The Bucs drafted QB Joe Hamilton with the 234th pick last year; thanks to a compensatory award, they'll have that same pick again in 2001
The math of the NFL draft should be easy: 31 teams, seven rounds, sounds like 217 picks.
Of course, it isn't.
This year's draft will include 246 picks, a function of 31 compensatory selections that were awarded by the NFL management council on Monday. That the total of extra picks and the total of NFL teams are the same is merely a coincidence.
Instead, compensatory choices in the draft are awarded on the basis of free agents gained and lost the previous year. A provision of the 1993 Collective Bargaining Agreement that ushered in the era of free agency in the NFL was this draft-based attempt to compensate teams that have been weakened by free agent defections.
The formula is at once simple and complex. The simple part: the number of compensatory picks a team receives is nothing more than the number of free agents lost the previous year minus the number gained. Tampa Bay will receive one compensatory pick this year because it lost two free agents (Hardy Nickerson and Trent Dilfer) and signed one (Jeff Christy).
It should be noted that only those players that fall into the 'compensatory' category of free agents fit into the formula. Thus, for instance, Randall McDaniel wasn't included in the formula because he became a free agent not by his contract running out but by being released.
The complex part: ranking the picks. The league awarded 31 picks to 16 teams who came out on the negative end of the ledger in that simple free agency movement formula above, but then it had to decide where to slot those extra picks, beginning with the end of the third round. Here the management council uses a pre-arranged formula based on the players' salary, playing time and postseason honors. It is also possible for a team to receive a compensatory pick without having a net loss in free agents, if the players they lost were ranked a certain amount higher than the players they gained. This occurred this year for the Kansas City Chiefs, who will make an extra pick after the seventh round.
Likewise, Tampa Bay's compensatory pick has been designated as a post-seventh-rounder. Specifically, it will be the third extra pick at the end of the seventh round, or the 234th selection overall. Coincidentally, the Bucs had the 234th selection in the draft last year, as well, and used it on Georgia Tech quarterback Joe Hamilton. Obviously, despite the low slotting of this pick in the overall draft picture, it could end up being a valuable addition to the store.
With this compensatory pick, the Bucs' overall draft choice total goes back up to 10, where it had been briefly before the Jeff Gooch trade with St. Louis was rescinded last week. Tampa Bay now owns its own selection in each of the seventh round, the one compensatory pick, Jacksonville's choice in round six and Atlanta's selection in round seven.
The big winners in this year's compensatory awards where Buffalo and Jacksonville, two teams that walked off with four extra picks each. Each will get one extremely valuable extra pick after the third round (as will Dallas, which has three comps overall) and the Bills will also make two extra selections following round six. In the NFC Central, the Minnesota Vikings are the only team with multiple compensatory picks, gaining two selections after round four thanks to the losses of Jeff Christy, Duane Clemons, Jeff George, Jimmy Hitchcock, which were balanced only by the gains of Craig Sauer and Lemanski Hall.
The league first began awarding compensatory draft choices in 1993. Since, the Cowboys have received the most extra picks overall, with 21. Buffalo and Green Bay have had 16 compensatory awards each and Pittsburgh is next at 13. Tampa Bay has rarely seen much benefit from this clause, receiving just five compensatory picks in those eight years, tying for the 20th-lowest total.