Projecting The 2020 Compensatory Picks

UPDATE – January 8: This projection has been revised to account for a correction to the qualification of Mike Iupati. Please read more here.

This article refers specifically to OTC’s projection for the 2020 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

TeamRoundCompensated Free AgentAPY
NE3Trey Flowers$18,000,000
NYG3Landon Collins$14,000,000
NE3Trent Brown$16,250,000
SEA3Earl Thomas$13,750,000
HOU3Tyrann Mathieu$14,000,000
PIT3Le’Veon Bell$13,125,000
PHI3Nick Foles$22,000,000
BAL4C.J. Mosley$17,000,000
LAR4Rodger Saffold$11,000,000
MIN4Sheldon Richardson$11,933,333
TB4Kwon Alexander$13,500,000
PHI4Jordan Hicks$9,000,000
WAS4Jamison Crowder$9,500,000
MIA4Ja’Wuan James$12,750,000
SEA4Justin Coleman$9,000,000
CHI4Adrian Amos$8,500,000
BAL4John Brown$9,000,000
PHI4Golden Tate$9,350,000
DEN5Billy Turner$7,000,000
DAL5Cole Beasley$7,250,000
NE6Malcom Brown$5,000,000
NE6Cordarrelle Patterson$5,000,000
SEA6Shamar Stephen$4,150,000
NYG7Mario Edwards$2,500,000
HOU7Kendall Lamm$2,225,000
HOU7Christian Covington$1,687,500
MIA7Brandon Bolden$1,850,000
DEN7Max Garcia$1,796,875
MIN7Trevor Siemian$2,000,000
MIN7Tom Compton$1,600,000
DEN7Tramaine Brock$1,325,000
NYG7Josh Mauro$1,300,000
Compensation over 32-pick limit; not awarded
NYG7Kerry Wynn$1,212,500

Note that although there are 33 eligible compensatory picks listed in this projection, each year only exactly 32 picks are awarded. Therefore, the pick that ranks 33rd is not awarded, although the official release will typically acknowledge presence of any comp picks in excess of 32, as this list does with strikethrough text.

Compensatory picks became tradeable beginning with the 2017 NFL Draft. This year, there has been one such trade thus far, with the Texans sending a 3rd round comp pick to the Browns for Duke Johnson–although it may be unclear as to which pick is sent to Cleveland should the Texans receive two 3rd round comp picks.

I expect the official release to come out on February 21, the Friday before the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine. Releasing the list then is sensible, 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.

The most difficult part of projecting the compensatory picks is accurately identifying where these cutoffs lie. That is because the larger subset of the leaguewide players of which the smaller subset of compensatory free agents are judged against is never the same size, and requires accurately tracking roster transactions for thousands of players–a feat that will always have a margin of error.

At the end of the 2019 regular season, OTC’s database identified a total of 1,958 players that were either on the active roster or reserve lists, and had also been on a roster for at least 10 games during the 2019 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 2019, these cutoffs are as follows:

RoundPercentileOverall RankRepresentative Player
3rd/4th95th (top 5%)99Trumaine Johnson
4th/5th90th (top 10%)197Eddie Goldman
5th/6th85th (top 15%)295Solomon Thomas
6th/7th75th (top 25%)491Robby Anderson
7th/Qualify50th (top 50%)980Chuma Edoga

A change in the cutoff calculation at the top

After reviewing the previous five seasons of compensatory pick projections, it is my belief that in the past, I incorrectly calculated the APY of players leaguewide whose contracts were extended. I believe this error was most grievous in 2018, a draft in which I projected too many 3rd round comp picks to be awarded. By correcting this possible error, the most significant change is that more players have jumped ahead in order of the compensatory free agents from the 2019 offseason, particularly in the 3rd round. That means that several players whose contracts I initially projected as 3rd rounders may instead only be 4th rounders. While I hope that I’m correct in making this correction, I don’t have the highest confidence in that, and I could be wrong, which would restore several previously projected 3rd round comp picks.

