Projecting The 2017 Compensatory Draft Picks

This article refers specifically to OTC’s projection for the 2017 NFL Draft’s compensatory picks. For details on the basics and methodology of projecting compensatory picks in general, please reference this article.

Furthermore, due to the complexity I have written separate articles on all possible compensatory pick scenarios on the Denver Broncos and Miami Dolphins.  You may find the Broncos’ article at Thin Air, and the Dolphins’ article here at OTC.


The Projection

TeamRoundCompensated Free AgentAPYRanking
DEN3Brock Osweiler$18,000,00019
MIA3Olivier Vernon$16,750,00020
CAR3Josh Norman$15,000,00022
BAL3Kelechi Osemele$11,200,00031
LA (traded to TEN)3Janoris Jenkins$12,400,00040
DEN3Malik Jackson$14,250,00044
CLE (traded to NE)3Alex Mack$9,000,00087
KC3Sean Smith$9,250,00091
SEA3Bruce Irvin$9,000,00095
NYJ4Damon Harrison$9,000,000106
CIN4Marvin Jones$8,000,000128
CLE (traded to PHI)4Tashaun Gipson$7,106,250142
LA4Rodney McLeod$7,000,000153
CLE4Mitchell Schwartz$6,512,000174
IND4Coby Fleener $7,120,000182
SF4Alex Boone$6,600,000187
CIN4Mohamed Sanu$6,500,000203
DEN4Danny Trevathan$6,900,000210
MIA5Lamar Miller$6,500,000216
ARI5Bobby Massie$5,868,750222
KC5Chase Daniel$7,000,000244
CLE5Travis Benjamin$6,000,000256
GB5Casey Hayward$5,100,000260
PIT5Kelvin Beachum$5,000,000261
NE5Akiem Hicks$5,000,000266
SEA5J.R. Sweezy$6,500,000277
KC6Donald Stephenson$4,666,667304
CIN6Reggie Nelson$4,000,000317
KC6Tyvon Branch$4,000,000381
LA6Nick Fairley$3,000,000426
CIN6Andre Smith$3,218,750471
DEN7Ryan Harris$1,950,000672
Compensation over 32-pick limit; not awarded
GB7Scott Tolzien$1,750,000 694
PIT7Antwon Blake$1,500,000 722
ARI7Sean Weatherspoon$1,468,750 767
PIT7Will Johnson$1,150,000 845
ARI7Bradley Sowell$1,000,000 852
ARI7Corey White$840,000 966

Note that although there are 38 eligible compensatory picks listed in this projection, each year only exactly 32 picks are awarded. Therefore, the picks that rank 33rd and lower are not awarded, although the official release will typically acknowledge their presence, as this list does with strikethrough text.

This is also the first year in which compensatory picks may be traded.  Before they have even been released, there have been four trades executed that include conditions on possible comp picks.  I’m projecting that three of these four conditions will be fulfilled: Tennessee receiving Los Angeles’s 3rd round comp pick (as part of the Jared Goff trade), New England receiving Cleveland’s 3rd round comp pick (for Jamie Collins), and Philadelphia receiving the first of Cleveland’s 4th round comp picks (as part of the Carson Wentz trade).  While I’m not projecting that the fourth condition will be met, in which Miami would send Minnesota a 4th round comp pick, there is a decent probability that I could be wrong about that (see below, and also see this detailed 2017 compensatory pick projection for the Miami Dolphins).

A few other notable observations:

  • This year should see a record number of 3rd round comp picks awarded. OTC projects it at nine, with a possibility of ten, but even if that is too generous, 2017 will almost certainly break the current record of six from 1997 and 2005. Not a single 3rd round valued CFA lost was cancelled out by a CFA gained.
  • OTC’s projection calls for only one 7th round comp pick, but that pick is very much on the bubble and may be pushed below the 32-pick limit. Last year witnessed the first time that no 7th round comp picks were awarded, and we may very well see that feat repeated in 2017.
  • This may also be the first year in which teams will lose out on more than one comp pick due to the 32-pick limit. Pittsburgh is projected to lose out on two eligible 7th round comp picks for this reason, and Arizona may lose out on three. Thankfully for the Steelers and Cardinals, both are still projected to earn a 5th round comp pick above the 32-pick limit.
  • I would also like to add that the extremely UFA-averse Packers are also projected to miss out on a 7th round comp pick for Scott Tolzien due again to the 32-pick limit. There’s been pressure in recent years on GM Ted Thompson to not be so miserly in the UFA market, and 2017 could have been a good year for him to make a rare splash in that market.

