The way NFL teams overpay top picks, Seahawks are better off at the bottom of first round
Just finished the new book Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports Are Played and Games Are Won, and it convinced me that the Seahawks’ playoff run might have helped their draft prospects. Bear with me.
Authors Tobias Moskowitz, a behavioral economist, and L. Jon Wertheim, a Sports Illustrated writer, contend that NFL teams overvalue top picks so much, having a top three pick is more of a curse than a blessing. For one thing, NFL teams aren’t as good as they think they are at assessing talent. Research cited in the book makes this startling discovery: “The probability that the first player drafted at a position is better than the fourth player drafted at the same position is only 56%.” So, essentially, a toss-up.
But when you pick high in the draft, even though you aren’t likely to get a much better player, you are sure to pay a ridiculous sum to the one you get. The Seahawks are suffering from this curse right now with Aaron Curry. Now, Curry is by no means a bust, but would you say he’s worth the $60 million the Seahawks are paying him? Hardly. The Seahawks could get equal production for a much less expensive player.
Now what about the linebackers drafted behind Curry? The second linebacker drafted in 2009 was Brian Orapko at pick #13 (Orapko was a DE in college, but plays LB for the Redskins). Orapko has been to Pro Bowls in each of his first two seasons. Though he was drafted just nine spots below Curry, Orapko signed just a $20 million contract out of college.
The third linebacker taken in 2009 was Brian Cushing at pick #15. Cushing went to the 2009 Pro Bowl. His contract is worth just $18 million.
The fourth linebacker taken in the 2009 draft? Well, this one hurts a little. It was Clay Matthews at 26th overall. Matthews has been to two Pro Bowls and was runner-up for NFL Defensive Player of the Year this season. Matthews’ rookie contract is worth just $13.3 million.
So, to recap:
Orapko, Cushing, Matthews, 5 Pro Bowls, $51.3 million total.
Curry, 0 Pro Bowls, $60 million.
The Seahawks are paying more for Curry than Orapko, Cushing and Matthews are getting combined.
The point here isn’t to slam Curry (although I could do with a little less of him complaining about first-class airline seats), but rather the pernicious salary structure that creates a situation where a player that’s not any more likely to be better than the guy picked ten spots below him gets five times the salary.
Picking at 24th (again, that’s two spots higher than where Clay Matthews went two years ago), the Seahawks aren’t that much less likely to get a great player than they would in the top ten, and they are 100% less likely to vastly overpay whoever they do get.
In other news…
How to fix the Huskies? Bob Sherwin has a six-step plan.
The MLB Network look back at “Game 5,” featuring Lou Piniella, was apparently pretty awesome, at least according to the texts I got about it last night. I missed it, but have set my DVR for today’s showings at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. PST.
Seahawks assistant Rocky Seto was all set to become UCLA’s defensive coordinator. But the L.A. Times reports that UCLA rescinded the offer after Seto prematurely posted about it on Facebook.
Meet the most popular Seattle Rainier ever, courtesy of Dave Eskenazi.
Nada, although high school hoops league tournaments start this week. There’s one pretty sweet game in Seattle tonight, with #4 Seattle Prep visiting #1 O’Dea. The two teams met last week, with Prep winning in OT.