I've had to adjust a few comp picks. Here the the new projections --
For the eighth consecutive year and ninth overall, I’ve attempted to project all of the compensatory draft picks that the NFL will award. In my past seven projections, I’ve averaged 23.9 out of 32 exactly correct (going to the correct team in the correct round) and have been off by only one round on an average of 4.1 more. Last year, I got 25 correct and was off by one round on four more. With this year’s projections, I’m hoping to get a combined score of at least 30, although it’s possible that more than the usual number of them could be off by one round because so many projected compensatory picks fell near the cutoff points between rounds.
As the NFL explains, compensatory picks are awarded to teams that lose more or better compensatory free agents than they acquire. The number of picks a team can receive equals the net loss of compensatory free agents, up to a maximum of four. Compensatory free agents are determined by a secret formula based on salary, playing time and postseason honors. Not every free agent lost or signed is covered by the formula.
Although the formula has never been revealed, by studying the compensatory picks that have been awarded since they began in 1994, I’ve determined that the primary factor in the value of the picks awarded is the average annual value of the contract the player signed with his new team, with an adjustment for playing time and a smaller adjustment for postseason honors. It should be noted that the contract values used in the equation seemingly do not include things such as workout bonuses, incentives and conditional bonuses. (Also, keep in mind that the contract figures reported in the media often are incorrect.) And the playing time used in the equation seemingly is the percentage of offensive or defensive snaps played.
A simple method of determining for which qualifying free agents a team will be compensated is this – for every player acquired, cancel out a lost player of similar value. For example, consider a team that loses one qualifying player whose value would bring a third-round comp pick and another qualifying player whose value would bring a sixth-round comp pick but signs a qualifying player whose value would be in the range of a third-round pick. That team would receive a sixth-round comp pick because the signed player would cancel out the loss of the higher-valued player. If the signed player’s value was equal to a fourth-round pick or lower, however, the team would receive a third-round comp pick, because the signed player would cancel out the loss of the lower-valued player.
It is possible for a team to get a compensatory pick even if it doesn’t suffer a net loss of qualifying free agents. That type of comp pick comes at the end of the seventh round, after the normal comp picks and before the non-compensatory picks that are added if fewer than 32 comp picks are awarded. There have been 13 of these “net value” type of comp picks awarded, and in each case, the combined value of the free agents lost was significantly higher than the combined value of the free agents added. In all 13 cases, those teams lost the same number of qualifying free agents as they signed. No team has been awarded a comp pick after signing more qualifying free agents than it lost, no matter how significant the difference in combined value. This year, I’m projecting that Detroit and Arizona will receive a net-value comp picks. Detroit lost three qualifying players (Damien Woody, Boss Bailey and T.J. Duckett) and signed three qualifying players (Brian Kelly, Michael Gaines and Chuck Darby). Arizona lost three (Calvin Pace, Bryant Johnson and Keydrick Vincent) and signed three (Travis LaBoy, Clark Haggans and Bryan Robinson). The combined values of the players Detroit and Arizona lost each exceeded 50 percent more than the combined values of the players they signed. That would be the smallest difference in value of any net-value comp in the past six years, but I’m projecting that it will be enough for both teams.
For the second consecutive year, I’ve used a mathematical formula to weight the three factors that determine a player’s value in the comp equation (his contract, his playing time and his postseason awards). Using this formula, I’ve been able to reconstruct almost precisely the order of the comp picks that were awarded in 2006, 2007 and 2008. In two of those years, the only difference between the reconstructed order and the actual order was that a very small difference in values had the order of two consecutive picks switched. I don’t know if I have the factors weighted correctly, but given that my projected order last year (not the reconstructed order after the actual comps were awarded) matched the exact order of the comp picks in many cases – including one instance of 11 straight, out of the projected picks I had correct – I think I’m probably pretty close.
As always, please note that my comp pick formula is merely an attempt to project the results of the actual (secret) formula. I don’t pretend to know the actual formula. But I think previous results indicate that the formula I use is a pretty good simulation.
In order to qualify for the comp equation, a player must have been a true Unrestricted Free Agent whose contract had expired or was voided after the previous season (i.e., he cannot have been released by his old team); he must sign during the UFA signing period (which ended July 22 last year); if he signs after June 1, he must have been tendered a June 1 qualifying offer by his old team; his compensatory value must be above a specific minimum amount; and he cannot have been permanently released by his new team before a certain point in the season (which seems to be after Week 10) or, possibly, before getting a certain amount of playing time, unless he was claimed off waivers by another team.
The most difficult part about projecting the comp picks is determining all of the cutoff points – the minimum value needed to qualify and the value ranges for the comp picks in each round of the draft. The comp picks awarded in previous years suggest that the cutoff points increase each year by a small percentage – approximately the same percentage by which the leaguewide salary cap increases. From 2007 to 2008, the cap went up 6.96 percent, so I used a 7 percent increase when estimating the cutoff points for this year’s comp picks.
Last year, the lowest-paid player who is known to have qualified for the NFL’s comp equation was Michael Myers, who signed for $825,000 per season and saw significant playing time. The highest-paid player who is known to have not qualified was Mike Doss, who signed for $900,000 per season by saw very little playing time except on special teams. The non-qualifying player with the highest value using the compensatory formula was Chris Liwienski, who signed for $740,000 per season and played almost 90 percent of his team’s offensive snaps. This year, only one player was “on the bubble” for qualifying – Tony Richardson, who left the Vikings and signed with the Jets for $860,000 per season. However, regardless of whether Richardson qualifies, the Vikings and the Jets each signed more qualifying players than they lost, which means Richardson doesn’t affect the comp picks at all.
I’m fairly confident that the players I consider a little “above the bubble” this year (Terry Cousin, Keydrick Vincent and Danny Clark) will qualify for the equation, and that the players I consider slightly “below the bubble” (Alex Stepanovich and Aaron Glenn), will not qualify. The lowest-valued player “above the bubble,” Danny Clark, has a value in the formula that is more than 20 percent higher than that of last year’s lowest-valued qualifying player. And the highest-valued player “below the bubble,” Alex Stepanovich, has a value that is less than that of the lowest-valued qualifying player last year (Michael Myers) and less than 1 percent more than the highest-valued non-qualifying player last year (Chris Liwienski). If I’m wrong about any of those players, it will represent by far the largest or smallest increase in the minimum value needed to qualify that the NFL has used since comp picks were first awarded.
(continued in next post)