Mailbag: Valuing picks by position

Hugh from Monterey, Calif., writes: Mike, you've been great about sharing stats and files. Last week, Kevin Seifert provided the average salaries of the top five players at most positions (the median would actually be a better stat for a small sample). Do you know what the rough average salary is by position?

Because the value chart gives owners a sense about fairness of trades, and agents use it to tie to salaries, it raises the issue for my prospective draft of what would be deemed a good value pick over a need pick?

For example, I see Ndamukong Suh, Gerald McCoy and C.J. Spiller falling because of need, and Sam Bradford rising, making the first pair enticing value picks. So, if a team has value options on their turn, but they have to pay for that value, which directions might they choose based on position value?

Sorry if that took so long to ask. As always, love the blog and thanks for the stats (stats make for informed judgments).

Mike Sando: Interesting question. I have published franchise and transition values and will make them available in a chart below. I think those can be helpful in determining a position-by-position pecking order even extending beyond the very highest salaries. Those should tell us pretty reliably which positions NFL teams value the most.

Teams pay a premium for players chosen among the top five and probably even top 10 choices. We then should ask how the prices paid near the top of the draft affect salaries relative to the highest-paid veteran players at the positions in question. That would shed light on which positions could be more cost-effective from a drafting standpoint.

This is where a quarterback can become a value choice early. The money the Lions are paying Matthew Stafford is more than they would have to pay a player drafted at another position, but it's less than what the very best veteran quarterbacks earn. The money teams would pay for defensive tackles drafted that early would be greater relative to what the top veteran defensive tackles earn, simply because veteran defensive tackle isn't valued nearly as high as quarterback.

Suh or McCoy will command disproportionately high salaries for defensive tackles precisely because they'll be drafted so early, even if that price is cheaper than what a quarterback would cost in total dollars. In other words, the premium paid atop the draft could disproportionately distort values for players at positions teams do not value as much otherwise.

2010 Franchise and Transition Values

Kevin from San Diego writes: Listening to Jim Mora on 710ESPN with Kevin Calabro, do you think he regrets choosing the Seahawks over the Huskies when he had the chance? He says he's trying to prepare for either NFL or college. Your thoughts?

Mike Sando: Mora made the right decision at the time. This was probably his only chance to become Seahawks coach, whereas the University of Washington job could become available to him at some point in the future, based on his profile in the community here and his history with the university.

And yet there's no question in my mind that Mora must feel horrible about what might have been a missed opportunity. He gets dumped by the Seahawks after one season, then has to watch Steve Sarkisian enjoy success at his alma mater. That cannot be fun, although the millions he's receiving from the Seahawks would have to help.

Will from Cincinnati writes: My question is concerning next year's draft affecting this one. If Ndamukong Suh is regarded as the best defensive tackle in the last 30 years and Jake Locker was supposedly rated higher than Jimmy Clausen and Sam Bradford, then why don't the Rams take Suh and try to grab Locker next year?

The Lions drafted Stafford before addressing other needs and he's simply gotten injured and hasn't performed much. I know Peyton Manning had a rough first year, but what are your thoughts on the Rams building a team so that when Locker comes in, he has a good supporting cast to help him transition? Thanks. I greatly appreciate your time.

Mike Sando: You're welcome. If the Rams are picking first in 2011 without a franchise quarterback onboard, they'll probably have new football leadership. We already know they'll have a new owner, most likely. I don't think the current football leadership can afford to take such a chance. Also, there's no guarantee Locker would be available in a year, or that he'll even be healthy.

Kevin from San Francisco writes: Mike, love the blog. I saw an interesting tidbit about outgoing officiating director Mike Pereira in this week's MMQB:

"He believes he could train the team year-round in penalty prevention, working with the coaching staff on what makes officials reach for the flag on touchy calls like pass-interference, and then be in the coaches booth on Sunday upstairs telling the head coach when to throw the challenge flag."

Given the Cardinals' somewhat rocky history with penalties despite Ken Whisenhunt's effort to cut them down, what would you think about the Cardinals being the team to try this? They already have a low number of assistants and should have room to grow. They also are relatively close to Central California, which is where Pereira wants to be near.

I think the Cardinals may be in a good position to take a chance, especially one with such little downside. And yes, I'm sending this hoping to start the rumors, because I'd love for it to happen.

Mike Sando: There's no penalty for passing along the idea, Kevin. I've given penalties some thought and think it comes down to a combination of factors.

Some players simply commit more penalties than other players. Sometimes a head coach comes in and penalties drop consistently for years to come. That was the case during Mike Holmgren's tenure in Seattle.

Could someone with Pereira's credentials help a team? Probably. Teams already bring in officials to work practices and meet with players during training camp. Perhaps re-emphasis during the season would help.

Jon from Winnipeg writes: Hey Mike, longtime Rams fan. Enjoy reading your work. If the Rams do draft Sam Bradford, who is going to be the quarterback to mentor him in the beginning of his NFL career? A.J. Feeley? Marc Bulger?

This looks like yet another situation where a quality QB coming out of college will not amount to anything because a proper plan is not in place to guide and help him become successful. Do the Rams have a plan?

Mike Sando: Yes, the Rams have a plan. That plan is for Feeley to mentor Bradford if the team does indeed select Bradford. It's a huge upset if Bulger sticks around for another year under any circumstance. His salary is $8.5 million and the organization does not see him as a leader to build around. The Rams' moves in recent weeks suggest the team is preparing to draft Bradford.

Ross from Moses Lake, Wash., writes: Hey Mike, love the mailbags and keep up the good work. Everyone says we got Charlie Whitehurst because he's young and hasn't thrown in a single regular-season NFL game and that way we can mold him and he can take over for Matt Hasselbeck.

Whatever happened to Mike Teel? He played a coupla preseason games last year and looked real good. He's the same size and build as Whitehurst but three years younger. He hasn't played any regular-season games, so we could shape him to take over for Hasselbeck. Plus, it wouldn't have cost us any picks.

Just wondering what your take is on Teel and why Seattle doesn't think he would be the No. 2 quarterback.

Mike Sando: Whitehurst's pedigree has benefited from extended time under Norv Turner. Whitehurst was valued as a third-round choice out of college, considerably higher than where Teel was valued. Those could be a couple things working in Whitehurst's favor, but when you look at Whitehurst's credentials, it's tough to make a strong case for him. This is a situation where the Seahawks are saying, "Trust me," and there isn't any way to know for sure whether Whitehurst will pan out.

Rudy from Chandler, Ariz., writes: Hey Sando, the Cardinals have signed both Joey Porter and Derek Anderson, and both were once prime-time players. With Porter getting old and and Derek coming off two mediocre seasons, I'm not thinking the bleeding is stopped. What else can the Cardinals do to stop the bleeding of this horrific offseason?

Mike Sando: There's nothing they can do to bring back Kurt Warner. There's no savior out there in free agency. The Cardinals need to have another strong draft and continue to develop their younger players. There are no shortcuts.

The bleeding has stopped, though. Their priority free agents are either restricted, re-signed or already gone. They'll need to address the situation at kicker, which could entail bringing back Neil Rackers. But the significant moves appear done.