Nick Korte

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Evaluation of the 2018 Compensatory Picks Projection

As expected, the 2018 compensatory draft picks were released today. As always, upon seeing the official release it’s proper to judge how my prediction did against it. This year, I was able to accomplish what once seemed implausible: I correctly identified to which team all 32 comp picks would be awarded to. But I still wasn’t perfect, as there were some round cutoffs that I still need work on calibrating better. (more…)

Projecting The 2018 Compensatory Picks

This article refers specifically to OTC’s projection for the 2018 NFL Draft’s compensatory picks. For details on the basics and methodology of projecting compensatory picks in general, please reference this article.

To understand how this projection is generated for each team, please reference the compensatory picks cancellation charts here.

The Projection

TeamRdCompensated Free AgentAPYSnapsRank
ARI3Calais Campbell$15,000,00077.4%18
HOU3A.J. Bouye$13,500,00097.4%28
CIN3Kevin Zeitler$12,000,000100.0%31
DEN3Russell Okung$13,250,00087.1%37
GB3T.J. Lang$9,500,00077.4%88
BAL3Ricky Wagner$9,500,00075.9%89
ARI4Tony Jefferson$8,500,00099.1%103
NE4Jabaal Sheard$8,500,00083.4%119
NYG4Johnathan Hankins$9,000,00063.6%127
DAL4Ronald Leary$8,925,00063.0%133
DAL4Barry Church$6,500,00095.0%188
CIN5Andrew Whitworth$11,250,00088.8%32
GB5Micah Hyde$6,000,00096.1%222
DAL5Brandon Carr$6,000,00093.5%228
GB5J.C. Tretter$5,583,333100.0%245
DAL5Morris Claiborne$5,000,00082.2%286
GB5Jared Cook$5,000,00078.6%288
OAK6Latavius Murray$4,900,00037.7%330
KC6Nick Foles$5,500,00018.7%333
HOU6John Simon$4,666,66743.5%336
OAK6Malcolm Smith$5,250,0000.1%344
MIN6Cordarrelle Patterson$4,000,00042.5%380
HOU6Quintin Demps$4,406,25016.7%399
OAK6D.J. Hayden$3,500,00044.8%431
MIN6Adrian Peterson$3,500,00029.0%451
OAK6Nate Allen$3,400,00034.3%456
LAC7Manti Te’o$2,450,00047.4%587
CIN7Margus Hunt$2,050,00053.7%620
CIN7Karlos Dansby$1,900,00086.9%625
ARI7Alex Okafor$1,935,00045.8%651
TB7Bradley McDougald$1,800,00061.7%660
ATL7Tom Compton$1,850,00034.5%673
Compensation over 32-pick limit; not awarded
BAL7Vladimir Ducasse$1,166,66775.7%787
NYG7Coty Sensabaugh$1,300,00024.5%813
ATL7Eric Weems$1,300,0001.5%815
NE7LeGarrette Blount$1,200,00031.2%817
HOU7Don Jones$1,100,0000.1%894

Note that although there are 37 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.

Compensatory picks became tradeable beginning with the 2017 NFL Draft. However, unlike last year when teams had four deals in place that potentially involved comp picks even before they were officially announced, this year I have not identified any trades involving comp picks as of the publication of this article. If last year is any indication, I expect the official release to come out on February 23, the Friday before the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine. This strikes me as a very sensible time to announce the compensatory picks, as it allows executives at the Combine to discuss possible trades with full knowledge of their draft capital.

Cutoff Projections

It was suggested via 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”. I have conjectured from this evidence that the cutoffs are based on a percentile system. After refining the OTC’s program following the official release of the 2017 compensatory picks, it’s my guess that the percentiles operate on even percentages divisible by five, as illustrated in the table below.

At the end of the 2017 regular season, OTC’s database identified a total of 1933 players that were either on the active roster or reserve lists, and had also played in at least 10 games during the 2017 regular season. 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/4th95th (top 5%)97Kam Chancellor
4th/5th90th (top 10%)193Dwayne Allen
5th/6th85th (top 15%)290Jeremy Maclin
6th/7th75th (top 25%)483Chris Thompson
7th/Qualify50th (top 50%)967Keith Tandy

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.


