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NFL Draft Speculation & Breakdown

NFL Draft Speculation & Breakdown

By: Matt “TheJerk” Morrison (@DynastyJerk)

Hello Dynasty Owners and welcome to Draft Week.  Hailed as one of the best events for NFL fans, the 2021 NFL Draft is upon us.  As I mentioned in one my previous articles, there are many highlights throughout the year as it pertains to the NFL and the Draft ranks in the top 3 for me.  It would be some combination of Super Bowl, my personal fantasy football drafts, and then the NFL Draft.  I took this question to Dynasty Owner BETA users and the majority seemed to agree with me.  This is how the final poll results shaped up…

Best NFL EventVotesTotal VotesPercentage
Free Agency1340.03
Super Bowl3340.09
NFL Draft8340.24
Personal Fantasy Drafts15340.44
NFL Opening Week4340.12
NFL Playoffs3340.09
Other0340.00

The overwhelming majority of Owners (68%) think that drafts in general are the best part of the NFL.  I agree.  Not only do I agree, I think it makes sense when you really think about it.  Drafts bring a fresh start to the season.  Drafts bring the unofficial start to the new season.  Simply put…they bring hope.  Let’s break down the current NFL Draft structure and go over some of the trades that have already taken place.

First and foremost, the Draft consists of seven rounds that are spaced out over three days.  Day 1 is dedicated entirely to the first round as it is where the majority of the big names come from.  Day 2 is made up of the second and third round, and Day 3 takes up rounds four through seven.  The first round starts with teams getting 10 minutes on the clock and it is decreased as the rounds progress.  Players and picks are able to be traded during the actual draft (although we have seen several trades process prior to the draft this year).

This year, the Draft starts with Day 1 on Thursday April 29 and will run through Saturday May 1.  One of the greatest takeaways I want you to have from this article is to have a general idea of what each player’s salary will be based on where they were drafted.  We know that higher picks make more money because of the way that NFL salaries are structured for rookies.  These numbers are just estimates, but they should give you a good idea coming into the draft.  I’m not going to run through every single position, but I’ll give you a range of what each player could make.

***Before I start, it’s important to note that the exact value of these contracts will not be known until the NFL releases them.  The NFL uses a rookie wage scale that is not completely public knowledge.  With that, I will do my best to estimate salaries based on previous years and this year’s salary cap.***

Let’s start with Number 1 overall.  We all know that Trevor Lawrence will be the first overall pick to Jacksonville.  With that pick, you can expect TLaw to make right around 8.75 million dollars per year.  I have him currently estimated at $8,787,777.  You will notice that this estimate is a touch lower than what Joe Burrow received last year as the #1 overall pick.  In 2021 the NFL salary cap was reduced by 8%, compared to the 2020 NFL cap.  For this reason, it is assumed that rookies this year will make less.  If you are planning on taking Lawrence in your DO Rookie Draft, be prepared to have at least 9 million dollars in space (and that is just one of your picks).

What if you are eyeing a mid-first round receiver?  What can you expect them to make?  Let’s look at a couple of Alabama receivers for this comparison.  I expect both DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle to be drafted later than the top ten overall.  In the 11-15 pick range, both of these players can be expected to make right around 4 million dollars per year.  This shouldn’t come as a surprise as Henry Ruggs was taken at 12 overall in 2020, and his salary is $4,167,906 per year.  By comparison, let’s say DeVonta Smith gets drafted by the Eagles at 12 overall…I project that he will make $4,052,134.  This isn’t much of a decline from 2020, but it is more skewed with the first ten picks.  In summary, a mid-first round wide receiver will cost you roughly half of what Lawrence will.