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

  • Nick Foles (Philadelphia): #86
  • Projected 3rd/4th cutoff: #99
  • CJ Mosley (Baltimore): #101
  • Rodger Saffold (Los Angeles Rams): #107
  • Sheldon Richardson (Minnesota): #112
  • Kareem Jackson (Houston): #119
  • Kwon Alexander (Tampa Bay): #134

4th/5th

  • John Brown (Baltimore): #187
  • Golden Tate (Philadelphia): #189
  • Projected 3rd/4th cutoff: #195

5th/6th

  • Projected 5th/6th cutoff: #295
  • Cameron Wake (Miami): #309

6th/7th

  • None (Projected 6th/7th cutoff: #491)

7th/Qualifying

  • None (Projected 6th/7th cutoff: #980)

Qualifying/Valuation Questions

The level at which teams are becoming more mindful of compensatory picks has reached new highs. This once again includes the rule where compensatory free agents will not qualify if they are not on their roster past Week 10 (this year, the Sunday games took place on November 10). This year, notable cuts right before this date include LJ Fort (cut by Philadelphia September 27), Deone Bucannon (cut by Tampa Bay October 9), Justin Bethel (cut by Baltimore October 21–and acknowledged by John Harbaugh as comp picks being the reason why), Donte Moncrief (cut by Pittsburgh November 2), Andrew Sendejo (cut by Philadelphia November 5), and Mike Davis (cut by Chicago November 9).

While I have high confidence that all these players, among others cut before Week 10, will not qualify, two that will be specifically noted in the altering scenarios below will be Moncrief and Davis. That’s because both were claimed off waivers by the Panthers, thus spending more than 10 weeks on NFL rosters. The precedent of Martellus Bennett not qualifying in 2018 makes me believe that Moncrief and Davis will not qualify, but because that’s the only precedent I have on record, it’s safe to note what would happen if I’m wrong–and it would be bad news for Pittsburgh and/or Chicago.

There are two players that I am guessing will not qualify to become compensatory free agents due to having their previous contracts shortened via renegotiation. On March 16, 2018, Latavius Murray and the Vikings renegotiated his contract that included deleting the 2019 year, allowing him to become a free agent one year earlier. Murray subsequently signed with New Orleans on March 12, 2019. Similarly, on March 15, 2018, Mike Iupati and the Cardinals renegotiated his contract that including voiding his 2019 year for salary cap proration purposes. Iupati subsequently signed with Seattle on March 14, 2019. If I am wrong about either or both of these players not qualifying, it will change the comp picks awarded to Minnesota and/or Seattle.

UPDATE – January 8: I now believe that my initial analysis of Iupati’s renegotiation is incorrect.

A source that OTC considers reliable informs us that Iupati will indeed qualify as a compensatory free agent. The reason why is that Iupati’s renegotiation occurred immediately before the start of the 2018 league year, despite being first reported in the media immediately after the start of the new league year. The explanation is that renegotiations that shorten a contract only disqualify a player from becoming a CFA if the shortening causes the contract to expire in the same league year that the renegotiation occurred. If true, this would help better explain why Adrian Peterson qualified as a CFA in favor of Minnesota in 2018 despite shortening his contract via renegotiation, as that renegotiation happened well before this cited cutoff date of the start of the new league year.

A similar question regarding void years was raised with Alex Okafor, who went from New Orleans to Kansas City as an unrestricted free agent. In Okafor’s case, a late renegotiation in his two year deal with the Saints transformed a player option to void the second year should Okafor log three or more sacks to an automatic void. I am guessing that Okafor will qualify as a CFA because the void year existed in the original contract, and was not created via renegotiation. If I’m wrong about that, it will help out the Chiefs’ comp pick standing.

Possible Altering Scenarios

  • Chicago
    • If Mike Davis qualifies, Chicago will not get a 4th for Adrian Amos.
  • Houston
    • If Kareem Jackson’s contract is valued in the 3rd round, Houston will get a 3rd for him instead of a 7th for Kendall Lamm.
  • Kansas City
    • If Alex Okafor does not qualify, Kansas City will get a 4th for Steven Nelson.
  • Miami
    • If Cameron Wake’s contract is valued in the 5th round, Miami will get a 5th for him instead of a 7th for Brandon Bolden.
  • Minnesota
    • If Latavius Murray qualifies, Minnesota will get a 6th or a 7th for him.
  • Pittsburgh
    • If Donte Moncrief qualifies, Pittsburgh will not get a 3rd for Le’Veon Bell.
  • Seattle
    • If Mike Iupati does not qualify, Seattle will get a 7th for Brett Hundley.