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Understanding Compensatory Picks in the NFL Draft: Shedding Light on Bonus Selections

In the upcoming 2024 NFL draft, a total of 257 selections are scheduled to take place.

Of those selections, 34 will be compensatory picks, which amounts to more than an entire round of draft picks. These compensatory selections are awarded to teams that have lost more or higher-quality players in free agency than they have acquired. Additionally, special compensatory draft picks are granted to teams that have minority assistants or personnel executives who have been hired as head coaches or general managers by other teams.

For the 2024 NFL draft, a total of 14 different teams have been granted compensatory selections. The draft itself will be hosted in Detroit.

Compensatory draft picks are allocated within Rounds 3 through 7 and are determined by a detailed system outlined in the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement. This system identifies “compensatory free agents” (CFAs) as unrestricted free agents who sign with a new team and rank within the top 35% of all League players based on a proprietary grading metric. The grading formula considers factors such as player salary, awards, and playing time.

The number and quality of CFAs lost and acquired by a team dictate the compensatory draft picks they receive. The NFL’s management council oversees the development of the compensatory draft pick grading formula.

An amendment to the CBA in 2020 introduced special compensatory draft picks for teams that see minority assistant coaches or personnel executives hired as head coaches or primary football executives by other teams. These special compensatory picks aim to promote equal employment opportunities within the league.

Historically, some of the most impactful players in NFL history have been selected with compensatory picks. Notably, Tom Brady, widely regarded as the greatest player of all time, was drafted by the New England Patriots in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL draft. Other notable players include Brian Dawkins, Larry Allen, Dak Prescott, Justin Simmons, Kyle Juszczyk, and Aaron Jones, all of whom have made significant contributions to their respective teams.

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