One of the most unknown aspects of the offseason for most football fans is how more than 32 picks end up being selected in certain rounds of the NFL Draft. Beyond the normal 32 from each team, the extra picks at the end of some of the later rounds are called “compensatory picks,” and for the first time in seven years, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were awarded one of those compensatory picks by the NFL and will have an extra pick in the seventh round, pick No. 254
— Michael Signora (@NFLfootballinfo) February 23, 2018
How the league awards compensatory picks has some subjectiveness to it, as it is not as definitive as a number system. But, the gist of it is: if a team loses more free agents than they sign in a certain offseason, they have a chance to be awarded extra draft picks, depending on how valuable said losses were individually, to cover their losses and maintain league-wide competitiveness.
Compensatory picks can range anywhere from third round picks to seventh round picks. How the league determines the value of a lost free agent depends on how much money they received in their contract, how much playing time they got with their new team and any individual accolades or postseason awards.
For the Bucs, this is how their compensatory seventh round pick came to fruition.
As you can see, the Bucs were awarded their compensatory pick via Bradley McDougald signing with the Seattle Seahawks and getting playing time when their secondary got banged up. Some Bucs fans thought Tampa Bay would get a higher compensatory pick when they lost quarterback Mike Glennon to such a big contract, but when Tampa Bay signed DeSean Jackson, that cancelled that higher pick out — see how this works?
There are more details that go into how compensatory picks are given out, as the league can only give out 32 per year and has to decide which ones to award — it’s not just the 32 highest ones.
But, for now, just know that the Bucs have an extra pick to work with in 2018.