The new value of top draft picks

Rookie wage scale provides less risk and could lead to more draft-day trades

Updated: February 27, 2012, 8:27 AM ET
By Seth Wickersham | ESPN The Magazine
Julio JonesAP Photo/Bob LeveroneTrades like the one Atlanta made last year to get Julio Jones could be more common this year.

INDIANAPOLIS -- So I'm hanging out with an NFL team's exec, chatting about the draft, when he suddenly says, "This year's No. 1 pick is worth more than any in modern history."

Let me guess why: Andrew Luck.

Not exactly, as it turns out. Yes, Luck -- considered by many to be the most NFL-ready quarterback since Peyton Manning in 1998 -- is a huge score. But the top pick -- the top seven, really -- are more valuable than ever because they're cheaper than ever, the exec said.

Why? Because the rookie wage scale has completely changed how teams value the top seven picks. The very slots that for years saddled teams with monster contracts now liberate GMs to move and shake, with less risk.

Seth Wickersham | email

ESPN The Magazine senior writer
Seth Wickersham joined ESPN The Magazine after graduating from the University of Missouri. Although he primarily covers the NFL, his assignments also have taken him to the Athens Olympics, the World Series, the NCAA tournament and the NHL and NBA playoffs.