|03-04-2008, 03:11 PM|
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Projecting the 2008 Compensatory Picks
Long as hell but interesting:
For the seventh consecutive year and eighth overall, I’ve attempted to project all of the compensatory draft picks that the NFL will award. In my past six projections, I’ve averaged 23.7 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 4.2 more. Unless the NFL has secretly changed its formula, this year’s projections have a chance to break my record of 26 correct and four off by one round (set in 2003 and tied in 2006). And I might even be able to match the exact order of the comp picks that I get correct or within one round, if my new formula works. I’ll explain more on that later.
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 seems to be 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 and incentives. (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 signed, 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 for 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 picks come 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 12 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 signed. In all 12 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 Atlanta will receive a net-value comp after losing three qualifying players (Patrick Kerney, Ashley Lelie and Justin Griffith) and signing three qualifying players (Ovie Mughelli, Lewis Sanders and Marcus Wilkins). The combined values of the players Atlanta lost was more than twice as much as the combined values of the players it signed.
For the first time, 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 was able to reconstruct the exact order of the comp picks that had been awarded in 2006 and 2007. I don’t know if I have the factors weighted correctly, but I’m sure it’s more accurate than simply taking educated guesses to determine player’s values, as I always had done in the past. If I can get the order of the picks correct for whichever picks I have in the correct round or off by one, then that would suggest that I have the weights about right.
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 my formula 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 (or, possibly, have incentives in his contract that would put him above the minimum); 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 2006 to 2007, the cap went up 6.99 percent, so I used a 7 percent increase when estimating the cutoff points for this year’s comp picks.
Last year, the lowest-paid players who are known to have qualified for the NFL’s comp equation signed for $750,000 per season and saw significant playing time. The highest-paid player who is known to have not qualified was Kevin McCadam, who signed for $765,000 but played only on special teams. Several players who signed for $750,000 but did not see significant playing time also did not qualify. This year, I have three players whom I consider “on the bubble” for qualifying – Chris Liewinski, Mike Doss and Marcus Wilkins. For various reasons, I’m projecting that all three players will qualify. Using my weighting formula, despite signing the smallest contract ($740,000 per year) of the three bubble players, Liewinski has the highest value of the three because he had by far the most playing time of the three. His value using my mathematical formula is more than 7 percent higher than the values of the lowest-valued players known to have qualified last year, which is why I’m projecting that Liewinski will qualify this year. Doss signed for $900,000 per season but saw very little playing time except on special teams. If he does not qualify, which is possible, he’d be by far the highest-paid player ever not to qualify. Wilkins signed for less than Doss (Wilkins signed for $816,667 per year) and played even less than Doss, but his three-year contract included escalator clauses that could raise his base salaries in the final two years of the deal. Last year, a player with a similar contract and playing time (Jamie Winborn) qualified for the equation despite having a lower value in the formula than a player who did not qualify. I’m guessing it was because of his escalator clause, which is why I’m projecting that Wilkins will qualify, too. But I could be wrong on both counts.
There are seven players this year who were close to being on the bubble but seem to be above it – Kawika Mitchell, Montrae Holland, Jeff Zgonina, Todd Johnson, Andre Davis, Kenny Wright and Vinny Ciurciu (listed from highest value to lowest value). I’m fairly confident that all of them will qualify, although Ciurciu might not. There are four players who I’m pretty sure fell just below the bubble (again, listed from highest value to lowest value) – Cameron Worrell, Paul Smith, David Macklin and Jason Whittle. Their values using the formula were lower than the values of several players who did not qualify last year, so unless I made a mistake somewhere, none of them should qualify this year. Worrell and Smith would be the most likely to qualify, if any of them do.