  • TJ Lang (Green Bay): #88
  • Ricky Wagner (Baltimore): #89
  • Projected 3rd/4th cutoff: #97
  • Tony Jefferson (Arizona): #103
  • Jabaal Sheard (New England): #119
  • Johnathan Hankins (New York Giants): #127
  • Ron Leary (Dallas): #133


  • Barry Church (Dallas): #188
  • Projected 4th/5th cutoff: #193


  • Menelik Watson (Oakland): #276
  • Jared Cook (Green Bay): #288
  • Projected 5th/6th cutoff: #290
  • DJ Swearinger (Arizona): #298


  • Projected 7th/Qualifying cutoff: #483
  • Akeem Spence (Tampa Bay): #484
  • Kevin Minter (Arizona): #506
  • JJ Wilcox (Dallas): #513


  • None

Qualifying/Valuation Questions

This year, there are multiple special cases and questions to address.

  • One very notable case that can be observed in looking at the APY order is that despite signing an $11.25 million APY deal and being named both to the Pro Bowl and as an All-Pro, Andrew Whitworth is projected to award the Bengals with only a 5th round comp pick instead of a 3rd. This is due to what I call the Alan Faneca rule, a rule that declares that any player with ten or more accrued seasons (Whitworth had 11 when he signed with the Rams) may yield only a 5th round pick as a maximum. For Bengals fans disappointed to see this, a silver lining is that their archrival Steelers were the ones first blindsided by this rule, thinking they were going to get a 3rd for losing Faneca in 2009.
  • There were two potential CFAs that were traded during the first year of their contracts. After leaving Dallas for Tampa Bay, JJ Wilcox was traded to Pittsburgh. After leaving Minnesota for New Orleans, Adrian Peterson was traded to Arizona. It is well established that if a team trades for a CFA, that team is also charged with gaining that CFA in the comp pick formula. (Hence why the Patriots did not want to include Brian Hoyer in the Jimmy Garoppolo trade.) What is not known is whether the team that trades away the CFA is relieved from that charge of a CFA gained. This aspect is not relevant for Peterson and the Saints, as New Orleans (as usual) is not projected to receive any compensatory picks anyway. But it is relevant for Wilcox and the Bucs. I am guessing that because that this relief would allow a team to double dip on draft picks, Wilcox will still count as a CFA gained against Tampa Bay. But I could be wrong, and if I am, the Bucs will gain an additional comp pick.
  • Peterson’s case also has an additional complicating factor other than just being traded. He became a UFA in 2017 after renegotiating his contract in 2015 to include a possible shortening of the original deal via a team option on his 2017 year. The Vikings declined that option, and Peterson was no longer under contract. It is known that contracts that are shortened through renegotiation via a player option disqualify that player from becoming a CFA. But it is not known whether the same rule applies to team options. A clue toward this answer may have come when, for the first time ever when the NFL issued its annual official release of free agents, it marked a small number of players as “non-compensable unrestricted free agent[s]”. Peterson was not one of these players. For this reason, I’m guessing that Peterson will qualify. But again, I could be wrong, and if I am, that will impact comp picks for both Minnesota and Arizona.
  • Finally, for the first time ever (as far as I can tell), a CFA that was cut before Week 10 was claimed off waivers. The window for this possibility is very narrow, as it can only happen in the two weeks between the trade deadline of Week 8 and the comp pick cutoff mark of Week 10. But that’s what happened when Green Bay cut Martellus Bennett after Week 9, and was then claimed by New England—the very team that lost Bennett in free agency. Suffice to say, these circumstances are highly unusual. Does the Week 10 rule still apply to players claimed on waivers? If not, are the Packers still charged with a CFA gained even if they’re relieved from a contract that’s still active? Are the Patriots charged with a CFA gained as well—and if so, does that mean Bennett cancels himself out in the Patriots’ ledger? Because the Patriots are very knowledgeable and mindful about comp picks, it’s reasonable to guess that New England may have asked for a clarification on Bennett’s status before issuing a waiver claim for him. To keep it simple I’m guessing that Bennett will not qualify. But I have low confidence in that guess, and if I’m wrong, it could possibly complicate comp picks for both Green Bay and New England.

