If you need a refresher, compensatory picks are those received at the ends of rounds 3-7 of the NFL Draft due to players lost in free agency the year prior. No one knows the exact formula used to determine comp picks, other than the NFL itself. However, it is believed that determining factors include whether or not the player is a starter, how much they play in their first season with their new team, and how much they get paid by their new team in free agency.
Four is actually the maximum number of compensatory picks allowed for any team, and the Bengals certainly deserve that many after losing a host of key players last offseason. It’s hard to recover from losing a group of players that includes Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Reggie Nelson and Andre Smith, and that helped lead to the Bengals taking a step back in 2016.
Now, the Bengals will get some compensation for their trouble. Over the Cap has released a projection of which players are expected to net their former teams compensatory picks. Jones and Sanu are each bringing the Bengals a fourth-round pick in the OTC projection, while Nelson and Smith's departures are projected to net two sixth-round picks.
Looking back at the Bengals’ recent draft history, players they’ve landed in Round 4 include Josh Shaw, Russell Bodine, Clint Boling, Robert Geathers, Domata Peko, and Geno Atkins. Round 6 has netted guys like Bernard Scott, Dan Herron, Cobi Hamilton, Rex Burkhead, Marquis Flowers, Derron Smith, and Cody Core.
While few of those guys have made a major impact, they’ve helped fill out the 53-man roster while providing nice depth at several positions. That’s why having those extra fourth and sixth-round picks can be very beneficial to building a 53-man roster capable of winning double-digit games and getting into the playoffs.
If the Bengals get those four picks, they’ll have 11 draft picks in 2017. They may need all 11 with another big free agent class on deck, including Andrew Whitworth, Kevin Zeitler, Dre Kirkpatrick, Rex Burkhead, Margus Hunt, Cedric Peerman, Peko, Eric Winston, and Brandon LaFell. Though in reality, 11 draft picks is a lot and the Bengals could actually use their excess of picks (and for the first time in 2017, compensatory picks are tradable) to trade up during the draft.
There’s also the possibility that veterans Rey Maualuga and Adam Jones are cap casualties/cut this offseason, leaving more holes needing to be filled in the draft. Players the Bengals cut would not bring in another compensatory pick next offseason, if they sign with another team. Only players who become free agents by having their contract expire are eligible to net their former team a compensatory pick.