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Do the Rams and Les Snead overvalue compensatory picks?

Do the Rams rely on compensatory picks more than they should?

NFL: Los Angeles Rams-OTA Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Throughout the 2023 free agency period, the Los Angeles Rams have been very quiet. Their only signing has been bringing back center Coleman Shelton while they have lost players like Nick Scott and Greg Gaines. That doesn’t mention Taylor Rapp also being expected to leave as he’s met with other teams.

Over the last five years, no team in the NFL has accumulated more compensatory picks than the Rams. Since the 2018 NFL Draft, the Rams have picked up 16 compensatory picks and are one of just seven teams that have had more than 10.

While compensatory picks are a good thing for teams to have, it also means that they have lost their own players while not re-signing players from other teams, therefore leading to the compensatory pick. Despite trading away draft picks over the past few years for proven players, the Rams have been able to pick some of those back up with the compensatory selections. Again however, that means the Rams haven’t been that active in free agency or if they have, it’s for players that don’t effect that compensatory pick formula.

Compensatory picks have been a large piece of the Rams and general manager Les Snead’s team-building formula. The question is however, are the Rams overvaluing them? For example, last offseason the Rams lost Austin Corbett in free agency. In return, they only picked up a fifth-round comp pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. The same can be said for Von Miller.

The year before the Rams lost safety John Johnson III who played a large role on the team’s defense. Johnson III only netted the Rams a fourth round compensatory pick. With that pick, the Rams selected Cobie Durant.

Year Round Player Lost Player Gained
2019 3 CB Trumaine Johnson Traded for Dante Fowler
2019 3 WR Sammy Watkins Traded up for Darrell Henderson
2019 7 S Cody Davis LB Dakota Allen
2020 3 G Rodger Saffold S Terrell Burgess
2021 3 EDGE Dante Fowler Jr. Used in Stafford Trade
2021 3 GM Brad Holmes LB Ernest Jones
2021 4 LB Cory Littleton TE Jacob Harris
2022 3 GM Brad Holmes iOL Logan Bruss
2022 4 S John Johnson III CB Cobie Durant
2022 6 TE Gerald Everett S Quentin Lake
2022 6 EDGE Samson Ebukam CB Derion Kendrick
2022 6 CB Troy Hill Traded Back. Selected EDGE Daniel Hardy & OT Aj Arcuri
2023 5 EDGE Von Miller TBD
2023 5 G Austin Corbett TBD
2023 5 DL Sebastian Joseph-Day TBD
2023 7 EDGE Ogbonnia Okoronkwo TBD

When you compare the value of compensatory picks to “normal” draft selections, outside of the third round, compensatory picks do hold their value. The best way to determine the average value of each pick is with Pro Football Reference’s approximate value metric (AV), specifically the drafted approximate value (DrAV) which accumulates the value that the player had for the team that drafted them.

In the third round, non-compensatory picks held 9.34 average approximate value compared to 6.61 for compensatory picks. However, among the other rounds, the difference isn’t that significant. In fact, fifth-round compensatory picks actually had a higher average approximate value (5.77) than non-compensatory picks (3.92). Non-compensatory picks led with an average approximate value of 5.41 to 5.14 in the fourth-round, 2.9 to 2.67 in the sixth-round, and 2.24 to 2.1 in the seventh-round.

Out of the current 11 compensatory picks that the Rams have used, they have selected two decent starters in Ernest Jones and Cobie Durant. You could argue Darrell Henderson as a role player and TBD on Logan Bruss and Quentin Lake. Among the 11 players that the Rams have selected, they have gotten an average approximate value of 2.64 with Darrell Henderson leading the pack with a DrAV of 13. Ernest Jones has been a nice pick with a DrAV of 9.

For picks coming in the 3rd-7th rounds, that’s not a bad return on those picks. The Rams have been right around the average in the third round while underperforming with their fourth, sixth, and seventh-round compensatory picks.

Over the past five years, the Rams have lost five Pro Bowl or starting-caliber players in free agency, counting Rodger Saffold, Trumaine Johnson, Dante Fowler Jr., Cory Littleton, John Johnson III, and Gerald Everett.

However, did the return on those players outweigh the players that the Rams lost? That’s where this gets complicated and the answer is probably no. For Rodger Saffold, the Rams received Terrell Burgess who never earned much playing time and had an AV of two. The Rams replaced their leading tackler in Littleton by drafting Harris who didn’t make the initial 53-man roster last season and has an AV of zero.

The biggest issue for the Rams has been the lack of drafting high-impact players. Pro Bowl selections is a good measurement for this. Just looking at Pro Bowlers selected since 2018, outside of the third-round, compensatory picks have been almost just as likely to find a Pro Bowl-caliber player.

Third-round comp picks don’t seem to hold their value as a third-round compensatory pick has resulted in a Pro Bowl player just once in 47 selections or 2.1 percent. Meanwhile, non-compensatory third-round picks are nearly double that at 4.3 percent. Of course, compensatory picks come at the end of the round which is where that difference likely occurs. However, that’s still a significant difference.

In the fourth and fifth-rounds however is where compensatory picks really hold their value. As it stands 3.2 percent of fourth-round compensatory picks have netter a Pro Bowler compared to just 2.5 percent for a regular fourth-round pick. In the fifth-round, the two are very similar at 3.1 percent and 3.7 percent with non-compensatory picks holding a slight advantage.

No Pro Bowlers have been selected in the sixth and seventh rounds over the last five years.

You could certainly argue that the Rams have overvalued comp picks to an extent and do need to do a better job at returning some of their own players. That doesn’t mean they need to overpay to keep them, but return players that they have spent time developing if the price is right.

The money that they allocated to Allen Robinson maybe should have gone towards Austin Corbett. Scott signed with Cincinnati Bengals this offseason with a cap-hit of just $1.1M in 2023. That’s a player that could have been brought back, but instead will possibly net a seventh-round pick in 2024.

With that being said, it should be taken on a position-by-position basis. It’s much more likely to find starting-caliber players later in the draft at some position than others. The Rams did find Scott in the seventh-round.

At the end of the day, the Rams simply need to be able to hit on their draft picks. That’s the best way to avoid an empty investment when it comes to losing free agents. Out of the 11 players selected with their compensatory picks, five of them have had an approximate value of zero. While the Rams have been able to get compensatory picks for players lost, those picks haven’t always been used on the right player.

As it currently stands, the Rams are currently projected to pick up two sixth-round compensatory picks and a seventh for the losses of Baker Mayfield, Nick Scott, and Matt Gay with Greg Gaines yet to be added.

We’ll have to wait and see whether or not the Rams are able to turn those picks into players worthy of being replacements.