After spending some time reviewing the official 2015 compensatory pick awards, with one small exception I’ve been able to reconstruct the exact order of the picks in the projection program. This will now also provide an accurate projection of the rookie pool each team needs to contribute for all its draft picks in 2015, including compensatory picks.
I was able to do this by applying the following adjustments for all of the Unrestricted Free Agents signing with new teams in 2014:
- Applied an adjustment to the contracts’ average per year (APY) for playing time based upon the player’s offensive and defensive snaps. (No postseason honors adjustment has been made yet due to lack of sufficient information.)
- Adjusted the cutoffs between rounds, and assigned round value based upon adjusted APY.
- Established a range for the minimum qualifying value.
I knew that playing time was factored into the compensatory formula, but I didn’t know how as AdamJT13 never revealed how he applied that factor. The adjustment that I have found to get most of the picks in the right order is to use the offensive or defensive snap percentages as a coefficient on the actual APY. This adjustment uses 45% of the snaps as a base, in which a player who plays this amount will see no change, and for most players the adjustment will range to -9% (at 0% of the snaps) to +9% (at 90% of the snaps). Jason has noticed in the past that 45% seems to be a notable number for determining playing time benchmarks in contracts in general.
For players who played more than 90% of the snaps, this playing time adjustment will get a 50% bonus, meaning that the maximum increase possible (for someone who played 100% of the snaps) is 16.5%. This added bonus helps to explain how players who were valued exceptionally higher than anticipated, including Zane Beadles (100% of snaps), Mike Mitchell (96.8%), Breno Giacomini (100%), Captain Munnerlyn (98.2%), and Evan Dietrich-Smith (93.5%).
With the adjusted APY in place, this helped to find some trends as to where the cutoffs between each round took place. This was aided particularly by the fact that the actual APYs of certain players near the cutoff were very close:
- 4th/5th cutoff: As I anticipated, TJ Ward ($5.625M APY) was valued as a 4th, even without accounting for his Pro Bowl bid (otherwise, Denver would have gotten two 4ths instead of one). Similarly, Antoine Bethea ($5.25M APY) was valued as a 5th (otherwise, Bethea would have cancelled Donte Whitner and San Francisco would have gotten a 6th for Tarell Brown instead of a 4th for Whitner).
- 5th/6th cutoff: Corey Graham ($4.025M APY) was valued as a 5th, while Brandon Browner ($3.87M APY after his 4-game suspension) was valued as a 6th. This is clearly a small range in which the cutoff could be placed.
- 6th/7th cutoff: Both Dexter McCluster and Joe Mays signed for contracts of or near $3M APY. Thus, it was natural to assume that they would cancel each other out. However, because Kansas City received a 6th for what has to be McCluster, the formula had to have treated he and Mays differently enough to demote Mays to a 7th while keeping McCluster at a 6th. Those two differences would be that Mays had annual workout bonuses of $50,000 that do not count in the formula, and the fact that McCluster played 24.1% of the offensive snaps while Mays played in 10.8% of the defensive snaps.
Having knowledge of those close values, the cutoff formula that I found to work neatly within them is as follows. The first cutoff, between the 3rd and 4th round, is calculated as 1/16th of the salary cap. For 2014, that number would be $8,312,500. The other three cutoffs are then applied respectively as three-quarters, one-half, and one-third of that number. The table below thus shows what the estimated cutoff levels could be for both 2015 and 2016 based on APY adjusted for both playing time and postseason honors (even though postseason honors were not relevant in 2015):
Minimum Qualifying Value
As yet it does not appear that the threshold value needed to qualify for the compensatory formula is based upon ratios similar to the above. But the good news is that by applying the above playing time adjustment, there is a clear demarcation between players that we know qualified and those that we know didn’t qualify:
While we know CJ Wilson qualified because he was explicitly listed in the official press release, we also know that Charles Brown did not qualify because if he had, there would have been a mention of New Orleans being eligible for a compensatory pick that was not awarded due to being over the 32-pick limit. Accounting for that, we can plainly see that the only anomaly was Domenik Hixon, who I’ve speculated qualified because of his unique circumstance of being released with an injury settlement.
Therefore, the cutoff for qualification in 2015 appeared to be between $775,284 (Wilson) and $768,829 (Brown) in adjusted APY. If a 7.1% increase in the salary cap from 2015 to 2016 is applied, it would suggest that the 2016 qualification cutoff is between $823,991 and $830,909. That said, I will not apply this cutoff in the 2016 projections until the end of the 2015 regular season. This is because it is possible for a player that’s even on a veteran minimum deal to qualify if he gets enough playing time for the entire year.
The end result of these changes is that there is now only one discrepancy between the official 2015 compensatory picks and OTC’s 2015 compensatory picks program. That difference is that the program says that the 4th round picks for Cincinnati (Anthony Collins) and Baltimore (Arthur Jones) should be swapped. I haven’t been able to find any good reason why this is different. Somehow, the NFL either docked Jones about $500,000 in APY (seemingly unlikely, even if he played less than 45% of the snaps), or added the same to Collins (even more unlikely given his terrible season with the Bucs). I’ve applied a manual override to this case for purposes of accuracy for the 2015 rookie pool.