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NFL Draft Compensatory Picks Explained

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The LA Rams are hoping for a third-round compensatory pick after losing CB Janoris Jenkins to the NY Giants in free agency. Here’s how those picks work.

New York Giants CB Janoris Jenkins
New York Giants CB Janoris Jenkins
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Last year in free agency, the Los Angeles Rams lost CB Janoris Jenkins who signed with the New York Giants on a five-year, $62m deal. On it’s face, it was a significant departure that had an immediate, profound effect on the Rams’ cornerback depth chart. Beyond the immediacy, there’s a significant impact coming in the 2017 NFL Draft.

The Los Angeles Rams executed a trade with the Tennessee Titans ahead of the 2016 NFL Draft to secure the #1 overall pick to select Cal QB Jared Goff. Beyond the required capital the Rams provided the Titans in last year’s draft, they’re on the hook for a first- and third-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. What complicates things is that the Rams could receive a third-round compensatory pick because of the Jenkins loss; were that to happen, the Rams would send that pick to the Titans (something around the 101st overall pick) and keep their naturally assigned pick (something around the 68th pick). If the Rams receive a compensatory pick for Jenkins after the third round, they send that naturally assigned third-round pick to the Titans leaving the Rams with just one pick in the first 104 or so.

Suffice to say, the compensatory pick the Rams get for Jenkins will have a significant impact on their draft and thus the 2017 offseason roster overhaul in general.

So how exactly do compensatory picks even work?

What are compensatory picks?

As the NFLPA has announced in years past:

Under the rules for compensatory draft selections, a team losing more or better compensatory free agents than it acquires in the previous year is eligible to receive compensatory draft picks.

The number of picks a team receives equals the net loss of compensatory free agents up to a maximum of four.

Here, let the SB Nation video team help:

How the NFL Draft’s compensatory picks work

How are they determined?

This is where things get murky.

Under agreement between the NFL and the NFL Players Association, the actual formula has not been made public. We can derive some aspects of the formula from the last 22 years of comp pick history since the salary cap was instituted in 1994.

The formula only applies to unrestricted free agents and relies on three main factors (in order of most important to least): annual contract salary, playing time and postseason honors, such as being named to the Pro Bowl. The one caveat is that you can cancel out a comp pick if you sign a free agent of equal value based on those three main factors.

Take 2014, when the Rams signed TE Jared Cook and OT Jake Long, but lost WR Danny Amendola, S Craig Dahl, CB Bradley Fletcher, WR Brandon Gibson and OL Robert Turner cancelling out the two top losses. The Rams ultimately received three comp picks - one in the sixth-round, two in the seventh.

Is something new?

Why yes, yes there is.

Starting with the 2017 NFL Draft, teams can trade their compensatory picks. Hence the whole Janoris hinge.


So earlier this month, Over the Cap projected the Rams to receive three comp picks this year: a third-round pick for Janoris, a fourth-round pick for S Rodney McLeod and a sixth-round pick for DT Nick Fairley.

We should get the official release of compensatory picks in early March.