American Football

Positions are paid differently. If the New York Jets stay at pick 10, what would the relative pay be by position?

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Syndication: USA TODAY
Joshua L. Jones / USA TODAY NETWORK

Taking a look at positional value

Even a cursory glance at NFL salaries would inform that different positions are paid differently. An easy example? The highest paid quarterback by total cash next season will be Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow at $65 million, whereas the highest paid punter by total cash next season will be Pittsburgh Steelers punter Cameron Johnson at only $4 million.

While this comparison is rather mundane and obvious, it has significant implications for whomever the New York Jets (and really any other team) take with their first round pick. Why? Because the salary of the player taken at a given pick is going to be the same regardless of the position. This means the same salary figure can fall very differently in terms of how highly paid a player is within their given position even within the same value because of the variance in pay by position. This was recently analyzed in detail by Sam Hoppen of FantasyPros whose data I found rather illuminating and informative.

While each team is listed here, I will focus on the Jets. The positions they have been most strongly linked to have been wide receiver, tight end, right tackle, and left tackle, so I will specifically focus on those positions for the Jets pick (but all other positions are listed in the chart if anyone is interested). Below is a summary of the rank that the contract would fall within the position (e.g., the 5th highest salary would be ranked 5) with the percentile rank among all contracts at the position shown in parentheses.

  • Wide receiver: 38 (59.3%)
  • Tight end: 19 (41.9%)
  • Right tackle: 19 (41.9%)
  • Left tackle: 17 (48.4%)

Surprisingly, while much has been made about how well Georgia Tight End Brock Bowers would have to play in order to justify his draft pick, it actually seems to fall pretty squarely in line with the value of tackles. Beyond that, the percentile rank is actually higher for wide receivers.

With that said, that ignores the maximum pay at those positions, which is considerably higher than it is at tight end, potentially limiting the excess value earned if the player is among the absolute best at their position. Specifically, the highest cap hit for each position this season is as follows based on Spotrac.

  • Wide receiver: $31.2 million
  • Tight end: $16.9 million
  • Right tackle: $31.6 million
  • Left tackle: $29.8 million

Putting that together, while the value of the specific contract given to the player picked 10th would be justified by any starting quality player based on where the contract value would fall within the position, the return on investment if the player is elite seems to be lower for tight ends. By no means does this rule out a tight end, but it is a factor that should be considered as the Jets (and any other team) consider whom to select with their pick.

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