Maybe you have an early 2021 first round pick in your DO draft and you’re struggling with how much you’ll have to spend on a running back.  Let me tell you the good news when it comes to running backs.  They usually fall in the NFL Drafts.  This isn’t anything against running backs in general, but teams (as a whole) usually wait on running back.  (Example: CEH was the first running back taken in the 2020 NFL draft.  He was drafted at 32nd overall).  This is of great value for Dynasty Owners because, as I explained earlier, the farther a player falls, the lower their salary.  This is also one of many reasons why I expect most DO rookie drafts to be running back heavy in the first round.  So, let’s say we expect Najee Harris or Travis Etienne to be drafted at the end of the 2021 draft.  What if we think the Pittsburgh Steelers are going to draft a running back in the first round?  (I think it’s likely)  Pittsburgh currently sits at 24th.  I estimate that a running back taken with the 24th overall pick would cost right at $3,000,000 per year ($3,082,758 to be exact).  Another outcome that is likely in my opinion is the idea that Atlanta will draft a running back with their second round pick.  Atlanta at 35th overall would have great value if they drafted Harris or Etienne, if either one falls that far.  A running back at 35th overall would cost an Owner right around 2.5 million dollars per year.  You start to see how some of the earlier drafted running backs are on much more affordable contracts than the quarterbacks and wide receivers.  Here is the full list of my calculated salaries for each of the top 32 picks…

PickEstimated SalaryEst. Salary/YearPickEstimated SalaryEst. Salary/Year
1$35,151,109$8,787,77717$13,623,535$3,405,884
2$33,585,521$8,396,38018$13,264,505$3,316,126
3$32,580,264$8,145,06619$13,049,088$3,262,272
4$31,431,355$7,857,83920$12,977,289$3,244,322
5$29,420,790$7,355,19821$12,905,480$3,226,370
6$25,830,508$6,457,62722$12,761,894$3,190,474
7$22,958,280$5,739,57023$12,618,257$3,154,564
8$20,086,051$5,021,51324$12,331,034$3,082,758
9$19,945,391$4,986,34825$12,187,427$3,046,857
10$19,152,575$4,788,14426$12,043,792$3,010,948
11$17,931,886$4,482,97127$11,900,204$2,975,051
12$16,208,537$4,052,13428$11,828,397$2,957,099
13$15,777,706$3,944,42629$11,252,192$2,813,048
14$15,059,127$3,764,78230$10,947,057$2,736,764
15$14,772,447$3,693,11231$10,691,452$2,672,863
16$13,910,758$3,477,69032$10,526,870$2,631,717

Hopefully these numbers will help you start to get an idea of what you’ll need to save to afford a first round pick.  Again, these numbers are not set in stone. They are only my projections.

Contract Speculation

The Browns had a single free agent that we need to talk about.  The key word is “had”.  Like the majority of free agents this year, Rashard Higgins has been signed already.  He re-signs with the Browns for a single year contract.  It is worth $2,377,500.  Higgins found decent success after Odell Beckham Jr. went down with a season ending injury in Week 6.  In the games that Higgins played in, he totaled 7.5 plus fantasy points in all but two games.  7.5 isn’t a fantastic performance, but more often than not, that was his floor.  In fact, he had very healthy fantasy performances to the tune of 12.1, 17.0, 21.5, 14.8 and 11.6 fantasy points.  Unfortunately for Higgins Owners, OBJ looks to be returning to the Browns in 2021.  This will bump Rashard down to the WR 3 on the team and limit the total volume he will receive.  He should be rostered in all leagues as he has shown his ability to step in for an injured superstar.

That’s it.  That’s all I have for speculation this week.  The excitement of the Draft took up almost all of my attention.  I hope everyone is able to relax and watch one of the greatest three day stretches of the NFL year.  I know I’ll be watching.  I’m sure that I’ll give a mini-draft recap in my article next Wednesday, but I’ll leave the heavy hitting rookie talk to Nate Christian.  As always, be sure to check out all of the Dynasty Owner content that Nate, Steve, Jay and I are putting out.  Please follow us on Twitter @Dynasty_Owner, and subscribe to Dynasty Owner on YouTube.  Happy Draft Day!  Everyone take care and be safe.

TheJerk

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