INDIANAPOLIS -- Indianapolis Colts president Bill Polian isn't sure if having a top 10 draft pick would be worth it.
Polian said good teams like the Colts are less likely than in the past to trade up for an early pick because of the required financial commitment. Last year's top pick, JaMarcus Russell, missed all of training camp in a contract dispute before getting $29 million in guarantees.
"Trades are a unique thing in the first round anymore because of the cost of the top 10 picks financially," he said. "To take on that cost ... is almost counterintuitive."
Polian said agents have driven up the cost of the early picks, making it more difficult than ever for struggling franchises to improve. He said that cost can hamper teams for years, especially if they make a mistake on a pick or the player gets injured.
"The draft was designed to either allow the weakest teams, based on record, to choose the best players, or if they chose not to take a particular player, to gather a bunch of picks to further accelerate their growth and competitiveness," he said. "That's now been skewed by the cost of the picks in the first round.
"When that's skewed and changed because of the agents, that isn't a good thing for the game."
Polian said the system also makes it difficult for a team drafting early to acquire pieces to put around the high pick. He said making the right pick is possible, but difficult.
"What it can do, if you're fortunate enough to get a Peyton Manning, is it can change your franchise," he said. "It gives you a guy who can lead you to the promised land, can help you be a good team for a long time. If you miss on that pick, economics aside, you still set yourself back."
Polian said he expects the system to change eventually. He said the league could change the pay scale or create a slotting system like the NBA has, creating a fixed rate for draft positions.
But the current system, he feels, needs to be updated so the league can remain balanced.
"Our game is based on competitive balance and the fact that every year, every franchise believes they can win, unlike other sports. You can go from worst to first in a year.
"It's not about money, it's about the integrity of the game on the field."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press