Taking a look at the Falcons compensatory picks

cgv 0426185010 2018 nfl draft

According to Adam Schefter, the Falcons were issued three compensatory selections — two fifths and a sixth — bringing their total number of picks in the 2021 NFL draft to nine.

Basically, if the Falcons lose more players who qualify as compensatory free agents than they sign during free agency, they will receive compensatory picks in the following NFL draft. Players that are cut wouldn’t qualify; only those free to leave their old team become compensatory free agents. The Falcons lost Austin HooperVic BeasleyDe’Vondre CampbellWes Schweitzer, and Adrian Clayborn last offseason while bringing in Dante Fowler. I estimated that Hooper and Fowler would cancel each other out, which would result in four compensatory picks from the fifth through the seventh round, but I figured wrong.

The two fifth-round picks will be #35 and #38 in that round, while the sixth-round selection will be #35. To give readers an idea of how valuable those picks are, let me demonstrate using the Rich Hill Trade Value Model. Trading all three compensatory picks could net the Falcons a mid-rounder in the fourth, close to another top 100 pick. Fontenot could use the selections to acquire as many rookies as possible for their cheap contracts.

Below is my earlier explanation of the league’s compensatory pick system.

The NFL’s use of compensatory draft picks confuses most fans, so I will attempt to simplify the process that determines compensatory picks and speculate on the Falcons’ selections. These picks are distributed among the end of rounds three through seven and are awarded to teams that lose certain unrestricted free agents. 

The formula created to determine the compensatory picks was developed by the NFL Management Council and has only recently been made available to the public — via the 2020 Collective Bargaining Agreement (pdf version). But what is most relevant to this topic is Appendix V of the 2020 CBA, which OverTheCap has an excerpt from.

[A] Compensatory Free Agent (“CFA”) shall be defined as an Unrestricted Free Agent (“UFA”) who: (i) signed with a new Club during the prior free agency signing period […] prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, on the Monday following the NFL Draft for that League Year1 […]; and (ii) ranked within the top 35%2 of all League players […]. Clubs that lose to other Clubs a greater number of CFAs than they sign or acquire from other Clubs shall be eligible to receive a Compensatory Draft Selection in the College Draft to be held in the following League Year subject to the provisions set forth below.

1 Prior to 2015, this date was June 1, and from 2015-2019 this date was the second Tuesday after the NFL Draft.
2 Under the 2011 CBA, this threshold was the top 50%.

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