Lately, we've seen quality talent in the NFL being traded away for seemingly nothing; mostly lower-round picks. Santonio Holmes was acquired for a fifth round pick, Randy Moss was dealt for a third round pick, to name a few examples. However, just a few years ago, Roy Williams was traded to the Cowboys for a first and second round pick. Jay Cutler cost the Bears two firsts and a second. Yes, Jay Cutler is a QB, but I would be surprised if any team is willing to part with it's precious draft picks so readily.
Why the sudden change in compensation for players? Holmes is a much better talent than Roy Williams, so why did Dallas pay such a high premium on him, despite Holmes' pending suspension? In the case of Randy Moss, the Patriots are gambling that the player they get in the 3rd round pick (or if they use it to move up) will at least equal the production of Randy Moss over twelve remaining games. Sure, you can get a good steal in those rounds, but it's pretty easy to miss, never mind match the production with a Hall of Fame player. In the 2007 and 2008 drafts, no third round selections have made the pro bowl.
So why do teams essentially give away these players for a used jock strap? The real answer is simple: Money. Not only do the Patriots not have to pay Randy Moss after this season, but if that player they get in the third round ends up being a starter or contributor of some sort, you only have to pay him third-round compensation; you get more bang for your buck than if you bring in a veteran.
These two drafts, 2010 and 2011, will be as deep as any draft in recent memory. This is due to the fact that a rookie wage scale is on its way, and kids are leaving college early in hopes of cashing in while they still can (Donovan Warren). This, obviously, will push talent that is a first-round grade into the second round, and so on. Therefore, the second round pick is almost as valuable as the first round pick; you get almost equal talent while having to pay significantly less.
While the Chargers are receiving a 3rd round pick for Cromartie, they are actually getting closer to second-round talent for the price of a third round player. Same for the Moss trade, the McNabb trade, and so on. Ultimately, though, it's up to the GMs to make the picks count, or their gambles are all for nothing.