BGA Special: Draft Picks Rundown

Over the course of the offseason, I’ll be posting a series of articles analyzing statistics and data rather than game film. I’ll also be revisiting last year’s offseason articles to see whether the conclusions drawn were indicative of what was actually going to happen during the season and using that information to try and determine what 2011’s data tells us about what might happen in 2012. However, before the new league year gets underway, I’m going to address some issues on the salary cap, draft picks, contracts and free agency side of things. In a few days, I’ll try and set out a realistic projection for what cap room the Jets are likely to have available once the new league year gets underway, but today I’m looking at the draft choices the Jets will have in the upcoming draft.

After the jump, I’ll list out all the picks initially held by the Jets, together with details of outstanding trades and potential compensatory picks.

As ever, if you want to jump in with questions, corrections or speculation, feel free to do so. I am also open to ideas for things you’d like me to cover over the course of the offseason.

Introduction

Here, according to WalterFootball.com are the picks that the Jets should hold in the upcoming draft:

1st Round – 16
2nd Round – 15 (47th overall)
3rd Round – 14 (76th overall)
4th Round – 13 (109th overall*)
5th Round – 19 (147th overall*)
6th Round – 18 (178th overall*)
7th Round – 17 (209th overall*)

However, this does not take into account the outcome of any conditionally traded draft picks or UFA compensatory picks. Therefore, let’s see how they will affect the Jets’ haul.

* Note: The overall position of picks from the fourth round onwards does not take into account compensatory picks at the end of the 3rd-to-7th rounds.

Conditionally Traded Picks

The Jets made three trades during the offseason for conditional draft picks. Let’s look at each of these individually:

Derrick Mason:

Mason was traded to Houston five weeks into the season for a conditional seventh round pick. The conditions were that, in order for the Jets to receive the pick, Mason would need to catch 33 passes over the last 11 games of the season. He ultimately got nowhere near this mark. Outcome: No pick owed to the Jets.

Dwight Lowery:

Lowery was traded to Jacksonville before the season began for a conditional sixth round pick. If he failed to meet the conditions, this would revert to a seventh rounder. Unfortunately, the conditions have not, to my knowledge, been officially announced. Based on what the Jets usually do, it could be based on (a) playing time, (b) the Jags re-signing Lowery when his contract expires or (c) some team-based goal. If it’s (a) that’s good news for the Jets, because he started several games for them before getting hurt. The Jags struggled in 2011, so (c) would be bad news. If it’s (b) or a combination of (a) and (b) that will depend what happens. Even if Lowery goes back to the Jags, they can perhaps get around the conditions by letting him hit free agency and then signing him immediately, as the Saints did with Jonathan Vilma. Outcome: At least a seventh rounder, possibly a sixth owed to the Jets.

Caleb Schlauderaff:

Schlauderaff was traded to the Jets for a conditional seventh rounder, although once again the trade conditions have not, to my knowledge, been released. If the conditions are not met, no pick is owed. If this is based on playing time, it’s unlikely the condition was met, because Schlauderaff played just 14 snaps. He is under contract for three years, but I suppose the condition could be something like he still has to be on the roster on the first day of the 2012 league year. Outcome: Either the Jets don’t owe a pick, or they owe a seventh rounder.

Taking the three trades together, the best case scenario is that they get an extra sixth rounder and the worst case scenario is that they get nothing because two seventh rounders will cancel each other out.

UFA Compensatory Picks

Note: UFA Compensatory Picks are different from the compensatory picks awarded when a team signs a restricted free agent or a franchised player to an offer sheet that isn’t matched. This is highly unlikely to apply to the Jets.

UFA Compensatory Picks are awarded to teams who lost a lot of free agents in the offseason. This is based on a secret formula that teams aren’t given, but the process has been going on long enough that we’ve got a pretty decent idea of how to project (assuming the NFL has not elected to change the formula, which is theoretically possible). Courtesy of the excellent AdamJT13, we now have enough information to make an informed estimate of the extra picks potentially due to the Jets.

First, here are some of the main rules:

- Teams can receive a maximum of four compensatory picks
- The maximum value of a compensatory pick is a third rounder
- Compensatory picks are added at the end of each round
- Only qualifying UFA losses count towards the calculation of how many picks are owed
- Qualifying UFA gains are offset against UFA losses and picks are only awarded to the extent that losses exceed gains
- To qualify, you must be an unrestricted free agent whose contract expired (or, in some cases, was voided) at the end of the previous season. RFA’s, even RFA’s that became UFA’s as a result of not being tendered do not qualify and neither do players who were cut, waived or released.
- Players signed after the end of the free agent signing period (usually the last week in June, but the lockout pushed this to the end of August in 2011) and players released before week 10 by their new teams do not qualify.
- The draft round value of the players appears to be mainly based on the annual value of their new contract, but playing time and postseason honors factor into things as well. For example, a player failing to have the required amount of playing time could become non-qualifying or a player with postseason honors might get bumped up to a higher round if they are on the bubble.

