What are compensatory draft picks and why do NFL teams get them?

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What are compensatory draft picks and why do NFL teams get them? originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

The 2023 NFL Draft is quickly approaching, and with that comes a slew of unique quirks and traditions for the three-day long event.

In the leadup to the draft, teams will start to take stock of their options, and the final touch will come with the awarding of compensatory picks. But what are compensatory picks? The practice, which is meant to balance the level of competition for teams that suffer major losses in free agency, was first introduced in the NFL in 1994 and is also seen in other leagues, such as the NHL and MLB.

With the NFL offseason just around the corner, here’s a look at compensatory picks.

What is a compensatory pick?

The NFL offers draft placements – known as compensatory picks – designated from rounds No. 3 through 7 in the event of specific personnel changes. These include the net loss of compensatory free agents or the hiring of a minority employee as the head coach or general manager with a different team.

How many compensatory picks are there each year?

Like many of the details surrounding compensatory picks, there isn’t a hard and fast number of picks awarded each year.

In 2022, the league awarded 39 compensatory picks to 16 different teams. The year before, 36 compensatory picks were handed out to 17 clubs.

However, no team can receive more than four picks per draft. If a team still qualifies for more than four compensatory picks following calculations, they will be awarded the four highest remaining selections.

How do NFL draft compensatory picks work?

When awarding compensatory picks, the NFL uses a formula that accounts for a player’s average salary per year (APY), snap count and postseason awards. The exact specifics of the formula are confidential, but we do know it also takes into consideration a player’s history of playing time (or lack thereof).

Who has compensatory picks in the 2023 NFL Draft?

We likely won’t know the final breakdown of compensatory picks for the 2023 NFL Draft until well into March.

OverTheCap.com currently projects 36 compensatory picks awarded in 2023. According to their list, the San Francisco 49ers lead the pack with an estimated seven compensatory picks. The Los Angeles Rams and Kansas City Chiefs come in a tie for second with four, followed by the Arizona Cardinals, New England Patriots and Dallas Cowboys with three.

The Washington Commanders, Las Vegas Raiders, New York Giants and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are all estimated to earn two compensatory picks. Rounding out the projection chart is the Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints and Cleveland Browns, each with one pick, respectively.