Evaluation of the 2015 Compensatory Draft Picks Projection, Part 1

UPDATE (March 26): In light of the news that the NFL erred in awarding three of the compensatory picks, this post has been altered to reflect those changes.

NOTE: I will be in the process of changing OTC’s draft page to calibrate its showing of the compensatory draft picks with the official release.  This may take some time to fully complete.

As you all know by now, the 2015 compensatory draft picks have been officially released. After comparing the press release to my program, here are the results:

  • 22 picks (marked as green) were for the correct player and in the correct round. (As a bonus, the program correctly projected two additional players that ended up over the 32 pick limit.)
  • 3 picks (marked as yellow) were for the correct player but were off by one round.
  • 4 picks (marked as blue) were missed by the program but were anticipated by myself as possibilities. (As a bonus, I also anticipated one of the picks that was over the 32 pick limit.)
  • 3 picks (marked as red) were missed for reasons that neither the program nor myself anticipated before the announcement.

2015evaluation1.1

So how did some of these picks get missed? The three yellow lines are pretty self explanatory: I just had the APY cutoffs between rounds a bit off. This promoted Baltimore’s pick for Corey Graham from a 6th to a 5th, and demoted Denver’s picks for Knowshon Moreno and Shaun Phillips from 6ths to 7ths.

Let’s move on to the player qualifications, the biggest question that I had. The following relevant players did not qualify that I thought might not:

  • Marshall Newhouse ($805,000 APY, 34.4% snaps)
  • *Brian De la Puente ($795,000 APY, 46.1% snaps)
  • *Charles Brown ($795,000 APY, 34.7% snaps)
  • *Jarius Wynn ($795,000 APY, 34.0% snaps)
  • Colt McCoy ($795,000 APY, 22.8% snaps)
  • *Danny McCray ($795,000 APY, 16.1% snaps)
  • Darrius Heyward-Bey ($795,000 APY, 11.1% snaps)
  • Javier Arenas ($795,000 APY, 5.4% snaps)
  • Colt Anderson ($795,000 APY, 3.6% snaps)
  • Joe Webb ($795,000 APY, 2.0% snaps)
  • Andrew Gardner ($742,500 APY, 56.9% snaps)
  • Chris Cook ($730,000 APY, 4.7% snaps)

*There was no mention of Dallas nor New Orleans in the press release. Therefore, at least two of these players did not qualify, but perhaps three or all four did not.

As a small pat on the back, I did correctly guess that both Ben Tate and LeGarrette Blount would qualify despite being cut midseason, and I also correctly guessed that Jonathan Dwyer would not qualify due to his placement on the NFI list following his domestic violence arrest.

These non-qualifying players resulted in the five blue lines that I anticipated:

  • Because Marshall Newhouse did not qualify, Green Bay did not get a 7th for him and Cincinnati got a 4th for Anthony Collins. (That’s obviously great news for the Bengals.)
  • Because Joe Webb did not qualify, Carolina got a 5th for Mike Mitchell.
  • Because Andrew Gardner did not qualify, Houston did not get a 6th for Joe Mays.
  • Because Chris Cook did not qualify, San Francisco got a 7th for Anthony Dixon.
  • Because Colt Anderson did not qualify, Indianapolis got a 7th for Kavell Conner.
  • Because Darrius Heyward-Bey did not qualify, Pittsburgh would have gotten a 7th for David Johnson if it wasn’t over the 32-pick limit.

Now onto those unfortunate red lines:

  • Domenik Hixon qualified in favor for Carolina, which caused the Panthers to pick up a 5th for Captain Munnerlyn that I thought could happen, but not for this reason (hence why I’m marking this as red). I did not have Hixon on the radar at all as a qualifying UFA, because although he signed with the Bears before June 1, he was cut well before training camp started. What I did not notice is that Hixon was actually cut with an injury settlement due to tearing his ACL in OTAs. Although Hixon signed a paltry $740,000 deal, the formula clearly has compassion for players who have their contracts cut short for injury. This will be an important fact to stow away for future comp picks.
  • I thought Seattle would get two 5ths and one 6th, but they instead got one 5th and two 6ths. At first I thought Breno Giacomini somehow got demoted, but now I believe he actually got promoted due to playing 100% of the snaps, and I’m speculating the same with Zane Beadles as to why the 4th Denver got for him was higher than I thought. Instead, I’m now thinking the 6th they got was for Brandon Browner, and he had his value lowered due to his four-game suspension. When Browner’s original $5.05 million APY is multiplied by 13/17 (signifying a removal of four game checks), his “new” APY of $3.86 million fits in perfectly on the list, and as a 6th round value.