All in all, these observations continue to bolster the notion that more teams are becoming aware of how the compensatory draft pick system works.  In addition to the usual suspects like Baltimore, Green Bay, New England, Denver, Seattle, and San Francisco showing up, there are teams like Miami and Cleveland that spent the 2016 offseason mindful of where they stood on their comp pick projections.

Cutoff Projections

Last year, it was suggested by the resolution allowing comp picks to be traded on December 2, 2015 that the cutoffs between each rounds and whether or not a player had an APY high enough to qualify was determined by a “rank[ing] against all players in the League who are on rosters at the end of the season”.   For the 2016 projections, I conjectured from this evidence that the cutoffs were based on a percentile system.  The official release of the 2016 comp picks strongly suggested that my conjectured percentile cutoff points were on the right track.  Therefore, for 2017 I will use the same percentile system, with the specific percentiles adjusted based upon the results from 2015 and 2016.

At the end of the 2016 regular season, OTC’s database identified a total of 2098 players that were either on the active roster or reserve lists. As explained in the general methodology in the previous link, the cutoffs for each round and for qualifying as a compensatory free agent (CFA) have been established by this projection on certain percentile ranks of all players on the active roster and reserve lists at the end of the regular season, sorted by APY adjusted for snap counts in descending order and also represented by the player at the cutoff point. For 2017, these cutoffs are as follows:

RoundPercentileOverall RankRepresentative Player
3rd/4thTop 5%105Rodney Hudson
4th/5th5%-10%210Danny Trevathan*
5th/6th10%-14%294Leonard Williams
6th/7th14%-23.5%493Patrick Chung
7th/Qualify23.5%-47%985Sam Young*

*Make special note of these two players, as not only are they 2017 CFAs, but they are also critical to the projections of Denver and Miami, part of the reason why I have written separate articles for both the Broncos and Dolphins.

Qualifying Questions

This year, I foresee five players relevant to the comp pick projection being close calls as to qualification that could significantly change certain comp picks.

  • The Jets signed Jarvis Jenkins to a two year deal on March 16, and then cut him on Wednesday, November 9, in between the games of Weeks 9 and 10. There were two instances of potential CFAs cut within this time span close to the Week 10 cutoff that did not qualify.  Bobby Engram was cut by the Chiefs on the Monday of this week in 2009, and Greg Favors was cut by the Colts on the Friday of this week in 2002.  Because neither Engram nor Favors qualified, I am projecting that Jenkins will not qualify either, but because it’s close enough there’s a chance I’m wrong and he might qualify.
  • Kelvin Sheppard, formerly of the Dolphins, signed a one year, $840,000 deal under the minimum salary benefit with the Giants. Sheppard played 40.8% of the defensive snaps largely in a starting role for New York. Ranked 965th overall, I’m projecting that this is enough for Sheppard to qualify, but there is a very good chance that I may be wrong and he may not qualify.
  • Like Sheppard, Corey White and Robert Blanton also signed $840,000 MSB deals with the Bills, and respectively came in at 966th and 975th overall after playing 38.5% and 26.8% of the defensive snaps. I’m also projecting that Blanton and White will also qualify, but like Sheppard there is a chance they will not qualify.
  • Sam Young signed a one year, $910,000 deal with the Dolphins on March 9, $50,000 of which was a workout bonus that does not count in the compensatory formula. Young did not make Miami’s initial 53-man roster, but was re-signed on October 11 to the veteran minimum, a day after Week 5 ended.  I have yet to find out if a qualifying CFA not on the roster for entire season also receives a docking to his APY in the compensatory formula.  Even if his APY is a full $860,000, because he played so little (15.5% of the offensive snaps) he is right on the qualifying bubble as described above in the cutoffs table.  I’m barely projecting that Young will qualify, but his qualification is the one I am the most uncertain about.

Valuation Questions

There are also four players relevant to the comp pick projection being close calls as to round valuation that could significantly change certain comp picks.

