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NFL Draft Financial Story: Sam Baker

Draft day drama is fascinating because the big time drops are correlated with big losses of money. I calculated that Matt Leinart and Brady Quinn returning for their senior seasons cost them $10 million and $17 million, respectively.

And while many have started talking about Matt Ryan possibly falling and losing millions of dollars, the biggest financial dropper might be Sam Baker, USC's offensive tackle.



Baker, a three-time All American first teamer, was rated slightly under Joe Thomas, who went third last year to Cleveland. It's an inexact science, but it's possible -- if he came out last year -- that he might have gone to Arizona instead of Levi Brown.

Thomas signed a deal worth $22 million in guaranteed money. Brown signed a deal worth $18 million guaranteed.

But Baker stayed for his senior year instead. After having arthroscopic knee surgery before spring practice, he missed three games after straining his left hamstring and he was slower than expected at USC's pro day. That leads us to where he is projected in tomorrow's NFL Draft.

RealGM.com has him going to the San Francisco 49ers at No. 29, NFL.com's Mike Mayock has him going to the Green Bay Packers at No. 30 and ESPN.com's Todd McShay has him to the Atlanta Falcons at No. 37

I'll guesstimate Baker goes around No. 33 to the St. Louis Rams. That's interesting because last year's No. 33 was Alan Branch, also a guy who was considered a top 5 selection at one point. Branch signed a four-year contract that reportedly had a $2 million signing bonus with roster bonuses of $750,000 in his second, third and fourth seasons.

In a way, you might be able to argue that Baker could have lost some $15 million, if you believe he really would have been the guy instead of Levi Brown. The caveat here is that if he wasn't and the draft went the same way and each team chose the players by the same positions, the next offensive lineman after the Cardinals chose Brown at No. 5 was at No. 28 (when the San Francisco 49ers chose Joe Staley). Only $5.6 million of Staley's contract was guaranteed.

So maybe staying in school and graduating wasn't so bad after all. The bottom line is this. I'm not a draft expert, but I have a strong feeling that whatever team gets Sam Baker in this draft tomorrow is going to be stealing him. That might be unfortunate for him, but like many before him, if he's the real deal, he'll make his fortune on his second contract.

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com

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