Compensatory picks are a reward for smart teams

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When the NFL implemented compensatory draft picks in 1994, the idea was that the extra picks would lend a hand to the teams that got out-spent in free agency, which was then new in the league: Compensatory picks go to teams that lose more in free agency than they gain, and so the picks were envisioned as a safeguard against the rich raiding the rosters of the poor.

It hasn’t worked out that way, however. In a league with revenue sharing and a salary cap, there’s not much of a distinction between the rich and the poor.

Instead, compensatory picks have turned out to reward smart teams. The teams that have been wise about not over-spending in free agency and keeping themselves in good salary cap shape are the ones that keep getting lots of compensatory picks, while the teams that overspend in free agency are the ones that don’t receive compensatory picks.

As a result, the consistently good teams tend to be the teams that consistently get a lot of compensatory picks. And the teams that consistently try to spend themselves out of last place are the ones that don’t get a lot of compensatory picks.

The list of teams that have received the most compensatory picks since 1994 is pretty similar to the list of the best teams in football since 1994: The Ravens have received the most compensatory picks, and they’ve won two Super Bowls. The Packers have received the second-most, and they’ve also won two Super Bowls. The Patriots are fourth, and they’ve won five Super Bowls. The 10 teams that have had the most compensatory picks have won most of the Super Bowls since 1994, with a total of 14 titles for those 10 teams.

At the other end of the spectrum, the teams that don’t receive a lot of compensatory picks tend to be bad teams: There are 14 teams that have received fewer than 20 compensatory picks since the system started in 1994, and those 14 teams have won a combined two Super Bowls.

Compensatory picks help teams stock their roster with low-cost depth, which is helpful, but the real reason teams with a lot of compensatory picks do well is that teams with a lot of compensatory picks are good at managing their salary caps. A system that was supposed to reward the poor at the expense of the rich has actually rewarded the smart at the expense of the dumb.

69 responses to “Compensatory picks are a reward for smart teams

  1. Well, the Pats 5 titles help skew things but anyway you’re overanalyzing – this is a function of GM, and basically better GMs mean better chance of success. And who never gets recognized as the most successful GM since 2000: Belichick.

  2. Yes my dumb giants thank the intelligent jets, rams, and dolphins for letting go of Snacks, Janoris, and Vernon. We didnt even make the playoffs while they did, oh wait… Compensatory picks are for dumb teams who dont know how to manage their cap. The one exception is the Pats, because Bill is great at plugging in anyone in his system.

  3. “A system that was supposed to reward the poor at the expense of the rich has actually rewarded the smart at the expense of the dumb.”

    To be fair, it’s tough to develop a system that doesn’t…

  4. Packers are winning because of their compensatory picks??
    Really???

    I smell B.S.
    They won 2 titles due to have TWO Hall of Fame QBs for the past 25 years!

    No Favre, no Rodgers…no Super Bowls!
    Period

    Has absolutely nothing to do with their compensatory picks
    Name ONE star player that was drafted with a COMPENSATORY draft pick
    One player that made the difference between being a 9-7/10-6 team vs a Super Bowl champ…..

  5. The 49ers always seem to have a lot of extra picks. It just goes to show you, it all comes down to how well you evaluate talent. You can draft 12 lousy players and not get any better.

  6. Tom Brady comes to mind as a comp pick in 2000, but I digress.

    Very interesting post, btw. If those stats don’t make 100% of the GM’s change the way they do business during FA, then nothing will.

  7. yet Packer manager Ted Thompson gets ripped every year for being tight in free agency…. A huge key is the quarterback play. Take Manning, Brady, Rodgers, Favre out of the picture and the Superbowl totals would look different. They help make teams remain contenders.

  8. Name ONE star player that was drafted with a COMPENSATORY draft pick
    One player that made the difference between being a 9-7/10-6 team vs a Super Bowl champ…..

    ======================

    4b. JOSH SITTON, G, Central Florida, 135
    (free agency compensatory pick)

  9. For example this year, the PATS will lose Bennett, and Mike Floyd, for that they will get two#3 next yrs draft..watch

  10. Comp picks use a formula that places heavy weight on the new teams contract with the player. If it is a very large contract, the team is likely to get a 3rd rd pick.

