Are compensatory picks overrated?

Are compensatory picks overrated?
March 31, 2014, 11:00 am
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The Ravens last week were awarded four compensatory picks in the upcoming draft, adding to the stash of extra picks that has become a hallmark of Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens.

Since 1994, the Ravens (and Browns franchise before that) have been awarded 41 compensatory picks, the most in the league. Compensatory draft picks are awarded to a team for the next year's draft when a team lost more, or better, players via free agency than it acquired.

But fans expecting those picks to translate to Pro Bowl players, or even regulars in the Ravens lineup, might be disappointed.

The truth is compensatory picks, which are granted anywhere from rounds 3 to 7, but generally in the later rounds of the draft, have rarely proved to be stars. (Although a guy named Tom Brady was a sixth-round compensatory pick by the Patriots in 2000. That worked out OK.)

Two years ago, the Ravens compensatory picks were defensive backs Christian Thompson and Asa Jackson. Thompson is no longer with the team, and Jackson has yet to play a snap on defense.

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Chykie Brown, who figures to be first in line to replace Corey Graham as the Ravens No. 1 nickel back, was a compensatory pick in the fifth round in 2011. Pernell McPhee, the very next pick in that draft, was also a compensatory pick. Rick Wagner, in line at the moment to be the team's starting right tackle, was a fifth-round compensatory pick last season.

If any becomes a full-time starter, he would join just a small group of players -- including fullback La'Ron McClain (2007, 4th round), tackle Tony Pashos (2003, 5th round)  and linebacker Cornell Brown (1997, 6th round) -- who went from compensatory draft picks to full-time starter for the Ravens.

So are the compensatory picks overrated? Not necessarily. 

While the picks haven't always panned out, having the picks in their pocket has given the Ravens greater flexibility. For example, the Ravens last fall knew that four compensatory picks were likely coming their way in the upcoming draft -- this after losing linebacker Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe, cornerback Cary Williams and safety Ed Reed to free agency.

That was probably the key factor in landing left tackle Eugene Monroe; the Ravens gave Jacksonville fourth- and fifth-round picks for Monroe, knowing they were likely to receive compensatory picks at least as good as what they were trading away. Indeed, the Ravens were granted compensatory picks in the third, fourth (two of them, in fact) and fifth rounds.

In addition, knowing they have the compensatories gives the Ravens the chance to dangle other draft picks as bait as they look to move up or down in the draft. Compensatory picks can't be traded, but they allow more flexibility to deal one of their other picks.

And mid- to late-round picks can translate into key special teams players, a la Brown or safety Haruki Nakamura, a 2008 compensatory pick.

Newsome has often said that no one covets draft picks more than the Ravens, and the compensatory process bears that out. The picks haven't always been hits, but they are definitely part of Newsome's master plan.

Here is a list of Ravens compensatory picks of the past 10 years:

2013: FB Kyle Juszczyk, T Rick Wagner, C Ryan Jensen, CB Marc Anthony

2012: S Christian Thompson, DB Asa Jackson

2011: CB Chykie Brown, LB/DE Pernell McPhee

2008: T Oniel Cousins, OL David Hale, S Haruki Nakamura, RB Allen Patrick

2007: LB Antwan Barnes, FB La'Ron McClain, QB Troy Smith, LB Prescott Burgess

2006: RB P.J. Daniels, TE Quinn Sypniewski, CB Derrick Martin

2005: QB Derek Anderson

2004: WR Derek Abney, G Brian Rimpf