2012 NFL Compensatory Draft Picks by Team

By Chris Malumphy

The myth continues that the NFL Draft is designed to help weak teams become strong and to advance former Commissioner Pete Rozelle's goal of establishing parity so that on any given Sunday our favorite underdog has a fighting chance against their big bully rivals. But the myth does not mirror reality and hasn't since compensatory picks were inaugurated and salary caps were established.

Both salary caps and compensatory picks are designed to constrain player costs. That salary caps do so is easily understood. That compensatory picks do the same may not be quite so obvious, but the mere fact that compensatory draft picks are awarded to teams based on a formula that seeks to compensate teams that lose more or better free agents than it acquires can easily be shown to do just that. Teams can readily forego bidding on their own free agents, which keeps costs down, knowing full well that by doing so they place themselves in position to get additional draft choices. Over the past decade, New England Patriot Coach Bill Belichick has capitalized on that strategy by letting numerous veterans walk and gladly accepting draft picks in return, although surprisingly, he will receive no compensatory choices this year.

Providing compensatory draft choices to teams that lose more free agents than they sign hurts weak teams, who generally have few quality players to lose and helps strong teams, who can more readily let aging stars, fan favorites, players with diminishing skills or malcontents walk. Somehow each year numerous marginal players and subs for good teams always seem to be more attractive during free agency than decent players on mediocre or bad teams, benefitting from a halo effect.

Rookie salaries and salary caps have also made it more difficult in recent years for weak teams to use the draft to turn things around than in the past. Having super high draft picks, with their commensurately high salaries, a few years in a row has placed several teams in salary cap hell, making it difficult to hold onto players or sign the additional free agents needed to let them rise from the bottom of the standings. Hopefully, the new collective bargaining agreement, with its new rookie salary scales will help. But compensatory picks still hurt weaker teams.

If the draft is supposed to be the great equalizer, how can one explain giving the Green Bay Packers with their 15-1 record and .938 winning percentage four additional draft choices while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12, .250), Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11, .313), Washington Redskins (5-11, .313), Buffalo Bills (6-10, .375) and Miami Dolphins (6-10, .375) get none. Bert Bell, who initially proposed the Draft and who later became NFL Commissioner, would role over in his grave. Pete Rozelle probably would too.

2012 NFL Supplemental Draft Picks by Team
49ers13-3 (.813)   
Bears8-8 (.500)   
Bengals9-7 (.563)   
Bills6-10 (.375)744251
Broncos8-8 (.500)   
Browns4-12 (.250)635204
Buccaneers4-12 (.250)   
Cardinals8-8 (.500)   
Chargers8-8 (.500)743250
Chiefs7-9 (.375)   
Colts2-14 (.125)535170
Cowboys8-8 (.500)440135
Dolphins6-10 (.375)   
Eagles8-8 (.500)   
Falcons10-6 (.625)742249
Giants9-7 (.563)436131
Jaguars5-11 (.313)   
Jets8-8 (.500)633202
Lions10-6 (.625)   
Packers15-1 (.938)437132
Panthers6-10 (.375)638207
Patriots13-3 (.813)   
Raiders8-8 (.500)33395
Rams2-14 (.125)745252
Ravens12-4 (.750)435130
Redskins5-11 (.313)   
Saints13-3 (.813)   
Seahawks7-9 (.438)   
Steelers12-4 (.750)733240
Texans10-6 (.625)   
Titans9-7 (.625)   
Vikings3-13 (.188)433128