    The Pats will not get a 3 for Floyd as he has proven virtually nothing and I doubt they get one for Bennett either as he will not have the demand you invision in terms of dollars. I would be surprised if he ended up as 5th round value.

  11. Pats have four rings and are fourth but the Ravens are first and have two rings. So how does this prove anything? Did the compensatory picks make the field? Start? Do anything of significance?

  12. Compensatory picks are very nice, but they’re still picks. A crapshoot. It means you let a good player walk that you couldn’t or didn’t want to pay. Would the Pats rather have A TALIB or some 3rd rnd pick?

  13. “A system that was supposed to reward the poor at the expense of the rich has actually rewarded the smart at the expense of the dumb.”

    As it should be and always will be, in the NFL and in life.

  14. patriottony says:
    Feb 24, 2017 6:22 PM
    For example this year, the PATS will lose Bennett, and Mike Floyd, for that they will get two#3 next yrs draft..watch
    …………………..
    They won sniff a 3rd for either, will be lucky to get one 4th.

  15. Spending big in FA can pay dividends if the money is spent wisely. Look no further than the Giants and the Raiders. Two of last year’s biggest spenders and two teams that showed improvment.

  16. Pats won’t lose Floyd since they can sign him for very little.
    Very little might be money in his canteen .

  17. Pats DO have a crapload of FA’s this year… Be interesting to see who they retain & who they let go…..
    I honestly have no idea who they may be looking at as available FA’s from other teams, however I do hope, if they do bring someone on board it’s Jack Doyle, TE from Indy…

  18. Pats DO have a crapload of FA’s this year… Be interesting to see who they retain & who they let go…..
    I honestly have no idea who they may be looking at as available FA’s from other teams, however I do hope, if they do bring someone on board it’s Jack Doyle, TE from Indy…

  19. “Would the Pats rather have A TALIB or some 3rd rnd pick?”

    It depends totally on the cost of the veteran. Obviously Talib wanted too much and they didn’t value him that highly.

    Would also depend on how Belichick valued the players likely to fall to the bottom of the 3rd round and still be ones he wanted.

  20. “The teams that have been wise about not over-spending in free agency and keeping themselves in good salary cap shape are the …

    Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots

    “A system that was supposed to reward the poor at the expense of the rich has actually rewarded the smart at the expense of the dumb …

    i.e., your team

  21. And THIS sums up perfectly the fallacy of “The Goodell Doctrine” of parity in the NFL

    To maximize profits the NFL owners want to all have a “turn” winning the championship and reaping the rewards and profits. In so doing – keeping all teams perpetual contenders – they would maximize profits.

    The “smart” coaches/GMs/owners however do their best to gain an advantage within the rules. Fans of teams not smart enough to do this label the other successful teams “cheaters” but it’s just the opposite – it’s playing smart within the rules.

    The downside of this is that Goodell doesn’t like to be made to look like a fool – and quite a few owners are upset that “parity” has yet to bring them success on a silver platter.

    So of course Goodell will take matters into his own hands to force the issue of parity, even going so far as to fabricate several “-gates” just to appease owners and try his best to prevent dynasties and force parity.

    He failed pretty epicly when it comes to Framegate, with the Garapollo trade bringing back the lost draft picks and more – but then again, what do you expect from a guy who didn’t know PSI drops in the cold.

  22. bonerfartblog says:
    Feb 24, 2017 6:15 PM

    Name ONE star player that was drafted with a COMPENSATORY draft pick
    One player that made the difference between being a 9-7/10-6 team vs a Super Bowl champ…..

    —————————————————————–

    There’s a guy named Tom Brady…

  23. As was said earlier you over analyzed this…

    The better teams have more good players and more depth. With the salary cap, you cannot keep them all, so some of your best players leave each year. You cannot replace the players with the same value in free agency, due to the salary cap. But you have depth that the lessor teams don’t, so you can sustain these loses. In exchange those loses the league gives you more picks, which allows you to continue building depth, and teaching players their place in the scheme, or tweaking the scheme for your new players.

