Projecting the 2016 Compensatory Draft Picks

UPDATE, March 10: Questions regarding compensatory picks and the transition tag have been added.  Read this article for reference.


For details on the basics and methodology of projecting compensatory picks in general, please reference this article.

To kick this off, 2016 marks the first year in which I have used, as suggested by the resolution allowing comp picks to be traded on December 2, 2015, a “rank[ing] against all players in the League who are on rosters at the end of the season”. At the end of the 2015 season, OTC’s database had a total of 2088 players that were either on the active roster or injured reserve. 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 injured reserve at the end of the regular season, sorted by adjusted APY in descending order and also represented by the player at the cutoff point. For 2016, these cutoffs are as follows:

RoundAdjusted APYOverall RankRepresentative Player
3rd/4th$9,211,020104Julius Thomas
4th/5th$6,336,550209D’Qwell Jackson
5th/6th$4,210,067313Morris Claiborne
6th/7th$3,014,251418DJ Fluker
7th/Qualify$733,8381044Seyi Ajirotutu

Before we get to the final projection, I’d like you to take particular notice of the player that represents the exact halfway point of the ranked list I have built, as this is a critical player for a certain team as I’ll explain later. Ajirotutu, a former Charger, was signed by the Eagles on a minimum salary benefit deal of $825,000, but played almost exclusively on special teams, thus incurring near the maximum downward adjustment possible that I have for playing time. Therefore, what my formula is telling me is every CFA on a MSB deal should qualify. However, I’ll emphasize a caveat to that: I do not have full confidence that my snap count adjustments are perfectly accurate, especially on that minimum qualifying level, and there will likely be some errors near each cutoff. My hope is that once I see this year’s official release, I will be able to better adjust my snap count adjustments for future projections, in 2017 and beyond. Rest assured, I will explain what will happen if I have any of those players in the wrong classification in the “Possible Altering Scenarios” at the bottom.

The Projection

With the above in place, here is current projection for the 2015 compensatory picks (the programmed version can be found here):

TeamRd.Compensated PlayerUnadjusted APYAdjusted APY
DET3Ndamukong Suh$19,047,500$20,582,729
NE3Darrelle Revis$14,000,000$15,126,515
SEA3Byron Maxwell$10,500,000$11,127,900
DEN3Julius Thomas$9,100,000$9,211,020
GB4Tramon Williams$7,000,000$7,987,000
SF4Chris Culliver$8,000,000$7,809,600
BAL4Pernell McPhee$7,575,000$7,765,890
BAL4Torrey Smith$7,050,000$7,492,740
DEN4Orlando Franklin$7,100,000$7,418,260
DAL4Jermey Parnell$6,400,000$7,317,760
GB4Davon House$6,125,000$6,664,000
CLE4Buster Skrine$6,250,000$6,543,750
ARI5Dan Williams$6,250,000$6,152,460
CLE5Jabaal Sheard$5,500,000$5,566,000
SEA5James Carpenter$4,775,000$5,557,145
CLE5Brian Hoyer$5,250,000$5,373,900
SF5Perrish Cox$5,000,000$5,213,000
SD5Eddie Royal$5,000,000$4,990,000
NE5Vince Wilfork$4,500,000$4,579,200
DET5Nick Fairley$4,500,000$4,422,600
BAL5Owen Daniels$4,083,333$4,325,066
SF6Frank Gore$4,000,000$4,139,200
DAL6Bruce Carter$4,250,000$4,104,650
SF6Dan Skuta$4,100,000$4,024,560
NE6Shane Vereen$4,016,667$3,966,057
SEA6Malcolm Smith$3,250,000$3,777,475
DAL6Henry Melton$3,750,000$3,761,250
DAL6Justin Durant$3,600,000$3,726,720
SD6Ryan Mathews$3,666,667$3,492,134
DEN6Terrance Knighton$3,450,000$3,380,310
NE7Akeem Ayers$3,000,000$3,003,000
PIT7Brice McCain$2,750,000$2,878,700
Compensation over 32-pick limit; not awarded
CLE7Miles Austin$2,300,000$2,254,000
SEA7O’Brien Schofield$1,700,000$1,708,840
DEN7Jacob Tamme$1,600,000$1,672,640
CIN7Marshall Newhouse$1,425,000$1,536,435
BAL7Tyrod Taylor$1,116,667$1,208,010
DET7Kellen Davis$950,000$938,980
KC7Thomas Gafford$950,000$904,020
KC7Kevin Vickerson$950,000$843,363
WAS7EJ Biggers$745,000$747,086
GB7Jamari Lattimore$825,000$743,325
CAR7net value283.3% 

Note that although there are 43 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 acknowledge their presence, as this list does with strikethrough text.

