Weekend mailbag: Part I

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
Just think about it: At this time next week, we'll only be FOUR HOURS AWAY from the start of the NFL draft. Can you hang on for seven more days? Maybe this weekend's mailbag can help you along.

We'll start with an analysis so thorough that we'll cede many megabytes of ESPN space to air it out. In fact, it pushes the rest of our mailbag into a newly created Part II that will appear Sunday. Hold on to your seat!

Andy of Springfield, Ill., writes: I know the Jay Cutler trade has to been beaten into the ground to an extent. However, there's a really good comparison I've yet to see anyone make. The similarity between Cutler and Eli Manning coming out of Ole Miss in 2004 is pretty uncanny. Eli didn't want to play for San Diego and, for the lack of a better term, whined until he got his trade. Cutler did very much the same. However, I've yet to see anyone compare the two trade in terms of value.

In 2004, New York traded their #4 pick, and their 3rd round choice (65th overall), plus a 2005 1st (which turned out to be No. 12) and 5th (144th) for Eli. Those picks turned out to be Phillip Rivers, Nate Kaeding, Shawne Merriman and they traded the 5th for Roman Oben. The Chargers made out like bandits getting two Pro Bowlers in Kaeding and Merriman and a probable future Pro Bowler in Rivers.

Chicago gave up the 18th pick, 84th pick in 2009 along with Orton and a future first-rounder in 2010. Both of the 2009 picks were worse than the ones the Giants gave up in 2004. If you go by the trade value chart on the Internet, the 2009 picks were worth 1,070 points. The picks the Giants gave up were worth 3299. Its hard to put a value on Orton but for the sake of math let's say he's worth 230 (8th pick in round 3).

At 1,300 points that means the Bears 2010 pick would have to be worth 2000 points (between the No. 3 and No. 4 pick in the draft) to equal what the Giants gave up for Eli. And that's not even mentioning the 5th the bears got back.

From the Bears standpoint, it seems like the Cutler deal is a steal in comparison to what the Giants had to pay. From a financial standpoint Cutler's contract is much more manageable than a #1 overall pick. ... Then there's the fact that Cutler is at least a somewhat proven player vs. Eli, who hadn't played an NFL down. Worst case for the bears would seem to be a level of play similar to Eli. Best case ... who knows.

Kevin Seifert: Thanks, Andy. That's a really thought-provoking analysis. Even without seeing those numbers, I think most everyone would agree that the Giants gave up much more value for Manning than the Bears did for Cutler.

But to me, that speaks to the value -- real or assigned -- to the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. As it stands right now, NFL teams give it the highest premium -- both in terms of cash and trade value -- of any other asset they deal with.

Consider it this way. To complete the analysis in terms of the draft value chart, you probably have to include the fact that Manning -- at No. 1 overall -- was worth 3,000 points. So purely in terms of draft picks, the Chargers came out 299 points "ahead" of the Giants in the trade.

Now let's look at the Cutler trade. We'll start with 1,070 points in the form of two picks in 2009. To keep things as close to apples-to-apples as we can, you have to take into account the approximate point value the Bears got in return. Cutler was the No. 11 overall pick in 2006, so in pure draft terms he is worth 1,250 points -- less than half of what Manning was worth at No. 1 overall.

When you add in the 900 points for the 2010 pick, leaving the position at No. 18 as you suggested, we get a total value of 1,970 points, which puts the Broncos ahead by 720 points in terms of draft picks. That's the equivalent of the No. 25 overall pick of the draft.

You could make an argument that Orton, plus the undefined value of Cutler's experience and development, are probably equal to that 720-point remainder. The conclusion is a relatively fair trade.
What this exercise points out is how unbelievably expensive the No. 1 overall pick is in every conceivable way. In order to grab it, the Giants had to give up far more value than the Bears did to acquire a 25-year-old Pro Bowl quarterback.

In the end, the Bears paid less value than the Giants to get a more proven asset. Now you know why the No. 1 overall pick may never be traded again, at least under the current system.