Looking ahead to compensatory picks

When the NFL holds its annual meeting in New Orleans next week, we are likely to find out the compensatory picks for the 2011 draft.

This isn’t likely to have big implications for the NFC South because the complicated system for determining picks is based in large part on how many free agents teams lost and gained last year. Most NFC South teams weren’t major players in free agency and most did a good job of keeping key players from leaving via free agency.

This isn’t an exact science, but colleague John Clayton and I ran through our best guesses on the NFC South when we talked on the phone earlier today.

We think it’s pretty likely the Carolina Panthers are going to be the only NFC South team that’s going to really matter in the compensatory picks. The Panthers lost Julius Peppers and several other free agents. Our best guess is that Carolina will end up with a third- and a sixth-round pick. Teams can trade their own draft picks but not compensatory picks.

Clayton and I don’t see the Atlanta Falcons getting any compensatory picks. Tampa Bay and New Orleans each have a chance to add what probably will be a seventh-round pick.