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Four Compensatory Picks Give Cowboys Nine Total Picks In 2016 NFL Draft

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The Cowboys played their cards right in free agency and got four comp picks in return, but can they get value from those picks?

Two days into free agency in March last year, I wrote that "if the Cowboys play their cards right in free agency this year, they'll likely get four extra draft picks in 2016."

Today, as the 2015 season has come to a close, it is clear that the Cowboys played their cards right and are going to have four compensatory draft picks in the 2016 NFL draft.

Every year the NFL awards 32 compensatory draft picks that supplement the 224 draft picks in the regular draft.

The compensatory draft picks are awarded to teams losing more or better compensatory free agents than they acquired. The number of comp picks a team receives equals the net loss of compensatory free agents up to a maximum of four per team. Importantly, not every free agent lost or acquired automatically qualifies as a compensatory free agent.

Compensatory free agents are determined by the NFL Management Council using a "secret" formula based on salary, playing time and postseason honors. Over time, many draftniks have tried to crack the formula (Blogger AdamJT13 in particular deserves a lot of credit), and today with the likes of Overthecap.com we are very close to accurately predicting every comp pick.

In layman's terms, this is how the allocation of comp picks works:

  • Comp picks are awarded to teams that have lost more compensatory free agents than they signed in the previous year, up to a maximum of four.
  • Each signed player cancels out a player lost. A player signed cancels out a player lost with either the same or next lower contract value. When there is no player lost with a lower contract, the player lost with the next higher contract is canceled out.
  • The round in which the comp pick is awarded is determined to a large degree by the contract value of the player lost, with some adjustments for playing time and postseason honors.

But not every free agent lost or signed automatically qualifies as a compensatory free agent. Players who have been cut by their old team (e.g. CB Corey White), players who were subsequently cut after signing with a new team (e.g. Anthony Spencer), restricted or exclusive rights free agents that were not tendered (e.g. CB Sterling Moore), players whose contract value is below about $1 million per year (e.g. LB Keith Rivers), and players signed after June 1 won’t impact the number of comp picks for their former or new team.

With all the technicalities out of the way, and based partly on the Overthecap.com data, here's how the comp picks for the Cowboys are likely to shake out this year:

Comp Picks 2016

Based on their annual contract values, Hardy, Gachkar and McFadden cancel out three of the seven qualifying UFAs lost by the Cowboys, which leaves the Cowboys with four comp picks in 2016. In total, that gives the Cowboys nine picks in the 2016 NFL. The following table details which nine picks the Cowboys have in 2016 (in black) and the draft picks they've traded away (in red).

2016 Draft Pick Overview

There was some talk late last year about making compensatory picks tradable, but that is not going to happen in 2016 after all, so the Cowboys will have to use their four comp picks exactly where they will end up being slotted.

With four comp picks in 2016, the Cowboys continue to solidify their position as one of the most successful teams at garnering comp picks. Since 1994, the first year that compensatory draft picks were awarded, the Cowboys will have received 37 comp picks, the second most in the league. The table below shows the total comp picks by team since 1994, including OTC's projection for the number of comp picks in 2016.

Comp Picks by NFL team, 1994-2016
Team 94-'15 2016 Total Team 94-'15 2016 Total Team 94-'15 2016 Total
Baltimore 44 3 47 Cincinnati 24 24 Miami 17 17
Dallas 33 4 37 NY Giants 23 23 Minnesota 17 17
Green Bay 35 2 37 Detroit 19 2 21 Oakland 17 17
New England 29 4 33 Indianapolis 21 21 Carolina 16 16
Pittsburgh 30 1 31 Jacksonville 19 19 Denver 13 3 16
St. Louis 31 31 Kansas City 19 19 NY Jets 13 13
Philadelphia 30 30 San Diego 18 1 19 Houston 12 12
Tennessee 30 30 Arizona 17 1 18 Washington 12 12
San Francisco 25 4 29 Atlanta 18 18 Cleveland 6 4 10
Seattle 24 3 27 Tampa Bay 18 18 New Orleans 10 10
Buffalo 26 26 Chicago 17 17

The Cowboys have been easily one of the best teams at securing comp picks in the past, though that flow of comp picks had been reduced to a trickle over the last few years, and the players they've brought in with their comp picks since 2009 haven't exactly developed into mainstays of the roster:

2009: K David Buehler (5th round, 172nd overall pick), TE John Phillips (6-208)
2011: OC Bill Nagy (7-252)
2012: DB Matt Johnson (4-135)
2014: DB Ahmad Dixon (7-248), DT Ken Bishop (7-251), CB Terrance Mitchell (7-254)

Then again, the first ever comp pick the Cowboys used landed them Larry Allen in 1994.

More of that, please.