Possible Altering Scenarios

  • Arizona
    • If Adrian Peterson does not qualify, Arizona will get a 6th for Marcus Cooper.
    • If Kevin Minter is valued as a 6th, Arizona will get a 6th for him instead of a 7th for Alex Okafor.
    • If DJ Swearinger is valued as a 5th, Arizona will get a 5th for him instead of a 7th for Alex Okafor.
    • If Adrian Peterson does not qualify and DJ Swearinger is valued as a 5th, Arizona will get a 5th for Swearinger and a 6th or 7th for Kevin Minter instead of a 7th for Alex Okafor.
  • Denver
    • If Ron Leary is valued as a 3rd, Denver will get a 7th for Dekoda Watson instead of a 3rd for Russell Okung.
  • Green Bay
    • If Martellus Bennett qualifies, Green Bay will get a 6th for Eddie Lacy instead of a 5th for Micah Hyde.
  • Minnesota
    • If Adrian Peterson does not qualify, Minnesota will not get a 6th for him.
  • New England
    • If Martellus Bennett qualifies but is not charged as a CFA gained against them, New England will get a 5th for him.
  • Oakland
    • If Menelik Watson is valued as a 5th and Jared Cook is valued as a 6th, Oakland will get a 5th for Watson instead of a 6th for Latavius Murray.
  • Tampa Bay
    • If JJ Wilcox is not charged as a CFA gained against them, Tampa Bay will get a 6th or 7th for Akeem Spence.
    • If JJ Wilcox is charged as a CFA gained against them, he is valued as a 7th, and Akeem Spence is valued as a 6th, Tampa Bay will get a 6th for Spence instead of a 7th for Bradley McDougald.

Introducing Tender Projections For The Next League Year

With the 2017 regular season winding down interest will be rising as to how for 2018 teams can keep some players off the free agency market, and at what cost. The newly added Franchise, Transition and RFA Tenders page should help in this regard. Using contract data collected over the past five seasons, OTC should now be able to give you a reasonable estimate of what type of money (both cash and cap spending) it will take to use a franchise or transition tag on one player, and at what position. It can also estimate what type of pay Restricted Free Agents (players with expiring contracts but only exactly three accrued seasons) should expect depending on what level of compensation their team places their tender at.

These numbers are now also automatically integrated into OTC’s calculator to assist you in coordinating the placement of these tenders with other roster moves that you may anticipate a team making as it seeks to balance its cap situation and improve itself further. Please note that the calculator is not yet programmed to deal with players tagged in consecutive seasons, so for a few players (Kirk Cousins is the most obvious), the calculator will underestimate the actual cost of the placement of a tag. In these cases, simply use the “Extend” function to give that player a one year deal at the appropriate amount. (For players tagged a second time, give his previous salary a 20% increase, and for a third time, a 44% increase–in Cousins’s case, that should be $34.478 million.)

Also note that projected numbers are not yet official and are based on OTC’s estimate of a $178 million salary cap for 2018. These numbers will change accordingly if/when the official number changes.

2018 Compensatory Picks Projection Update (9/19/2017)

Now that all 32 teams have played at least one game, giving all players a chance to log snap counts in 2017, it’s a good opportunity to take an update on where OTC’s projection of the 2018 compensatory picks stand.

As is typical, a few compensatory free agents (CFAs) were cut as part of the process to narrowing rosters down to 53 per team. There were two such cuts that were relevant to the projection:

  • The Cardinals cut Jarvis Jones. This caused the Steelers to lose a 5th or 6th round comp pick for Lawrence Timmons (whose own future is complicated at the moment) due to Pittsburgh no longer having a net loss of CFAs. And while this transaction did open up a possible 6th round comp pick to the Cardinals for losing Kevin Minter, Arizona will not get that pick because they are already projected to receive the maximum of 4 comp picks from other CFAs lost.
  • The Vikings released Datone Jones with an injury settlement. This transaction opened up a 6th round comp pick to the Vikings for Cordarrelle Patterson. It also reduced the net loss of CFAs to the Packers, but once again they were already projected to receive the maximum of 4 comp picks from other CFAs lost, so removing Jones from the equation does not hurt Green Bay.

There has also been a rare transaction: a CFA has been traded. After the Bucs signed TJ Ward as a street free agent after being cut by the Broncos, they made room for Ward by trading CFA signee JJ Wilcox to the Steelers.  It is clear from previous comp pick history that Pittsburgh will be charged with a CFA gained by acquiring Wilcox. Precedent for this comes in 2007 when Kansas City failed to get a comp pick due to trading for Michael Bennett, and in 2009 the Seahawks lost a comp pick by trading for Keary Colbert. Combining this with the cut of Jones, the Steelers and their fans should not be expecting any compensatory picks for 2018.