Last year, regardless of playing time or postseason honors, the third-round comp players had signed for at least $6.05 million per season, the fourth-round comp players had signed for $4.45 million to $5.3 million, the fifth-round comp players had signed for $3.5 million to $4.8 million, the sixth-round comp players had signed for $1.96 million to $2.6 million, and the seventh-round comp players had signed for $1.417 million or less per season. Note that the upper range for seventh-rounders could misleading because none of last year’s comp picks were for players who signed for between $1.417 million and $1.96 million. And there was an overlap for the fourth- and fifth-round values because of differences in playing time. After reconstructing the NFL’s comp equation for 2007 using my new formula, I was able to narrow down some of last year’s cutoff points by using players who qualified for the equation but did not have a comp pick awarded for them. The value range (based solely on contract size) for fifth-rounders became $3.2 million (down from $3.5 million) to $4.8 million, for sixth-rounders became $1.96 million to $3.2 million (up from $2.6 million) and for seventh-rounders became $2.025 million or less (up from $1.417 million or less). Again, there is an overlap because of differences in playing time. You’ll notice this year’s value ranges in the list a few paragraphs below this one.
As I alluded to earlier, the NFL adds non-compensatory picks if fewer than 32 comp picks are awarded. The non-compensatory picks are given, in order, to the teams that would be drafting if there were an eighth round, until the maximum of 32 has been reached. If there are 28 true comps, for example, the NFL would give additional picks to the teams that would have the first four picks in the eighth round, if there were one. This year, I’m projecting that 31 true comps will be awarded, including Atlanta’s comp pick for a net-value loss, which I mentioned earlier. Therefore, I’m projecting that Miami will receive a non-compensatory pick to fill out the maximum number of picks. If the NFL’s equation results in more than one non-compensatory pick being added, the next four teams in line to receive one would be St. Louis, the New York Jets, Atlanta and Oakland.
Here are the projected picks for 2008, along with the compensatory player, their average contract value, their games played, their games started and other notes (I’ve also noted the six picks that fall near a cutoff point and could end up in a different round) –
Washington (Derrick Dockery, $7 million per season, 16 GP/16 GS)
Cincinnati (Eric Steinbach, $6.971 million, 16/16)
Baltimore (Adalius Thomas, $6.9 million, 16/15)
Buffalo (Mike Gandy, $4.667 million, 16/16)
Baltimore (Tony Pashos, $4.7 million, 15/15)
Philadelphia (Donte Stallworth, $5.083 million, 16/9)
Green Bay (Ahman Green, $5.6 million, 6/5)
Tennessee (Drew Bennett, $5 million, 14/1) – possibly a fifth- round pick
San Diego (Donnie Edwards, $4.5 million, 16/16) – possibly a fifth- round pick
Philadelphia (Jeff Garcia, $4 million, 13/13, Pro Bowl)
N.Y. Giants (Visanthe Shiancoe, $3.6 million, 16/15) – possibly a sixth- round pick
Indianapolis (Nick Harper, $3.133 million, 14/14)
Indianapolis (Dominic Rhodes, $3.75 million, 10/2)
Philadelphia (Roderick Hood $3 million, 16/16)
Miami (Damion McIntosh, $2.95 million, 15/15)
Indianapolis (Cato June, $3 million, 16/14)
Baltimore (Ovie Mughelli, $3 million, 16/7)
Cincinnati (Kevin Kaesviharn, $2.4 million, 16/3) – possibly a seventh- round pick
Cincinnati (Kelley Washington, $2.5 million, 14/0) – possibly a seventh- round pick
Baltimore (Aubrayo Franklin, $2 million, 14/13) – possibly a sixth- round pick
Carolina (Chris Draft, $1.358 million, 16/6)
Washington (Warrick Holdman, $1.375 million, 0/0, on IR all season)
Chicago (Justin Gage, $1 million, 16/8)
Cincinnati (Anthony Wright, $1.055 million, 4/0)
Chicago (Todd Johnson, $975,000, 16/1)
Buffalo (Andre Davis, $850,000, 14/8)
Chicago (Ian Scott, $1 million, 0/0, on IR all season)
Washington (Kenny Wright, $973,333, 7/1)
Carolina (Vinny Ciurciu, $966,667, 13/0)
Indianapolis (Mike Doss, $900,000, 8/1)
Atlanta (net-value comp; signed three for $9.567 million, 47/30 and one Pro Bowl; lost three for $4.964 million, 45/13)
Miami (non-compensatory pick)
As noted, the values of six of the comp picks fell near the cutoff points between rounds, so it wouldn’t surprise me if the comp picks for Bennett and Edwards were in the fifth round (either one of them or both), if the comp pick for Shiancoe was in the sixth round, if the comp picks for Kaesviharn and Washington were in the seventh round (again, either one of them or both), or if the comp pick for Franklin was in the sixth round. Of course, other projected picks could be off by more than one round if the NFL happened to change the formula or increase the cutoff points by significantly more or less than I projected.