  • Kelvin Beachum, formerly of the Steelers, signed a deal with the Jaguars on March 19 that was initially reported as a five year, $45 million contract for an APY of $9 million. However, the contract contained a team option on all but the first year.  It is my belief (and one also held by Joel Corry) that for the purposes of the compensatory formula only the terms of the first year will count.  With a base salary of $2.5 million, a $1.5 million traditional roster bonus, and $1 million in per game roster bonuses (for a total of $5M APY), I’m projecting that Beachum will be valued as a 5th rounder.  But if I’m wrong and the entire contract is counted, Beachum will likely be valued as a 3rd rounder, subsequently raising Pittsburgh’s comp pick for him.
  • Very similar to Beachum, Russell Okung, formerly of the Seahawks, signed a deal with the Broncos on March 17 that was initially reported as a five year, $53 million contract for an APY of $10.6 million. However, like Beachum, the Broncos contain a team option on all but the first year. I’m projecting that his APY for the compensatory formula will be only $4 million ($2 million base salary plus a $2 million roster bonus, but not including a $1 million workout bonus) and thus Okung is projected to be valued as a 6th rounder.  However, as with Beachum, if I’m wrong on Okung he will be valued as a 3rd rounder and impact comp picks for both Denver and Seattle.
  • During the 2016 NFL Draft, the Vikings and Dolphins made a trade that included a condition on a 2017 4th round pick. If the Dolphins are awarded a 4th round comp pick in 2017, the Vikings will receive that pick; if not, they will receive the Dolphins’ regular 4th rounder.  I’m projecting that the Dolphins will not receive a 4th round comp pick, but their projected 5th round comp pick for Lamar Miller (ranked 216th overall) is close enough to the 4th/5th cutoff at 196 that there’s a chance that Miller could be valued as a 4th.
  • Similarly, the Patriots traded Jamie Collins to the Browns in exchange for either a 2018 regular 4th round pick, or a 2017 compensatory 3rd round pick if the Browns are awarded one. I’m projecting Cleveland will indeed get a 3rd for Alex Mack, but at a ranking of 87th overall he is close enough to the 3rd/4th cutoff that there is a chance he could fall on the other side.

Players On The Cutoff Bubbles

While it is my hope that my projection of where the cutoffs lie is correct, there is enough of a margin of error that the players that are very close to them may fall on the opposite side of where I have them projected. In most cases, if I’m wrong it means that the team in question will still get a comp pick for that player, but that it may be in a round higher or lower. But in a few cases (those are bolded), it could change cancellations, possibly taking away or greatly devaluing a projected comp pick—or possibly adding or greatly upgrading a comp pick.

3rd/4th

  • Alex Mack (Cleveland, traded to New England): #87
  • Sean Smith (Kansas City): #91
  • Bruce Irvin (Seattle): #95
  • Projected 3rd/4th cutoff: #105
  • Damon Harrison (NY Jets): #106

4th/5th

  • Mohamed Sanu (Cincinnati): #203
  • Danny Trevathan (Denver): #210
  • Projected 4th/5th cutoff: #210
  • Lamar Miller (Miami): #216
  • Bobby Massie (Arizona): #222

5th/6th

  • JR Sweezy (Seattle): #277
  • Rishard Matthews (Miami): #284
  • Projected 5th/6th cutoff: #294
  • Donald Stephenson (Denver): #304
  • Reggie Nelson (Cincinnati): #318

6th/7th

  • Projected 7th/Qualifying cutoff: #493
  • David Bruton (Denver): #500

7th/Qualifying

  • Kelvin Sheppard (NY Giants): #965
  • Corey White (Buffalo): #966
  • Robert Blanton (Buffalo): #975
  • Sam Young (Miami): #985
  • Projected 7th/Qualifying cutoff: #985

Possible Altering Scenarios

  • Arizona
    • If Corey White does not qualify, Arizona will not be eligible for a 7th for him.
  • Buffalo
    • If Robert Blanton and Corey White do not qualify, Buffalo will be eligible for a net-value 7th, but it will not make it above the 32-pick limit.
  • Cleveland
    • If Alex Mack is valued as a 4th, Cleveland will send the 4th round comp pick for him to Philadelphia, and retain their 4th for Tashaun Gipson.
  • Denver
  • Green Bay
    • Green Bay will get a 7th for Scott Tolzien above the 32-pick limit if one of the following scenarios happen:
      • Jarvis Jenkins qualifies
      • Sam Young qualifies, and Kelvin Sheppard does not qualify
  • Kansas City
    • If Sean Smith is valued as a 4th, Kansas City will get a 4th for Jeff Allen instead of a 3rd for Smith.
  • Miami
  • New England
    • If Alex Mack is valued as a 4th, New England will not receive a 3rd round comp pick from Cleveland in 2017, and will instead be owed a regular 4th round pick in 2018.
  • NY Jets
    • If Jarvis Jenkins qualifies, the Jets will not get a 4th for Damon Harrison, and will instead be eligible for a net-value 7th, but it will not make it above the 32-pick limit.
  • Pittsburgh
    • If the entirety of Kelvin Beachum’s contract is counted, Pittsburgh will get a 3rd for him instead of a 5th.
    • If Sam Young and Jarvis Jenkins qualify, and Kelvin Sheppard does not qualify, Pittsburgh will get a 7th for Antwon Blake above the 32-pick limit.
  • Seattle
    • If the entirety of Russell Okung’s contract is counted, Seattle will get a 3rd for him instead of a 5th for JR Sweezy.
  • McGeorge

    Maybe I’m missing something
    >>Alex Mack (Cleveland, traded to New England)

    Alex Mack went free agent to the Falcons, he’s not on the Patriots.

