NY Times article on the draft- Why First isn't best
This is an update of a paper that was written about five years ago by some college professors from Yale and UoChicago. Very technical but the second link should be printed and read on the porcelain throne
An updated attempt to quantify
1) draft order to actual on filed production (is the draft random or do teams have skill)
2) the cost per player relative to the draft order (why does the last player selected in round 1 get 20% of the first player taken)
Yeah there is some very geeky stuff but you can skim through the formulas to get to the meat of the issue.
1) Yes draft order does matter- earlier is better but not by very much. There is little to differentiate pick 8 from pick 12
2) Cost is the big head scratcher- picks 1-3 are a complete rip-off. The best value is late first to early second
a. the bad teams are penalized since they have to pay a big premium for slightly better players
b. with 22 players on the field for every play the ability of one player to dominate is lower than other sports. So you need to spread the dough around
These are some very interesting conclusions (if they are in fact true).
Definitely supports the concept of "trading down" in Rd #1, especially if you include the cost of signing the rookie contracts in your analysis.
What really hurts is their "big picture" conclusion that very high Round #1 picks only do MARGINALLY BETTER than later Round #1 picks in the long run (based on success of Vernon Gholston & Bryan Thomas, I guess we Jet fans may have already known this).
While these stats due indeed have some validity in my mind the thing that just cannot be weighed is the player quality from year to year. The thing that needs to happen in the NFL in my opinion is for there to be a rookie cap. Find a way to make sure the good players get paid and paid very well but not until they have proven they are as good as their draft status indicates.