    For the future, this is an extremely important development for the Carolina Panthers and Dallas Cowboys (and their fans), and you probably already know I’m referring to Greg Hardy for the 2016 comp picks. If he is suspended for a lengthy time due to his domestic violence, that could reduce the round of the comp pick that Carolina potentially gets for him, and it could also make the cancellation chart more favorable for Dallas.

  • I thought the fourth comp pick for Kansas City would be a 7th, but it was instead a 6th. The press release said the Chiefs would have gotten picks for Akeem Jordan and Kendrick Lewis if there wasn’t a per-team four pick limit, so we know they weren’t for them. I am guessing that Joe Mays was demoted to a 7th round value due to only playing 10.9% of the defensive snaps. This caused Mays to cancel out Quintin Demps, and opened up a 6th round pick for Dexter McCluster.

UPDATE: these two items below resulted from an error by the NFL.  I’m keeping the text here to help explain where the NFL made that error.

  • Instead of getting a 6th for Ziggy Hood, the Steelers instead got a 7th that was almost certainly for someone else. I am guessing that this 7th is for Ryan Clark, and that he got a boost ahead of Dane Fletcher for playing 97.9% of the defensive snaps. This part is some bold speculation, but my initial guess is that somehow LeGarrette Blount was valued as a 6th instead of a 7th, which would cause him to cancel out Hood, and open up the lowest-available 7th (Clark) up for a pick. Such an upgrade for Blount would fit with New England’s cancellation chart, as a 6th round valued Blount would still cancel out a 6th round valued Brandon LaFell. I have very low confidence in that, however, and I need to investigate it further.
  • Denver somehow got a 6th for Wesley Woodyard instead of Knowshon Moreno. This has to be the case, as Woodyard’s $3.94 million APY fits in perfectly where the pick was awarded, as opposed to Moreno’s $3 million APY (and he also missed most of the season, which should further demote him). This is the one I’m currently stumped on, as Woodyard should have been cancelled out by Emmanuel Sanders (a clear 5th round value), but for some reason he appears to have cancelled out Moreno.

In addition, although this does not show up as a red line in the table above, I also missed that Jeff Linkenbach did not qualify in favor of Indianapolis and against Kansas City. This cost Indianapolis a 7th that I thought they would get for him (though they still got one 7th for Kavell Conner for a different reason). As Jason pointed out in the comments, I had not noticed that part of Linkenbach’s contract included a $150,000 workout bonus, which does not count in determining a player’s APY in the compensatory formula.  Therefore, Linkenbach’s APY should have been $750,000 instead of $900,000.  Had I known that, he would have been placed squarely on the qualification bubble, and I would have written up a scenario in which Linkenbach would not have qualified.

I have declared this to be Part 1 because I anticipate I will have more to tell as I learn more, and there could be implications for the 2016 projections and beyond. Stay tuned for future updates.

  • Im thinking the Connor/Linkenbach one cme down to workout money. I know you had mentioned something about that in the past and Linkenbach had $150K tied up in workouts compared to $0 for Connor. If those are pulled out Connor stays at $900K while JL falls to $750K.

    • Nick

      You’re absolutely right, thanks! Another question is answered, but still plenty to go…

  • McGeorge

    Nick and Jason and Bryce (and everyone else),
    He’s an idea for a deep analysis.

    If a team signs a free agent, they should be “charged” for lost compensatory picks, and credited for one that will be gained when they leave. If a team loses a free agent and gains one, they lose a compensatory pick. They may be better off waiting a year to sign a free agent, depending on the circumstances.

    • Nick

      In a real abstract sense, this already exists to some extent. Recall that before free agency started the program gave each team one pick in the order of what would be an eighth round. That eighth round became soaked into the other seven rounds as teams signed player, so teams that signed more players than they lost then “lost” that starting pick.

      But aside from that, I don’t know how you can make the math work without punitively hurting teams. The number of draft picks is collectively bargained at exactly 256, a number that the league and the union certainly have strong opinions on for different reasons. If you subject more than 32 of them to the compensatory process, it’s going to give teams like the Ravens and Packers even more of an incentive and advantage to hoard as many picks as they can. It might also make teams more gunshy to sign free agents at a high level for fear of losing draft picks, and I can’t imagine the union would like the prospect of that.

  • CD

    Are you sure the determining factor after APY is snaps and not guaranteed money?

    • Nick

      Yes, I feel confident in that assertion. AdamJT13 never mentioned anything specifically about guarantees in his work, and in doing the picks this year I did not take guarantees into account and it did not look to compromise the results.