I should probably note that the total number of eligible comp picks will almost certainly be a record high, even if I’ve underestimated the qualification cutoff point. It is my opinion that this is partly due to luck, but also partly due to more and more teams understanding and exploiting the comp pick system in order to maximize the amount of picks they can get.

Qualifying Questions

There is only one relevant player I foresee being a close call as far as qualifying as a CFA that is unrelated to being in the top half of all players on rosters at the end of the regular season. That player is Rob Housler. Formerly of the Arizona Cardinals, Housler signed a 1 year, $1.75 million deal with the Cleveland Browns on April 9. Housler was active for six games, was placed on injured reserve on November 4 (two days after Week 8), and was then released from IR on November 17, one day after Week 10. Because Housler remained on the Browns’ roster when Week 10 concluded, I’m projecting that he’ll qualify, but the release is close enough to the critical Week 10 date that there’s a chance he doesn’t qualify. If he doesn’t, then it will jeopardize Arizona’s only projected comp pick, and will trivially improve one of Cleveland’s comp picks.

For reference, here are the list of relevant cut CFAs projected to either to qualify or not qualify depending on which side of the Week 10 cutoff (November 16) they were released.

Non-qualifying Cut CFAsQualifying Cut CFAs
PlayerOld TeamNew TeamDate CutPlayerOld TeamNew TeamDate Cut
Jed CollinsDETDAL5/18Rob HouslerARICLE11/17
Taylor MaysSFCIN8/25Thomas GaffordKCCHI11/28
Josh JohnsonSFCIN8/28Miles AustinCLEPHI12/7
Denarius MooreOAKCIN8/31Jimmy WilsonMIASD12/15
James DockeryCAROAK9/1Leonard HankersonWASATL12/15
Robert McClainATLNE9/5
Jason TrusnikMIACAR9/5
Larry DeanBUFTB9/5
Jasper BrinkleyMINDAL9/7
Mitch UnreinDENSD9/24
Shareece WrightSDSF10/10
Bradley FletcherPHINE10/10

There are three other groups of players that I strongly believe will qualify, because they were listed as Unrestricted Free Agents in the NFL’s official release at the start of the 2015 league year. But the situations surrounding these three groups should be noted just in case:

  • New England structured the contracts of Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, and Vince Wilfork to contain team options on years beyond 2014. The Patriots declined the options on all three of those players. Since they were listed as UFAs, the actions should be interpreted as voided contracts that make these players eligible to become CFAs, even though New England had a way to retain them. New England likely knows this, as well, since in 2009 they got a comp pick for Donte Stallworth using a similar team option declination. A similar team option was also declined by Dallas on the contract of Henry Melton, who later signed a deal with Tampa Bay. Like with the Patriots players, I expect Melton to qualify.
  • 2015 was the first year with first round picks under the new CBA that had their fifth year options declined. There are two of these players that are projected to earn their former teams comp picks: James Carpenter (Seattle) and Nick Fairley (Detroit). Like with the three former Patriots described above, even though their former teams had a way to retain then for 2015 if they so chose, both Carpenter and Fairley were on the UFA list, therefore I expect them to qualify as CFAs.
  • 2015 also marked the first offseason in which UFAs signed between May 13 and June 1 would not qualify as CFAs. Of the 15 UFAs that were signed during that period, only one would be of consequence if he qualified, and that is Joseph Barksdale, who could have potentially cost the Chargers their 5th for Eddie Royal. But since there’s no reason to think this May 12 change won’t happen, there’s also no good reason to think that Barksdale will qualify.

UPDATE: There is also some new question as to whether players who change teams via the transition tag qualify for the compensatory formula.  As I explain here, they qualified as recently as 2007, but recent evidence may bring that into question.  This implicates the Buffalo Bills, who signed transition tagged Charles Clay to an offer sheet away from Miami.  The projection remains that Clay will qualify, but I’ve added a scenario below in the case that he doesn’t qualify.

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.

I should take special note of both Julius Thomas and Seyi Ajirotutu being exactly on the cutoff point. I have both of them on the higher side of the cutoff, but Broncos fans should be aware that it’s 50/50 as to whether Thomas will net them a 3rd or a 4th, and Chargers fans likewise should expect similar coin flip odds on getting a 6th for Ryan Mathews, as explained below.