So, which of the Jets’ free agency signings and losses were qualifying and where does it leave them when netted out?

In terms of free agent gains, the good news is that the Jets don’t seem to have any qualifying gains which would otherwise be offset against their losses. Most of their free agent dollars were spent on re-signing players they already owned, which has no effect on the compensatory pick calculation. Those that they did sign before the end of the free agent signing period did not qualify because they were cut by their previous team before their contract expired (Strickland, Mason) or were not with a team at the end of the previous season (Burress).

In terms of losses, there were plenty, but not all of them were picked up and retained by another team. Therefore the likes of Pryce, Richardson, Laury, Clemens and Gholston do not qualify. Some of their players that got picked up were cut or traded by the Jets rather than seeing their contract expire. Therefore, Cotchery, Taylor, Lowery and Hartsock do not qualify. A couple were RFA’s that they decided not to tender, so Steve Weatherford and James Ihedigbo do not qualify. That seems to leave four that potentially qualify, which is the maximum number anyway, as noted above. Let’s look at each of these in detail.

Before we do, though, let’s refer back to Adam’s post for the approximate 2008 annual salary thresholds he used to accurately determine the appropriate draft round for each qualifying player:

7th Rounders – $0.9m to $2.7m
6th Rounders – $2.7m to $4m
5th Rounders – $4m to $5m
4th Rounders – $5m to $6.5m
3rd Rounders – Over $6.5m

These numbers applied back in 2008, when the salary cap was $116m and Adam was suggesting that the increase in these thresholds from year to year was more or less in line with the salary cap. Since the 2011 cap was $120.375m, we can apply a 3.8% increase to these figures and hope to be accurate, but the cap in 2009 was $129M, so it’s possible that the numbers would have been increased by more than that and then may not have been adjusted back down again for the reduction in the cap last year.

However, it’s probably an accurate enough starting point, so our thresholds kick in at $0.93m, $2.8m, $4.2m, $5.2m and $6.7m. So, let’s see where the Jets UFA losses fell:

Shaun Ellis:

Ellis got a one year deal for $4m, so he seems to have fallen just short of being a 5th rounder. However, he did play in 14 games, starting 10, so maybe that would be enough to push that up to a 5th rounder. Given that he played less than a third of the total snaps, I’d say this seems unlikely, but there’s no reason I can see that he shouldn’t fetch a sixth rounder.

Brad Smith:

Smith got a $15m, four year deal, so his average annual salary comes in at $3.75m. That puts him in the sixth round range and it seems unlikely he’ll be bumped up a level because he only played 44 more snaps than Ellis and started five fewer games. This looks certain to be a sixth rounder.

Drew Coleman:

Coleman got a three year, $7.4m deal. That puts his average at just below $2.5m, putting him just short of sixth round status. Maybe it’s close enough for him to get bumped up a level due to his playing time – 16 appearances, four starts, 49.4% snap count – but that was the maximum value for the deal, so the base salary might be lower anyway. This looks like a seventh rounder.

Braylon Edwards:

Edwards is an interesting case, because it’s possible he might not qualify, for a couple of reasons. First of all, his base salary was widely reported as just $1m which is pretty close to our estimated threshold. Secondly, he was released before the season ended. Finally, he did not play much. However, his salary was reported in some places as $1.6m, which leads me to believe he probably had a roster bonus early in the year. Also, he was released before the end of the year, but after week 10, which Adam suggests hasn’t stopped players from qualifying in the past. Finally, although he didn’t play much, I was surprised to see that he did play 22% of the snaps for the 49ers this year and Adam cites examples of players who have qualified despite having playing time of less than 20% in the past. All this leads me to conclude he’ll fetch them a seventh rounder, although had he met his incentives, the return would be greater.

The actual compensatory picks are usually announced in the third week of March or thereabouts.

EDIT: Since compiling this article, I’ve found another site that did a projection here. The good news is that their take basically agrees with my best case scenario.

Conclusions

Overall, the Jets currently have one pick in each round and, based on my projections, they will have several additional late round picks. I would suggest that they will get three seventh rounders and two sixth rounders, although the best case scenario might see one of the seventh rounders improved to a sixth (based on Lowery meeting his conditions) and it’s not inconceivable that Ellis could be worth a fifth rounder rather than a sixth. The worst case scenario might see Edwards not qualifying, Lowery only earning them a seventh and Schlauderaff costing them a pick. Even this would still net them two sixths and a seventh in addition to the picks they already have in each round.

These picks could come in useful, like when the Jets drafted Slauson in 2009 or could be packaged to move up in an earlier round and target someone specific. Maybe they could even trade one for a veteran player, although I doubt they would want to add a player with a high salary in this manner. No matter how accurate the projections, it figures to be a busy offseason.

We will of course update you once more concrete information is known.




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