    • JamesAllen

      You didn’t read this article very closely. Sentence one: “This article refers specifically to OTC’s projection for the 2017 NFL Draft’s compensatory picks.”

      • McGeorge

        I did read the article, I still don’t see how Cleveland Traded Mack to NE makes sense. Barkavius Mingo was traded by Cleveland to NE.

        Why don’t you explain what the author means, since it’s obviously clear to you.

        • Ghoston

          It wasn’t the Mingo trade it was the Collins trade.

    • Nick

      That should be read as Cleveland’s comp pick that’s being traded to New England.

      • McGeorge

        OK, thank you Nick.

        Should I just ignore the Alex Mack reference, or is he a representative player of that pick, based on his contract signed with Atlanta?

        • Nick

          Alex Mack is the reason why this comp pick exists for the Browns to be able to trade to the Patriots. All the names in that section correspond to the team that gets comp pick credit for losing that CFA.

          • Werner

            or in bleak words: The Patriots unloaded Collins, who is now an FA to get a 3rd round comp and Browns lost Mack on top. Collins would need to get his dream contract from another franchise (at least 10M$ APY) and perform really great there to bring in another 3rd comp for the Browns in 2018. And the Broncos get pick #97 in 2017 by not paying 72M$ to Osweiler.

  • Nelson Cobb

    Don’t performance, accomplishments and playing time also factor into the formula?? If so, do you think the fact that Hayward played almost 95% of the snaps, led the NFL in INTs and made the Pro Bowl could potentially boost him up to a #4??

    • Nick

      Hayward’s square in the middle of the 5th round range even after snap count adjustments. I doubt the Pro Bowl bid will be enough to get him far enough to get in the 4th round.

  • Jim

    The Jets losing a 3rd or 4th rd comp pick because of Jarvis Jenkins would be pretty horrible. Hopefully they knew what they were doing when the kept him around until week 9…

    • McGeorge

      That’s one of the reasons I think their GM (Maccagnan) is in over his head. He’s a noob and didn’t know what he was doing. Or maybe he thought he ws smarter than Bill Belichick and Ozzie Newsome who always eye compensatory picks.

      • DLC

        Saying that Maccagnan is in over his head because of Compensatory Pick issues is dumb.

        First of all, nobody knows the exact formula for determining CPs except the League, and they keep it secret. What’s a GM supposed to do, say he’s not signing a needed free agent because he MIGHT lose a CP next year?

        Second, the process for awarding CPs doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense.

        Seattle could get a 3rd round CP for losing JR Sweezy, but the Jets only get a 4th rounder for Damon Harrison? Really?? Which player would you rather have?

        And the Jets could lose their CP for a guy who went on to have an All-Pro year (Harrison) because they signed a lesser Free Agent who got cut half way through the season (Jenkins). Does that sound right?

        And why are only 32 CPs awarded? CPs are supposed to compensate teams (and fan of those teams) that have a lot of Free Agent defections. How does it make sense that you could get a CP one yea,r but the same senario wouldn’t get you one the next because some arbitrary limit was reached?

        I don’t know why the NFL has to keep this process a secret, but I have a guess: it doesn’t make sense, and it’s really nothing more than another way for the Powers That Be who are running the League to reward the teams that keep those Powers in place, and maybe payoff those Powers also.

        The NFL is a VERY poorly run League, and the people who get screwed the most are the fans, especially those fans of teams who aren’t the “favorites” of the people running the League.

        • McGeorge

          Maccagnan is in over his head because of how he has performed over 2 years, not soley because of how he mismanaged compensatory picks.
          If he drafted well, but blew a compensatory pick on a guy he thought would be very good, I’d forgive him.

          • DLC

            But why do you think he hasn’t drafted well? All of our picks for the last two drafts are still on the roster, and they’ve performed pretty well overall.