What is not clear is whether the team that traded the CFA away will be relieved of the charge of a CFA gained. In the prior two cases, this could not be determined because the teams that traded away the CFA (New Orleans in 2007 and Denver in 2009) weren’t eligible to get comp picks of their own either way. But this year it will be relevant, as Tampa Bay is a team with a net loss of CFAs that might result in the team getting a 7th round comp pick for Bradley McDougald. Unfortunately, I have no choice to guess, and I will guess that Wilcox will still count against the Bucs, as they have already got compensation for Wilcox via the act of trading him to the Steelers. But if I’m wrong, Tampa Bay will be eligible for an additional 7th round comp pick for Akeem Spence.

* * * *

After taking a closer look at early snap count results from the first two weeks of the 2017 regular season, here are a few observations that I have been able to make:

  • The question of whether Denver will be able to get a 3rd round comp pick for Russell Okung, or likely nothing at all, will be very close throughout the regular season, and likely won’t be known for sure until it’s over. It all comes down to whether the formula judges Ronald Leary as a 3rd or 4th round comp pick. Amazingly, the difference could come down to the handful of snaps Leary missed in Week 1 due to suffering a concussion. In doing some simulations, if Leary plays all of the remaining snaps of the season, he should still fall below the 3rd/4th cutoff, and allow the Broncos to get that 3rd round comp pick. But that is just a guess at this point, and there are many factors at play before a firm projection can be made on that front. (In addition, if Leary is valued as a 3rd, the Cowboys would get a 3rd round comp pick for him instead of a 4th.)
  • Barry Church and Martellus Bennett are both hovering closely around the 4th/5th round cutoff point, meaning that the Cowboys and Patriots could see a 5th round comp pick upgraded to a 4th depending on their final snap counts. (The Packers’ comp picks in this regard will also not change regardless of whether Bennett is valued as a 4th or 5th.)
  • Latavius Murray has received minimal snaps to start off the season, only 6.9% thus far, while Dalvin Cook and Jerick McKinnon are getting far more playtime. If the Vikings feel that they can go forward without Murray, they could pick up an additional 6th round comp pick for Rhett Ellison if they cut Murray before Week 10. If that does happen, in addition the Raiders would see their 6th round comp pick for Murray demoted to a 7th rounder for Andre Holmes that might not make the 32 pick limit.
  • Another running back that is getting little playtime is Eddie Lacy. He was a healthy scratch for the Seahawks last week, and it appears that Thomas Rawls and Chris Carson are definitely the primary rushing options in Seattle now. Unlike the Vikings, the Seahawks have no comp pick reason to cut Lacy as they are not projected to get any comp picks even if they did cut him. Furthermore, Seattle has no reason to cut him when the only money they could save is on per game active roster bonuses. They could save that money just the same by continuing to make him inactive. But if Seattle were to cut him before Week 10, the Packers would lose a 6th round comp pick for Julius Peppers.

2017 NFL Roster Textures

Jason gave an excellent breakdown of NFL rosters last night as we prepare for the beginning of the 2017 NFL season. In turn, as a complement I thought I’d give a quick overview of OTC’s texture page, and provide a quick list of 32 observations, one for each team. You are encouraged to make your own observations by directly viewing the texture page.

As always, texture breaks down NFL contracts into five categories, determined by 2017 cap number.  As a brief review, those categories are as follows:

  • Elite: veteran contracts whose cap hits are in the top 32 leaguewide (top 1 per team; $15.075 million or higher for 2017).
  • High: veteran contracts whose cap hits are in the top 33-160 leaguewide, (top 2-5 per team; $7.5-$15 million for 2017).
  • Middle: veteran contracts whose cap hits are in the top 161-320 leaguewide, (top 6-10 per team; $4.06-$7.5 million for 2017).
  • Low: veteran contracts whose cap hits are  below the top 320 leaguewide, ($4 million or less for 2017).
  • Rookie: all contracts signed by players as rookies or by players with three or fewer accrued seasons.

Dead money and cap space are also visualized.  Keep these categories in mind as you read through the observations for each team. (more…)

Introducing The Cap Dollars By College Page

Today is the first Saturday of the 2017 college football season, and as a honor to this, I decided to put together a fairly simple page that breaks down cap spending by college. For those of you that have a rooting interest in a college team, you may find it interesting to see how well your school’s best football alumni are doing on NFL financial grounds.

