Here's how much the 2021 NFL Draft picks are likely to earn on their rookie contracts

The National Football League will welcome 32 new players into its ranks Thursday night when the 2021 NFL Draft takes place in Cleveland. And while a number of quarterbacks will be jockeying to be among the top picks, they are also competing for something else: a bigger payday.

In the NFL, the spot you're drafted can have a drastic impact on your earning power your first few years in the league. Dropping a few spots can cost a player several millions of dollars thanks to the NFL's rookie wage scale, which predetermines the salaries for each year's rookies based on the league-wide salary cap.

For 2021, the player selected first overall is projected by Spotrac to receive nearly $37 million in his first contract, including a $24.2 million signing bonus. This year, the first pick is owned by the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are expected to draft 21-year-old Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence.

On the other side of the spectrum, the 32nd pick's four-year deal is worth around a third of that at $11.2 million, including a $5.5 million signing bonus.

Each player drafted in the first round receives a four-year contract. They aren't eligible to renegotiate their deals until after their third contracted year.

"Unfortunately, [draft positioning] means a lot," Michael Bapis, managing director at Vios Advisors at Rockefeller Capital tells CNBC Make It. "If you're at the top of the draft, it's very important. But if you're not in one of the top one or two rounds, then ultimately you're going to have to play [well] to get paid."

Unlike decades past, there's not much wiggle room for negotiations for top draft picks. Thanks to a change in the league's collective bargaining agreement in 2011, gone are the days when a top-five pick can negotiate a $72 million contract before ever setting foot on an NFL field.

And even after a rookie signs their contract, that doesn't mean all the money is going into their bank account. The only money they are guaranteed is their signing bonus. If they are cut by their team or are otherwise unable to perform, there is a very real possibility that they will not receive their salary.

"I think the public sees the big number and thinks the player gets it right away, but that's probably the biggest misconception," Bapis says. "You sign for that amount, but you can always be released."

Here are what this year's draft picks stand to earn, from pick No. 1 to No. 32, according to Spotrac projections as of Thursday afternoon. The total contract value includes the signing bonus, which is typically paid out within days of the players officially signing.

Pick No. 1

  • Total contract value: $36.9 million
  • Signing bonus: $24.2 million

Pick No. 2

  • Total contract value: $35.2 million
  • Signing bonus: $22.9 million

Pick No. 3

  • Total contract value: $34.2 million
  • Signing bonus: $22.2 million

Pick No. 4

  • Total contract value: $32.9 million
  • Signing bonus: $21.3 million

Pick No. 5

  • Total contract value: $30.9 million
  • Signing bonus: $19.8 million

Pick No. 6

  • Total contract value: $27.1 million
  • Signing bonus: $17.1 million

Pick No. 7

  • Total contract value: $24.1 million
  • Signing bonus: $14.9 million

Pick No. 8

  • Total contract value: $21.2 million
  • Signing bonus: $12.7 million

Pick No. 9

  • Total contract value: $21 million
  • Signing bonus: $12.6 million

Pick No. 10

  • Total contract value: $20.2 million
  • Signing bonus: $12 million

Pick No. 11

  • Total contract value: $18.9 million
  • Signing bonus: $11.1 million

Pick No. 12

  • Total contract value: $17.1 million
  • Signing bonus: $9.8 million

Pick No. 13

  • Total contract value: $16.7 million
  • Signing bonus: $9.5 million

Pick No. 14

  • Total contract value: $15.9 million
  • Signing bonus: $8.9 million

Pick No. 15

  • Total contract value: $15.6 million
  • Signing bonus: $8.7 million

Pick No. 16

  • Total contract value: $14.7 million
  • Signing bonus: $8.1 million

Pick No. 17

  • Total contract value: $14.4 million
  • Signing bonus: $7.8 million

Pick No. 18

  • Total contract value: $14 million
  • Signing bonus: $7.6 million

Pick No. 19

  • Total contract value: $13.8 million
  • Signing bonus: $7.4 million

Pick No. 20

  • Total contract value: $13.7 million
  • Signing bonus: $7.35 million

Pick No. 21

  • Total contract value: $13.66 million
  • Signing bonus: $7.3 million

Pick No. 22

  • Total contract value: $13.5 million
  • Signing bonus: $7.2 million

Pick No. 23

  • Total contract value: $13.4 million
  • Signing bonus: $7.1 million

Pick No. 24

  • Total contract value: $13.1 million
  • Signing bonus: $6.9 million

Pick No. 25

  • Total contract value: $12.9 million
  • Signing bonus: $6.8 million

Pick No. 26

  • Total contract value: $12.8 million
  • Signing bonus: $6.6 million

Pick No. 27

  • Total contract value: $12.6 million
  • Signing bonus: $6.53 million

Pick No. 28

  • Total contract value: $12.5 million
  • Signing bonus: $6.5 million

Pick No. 29

  • Total contract value: $11.9 million
  • Signing bonus: $6.1 million

Pick No. 30

  • Total contract value: $11.6 million
  • Signing bonus: $5.8 million

Pick No. 31

  • Total contract value: $11.4 million
  • Signing bonus: $5.6 million

Pick No. 32

  • Total contract value: $11.2 million
  • Signing bonus: $5.5 million

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