    Compensatory picks allow the better teams to maintain their position, so long as they have an elite coach, an elite QB, and an offensive line to protect the QB. With the additional pics you can also make more mistakes, and take more risks on players.

  24. Steelers are always smart when it comes to receiving extra comp picks. There will be one or two more superbowl wins in Big Bens future. The defense just needs to keep improving with a few more good draft picks.

  25. Easy to say all this, but when you’re chasing talent and wins, you have to do something. It’s all about the draft. Draft well and smart and your team will flourish. Draft bad and you’re my beloved Bills

  26. Great GM build better rosters that have more success less injuries & timing. The Bills play the Pats one week at their house with a hurt Brady and the Bills win 17-0, Buffalo gets drilled at home with a healthy Brady.

    Bills haven’t been good since Polian and Whaley is a complete fool besides selling alcoholics a weekend party, which isn’t that hard.

  27. Another reason could be that these teams have franchise qbs who eat a lot of cap. Teams that win are usually raided in free agency and can’t afford to keep everyone but don’t care because they have that qb.

  28. There are several types of “smart”. There’s street smart, book smart, football smart, etc. The 49ers and Browns always have extra picks because they’re either street smart or book smart. The Patriots have extra picks because they’re also street smart and book smart, but they have success with personnel moves because they’re also football smart. Actually, a lot of losing teams have brilliantly smart people working for them, but they’re not football smart. So I guess the only “smart” that matters is the one that you can utilize to win football games. That’s also why people that don’t possess football smarts think the draft is a crap shoot. For the football smart people, the draft is much closer to an exact science.

  29. belichick is a genius

    period

    the pats management secrets books 1 and 2, written by a
    harvard economics professor, have been readily
    available for anyone to read for over a decade.

    when it comes to roi, leverage, etc,
    no one in the history of the cap era has mastered
    the art form better than belichick and it is not close.

    how he has not been more respected in this
    capacity is a joke and a travesty.

    completely irresponsible by the media

    meanwhile, they fawn over overrated gms
    like ozzie newsome

  30. So instead of Casey Hayward helping them in the nfc championship, they get an extra 5th rd. pick to use four months later.

    I’m sure packer fans think that’s smart!

  31. They’re smart in earning the compensatory picks.

    More darts. More chances in the draft, More chances for success.

    I’d like to see them done away with and force teams to retain their free agents.

  32. ” Pat’s have four rings”??? ?????
    Pat’s have FIVE rings!!!
    ————————————–

    To be fair, with so many rings I sometimes lose track of the total myself. I also worry about damage to Brady’s throwing arm with all that weight in the off-season.

  33. the bengals get comp picks every year and what do they have to show for this 1 playoff win in last 25 years…..real smart!

  34. steelcurtainn says:
    Feb 24, 2017 11:04 PM
    Steelers are always smart when it comes to receiving extra comp picks. There will be one or two more superbowl wins in Big Bens future. The defense just needs to keep improving with a few more good draft picks.
    ——————–
    And with NFL HQ’s continuing help, you just might get there.

  35. beachsidejames says:
    Feb 25, 2017 9:59 AM

    Getting the extra picks can’t hurt… Curious to see if the Fins get any picks.
    ————————————————————-
    31 teams moved up in the 2016 draft when the Patriots had their 1st round pick stolen.

    31 teams will move up in the 2017 draft when the Patriots will have their 4th round pick stolen.

    All while the NFL keeps the PSI information from the 2015 season secret because it shows that 31 teams cheated.

  36. It isn’t the picks themselves that cause them to win, it is the reason they get the picks that makes them smart and winners. They are teams that won’t overpay guys to the detriment of the rest of the roster.

  37. Frazier28/7 says:
    Feb 25, 2017 10:16 AM
    So instead of Casey Hayward helping them in the nfc championship, they get an extra 5th rd. pick to use four months later.

    I’m sure packer fans think that’s smart!

