Evaluation of the 2017 Compensatory Picks Projection

Yesterday’s release of the 2017 compensatory draft picks by the NFL came even earlier than usual this year. However, this is for good reason, due to the fact that this is the first year that compensatory picks may be traded.  As several people have suggested (Miguel Benzan being one of the first I saw), it’s only fair and proper that teams should have precise knowledge of all the draft picks they will have before the combine–an event in which trade discussions really start to ramp up. I would expect future official compensatory pick releases to come on or near the Friday before the week the combine starts.

Now that the release out, it’s time to keep me honest and see what I did well in my projection, and what I got wrong.

TeamRd.Compensated Player
MIA3Olivier Vernon
CAR3Josh Norman
BAL3Kelechi Osemele
LAR*3Janoris Jenkins
DEN3Malik Jackson
SEA3Russell Okung
CLE*3Alex Mack
KC3Sean Smith
PIT3Kelvin Beachum
SEA3Bruce Irvin
NYJ3Damon Harrison
CIN4Marvin Jones
CLE*4Tashaun Gipson
LAR4Rodney McLeod
CLE4Mitchell Schwartz
SF4Alex Boone
IND4Coby Fleener
CIN5Mohamed Sanu
DEN5Danny Trevathan
MIA5Lamar Miller
ARI5Bobby Massie
KC5Chase Daniel
CLE5Travis Benjamin
GB5Casey Hayward
NE5Akiem Hicks
MIA5Rishard Matthews
KC6Donald Stephenson
CIN6Reggie Nelson
KC6Tyvon Branch
CIN7Andre Smith
DEN7Vernon Davis
DEN7Ryan Harris
Compensation over 32-pick limit; not awarded
LAR7Nick Fairley
GB7Scott Tolzien
PIT7Antwon Blake
ARI7Sean Weatherspoon
PIT7Will Johnson
ARI7Bradley Sowell
ARI7Corey White

Highlighted in green, I got 24 of 32 awarded comp picks correct with the correct player and the correct round. In addition, I got 6 of the 7 comp picks that missed the 32-pick limit correct, for a total of 30 out of 39. Although the press release did not state the precise order of the comp picks over the 32-pick limit, it did state the number of comp picks that were missed: 1 for the Rams and Packers, 2 for the Steelers, and 3 for the Cardinals.  With the exception of the Rams pick (see below), I got this quantity correct–and also noted how odd and painful it was for a team to have 3 comp picks miss the 32-pick limit, something I don’t think has ever happened before.

Highlighted in yellow, there were 4 comp picks that I had the correct player for, but was off by one round.  The round cutoffs are always the most challenging to predict, and I hope with 2017’s comp picks in the books I can refine those cutoffs further.  Thankfully, I anticipated that all 4 of these round misses were within the margin of error that I had noted in my projected.

Highlighted in red, there was just one pick I missed without any anticipation that I may have missed it. I had projected the Rams to get a 6th round comp pick for Nick Fairley, on the basis of his APY being $3 million over three years. However, what I did not notice is that Fairley had for all practical purposes signed a one year deal with two void years solely for the purpose of spreading out his signing bonus (a practice that the Saints are notorious for).  When I ignored his Paragraph 5 base salaries on those void years–mere placeholder dollars that were never going to be paid out–this reduced his APY to $1.583 million. Upon that adjustment, Fairley was placed exactly where should have been–a 7th round value that just barely missed the 32-pick limit.

Highlighted in blue, there were 4 picks that I missed both the round and the player on, but were misses that I did anticipate might happen.  One of them was due to Sam Young not qualifying that opened up a 5th round comp pick to the Dolphins for Rishard Matthews. (See this article to explain why.) The very good news is that Young was the only player near the qualification bubble that I missed on, suggesting that I’m tightening up that part of the formula well.

The other three, however, all resulted from my most consequential miss this year. I had thought the comp pick formula would only count the first year of the contracts of Russell Okung and Kelvin Beachum, but instead the formula counted the entirety of them.  This caused Pittsburgh’s 5th for Beachum to be upgraded to a 3rd, gave Seattle a 3rd for Okung instead of a 5th for JR Sweezy, and gave Denver a 7th for Vernon Davis instead of a 3rd for Brock Osweiler.

The best precedent that I am seeing from this point, that also involved the Broncos, comes from Ian Whetstone:

As he notes here, Gold had a $9.6 million option bonus in his contract.  If it’s any consolation, AdamJT13, the pioneer of projecting compensatory picks, made a similar mistake to me back in 2005 from Gold’s contract (bolded mine):

The one place where there is the biggest question is between the third and fourth rounds — in particular, the comps for Bert Berry ($5.0 million, 16/16, Pro Bowl) and Damien Woody ($5.17 million, 16/16). I’ve projected that both of them will be fourth-round comps, although they could end up being third-rounders (one Denver newspaper has even reported that the Broncos would get a third-rounder). However, in each of the past two years, there have been players who signed for more than $5 million per season and were worth only fourth-round comps, so that’s where I’m projecting those two. One factor could be Ian Gold being released by the Buccaneers and being re-signed by the Broncos. He had signed for $5.464 million and, if the Broncos’ comp pick was for him instead of Berry, that might have been a third-round pick. But because he was released, he made only $2 million for one season. Since the Broncos signed two low-value qualifying players and lost three players, their comp will be for their highest-value player lost, which would be Berry. And I don’t think Berry’s contract is large enough to merit a third-round pick, despite his great season. But I could be wrong, and I could be with Woody, too.

