Compensatory picks can pay off

Najeh Davenport

The Packers were awarded the league-maximum four free agency compensation picks for use in next month's NFL Draft – that's the good news.<p> These compensation picks are clustered in the sixth and seventh rounds – that's the bad news.<P> Or is it? A savvy GM can unearth hidden treasures with compensatory picks. Some of the names on the list of players acquired this way – including several big-name Packer picks – may come as a surprise.<P>

The compensatory draft picks awarded to Green Bay this year will come in the 6th round at No. 212, and in the seventh round at No. 253, 256 and 257.

A prime example of what kind of talent can be secured is Super Bowl XXXVI MVP Tom Brady. The New England Patriots chose the QB in the 2000 draft with one of two compensatory picks the team had in the sixth round. Cardinals free safety Pat Tillman was a seventh-round compensatory pick in 1998. Tillman became a starter, before walking away from football to serve his country as an Army Ranger. He is now deployed in the Middle East.

The Packers' list of compensatory draft picks is anything but obscure:

*Najeh Davenport was the team's only free agent compensatory draft pick in 2002, as GM Mike Sherman used a 4th round pick to select the fullback out of Miami (Fla.).

*In 2000, Green Bay had four compensatory draft choices, and like this year, three of them came in the seventh round: S Gary Berry (4th round, 126th overall), WR Charles Lee, (7th, 242), LB Eugene McCaslin (7th, 249); RB Rondell Mealey (7th, 252).

*A big compensatory pick find came in 1999. The Packers secured DT Cletidus Hunt with their second pick of the third round (94th overall).

*Also that year: QB Aaron Brooks (4th round, 131), P Josph Bidwell (4th, 133), T Scott Curry (6th, 203).

*QB Matt Hasselbeck was the Packers' second pick of the sixth round in 1998, taken with a compensatory pick that was 187th overall.

*The "Mr. Insignificant" title for the last player selected in the NFL draft went to Green Bay's Ronnie McAda in 1997. Green Bay selected the army QB with a 7th round compensatory pick, 240th overall.

*1996 was a gold mine in the compensatory pick market. GM Ron Wolf selected CB Tyrone Williams with his second pick of the third round (93), G Marco Rivera (6th, 208) and LB Keith McKenzie (7th, 252.

Around the NFL, other notable compensatory draft choices include DT La'Roi Glover (Oakland, fifth round in 1996), RB Amos Zereoue (Pittsburgh, third round in 1999), G Edwin Mulitalo (Baltimore, fourth round in 1999), TE Jay Riemersma (Buffalo, seventh round in 1996), and return specialist Chad Morton (New Orleans, fifth round in 2000).

The formula is said to be based on salary, playing time and postseason honors and not every player gained or lost by a team in free agency is covered. The maximum number of compensatory choices a franchise can receive in a given year is four. Besides Green Bay, Baltimore, Miami, New York Giants and St. Louis also were granted the maximum.

The late-round windfall has monetary value, as well. With their four late compensatory choices, the Packers can ain exclusive negotiating rights to some players over whom they would have had to battle for as undrafted free agents.

Green Bay has experience in playing the compensatory card. Since the league began awarding compensatory draft picks in 1993, Green Bay is second only to Dallas in gaining additional selections. Here are 10 franchises that have gained a dozen or more compensatory picks: Dallas 23, Green Bay 21, Buffalo 20, Arizona 14, N.Y. Giants 14 ,Jacksonville 13, Philadelphia 13, Pittsburgh 13, Baltimore 12, Minnesota 12.

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