The "compensatory pick" portion of the National Football League draft has always been a bit of a mystery. The compensatory picks are usually given out about a month before the draft, and the somewhat nebulous rules governing them simply state that
Compensatory free agents are determined by a formula based on salary, playing time and postseason honors. The formula was developed by the NFL Management Council. Not every free agent lost or signed by a club is covered by this formula.
The number of compensatory picks given out always equals 32, and compensatory picks can't be traded. Compensatory picks are no higher than third-rounders, and after those have been given out, picks are simply added to the end of the seventh round, based on draft order, until the number of compensatory picks equals 32. There were 21 picks given out in the 2011 Draft based on the free agency rules, so 11 more were added to the end of the seventh round. (Of course, the Vikings selected 12th in 2011, which means they just barely missed out on receiving an extra draft pick and getting the chance to draft Mr. Irrelevant.)
Now, our own college scouting/draft guru Mark has been stating that he believes that the Vikings will get two compensatory picks in the 2012 NFL Draft. He is projecting one of those picks to be at the end of the third round, and the other to be at the end of the seventh round. However, Sid Hartman's close, personal friends are telling him that it might be better than that for the Vikings. Apparently Sid is hearing that the Vikings' two compensatory picks could be fourth-rounders.
Now, that may or may not be true. It would be nice if it was, because this draft is deep at a couple of positions of need for the Vikings, particularly at wide receiver. But if compensatory free agents are "determined by a formula based on salary, playing time, and post-season honors," it stands to reason that the Vikings could, indeed, be well compensated.
It's my understanding that the free agents that would be included in this are only those whose contracts had run out and were not re-signed by their teams, not players that were released. Therefore, somebody like Michael Jenkins, who was cut by the Falcons, wouldn't count against Minnesota in that regard. With that in mind, here are the players that I think would count for and against the Vikings.
Leber was released by the Rams a few weeks back, so it's likely that he really wouldn't count. But, as you can see, the Vikings certainly lost a lot more than they gained in free agency this year (in terms of both salary and production), so two compensatory picks isn't an entirely unreasonable suggestion. I'm not sure if they'll be a pair of fourth-rounders or anything, but in a fairly deep draft, any picks are good ones. With the Vikings being guaranteed a top six selection, the odds of them getting one of those picks that gets tacked onto the end of the seventh round seems to be likely as well.
Minnesota also has a few other late round picks coming in. They lost their sixth-round pick in the Donovan McNabb trade, but have three others coming in. . .a sixth-rounder from the Cleveland Browns from the Jayme Mitchell trade, a seventh-rounder from the Giants in the Sage Rosenfels/Darius Reynaud deal, and a seventh-rounder from the New England Patriots for the Randy Moss trade. That gives them nine picks of their own, with the possibility of two or three more coming their way, and the likelihood that the team will trade down to amass more picks, particularly if they lose to the Chicago Bears on Sunday and wind up with the #3 overall selection.
The 2012 NFL Draft is going to be a huge one for the Minnesota Vikings. The more bites they get at the apple, the better things will be for them as the team rebuilds.