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Lucky Pick Six

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Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

The Jets really like the potential of Jamal Adams. They liked him in the draft so much that the Jets probably would have selected Adams even if they had been picking a few selections higher in the draft, possibly even as high as number 2. Fortunately for the Jets Adams unexpectedly fell to them at number 6, prompting some to anoint him the steal of the draft. That appellation may be premature, given that none of the 2017 NFL draftees have taken a single NFL snap yet. However, regardless of how the careers of the class of 2017 unfold, by a quirk of the NFL rookie wage scale the Jets' #6 selection has a strong claim to in fact being the steal of the draft.

Under the terms of the NFL collective bargaining agreement rookie contracts are for the most part standardized, with salaries set by the league and little room for negotiation.  The first pick in the 2017 NFL draft was Myles Garrett. Garrett received a four year contract worth a total of $30.4 million. The number two pick, Mitchell Trubisky, will get a 4 year, $29 million contract, approximately $1.4 million less than the first pick over four years. The third pick gets $0.9 million less than the second pick over four years. The fourth pick gets $1.0 million less than the third pick. The fifth pick gets $1.8 million less than the fourth pick. Then comes the big jump. The Jets' pick at #6, Jamal Adams, will receive a contract worth a whopping $3.1 million less than the fifth pick over four years. In 2021 the Jets will have an extra $3.1 million in cap space because they happened to choose sixth rather than fifth in the 2017 draft. That's a nice bonus for picking the same player the Jets would have chosen at #5 (and likely #4, #3 and #2, as well).

As you can see from the following chart, that $3.1 million difference between picks is the largest differential in the entire draft, by a fairly wide margin.

Pick

$ Difference From Next Higher Pick (Millions)

.

1

--

2

1.4

3

0.9

4

1.0

5

1.8

6

3.1

7

2.5

8

2.5

9

0.1

10

0.7

11

1.1

12

1.5

13

0.4

14

0.6

15

0.3

The next two largest drops in salary come in the following two picks, numbers seven and eight, at approximately $2.5 million each. That sets up an interesting opportunity for a team that might have three or four players ranked more or less even on their draft board at number five. By dropping just three slots such a team would save more than $8 million in cap space over four years, enough to sign one more quality starter. In such a scenario the team selecting at number five should make every effort to trade down, even if such a trade nets them very little relative to accepted trade value charts. Even if all such a team netted was an additional late round pick the cap savings alone would be worth the deal. This of course assumes such a team actually had three players of nearly identical rank on their draft board. Talent trumps cap savings, so such a team should only be willing to make such a trade if they do not believe they will be suffering any significant diminution in talent level by dropping down a few slots.

In any event, by sheer luck the Jets were fortunate enough twice in the last three years (in 2015 the Jets chose Leonard Williams with the sixth pick) to land on lucky number six in the annual NFL draft crapshoot. In both instances the Jets managed to acquire a player most analysts expected to be gone several picks earlier.  Combine that good fortune with the random luck of pick number six representing the biggest cap bargain in the draft, and you get two potential cornerstones of the franchise, with a lovely $6 million+ in cap savings just for not picking one slot higher. For a team often noted for rotten luck, as well as interceptions going the other way for touchdowns, there is irony as well as hope embedded in the Jets run of lucky pick sixes.