Here are the qualifying players lost and signed (in order of value) for the 13 teams that I’m projecting will receive true comp picks –
Lost – Adalius Thomas, Tony Pashos, Ovie Mughelli, Aubrayo Franklin.
Signed – None.
Lost – Nate Clements, London Fletcher, Mike Gandy, Andre Davis.
Signed – Derrick Dockery, Langston Walker.
Lost – Chris Draft, Vinny Ciurciu.
Signed – None.
Lost – Alfonso Boone, Justin Gage, Todd Johnson, Ian Scott.
Signed – Anthony Adams.
Lost – Eric Steinbach, Kevin Kaesviharn, Kelley Washington, Anthony Wright, Tony Stewart, Marcus Wilkins.
Signed – None.
Lost – Ahman Green, David Martin.
Signed – Frank Walker.
Lost – Nick Harper, Dominic Rhodes, Cato June, Mike Doss.
Signed – None.
Lost – Damien McIntosh, David Bowens, Sammy Morris, Jeff Zgonina.
Signed – Jay Feely, David Martin, Chris Liewinski.
Lost – Visanthe Shiancoe, Jay Feely, Frank Walker.
Signed – Kawika Mitchell, Anthony Wright.
Lost – Michael Lewis, Donte Stallworth, Jeff Garcia, Roderick Hood, Shawn Barber.
Signed – Kevin Curtis, Ian Scott.
Lost – Donnie Edwards.
Signed – None.
Lost – Drew Bennett, Bobby Wade, Robaire Smith.
Signed – Nick Harper, Justin Gage.
Lost – Derrick Dockery, T.J. Duckett, Warrick Holdman, Kenny Wright.
Signed – London Fletcher.
Anyone else who was lost or signed by one of those teams last offseason doesn’t qualify for the equation, for one reason or another.
If I’m wrong about any of the three bubble players (Chris Liewinski, Mike Doss and Marcus Wilkins) or any of the three players closes to the bubble (Vinny Ciurciu, Cameron Worrell and Paul Smith), that would affect the comp picks. Here’s what would happen in each instance –
If Chris Liewinski does not qualify for the equation and Vinny Ciurciu and Mike Doss do qualify, Miami would get a seventh-round comp pick for Jeff Zgonina between Chicago’s pick for Justin Gage and Cincinnati’s pick for Anthony Wright, and Miami would not get a non-compensatory pick at the end of the seventh round.
If Chris Liewinski and Vinny Ciurciu do not qualify and Mike Doss does qualify, Miami would get a seventh-round comp pick for Jeff Zgonina between Chicago’s pick for Justin Gage and Cincinnati’s pick for Anthony Wright, Carolina would not receive a seventh-round comp pick for Ciurciu, and Miami would keep its non-compensatory pick at the end of the seventh round.
If Mike Doss does not qualify and Vinny Ciurciu and Chris Liewinski do qualify, Indianapolis would not receive a seventh-round comp pick for Doss, and St. Louis would receive a non-compensatory pick after Miami’s non-compensatory pick, in order to fill out the maximum number of picks.
