spending someone else's $$) for players that help you get past the three win threshold.

Trading down from the second pick would save the Rams money and allow them to add another player or two through the draft...preferably on the first day. The trade off, however, is you don't get that home run pick that you should get in the second spot. The Rams could use the extra talent that a trade would net, but they could also use the blue chip talent that would contribute lots in his first season.