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The Eleventh Overall Pick: Potential Salary

Matt Warren is Associate Director of NFL coverage for SB Nation and previously covered the Bills for Buffalo Rumblings for more than a decade.

Last week, I analyzed the last twenty-five years worth of eleventh overall picks.  When investing a high draft pick in a player, you must also invest a high salary as well.  Focusing in on the last five years should give us a pretty accurate look at roughly how much the Bills will end up paying their newest player.

Eleventh Overall
The last five eleventh overall draft picks have been: Leodis McKelvin, CB, Bills; Patrick Willis, LB, Niners; Jay Cutler, QB, Broncos; DeMarcus Ware, OLB, Cowboys; and Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers.  Here are their contract figures according to fantasy site, Rotoworld (unless otherwise noted).

McKelvin - 5 years, $19.4M, $12.6M guaranteed ($3.88M avg.)
Willis - 5 years, $16.655M, $12M guaranteed ($3.3M avg.)
Cutler -6 years, $47.86M, $11M guaranteed ($7.98M avg.)
Ware - 5 year, $13M (according to CowboysBlog.Net) ($2.6M avg.)
Roethlisberger - 6 years, $22.26M (According to Wikipedia) ($3.71M avg.)

The other important consideration to make is playing position (quarterbacks generally get more than linebackers, for example).  The two quarterbacks on this list skew the numbers a little bit, especially Cutler's which includes several massive roster bonuses towards the end of the contract and many incentive-based payouts.  Cutler's base salary over the remaining years of his deal are roughly $1M, $1.4M, and $1.8M, well within the range of the other picks. It probably serves the purposes of this analysis to just ignore the quarterback numbers since we won't be drafting one.

DE, LB, TE around eleven
Last year's number ten pick, Jerod Mayo, signed for 5 years and $18.9M.  The number nine pick, Keith Rivers, was signed for one more year at 6 years, $23M.  Those both average out right around $3.8M a year.  They are both linebackers and earn less, on average, than McKelvin did, though he was drafted one or two spots later.  Defensive end Derrick Harvey, taken at spot eight, signed for 5 years and $23.8M, an average of $4.75M for every year of the contract.  That's how the player's position can come into play. This also shows that drafting a defensive end at 11 would be more expensive than drafting a linebacker at the same spot.  I don't think that comes into play when making a distinction between who to draft because it's a relatively small amount of money over the long haul.

I can only give some correlative info on tight end signings since the last tight end drafted in the top 27 picks was Vernon Davis two years ago.  Last year, Dustin Keller was drafted thirtieth overall, while defensive end Lawrence Jackson went two spots ahead of him.  Jackson signed for $2.25M a year while Keller signed for $1.7M a year.  Tight ends make less than defensive ends, and probably about the same as linebackers, so we'll go on that assumption for now.

What does it all mean?
On average the pay scale goes up about 16% year to year in the same spot.  We'll use that as the starting point.

2008 McKelvin signed for $3.88M Avg. salary
2009 [Future Bill] will sign for about $0.6M a year higher than the year before or $4.45M a year.

If we draft the defensive end the numbers should end up pretty close to the percentage increase.  Cornerbacks and defensive ends are generally paid on the same level. Linebacker or tight end, two lesser-paid positions, should be slightly lower than that.  (Someone give me mad props when I'm right or brutally rip me apart if I am wrong.)  The contracts should shake out at about this level:

DE at 11: 5 years, $22-25M, $4.4M to $5M Avg.  (15-29% increase over 2008)
LB, TE at 11:
5 years, $20-22.25M, $4M to $4.4M  Avg. (3-15% increase over 2008)