  • Julius Thomas (Denver): ranked #104 overall
  • Projected 3rd/4th cutoff: #104 overall


  • Davon House (Green Bay): #192 overall
  • Buster Skrine (Cleveland): #195 overall
  • Da’Norris Searcy (Buffalo)
  • Projected 4th/5th cutoff: #209 overall
  • Dan Williams (Arizona): #216 overall


  • Vince Wilfork (New England): #293 overall
  • Nick Fairley (Detroit): #302 overall
  • Owen Daniels (Baltimore): #309 overall
  • Projected 5th/6th cutoff: #313 overall
  • Frank Gore (San Francisco): #319 overall
  • Bruce Carter (Dallas): #322 overall
  • Dan Skuta (Dallas): #326 overall
  • Rahim Moore (Denver): #330 overall
  • Shane Vereen (New England): #332 overall


  • Projected 6th/7th cutoff: #418 overall
  • Akeem Ayers (New England): #421 overall
  • Brice McCain (Pittsburgh): #439 overall


  • Sam Acho (Arizona): #960 overall
  • Alex Carrington (Buffalo): #996 overall
  • EJ Biggers (Washington): #1029 overall
  • Jamari Lattimore (Green Bay): #1034 overall
  • Seyi Ajirotutu (San Diego): #1044 overall
  • Projected 7th/Qualifying cutoff: #1044 overall
  • Nick Bellore (San Francisco): #1107 overall

The projected comp picks that in the most danger of disappearing are the following:

  • Arizona’s 4th/5th for Dan Williams
  • San Diego’s 6th for Ryan Mathews

In addition, there is a chance that Buffalo could get a 6th for CJ Spiller that is currently not projected to be awarded. Depending on the above, there’s also a chance that picks could move into or out of the 32-pick limit.

Possible Altering Scenarios

  • Arizona
    • If either Sam Acho or Rob Housler do not qualify, Arizona will not get a 4th or 5th for Dan Williams.
  • Buffalo
    • If Alex Carrington does not qualify, Buffalo will get a 6th for CJ Spiller.
    • UPDATE: If Charles Clay does not qualify, Buffalo will get a 4th or 5th for Da’Norris Searcy.
  • Cleveland
    • If Rob Housler does not qualify, Cleveland’s possible fourth comp pick will be a 7th for Ahtyba Rubin instead of a 7th for Miles Austin. This 7th, however, would not change in order and thus ultimately change nothing for Cleveland. The Browns would be noted as having a 7th eligible for Austin but not being awarded due to the maximum limit of four picks per team.
    • Cleveland will get a 7th for either Miles Austin or Ahtyba Rubin into the 32-pick limit if either of the following scenarios happen:
      • Seyi Ajirotutu does not qualify, and at least one of Nick Bellore or Alex Carrington do not qualify
      • Seyi Ajirotutu does not qualify, and at least one of Rob Housler or Sam Acho do not qualify
      • At least one of Rob Housler or Sam Acho do not qualify, and at least one of Nick Bellore or Alex Carrington do not qualify
  • Denver
    • If at least one of Sam Acho and Rob Housler do not qualify, Alex Carrington and Nick Bellore qualify, and Seyi Ajirotutu does not qualify, Denver will get a 7th for Jacob Tamme into the 32-pick limit.
  • Green Bay
    • If Jamari Lattimore does not qualify, Green Bay will not be recognized as being eligible for a 7th for him in the section describing picks beyond the 32 pick limit.
  • Pittsburgh
    • If Sam Acho, Rob Housler, and Seyi Ajirotutu qualify, and Alex Carrington and Nick Bellore do not qualify, Pittsburgh will not get a 7th for Brice McCain due to being beyond the 32-pick limit.
  • San Diego
    • If Seyi Ajirotutu does not qualify, San Diego will not get a 6th for Ryan Mathews.
  • San Francisco
    • If Nick Bellore qualifies, San Francisco will not get a 6th for Dan Skuta.
  • Seattle
    • Seattle will get a 7th for O’Brien Schofield into the 32-pick limit if any of the following scenarios happen:
      • Seyi Ajirotutu does not qualify, at least one of Sam Acho and Rob Housler do not qualify, and Alex Carrington qualifies
      • Seyi Ajirotutu does not qualify, at least one of Sam Acho and Rob Housler do not qualify, and Nick Bellore does not qualify
      • At least one of Sam Acho and Rob Housler do not qualify, Nick Bellore does not qualify, and Alex Carrington qualifies
    • Washington
      • If EJ Biggers does not qualify, Washington will not be recognized as being eligible for a 7th for him in the section describing picks beyond the 32 pick limit.