Power of three: Why an owner, GM and prospect control the '09 draft
Mark Sanchez, Daniel Snyder and Scott Pioli are pivotal in the draft
Rams still divided on which tackle they prefer and more draft nuggets
Which teams are most likely to make draft-day trades and 10 Things I Think
"I like the angle,'' former USC quarterback Mark Sanchez said to me a little after 11 Eastern on Sunday night. "I hope it still looks good Saturday. I hope it doesn't blow up on you.''
Draft angles always blow up, and no one sells insurance for my draft week 2009 plotline. But here goes: The three most influential men atop the 2009 draft are Scott Pioli, Dan Snyder and Sanchez. Briefly, why:
Pioli, the rookie Kansas City general manager, has the distinction in this decade of being part of the tradingest draft-day team in the league. Between 2000 and 2008, the Patriots draft room, run by coach Bill Belichick and Pioli, made 28 draft-weekend trades. The Pats traded up 12 times, but more significantly, they traded down 16 times.
In the last 10 days, I've spent hours (only my cell phone company knows how many for sure) foraging for crumbs for my Sports Illustrated mock, in your mailboxes Wednesday and Thursday. And the one thing I've heard on most calls is, "Well, you know Pioli wants to get out of his pick. He wants to trade down.''
It's true. He does want out. There's not a player Kansas City believes is worth third-pick-in-the-first-round money. Do you remember what the third pick got last year? Matt Ryan, the Atlanta quarterback, signed a six-year, $72 million deal, with $34.8 million guaranteed. Pioli can argue until he's Chiefs-crimson in the face, but his pick at three is going to fetch the player $11 million a year, minimum, regardless of position. Pioli's not picking a quarterback, so there's no chance a player at three will be worth that money. My feeling is Pioli woke up this morning with an itchy trigger finger.
Snyder, the Washington owner, has one pick in the top 75, the 13th overall. He was willing to trade that pick plus next year's first-round pick and something else to get Jay Cutler from Denver to replace Jason Campbell at quarterback. That failed, but I'm told Snyder is beyond smitten with Sanchez and will likely pursue him this week. How can he do that? He's going to have to part with either his next two first-round picks, or a slew of picks, including this year's one.
I spoke to someone close to Snyder over the weekend, and this person said Snyder is not going to allow next year's first-rounder to be put in a trade. Maybe. Maybe not. This person also said he thought it was highly unlikely the Redskins could muster up the ammo to go get Sanchez. If Snyder wants to get up to No. 3 to assure himself the shot at Sanchez, he's going to have to bend and give up the to pick in 2010.
One other thing: At the scouting combine, Snyder had the not-so-secret dinner with the agent for Albert Haynesworth, Chad Speck? A week later, the Redskins went on to sign Haynesworth, their No. 1-target on the free market, five hours into free-agency.
Last Friday, the last night teams could host, wine and dine players from out of town in their home market, Snyder and vice president Vinny Cerrato took Sanchez out to dinner at an Italian place in downtown D.C. after Sanchez had spent the day with Washington coaches and personnel people. Big deal? Maybe. Maybe not.
Sanchez, the in-demand quarterback, has visited nine teams between one (Detroit) and 19 (Tampa Bay) in the first round. The excitement level on him around the league is ratcheting up. I bet 40 percent of the teams like him better than they do Matthew Stafford, though Stafford's significantly more experienced. As one coach in the top 15 told me Sunday morning: "Sanchez really is an interesting prospect. There's so much he does that's instinctive, and he can make all the throws, even though he doesn't have the arm strength of Stafford. He sort of oozes confidence.''
Good quarterbacks get the blood boiling in coaches and GMs, and in this case, owners. It also doesn't hurt that Sanchez is a pretty focused kid -- even though he's the kind of flip leader who should get along well with vets. Sanchez threw at his old high school in Mission Viejo on Sunday evening, then went to prepare for an important group project in his Communication 321/Argumentation and Advocacy class. He'll make a speech in the class this morning, and he's on course to graduate on time, May 15. "I'm throwing because in 10 days I'll be at some mini-camp having to show my best,'' he said. "I have to be ready.''
As do the teams at the top of the draft. One thing they have to do if and when the Redskins call with an offer is throw the old trade-value chart away. That's the chart Jimmy Johnson and the Cowboys created two decades ago to figure out the real value of not only a first-round draft pick but also the value of the 12th pick versus the 28th pick. They're both first-rounders, but obviously they're not equal. Today, the reason the draft value chart is bogus is because the money paid to the highest draftees make the high picks "a millstone,'' as Detroit Chief Operation Officer Tom Lewand said.
If the Redskins make calls to Kansas City and Seattle and maybe Cleveland to try to get the pick to take Sanchez, let's go over the trade chart value. It sounds like I'm waiving the Redskins' pompons when I write this, but I'm going to argue that Washington should get a better deal than the chart says, because of the bloated salaries in the top 10 of the first round.
The trade-value chart pegs an equal trade between Washington and Kansas City as the Chiefs' first-round pick this year for Washington's first- and third- and fifth-round picks this year and the 'Skins' first-round pick next year. A first-round pick in a following year is devalued by about 20 percent or more, depending on the organization's trade-chart variables. Let's do the math. The third pick this year is valued at 2,200 points. The 13th pick has a value of 1,150. The third-round pick is worth 190 points and the fifth-rounder 35 points. Next year's one -- the 16th overall pick, because you have to assume you're getting a middle-of-the-pack pick -- is worth 800 with the 20-percent discount. So the Redskins would be acquiring a pick with a value of 2,200 points and trading four picks with a combined value of 2,175.
But that formula doesn't take into account $34.8 million in guarantees and $12-million-a-year averages. What I think is fair for Washington, and for the team selling off Sanchez, is this: first- and third-round picks this year, and a second-rounder next year. Forget the points. It's just fair value.
Now it's up to Washington, or another Sanchez suitor, to make the call to try to get him.
"I think it's going to be an interesting week,'' Sanchez said. "I have no idea what's going to happen. I really don't. In other drafts, the top seemed pretty clear a few days before the draft. Not this year.''
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