How NFL compensatory draft picks are assigned and distributed has never been fully explained but OverTheCap’s Nick Korte is considered the guru of projections for his work in this area. On Monday, Korte updated his projections for the 2022 draft cycle—the NFL typically releases the official list in late February—and the Detroit Lions are expected to receive three compensatory draft picks, including the highest one awarded.
For those unfamiliar with how compensatory picks work, the NFL, in its ever-striving efforts to level the playing field amongst its 32 teams, awards teams with additional draft capital (in this case, picks in the 2022 NFL Draft) if a team loses more value in free agency than they gain in the most previous offseason (2021).
OverTheCap has a detailed explanation of how the entire process works, but here are the basics:
- Step 1: Assign free agents values. Value includes factors such as a player’s contract, snaps played in the season after signing the contract, and any post-season awards/honors.
- Step 2: Once value is determined, the players are ranked in a hierarchy based on that value.
- Step 3: Cancelations occur. At this step, when a player who was added to a team in free agency carries an equal value to a player lost in free agency, they will cancel each other out.
- Step 4: A team may not be rewarded any more than four compensatory picks. That means that even if a team is in line to receive five or more picks, the picks beyond the top four are discarded.
- Step 5: The NFL only awards 32 compensatory picks each year. Therefore, teams may be in line to receive picks that fall lower than spot 32 on the hierarchy value-based chart, but those additional picks are also discarded.
- Note: Only players who leave a team after their contract expires qualify. If a team cuts a player before their contract expires, that player is not factored into the compensatory formula for the team who released him or for the team that signed him. For example, last offseason, wide receiver Tyrell Williams was released by the Raiders and signed by the Lions, therefore he is not factored into this year’s compensatory formula in any fashion. The Lions also released him this season, so once again, he will not factor into the equation for 2023.
In 2021, the Lions lost five players that received a notable value, Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, Jarrad Davis, Jamal Agnew, and Matt Prater. They only signed two players of value, Jamaal Williams and Breshad Perriman (Yes, Perriman does still count against the Lions, even though they released him).
Per OverTheCap’s cancelation charts, Williams and Perriman cancel out the Lions' lowest two players in the hierarchy chart, Agnew and Prater, leaving the Lions with three players still in the mix for compensatory picks, including Golladay holding the highest value on the chart—his contract is the driving factor in him maintaining this spot.
Here’s how OTC displayed it in the article:
As cancellations narrow down the list, all three of the Lions' picks remain in the top-32 players on the hierarchy list. There are several moving parts still in play for the final seedings, but none of them are projected to impact the Lions, based on where their compensatory picks are projected to land.
In the end, based on the latest projection by Korte, the Lions are expected to add the following picks:
- Golladay returns a third-round pick, estimated to be No. 97
- Jones returns a fifth-round pick, estimated to be No. 174
- Davis returns a sixth-round pick, estimated to be No. 217
Draft picks are still being finalized, as the NFL combs through trades with conditional clauses in them to determine which ones were met. Because those “conditions” are not often made public, it’s difficult to say for certain how many picks the Lions will end up with, in this draft cycle.
But after you factor in the projected compensatory picks, they are likely to have between eight and 10 picks to work with, including five in the top-97 and three in the top-34 selections.