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Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

49ers, Rams, Cardinals Among Big Winners in NFL Compensatory Draft Picks

Mar 9, 2023 at 4:52 PM--

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The NFC West is once again the NFC Best. The NFL has released its annual list of compensatory draft picks, which reward teams who lose players and management to free agency and outside front office hires, respectively. While only a small part of the overall team-building philosophy, these additional draft picks - slotted in after the end of rounds 3-7 and allocated to teams according to the NFL's proprietary formulas - can go a long way towards replenishing rosters left dry by trades and salary cap troubles. This year, the 49ers lead the league, owning 7 of the 37 total compensatory picks, but the Rams and the Cardinals are right behind them. Let's take a look at some of the winners and losers in the back half of this year's draft, with total compensatory picks earned next to each team's name.

Winner - San Francisco 49ers (7)

The 49ers, through disciplined roster-building and incredible personnel development throughout the organization, have blown the league away by earning 7 total compensatory picks. In other words, they've acquired an entire draft's worth of picks just through this system, a coup for their front office. But they're not just racking up end-of-the-draft selections (although last year's 7th-round comp pick, Brock Purdy, turned out pretty okay). They have three third-round picks through the compensatory system, which outdoes all but one team's comp pick draft haul. The rest of their picks are pretty evenly spread out, too: one in the fifth round, one in the sixth, and two in the seventh. For a team that was originally without a pick until the fifth round (due to trades for Trey Lance's draft spot and Christian McCaffrey), these compensatory selections completely reverse the 49ers' draft fortune, bringing their total number of draft picks from 4 to 11.

Normally, a team can only accrue up to 4 picks due to players leaving in free agency. However, they can also receive up to 3 picks each year from coaching staff or management lost to other teams, which usually rank amongst the highest comp picks awarded. This year, the 49ers are reaping the rewards of seeing ex-coordinators Robert Saleh and Mike McDaniel becoming head coaches for the Jets and Dolphins, respectively, while senior personnel executive Martin Mayhew joined the Washington Commanders as their general manager in 2021. The 49ers will continue to enjoy the benefits of these selections for the next few years, as Tennessee Titans GM Ran Carthon and Houston Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans will continue to provide SF with high-end compensatory picks after their hires this year.

Loser - Denver Broncos (0)

While teams like the 49ers have leveraged their losses with eventual returns in the compensatory system, the Broncos have not been one of them. Denver goes into the 2023 draft with only five selections, none of them in the first two rounds. Trading two first-rounders for QB Russell Wilson and another for head coach Sean Payton has injected talent into their system at the top end, but whether they can make it work with these decorated veterans remains to be seen, especially after Wilson's disastrous 2022 season. Those trades leave the Broncos without a top-10 selection this year that could have supplemented recent draft successes in Jerry Jeudy and Pat Surtain II to form a core of young talent for the rest of the decade. Unless they make a few wily trades this offseason, Denver will have to strike gold in the back half of the draft to push an underperforming roster back into playoff contention.

Winner - Los Angeles Rams (4)

"F*** them Picks" has turned into "Find them Picks" in Los Angeles. The Rams, hot off one of the NFL's most disappointing Super Bowl title defenses, have seen rumors swirl wildly about the departures of star head coach Sean McVay and star quarterback Matthew Stafford. But before they decide to hang up the cleats and headsets, LA's trade-heavy approach to roster-building gets a huge boost this year with four compensatory selections, second-most in the league. Three fifth-rounders and a seventh-rounder give them a bit more flexibility, whether it's to draft eventual replacements to stars like Aaron Donald and bolster a battered O-line, or to push their chips in once again for trade targets. The rest of the NFC is surely glad that the Rams have had to take an unwanted cooldown after their Super Bowl run, but this extra draft ammo could give them the opportunity to terrorize the league with an aggressive all-in strategy once more.

Loser - Miami Dolphins (-1)

It's perhaps not odd that a team that's indirectly giving San Francisco comp picks (through head coach Mike McDaniels' hire) isn't receiving a ton themselves, but the Dolphins are in a terrible draft position for pretty much every other reason. They lost their first round pick this year due to tampering charges, as owner Stephen Ross was found to have improperly recruited now-retired QB Tom Brady and now-Broncos head coach Sean Payton in an attempt to persuade both parties to join forces in Miami. That's not really "losing" a comp pick, per se, but I'm going to count it. Beyond that, they no longer have their fifth-round pick due to a trade with, you guessed it, San Francisco (for running back Jeff Wilson Jr.).

But what really makes those losses sting is the uncertainty regarding highly-drafted quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who suffered a string of brutal concussions that prematurely ended his 2022 season. The 2020 Alabama alum had just emerged from an unsteady sophomore season to become one of the league's most dangerous passers in Mike McDaniels' system. But with his health in question, the quarterback conundrum Miami faces threatens to destabilize an otherwise dangerous roster. The fact that they don't have a single comp pick to aid them is the cherry on top of a, shall we say, dirt sundae.

Winner - Arizona Cardinals (3)

Despite an atrocious 2022 campaign that saw an organizational shakeup that may take several years to settle, the Cardinals' immediate draft prospects are about as bright as they can reasonably be. And they'll need it, with quarterback Kyler Murray a sure thing, but not a whole lot else. Fortunately, the Cards have five of their seven original draft picks, missing only rounds 5 and 7. Arizona will also benefit from the very first compensatory pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, situated at #96 overall, as well as fifth and sixth-rounders to recoup about what they were missing to start with. If the Cardinals decide to go full sell-off mode, they could end up with one of the best draft hauls of the year. In a loaded NFC West, they'll need a great one to keep their head above water.

Winner - Kansas City Chiefs (3)

The Chiefs haven't really stopped winning since they drafted Patrick Mahomes in 2017, and this offseason is no exception. It's not enough that they just got done winning their second Super Bowl in 4 years - they also walk away with a top-5 compensatory draft haul, with picks in the third, sixth, and seventh rounds. They have stability at the most important position on the field, a head coach who's turned a lifetime track record of success into a pathway towards the Hall of Fame, and offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy finally getting a chance with another organization will bring the Chiefs more compensatory selections for a couple years. At least, I think. That was kind of a lateral move, and the whole situation is frankly unheard of for someone who's won two rings in a coordinator position. Regardless, Kansas City was already working with a full draft's worth of capital and then some, so the extra compensatory value is the cherry on top of an actual sundae for them.

This article has been edited. It incorrectly stated that there is no limit on compensatory draft selections awarded due to front office departures. As of 2023, the limit on such awarded selections is three.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.

1 Comment

  • Robert
    I’m getting progressively disappointed with the articles and content on this website. Some of the article titles are a bit sensationalist, and the articles fail to deliver on the titles’ promises and/or are replete with grammatical and/or spelling issues. And why is Grant Cohn so heavily featured? His videos pop up every time I select an article to read . He is an imbecile who only has a job because of his father’s legacy. Can you please bring some manner of quality control to 49erswebzone?
    Mar 10, 2023 at 5:57 PM


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