Gold indeed earned the Broncos a 3rd round comp pick that year, along with Berry (due to a different mistake Adam made). Unfortunately, that pick was wasted used on who I believe was the worst draft pick in Denver Broncos history: Maurice Clarett.

To end this evaluation on a high note, one aspect of the projection that I did exceptionally well on was getting the order of most of the comp picks within rounds correct.  The only picks I had incorrectly swapped were the San Francisco and Indianapolis picks in the 4th round for Alex Boone and Coby Fleener.  These two picks frequently flip flopped as the 2016 regular season progressed, and at the end, Boone and Fleener were ranked within 5 players of each other leaguewide, a very narrow window well within a reasonable margin of error.  This suggests that my programmed adjustments for snap counts and postseason honors are getting increasingly accurate.

  • Dan Kunze

    Well done, give yourself a pat on the back!

    • Nick

      Thank you!

  • Frank Yi

    Ouch, my Broncos got hosed, losing the 3rd for Brock because of the Okung contract (which they did not pick up the option for, and he was terrible this season), but interesting that we got insight on how the NFL calculates these picks

  • Werner

    Nick, excellent work. Should we expect the NFL to tweak the formula, now that you’ve got them figured out almost completely ?

    • Nick

      Thank you. If they do tweak it, I’ll have no way of knowing unless it somehow gets leaked to the media or otherwise.

  • McGeorge

    Thank you Nick, glad to have one of your articles.

    I’m AMAZED to see the Jets getting a compensatory pick. That seems rare for them.

    • Nick

      Thank you. Maccagnan cut it very close with Jarvis Jenkins by cutting him just in time before he would have permanently canceled out Harrison. This suggests that he’s aware of how he can use the formula to his benefit. Unfortunately for the Jets, they may not be in a good position right now to gain comp picks.

  • James Campbell

    Can you please explain the difference between the Darrelle Revis comp situation, where New England got a third for him, and the Russell Okung/Kelvin Beachum situations?

    I seem to remember the Patriots having some sort of option for him, and they declined it, much the same like Denver had an option for Okung?

    It would be much appreciated, because I still think my team got hosed losing the highest comp pick for Osweiler, and having that voided and having to move behind four other teams.

    • Nick

      Revis’s APY would have been $16M if the option counted, $12M if it didn’t. However, I can’t tell for sure which it is, as Revis fell in between Suh ($19M) and Byron Maxwell ($10.5M). Revis was where he should have been in the order either way.

      As a fellow Broncos fan, while I’m disappointed, I wouldn’t go far as to say they “got hosed”. Had they got the second 3rd for Osweiler, they would have done so through a loophole in the formula. What actually happened aligns more with the spirit of the formula.

      • jason andrw

        great work. This is what separates OTC from other sites that focus on players contracts. I always look forward to reading these articles from you. I do have a question ……… How many games does a player have to be on a roster in order to be a CFA for that team. Example, Miami cuts a player sometime during the season and he gets signed by KC. He remains on the Chiefs roster for the rest of the season until his contract naturally expires at the start of the new league year. How many games would that player have to have played for KC in order for them to qualify for a comp pick if another team signs said player?

        I ask this because KC have several UFA’s this year who didn’t play the entire season for them. Jarvis Jenkins, Kendell Reyes and Mike Person all came to the Chiefs in season. Would any of them qualify? Also, Knile Davis was traded for a cond pick to GB before the deadline. However, that trade was later voided as Davis did not meet the parameters of the trade and was cut. He later resurfaced in a Chiefs uniform late in the season. Would he qualify as a CFA as he was already traded and was only brought back late in the season? Anyway, thanks for all the time you put into this. OTC is truly one of my favorite football sites on the web and I check it out at least a couple times a week

        • Nick

          Thanks for all the kind words. Any player who sees his contract expire upon the start of the new league year (March 9 in 2017) has the potential to become a CFA. On March 9, NFL Communications should issue a press release listing all of the players that are becoming UFAs. Almost all of those players will be eligible to become CFAs. (Colin Kaepernick will be a big exception if he voids his contract within the next few days.)

          Jenkins, Reyes, Person & Davis should all be UFAs for Kansas City, since they finished the Chiefs’ season on their roster KC desperately needed more UFAs, as well–at one point in the season I think they had only one extra UFA in addition to Berry and Poe. If the Chiefs let either, or both, walk, they are going to need some of those guys you listed to also qualify as CFAs if they’re going to sign any CFAs of their own, as to avoid canceling out comp pick for Berry and/or Poe.

      • anon76returns

        If you’re still out there Nick, I’m curious why Okung’s contract wouldn’t have canceled out Malik Jackson’s contract, as the two were much closer in value than Okung’s and Osweiler’s were.
        Man, I remember being upset with the Okung signing when it happened because I was worried it would cost the Broncos Malik’s comp pick (I wanted them to restructure Clady instead). I would have been furious at the time (and am pretty incensed now) that it cost them the best comp pick in the draft.

        • Nick

          When players are graded within the same round, the highest valued CFA lost is always canceled out first. This is true even though Okung, even in counting his full contract, had a lower value than both Osweiler and Jackson. I wouldn’t sweat over that aspect too much though, it’s only a difference of five spots between Osweiler and Jackson.

          • anon76returns

            Thanks, Nick. We’ll see how much I’m sweating after we see who gets picked at 97 vs 101.

      • James Campbell

        Thanks for the insight. I do appreciate where you’re coming from. One more question. Because it was an option, would the Broncos be looking at some sort of compensatory pick for next season?

    • Nick

      I just realized that I was talking about the wrong contract. His Jets contract was $14M APY in full and $16M APY without the options. But still, either way his value would be where he belongs, in between Suh and Maxwell.