Chiefs see unique opportunity holding 11th overall pick

Posted Apr 17, 2012

The new CBA and rookie wage scale could make the Chiefs’ first-round draft slot a hotbed for trade activity

Chiefs GM Scott Pioli feels his team sits on prime real estate holding the 11thoverall pick in this year’s draft.

It’s a draft slot Pioli believes stands out in its own unique way.

“There are some other elements to this whole thing,” Pioli said at the Chiefs pre-draft press conference Monday afternoon.

Kansas City sits in a position of strength with the 11th overall pick. The ability to select a top-tier prospect is guaranteed, but the new CBA and its rookie wage scale could also make the pick a hotbed for trade activity.

Future financial obligations set the draft slot apart from the 10 picks that precede it.

All first round draft picks must sign four-year contracts with a non-negotiable team option for a fifth year, but the difference in fifth-year cost between the 10th and 11th picks is significant.

“Picks 1 through 10 have the value in the fifth-year option being the transition number, which is the average of the top-10 contracts of that player’s position in the league,” Pioli explained. “Picks 11 through 32, the fifth-year option number is based on the salary average of the third through 25th (players at the position).

“So the difference between pick No. 10 and pick No. 11, in terms of what that fifth year (salary) is, is a dramatic difference. There’s going to be a different mindset and different thinking, I believe, with a lot of picks and people thinking about trades.”

At the same time, the new rookie wage scale protects teams from a ridiculous system that once guaranteed college players exuberant contracts before taking their first NFL snap.

The new system doesn’t displace the importance of making a correct pick, but no longer should teams be fearful of moving into the upper-echelon of the draft because of the potential for a colossal financial blunder.

“Teams wanted out and no one wanted in,” Pioli said, referring to those holding top-five and top-10 picks prior to the rookie wage scale taking effect. “With that stabilizing, I think there’ll be more teams desiring to move.

“I mean, we’ve already had a trade (Washington and St. Louis). We’re not even close. You don’t see that happen very often where trades are done that far in advance.”

A prime example of the new system is Carolina’s option to part ways with 2011 No. 1 pick Cam Newton after four years and a $22 million commitment. That’s a much better hedge than the $51 million St. Louis guaranteed Sam Bradford as the No. 1 overall pick in 2010.

Picking up the fifth year on Newton’s deal is estimated to cost the Panthers around $14 million, which would push the total contract to $36 million over five years. By then, Carolina will have long known what they have in Newton and the total deal will still cost $15 million less than Bradford’s.

Between the protection offered to teams choosing in the top-10 and the significant discount that the 11th overall pick provides in a fifth-year option, the Chiefs are leaving all doors open when it comes to potential draft day trades.

“We may trade up if something is getting close to us and someone is trying to bail out at a ridiculous price that we can’t pass up - and there’s a player that really is the apple of our eye,” said Pioli. “Or we may move back if someone comes to us with something.

“For instance, last year at 21, we loved being at that spot. There were a number of players that we could have very easily pulled off the board there. We felt the value of the pick that we were getting in return was pretty strong value so we did it. Again, I think it might be a little bit interesting this year while we’re sitting there as to what we want to do.”

In addition, the Chiefs don’t appear committed to a specific position early in the draft. It all adds up to what should be an interesting and unpredictable first-round for the Chiefs.

 “I love the talent in this draft,” said Pioli. “I love the talent. I think there’s a lot of talent at a lot of different positions. I also think it is similar, different, but similar to last year where there’s depth to it. The talent goes pretty deep at a number of different positions. I think this is a really good group.”

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