    ==============

    Would that have change all the injuries in the secondary and the fact Heyward was constantly hurt with up and down years? How’d that Sam Bradford trade work out?

  38. blowfishes says:
    Feb 24, 2017 7:54 PM
    Sorry but any team that has a free agent and makes no effort what-so-ever to resign them shouldn’t receive any form of compensation.
    ————————————
    They make an effort, the problem is that you can’t afford to keep all your free agent talent. There’s this thing called the salary cap that you have to manage. The author and his view is also shared by Florio. What they don’t seem to understand is that the blueprint is there for all to see and copy. If the dumb/bad teams don’t understand and implement it, that’s their fault. There are no quick fixes for bad teams, take your time and do it right.

  39. tedmurph says:
    Feb 24, 2017 11:04 PM
    Don’t be ridiculous harrison. Talib is the best CB in the NFL

    ————————–

    But he is not necessarily the best value on the dollar at CB. And thats what the Patriots were considering when they let him go. You can acyually gain advantage over an opponent by having them bust the bank to steal one of your better players.

  40. As a lifelong Packer fan, and being forced to read the Viking troll comments for years and years, usually smiling at their stupidity, I’ve come to the conclusion that the Vikings and the trollers aren’t too smart. That’s why they don’t understand the article. Have a nice day ariani.

  41. vikingjack73 says:
    Feb 24, 2017 5:54 PM
    Packers are winning because of their compensatory picks??
    Really???

    I smell B.S.
    They won 2 titles due to have TWO Hall of Fame QBs for the past 25 years!

    No Favre, no Rodgers…no Super Bowls!
    Period

    Has absolutely nothing to do with their compensatory picks
    Name ONE star player that was drafted with a COMPENSATORY draft pick
    One player that made the difference between being a 9-7/10-6 team vs a Super Bowl champ…..

    //////////////////////

    We Packers fans LOVE living inside your head. It’s so roomy in here……..

  42. There’s still time for the NFL to release the PSI information that was collected during the 2015 season. Everyone having more than 3 working brain cells already understands that the PSI information will show that cold weather causes footballs to lose PSI naturally.

    That information would justify giving the Patriots back their stolen 2017 4th round pick. The NFL can then make amends for Brady missing 25% of the 2016 season and for the stolen 2016 first round pick. Fair compensation would be for the Patriots to receive the top 2 picks in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft.

  43. Its gaming the system.

    Its no different than hitting your drive on the opposite fairway in order to cut a dog leg.

    Its cheap and its corny, its a loophole that needs to be closed. It serves no purpose other than to make teams trade for guys for a couple months to grab a 3rd round pick its obnoxious.

  44. This stat just piggy backs off successful teams. Super bowl winning teams can’t retain half of their talent.

  45. But he is not necessarily the best value on the dollar at CB. And thats what the Patriots were considering when they let him go. You can acyually gain advantage over an opponent by having them bust the bank to steal one of your better players.

    ——————————————————————
    Sorry, not buying that one either. Because then they went out and paid Revis instead. They probably did that thinking it was an upgrade, and because of the fact that Talib kept getting hurt at the wrong times when he was here(AFCC gms). Hind sight is 20/20, and they did win the SBowl with Revis. However, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that Revis was one and done here. Meanwhile, Talib has been great in Denver and relatively injury free. Well, except for the time he shot himself. Maybe if Talib was still with NE instead of Denver, they don’t lose the AFCC gm by 2 pts. We’ll never know. I still think that’s a guy they should have paid. And GGriffin is a complete whiff.

  46. My mistake, Talib was on the Pats when they lost to Denver. That’s when Welker took him out. I’ll stick with the rest of it though

  47. @bonerfartblog says:
    4b. JOSH SITTON, G, Central Florida, 135
    (free agency compensatory pick)
    —–
    Sitton was CUT by the Packers in the final roster week, no compensatory pick for cutting a player.

  48. What would viking fans know about winning Superbowls…

    Trying to trash on the Packers?
    Trying to tell Patriots “How it’s done” when your team has never done it before, ever!

    Go away losers. Shut up and let the championship teams talk.

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