The Cap Dollars By College page contains four views: by all colleges overall, breakdowns by team, and breakdowns by conference. Although there may be some further changes as final 53-player rosters are cut down today, I thought it’d be interesting to take a look at the current standings as the 2017 NFL regular season approaches.  If there are significant changes, I’ll update these results accordingly.

Top 25 Overall Colleges By Cap Dollars

Rk.College#Cap Dollars
7Ohio State48$112,657,212
10Texas A&M37$98,918,954
13Florida State48$91,835,919
14Michigan State31$85,196,782
16South Carolina28$80,934,113
22Penn State33$66,354,760
25Notre Dame35$63,965,369

You might think that Matt Stafford’s recent extension pushed Georgia to the top, but remember that his 2017 cap number was unchanged, still at $16.5 million. Stafford, in fact, doesn’t have the highest cap number among Bulldogs–that goes to Justin Houston at $22.1 million. Cordy Glenn, AJ Green, Geno Atkins, and Thomas Davis are the other Bulldogs with eight figure cap numbers.

Miami is a bit of a surprise to see at #6, as all of the players from the glory days around the turn of the millennium are now out of the league with Vince Wilfork’s recent retirement. But Brandon Linder’s recent extension gives the Hurricanes five alumni with eight figure cap numbers. The other four are a pair of defensive linemen in Olivier Vernon and Calais Campbell, and a pair of tight ends in Greg Olsen and Jimmy Graham.

Some schools, like Ohio State and Florida State, have relatively even distribution among their highly-paid alumni. Other schools are top heavy with one or two alumni boosting them to the Top 25. Nebraska and Ole Miss are two excellent examples barely making the Top 25 due to the massive cap hits from Ndamukong Suh ($19.1 million) and Eli Manning ($19.7 million). Some of these schools may be on the verge of falling down the list quickly in the future. For example, Utah’s top two alumni are Alex Smith ($16.9 million) and Sean Smith ($9.5 million), but many feel that 2017 may be the last year both of them can get paid at that level. Losing $26.4 million in cap dollars would send the Utes tumbling down the charts if that does happen.

Each NFL Team’s College With The Highest Cap Spending

TeamCollegeCap Dollars
RedskinsMichigan State$24,563,323
FalconsBoston College$24,365,000
CowboysOklahoma State$21,465,000
DolphinsTexas A&M$20,300,000
ChargersNorth Carolina State$20,000,000
BearsNorth Carolina State$18,100,000
RaidersFresno State$15,731,691
49ersPenn State$13,504,000

This list contains more variety than the Top 25 overall list does, and most of the variety comes from veteran quarterbacks dominating their team’s cap.  Teams where this sticks out like a sore thumb are the Ravens (Joe Flacco of Delaware), Redskins (Kirk Cousins of Michigan State on his second franchise tag), and Saints (Drew Brees of Purdue).

On the other end, a few teams without a highly paid quarterback also show some oddities. Kansas, a team that’s regularly a bottom feeder in the Big 12, gets the top billing for the Broncos due to the presence of Pro Bowl cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Chris Harris, Jr. Temple also shows up for the Jets thanks to Muhammad Wilkerson’s recent extension.

As for the overall top ranked Georgia, they make the list several times both with a high paid quarrterback (Stafford on the Lions), and multiple non-quarterbacks (Green and Atkins on the Bengals).

Division I-A Conference Rankings

ConferenceCap DollarsTop CollegeBottom College
Big Ten$776,730,639Ohio StateIndiana
Pac-12$763,388,132USCWashington State
ACC$726,476,315MiamiWake Forest
Big 12$447,768,836OklahomaBaylor
The American$287,818,399Central FloridaNavy
Mountain West$185,957,269Boise StateAir Force
Mid-American$170,925,631Central MichiganBowling Green
Conference USA$139,219,431Southern MissCharlotte
Sun Belt$95,036,626Coastal CarolinaLouisiana-Monroe
Independent$92,642,834Notre DameArmy

The SEC has long bragged about being the best conference in college football, and when it comes to cap spending on its alumni in the NFL, their bragging is justified. The SEC is the only conference in the NFL that breaks the $1 billion mark in cap spending.

The split between the Power 5 and Group of 5/independent schools also shows up. Boise State is the highest ranked Group of 5 school, but overall they only come in at #37. Within conferences, you can also see how blue bloods are regularly the top team in the conference, while service academies and regular bottom feeders show up on the bottom.

Finally, as of today every Division I-A school has at least one player on an NFL roster. We’ll have to see if that holds up by 4 PM Eastern time today.