2016 Compensatory Draft Picks Update (12/2/2015)

As you may have heard earlier today, the NFL officially approved the change to make compensatory picks tradeable, effective for the 2017 NFL Draft.  While that is nothing new, in the process of reporting it Ian Rapoport took a screenshot of the resolution that was agreed upon.  In that resolution, a portion of the third clause really caught my eye (bolded mine):

Whereas, the level of compensation (i.e., the round and selection number within the round) that a Club may receive for each CFA [Compensatory Free Agent] lost is based upon a weighted combination of the CFA’s “average yearly compensation”, postseason honors and playtime with the new Club, ranked against all players in the League who are on rosters at the end of the season.

This clause finally provides good evidence in solving the part of the compensatory formula that has been elusive for years: where the cutoffs lie between each round and for qualification for the formula.

When AdamJT13 did his projections in the previous decade, he conjectured that the cutoffs rise in accordance with the salary cap.  Accordingly, I used similar adjustments for my own projections.  However, when I analyzed the results of the 2013-2015 compensatory picks, I could not find any reliable way to apply that type of increase across the three years.  In one case, the respective cutoffs actually went down in value (the 6th/7th cutoff from 2013 to 2014), making little sense.

While this revelation strongly suggests that AdamJT13’s conjecture was indeed wrong, it certainly wasn’t unfounded, as when the salary cap rises, so too, generally, do all the players’ salary, either mandated by the CBA (i.e., veteran minimums) or by the market.  However, as the cutoff cited above demonstrates, it is not necessary in a leaguewide roster ranking scheme, as some years may be more top-heavy or bottom-heavy when it comes to spending.

So knowing this rule, where do the cutoffs lie with respect to the leaguewide roster?  In 2014 there were approximately 2059 players that were either on the active roster or injured reserve at the end of the season. Looking at where key players landed near the cutoffs in adjusted APY (applying my snap count adjustments), I’ve come to a conjecture that makes some common sense as to where the cutoffs could lie:

  • Players ranked in the top 5% in adjusted APY are given a 3rd round value.
  • Players ranked within the top 5% to 10% in adjusted APY are given a 4th round value.
  • Players ranked within the top 10% to 15% in adjusted APY are given a 5th round value.
  • Players ranked within the top 15% to 20% in adjusted APY are given a 6th round value.
  • Players ranked within the top 20% to 50% in adjusted APY are given a 7th round value.
  • Players not ranked within the top 50% in adjusted APY do not qualify as Compensatory Free Agents.

Now, there are margins of errors in those percentages that range in about 1-2% in each direction, especially on the higher cutoffs.  And there is also a chance that my snap count adjustments are still not entirely correct, so there will still be plenty of players on the bubble of all the cutoffs that should be understood as ultimately falling on either side.

Still, upon placing this change for the 2016 compensatory pick projections, I found that the above conjecture lined up very closely with my previous guesses for the cutoffs.  The only cutoff that significantly changed was the 6th/7th cutoff, but that is something that I thought I lowballed due to the fact that we were staring at the real possibility of having no 7th round comp picks awarded for the first time ever. (That said, the number of 7ths awarded still looks to be unusually low at 3.)  At this point, there are almost 2000 players active or on IR in 2015, and it’ll probably come close again to 2014’s number of 2059.  2000 makes for some easy math in ranking the players (top 100, 200, 300, 400, and 1000, respectively).

With these cutoff adjustments made, the following changes and observations to the 32 awarded 2016 compensatory picks resulted:

  • Julius Thomas sneaked back into the 3rd round for Denver earlier this week due to snap adjustments.  On my list, he is the 94th highest player ranked by adjusted APY.  I’m now more confident that he will earn the Broncos a 3rd instead of a 4th, but to be sure of that, he still needs to play the type of snaps he’s been playing since coming back from his finger injury.
  • Davon House and Buster Skrine moved up into the 4th round for, respectively, the Packers and Browns, at #187 and #189 overall.
  • Vince Wilfork moved up into the 5th round for the Patriots, at #289 overall.
  • Akeem Ayers and Brice McCain fell down into the 7th round for, respectively, the Patriots and Steelers.  Unlike with the above players all being on the bubble, these two rank #418 and #440 overall, so I would feel more confident in saying that these two will be 7th rounders for their teams in the end.
  • Sam Acho once again qualifies, as #946 overall.  This gives Arizona a 5th round comp pick for Dan Williams.  Acho still needs to play a moderate amount of snaps to ensure that pick for the Cardinals, but I feel more confident now that that pick will be earned.  Additionally, Williams ranks #208 overall, so there is a small chance he could earn the Cardinals a 4th round comp pick, as well.
  • Alex Carrington also qualifies at #977 overall, and that prevents the Bills from getting a 6th for CJ Spiller, their only possible comp pick.  However, given that Carrington was recently placed on IR, I expect his adjusted APY to go down, and it may go down enough for him to not qualify.  Either way, it will be close.

I will post my final projections for the 2016 compensatory picks after the conclusion of the regular season, either on January 4th or 5th.  In the meantime, to find the most up-to-date current projections, please visit OTC’s draft page (especially if you view this and other articles at a later date), as well as OTC’s cancellation chart page to better understand why certain teams are getting certain compensatory picks.