If Vinny Ciurciu does not qualify and Mike Doss and Chris Liewinski do qualify, Carolina would not receive a seventh-round comp pick for Ciurciu, and St. Louis would receive a non-compensatory pick at the end of the seventh round, after Miami's non-compensatory pick.
If Mike Doss and Vinny Ciurciu do not qualify and Chris Liewinski does qualify,
Carolina would not receive a seventh-round comp pick for Ciurciu, Indianapolis would not receive a seventh-round comp pick for Doss, and St. Louis and the New York Jets would receive non-compensatory picks after Miami’s non-compensatory pick, in order to fill out the maximum number of picks.
If neither Chris Liewinski nor Mike Doss qualify and Vinny Ciurciu does qualify, Miami would get a seventh-round comp pick for Jeff Zgonina between Chicago’s pick for Justin Gage and Cincinnati’s pick for Anthony Wright, Indianapolis would not receive a seventh-round comp pick for Doss, and Miami would keep its non-compensatory pick at the end of the seventh round.
If Chris Liewinski, Mike Doss and Vinny Ciurciu all do not qualify, Miami would get a seventh-round comp pick for Jeff Zgonina between Chicago’s pick for Justin Gage and Cincinnati’s pick for Anthony Wright, Carolina would not receive a seventh-round comp pick for Ciurciu, Indianapolis would not receive a seventh-round comp pick for Doss, and St. Louis would receive a non-compensatory pick after Miami’s non-compensatory pick, in order to fill out the maximum number of picks.
If Marcus Wilkins does not qualify, Atlanta would receive a third-round comp pick for Patrick Kerney instead of a net-value comp pick in the seventh round. The third-round comp pick for Kerney would be between Cincinnati’s pick for Steinbach and Baltimore’s pick for Thomas.
If Cameron Worrell does qualify for the equation and there are fewer than 32 comp picks awarded for higher-valued players, Chicago would receive a seventh-round comp pick for Worrell, and the last of any possible non-compensatory picks at the end of the seventh round would not be awarded. The seventh-round comp pick for Worrell would be after the comp picks awarded for every other player except Paul Smith but before Atlanta's net-value comp pick (if Atlanta gets a net-value comp pick) or any non-compensatory picks, if they’re awarded. If Chicago’s pick for Worrell is the 32nd-highest-valued comp pick awarded, Atlanta would not receive a net-value pick if it qualified for one. If there are 32 comp picks awarded for players of higher value than Worrell, Chicago would not receive a comp pick for him, even if he does qualify for the equation.
If Paul Smith qualifies, Cameron Worrell does not qualify and there have been fewer than 32 comp picks awarded, St. Louis would receive a seventh-round comp pick for Smith, and the last of any possible non-compensatory picks at the end of the seventh round would not be awarded. The seventh-round comp pick for Smith would be the final one awarded for a player but before Atlanta's net-value comp pick (if Atlanta gets a net-value comp pick) or any non-compensatory picks, if they’re awarded. If St. Louis’ pick for Smith is the 32nd-highest-valued comp pick awarded, Atlanta would not receive a net-value pick if it qualified for one. If there are 32 comp picks awarded for players of higher value than Smith, St. Louis would not receive a comp pick for him, even if he does qualify for the equation.
Under no circumstances will more than 32 picks be awarded, so a combination of the above scenarios or other mistakes in my projection might prevent one or more of the lowest-valued picks in my projection from being awarded, if they’re not one of the 32 highest-valued comp picks.
The NFL typically awards the compensatory picks on the second day of the Annual Meeting, which would be March 31 this year (the meeting will be March 30 to April 3 in Palm Beach, Fla.). After the comp picks are announced, I’ll review what the NFL did and where my projections were incorrect (although I’ve already presented some other possibilities).
Feel free to post these projections on other message boards, as long as you give proper credit. Because I cannot register for and regularly visit every single message board where my projections are posted by others, please encourage anyone who has questions for me on other message boards to post them in the comments at adamjt13.blog.com, where I also posted my projections.