            Leonard Williams is a stud, and Darron Lee had a solid rookie year and would’ve had more of an impact, I think, if the rest of the Defense didn’t struggle so badly. With these two guys, you can’t say Maccagnan blew the 1st round picks.

            Mauldin was great last year, started off slowly this year but finished really well. Deion Simon was a steal and could be another Snacks Harrison. Robbie Anderson, Charone Peake, and to a lesser extent, Jalen Marshall all look like they could do very well as WRs. Jordan Jenkins had a great rookie year, Justin Burris looked pretty good by the end if the year, and Brandon Shell looked really good at the end of the year. All of these guys were drafted in the 3rd round or later or were Undrafted Free Agents. That’s a pretty good record.

            On the negative side, Devin Smith has had really bad injury luck, but you can’t blame that on Maccagnan. It’s not like Smith was injury prone in college. Jarvis Harrison hasn’t been great, but he should stick as a depth piece on the Offensive Line. And Lachlan Edwards has had his ups and downs, but has a big leg, and he was better than Ryan Quigley or anybody that I can think of who was available as a Free Agent.

            That leaves the 2 QBs, Petty and Hackenberg. I think you have to grade GMs differently on their QB picks than you do with picks at other positions. There are 32 teams in the NFL, but there aren’t enough competent QBs to go around. On top of that, the free agent market for QBs is TOTALLY out of whack financially. $78 Million for Brock Osweiller?? The guy only played in 7 games before this year. And I’m hearing Kirk Cousins is looking for a long term deal at $25 Million per year. He ain’t totally bad, but $25 Million a year? That’s nuts. At least Maccagnan isn’t screwing up the salary cap by signing guys like this for these numbers.

            So if you can’t sign a QB, where do you get one? The only place left is the draft. But even that’s not going to be easy, especially because more colleges are using systems that are so different from those used in the NFL. That makes it harder to tell if a QB will be successful in the NFL, and it makes it harder for the QBs to transition from college to the pros. So if you’re a GM on a team without a decent QB, you have to keep drafting them till you hit on one. What else can you do? It sure beats signing an unproven guy for big bucks and having him wash out and screw up your salary cap situation.

            NOBODY bats1.000 in the draft. In fact, the best of them hit on about 50% or so. Even if Smith, Harrison, Edwards, Petty, and Hackenberg all wash out, Maccagnan still looks like he’s drafting pretty well.

            Really, it’s way too early to tell. Most knowledgeable people will tell you that 3 years has to go by before you can properly assess a draft class, so we still need more time to see how these guys work out. But the early returns look good so far.
            .

          • McGeorge

            I think Macc has drafted poorly based on the results. Leonard Williams fell to him, it’s not like he was an unknown. Other than that, none of his picks have become decent full time starters.
            Maybe Shell will in 2017 if he plays most of the season.
            Devin Smith = probable bust
            Derron Lee = bad rookie year, maybe he improves.

            We can’t know for sure after 2 years, but the results are not promising.
            2 starters in 2 years is pretty weak drafting.
            Lets see how his 2017 draft class works out, and if any of the 2015 and 2016 picks have a huge improvement.

            As for obtaining a QB, I agree that you have to draft one.
            That doesn’t mean you take speculative one with high picks (Hackenberg with a 2nd round pick). And it doesn’t mean you use a #4 on a hopeless QB from a spread offense that has never had to read defenses.
            My solution, since the team is really bad right now, is to tank, and get a very high pick, and draft a QB in 2018. Failing that, you have to identify reasonable QB prospects that you can draft in the 2nd round, if good enough.
            “Wishful thinking”, meaning drafting a speculative QB with a high pick isn’t the answer. There is a QB shortage, so getting an average QB may be the best a team can do. They also need to address other positions of need, so a team has to draft players other than only QBs. The Rams are really screwed if Goff is a bust, having given up so much draft stock.

  • Jack

    Can you elaborate a little more on why Lamar Miller is believed to be ranked below Mahomed Sanu, Coby Fleener, and a few other predicted fourth round compensatory picks. I see the discrepancy in snap counts, but Miller heavily outweighs Sanu and Fleener in production. Does snap count really have that much of an influence over the projection that it will outweigh 500 more yards of production and a few more touchdowns?

    • Nick

      Traditional stats like yards and touchdowns do not appear to factor into the formula at all. The NFL Management Council is pretty clear that the weights are based on playing time and postseason honors, and the former has long appeared to heavily weigh on snap counts.

  • Jack

    Do post season snaps and stats also get factored into the player ranking system or is it just regular season play?

    • Nick

      As far as I’ve seen it’s regular season only.