  • willyeye

    Nick, I think Browner was dropped down partially because he missed 6 games last year;
    Browner had signed a 3-year, $17.5 million contract with the Pats, but
    according to newer reports, Browner was only paid $2.95 million for last
    year; probably had to do with the fact he missed 6 games, and that the
    Pats cut him after only one season. Or perhaps because the first year of his contract with the Pats was less?

    In your original projection, you had Browner getting paid $5.05 million APY. I still don’t really get this. Were there any other FA’s from last year that missed time or got cut this offseason that were dropped way down the list? I’m totally confused!

    • Nick

      I agree with you at least in part–I think missing games due to suspension was the reason he was dropped, and after applying that APY loss he fit in very neatly with the real order. The Pats declining his option (technically they didn’t cut him, which is important for next year’s comp picks) did not play into the 2015 picks because if happened well after the 2014 regular season. The formula has always appeared to judge the contract as a whole, even if there are years in it that any human can clearly understand are “phony” years for cap manipulation.

      There were definitely UFAs that were demoted due to lack of playing time or being cut. As a Broncos fan the one that immediately comes to my mind is Knowshon Moreno, who missed most of last season with the Dolphins. I projected him as a low 6th but he was docked so much he because a high 7th. There was also a player cut by the Redskins before Week 10 whose name is currently eluding me but I know he didn’t qualify because his name didn’t show up on the Colts’ list of UFAs.

  • theowl

    You folks are great for picking up the compensatory pick projection thing. For the last couple years I have tried to figure it out since no one else was doing it. I did a projection a couple weeks ago and here are some differences I came up with…

    I had Cromartie for Denver’s 4th round pick.
    I had Beadles for Denver as a second 4th, so I missed that.
    I too had Browner as a 5th round pick
    I had KC getting a 6th for Swartz, which you note as McCluster.
    Like you I also had Graham for Balt. as a 6th
    I had Munnerlyn for Car. as a 6th, but the NFL just moved that to a 5th.
    And Hood for Pitt. as a 6th, which the NFL corrected today.
    I had Carolina getting a 6th for Ginn, which I missed.

    Denver’s 6th that was just corrected to a 7th baffles me. I thought Denver would get both Cromartie and Beadles.
    I had Mays for a 7th to Hou., which I missed.

    I had Dixon, but didn’t have the Indy and Arizona 7th round picks. I can’t remember never seeing a team get a compensatory pick for losing a player making an average salary less than $900,000.

    My understanding of how free agents signings cancel each other out is that a team A’s free agent signed by team B must be of equal average salary or less to cancel out Team A’s free agent signing. It seems your method is to first put all free agent signings into an average salary group, then start canceling them out if they are in the same group.

    Anyway at least there are a few of us oddballs that like this stuff! Thanks

    • Nick

      It’s awesome to talk to a fellow comp pick geek! I would be very interested in getting a copy of your work for previous years if you have it, that would give me more evidence to work with on improving my program.

      All of your misses were ones that I made as well and/or anticipated that they could happen. Denver didn’t a second 4th due to TJ Ward having a Pro Bowl season, and their 6th getting demoted to a 7th actually baffles me less now that I understand the playing time adjustments better.

      The qualifications for low level players seem to have become more generous in recent years. My speculation is that something changed with this in the new CBA, but since the formula’s a secret I don’t know for sure, and I’d need contract information from 2011-13 to confirm that guess.

      Cancellations first work by grouping players of equal value in rounds (i.e., a 4th always cancels out a 4th unless there is no 4th available), and they start from the highest equal rounds on down. Matching closest APYs within rounds doesn’t happen–that was a mistake I initially made too until I reread some of AdamJT13’s work. But among different rounds the formula is nice and only cancels out the higher round if there’s no one else to cancel (i.e., if a team loses a 3rd and a 7th but gains a 4th, the 4th cancels out the 7th and the team gets a 3rd round comp pick).

      • theowl

        Nick, the only person I could find that was doing what you are doing was Jimmy Kempski at Blogging the bEast, a site that doesn’t exist any more. He is at philly.com, but I don’t think he has done it since 2013. Here are his last predictions…
        thttp://bloggingthebeast.com/2013/01/27/2013-nfl-compensatory-pick-projections/
        I saved the page because it was my only reference.

        I don’t have my last couple years of predictions. They just lasted on scraps of paper til the comp picks were announced.
        Thanks fo guiding me to AdamJT13’s analysis. He did some nice research. Do you know if he was the first to figure out the formula?