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Top 10 most impactful compensatory picks of the decade

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Not all draft picks are created equal. Selections in the top 10 can make more than $30 million guaranteed out of the gate. First-rounders can have a fifth season exercised by the team on a four-year rookie deal. The last pick of the entire draft receives a tongue-in-cheek nom de fume and a parade in Newport Beach.

What about the picks that almost weren't? The compensatory picks, derived by the shadowy NFL Management Council's proprietary formula. The parting gifts meant to replace the space vacated on rosters by a team's free agents -- though can they ever truly be replaced in our hearts?

If you need a refresher on the compensatory pick system, here goes: A total of 32 compensatory picks are awarded to teams based on the players they lost or gained during free agency in the year prior. This allows clubs that have lost free agents to another team to use the draft to attempt to fill the void. The value of compensatory FAs gained or lost by each team is calculated by the "proprietary formula" and a club is awarded picks of equal value to its net loss of such FAs, up to four. The picks come at the end of Rounds 3 through 7.

This year's compensatory picks have been released. Teams with the maximum four picks are the Cardinals, Patriots and Redskins after losing the likes of Jaron Brown, Nate Solder, Kirk Cousins, respectively, and many more in free agency in 2018.

In honor of Compensatory Pick Day (OK, it's not a thing ... yet), we thought we'd rank the top 10 compensatory picks of the decade, the guys who landed with teams rewarded for losing and/or frugality, the humans who turned nothing into something for their respective organizations. Below are the most impactful compensatory picks since 2010. Not so impactful that they broke their quarterback's jaw, as IK Enemkpali (Round 6, No. 210, 2014) did, but you get the picture.

10) Marlon Mack, RB, Colts

2017 NFL Draft: Round 4, Pick No. 143

So the Colts weren't actually awarded this comp pick. It was San Francisco's until the 49ers traded up for a running back who never played a down for the team (Joe Williams). Mack, meanwhile, is coming off a breakout season in Indianapolis, where he averaged 4.7 yards per carry en route to 1,011 total yards and 10 total scores. Mack looks to be the centerpiece of the Colts' ground game going forward. He just barely beat out Green Bay's Aaron Jones on this list who was taken in the fifth round of 2017. Jones has so far compiled more total yards and averaged a league-best 5.5 yards per carry among backs with at least 100 attempts in 2018, but he's been mis- or under-utilized in Green Bay, was suspended for two games early in the season and then ended 2018 on injured reserve.

9) Ricky Wagner, T, Ravens/Lions

2013 NFL Draft: Round 5, Pick No. 168

Wagner might not be paying dividends anymore for the team that drafted him, but he received the largest contract of any compensatory pick since 2010, when Detroit signed the tackle to a five-year, $47.5 million deal in 2017. Wagner has missed just six games over six seasons and has started 75 of 90 games played. Pro Football Focus regarded him as a top-30 tackle in the league in 2018.

8) Quincy Enunwa, WR, Jets

2014 NFL Draft: Round 6, Pick No. 209

His stats don't tell the whole story, but Enunwa is one of the more reliable, versatile receivers in the league when healthy. The Jets wideout burst into public consciousness in 2016 when he was targeted 105 times and racked up 857 receiving yards despite mediocre QB play. After missing the entire 2017 season due to injury, Enunwa was Sam Darnold's go-to guy in 2018 before missing the year's last quarter with an ankle injury. Despite the physical setbacks, New York rewarded Enunwa with a four-year extension. For a team that has struggled finding talent in the draft after the sixth overall pick over the last couple years, Enunwa's selection in the sixth round has proven to be an atypically great one.

7) Kurt Coleman, S, Eagles/Vikings/Chiefs/Panthers/Saints

2010 NFL Draft: Round 7, Pick No. 244

Coleman's had a roller coaster career since Philadelphia snagged him deep in the 2010 draft. The safety has produced for four different organizations, but hasn't stayed or had sustained success with any one in particular to merit a higher ranking on this list. Coleman's best years came in Carolina, who acquired him after three clubs had let him go in the span of 15 months. During the Panthers' Super Bowl run in 2015, Coleman logged a career-high seven picks, but he has yet to reach that level of production again. Just this week, he was released again after just one season with the Saints.

6) Blake Martinez, LB, Packers

2016 NFL Draft: Round 4, Pick No. 131

One of the game's up-and-coming front-seven studs, Martinez has in just three seasons developed into a tackling terror in Green Bay. A Packers starter for the last two years, Martinez's 286 combined tackles are the most in the league since 2017. PFF regarded him as the league's 17th-best LB in 2018, and it wouldn't surprise if Martinez was regarded along the likes of veteran greats Bobby Wagner and Luke Kuechly and upstarts Leighton Vander Esch and Darius Leonard in a few years' time.

5) Malcolm Smith, LB, Seahawks/Raiders/49ers

2011 NFL Draft: Round 7, Pick 242

By most metrics, Smith doesn't even belong on this list. Like fellow comp pick Pernell McPhee, Smith has not lived up to the sizable contract he signed after leaving his team of origin. Smith is already a cut candidate just two seasons after inking a five-year deal in San Francisco. But the linebacker can claim something none of these other joes can: Super Bowl MVP honors. That's right. Remember the Seahawks' 43-8 destruction of Denver in Super Bowl XLVIII when Seattle won on the backbone of its defense, special teams and that high snap from Manny Ramirez? Smith's 69-yard pick-six late in the first half helped cement the victory and his place as the first defensive player to win SB MVP since Dexter Jackson in 2003. Super Bowl MVP as a seventh-round pick? Who does Smith think he is? Julian Edelman?

4) James Conner, RB, Steelers

2017 NFL Draft: Round 3, Pick No. 105

I may be jumping the gun with placing Conner up this high. After all, he's only displayed one year of production, albeit elite production. In place of Le'Veon Bell, Conner recorded 270 touches, 1,470 yards from scrimmage and 13 total scores en route to a Pro Bowl appearance and AFC Offensive Player of the Month honors in October. Connor's success in one year as a starter helped the Steelers move on from the stubborn Bell and save money over the next two years. That's some bang for their buck/comp pick.

3) Kyle Juszczyk, RB, Ravens/49ers

2013 NFL Draft: Round 4, Pick No. 130

A fullback?! Yes, a fullback. A fullback with three Pro Bowl appearances, more than any other player on this list, and a four-year contract that averages $5.3 million per year. Juice, as he is known because his last name is perhaps the most difficult league-wide to spell without Googling it first, was a stud blocker and receiving threat in Baltimore and has continued to stand out in San Francisco, where he has averaged 10.1 yards per reception since joining the team in 2017. Plus, he has missed just two regular-season games over the course of his six-year career.

2) Dak Prescott, QB, Cowboys

2016 NFL Draft: Round 4, Pick No. 135

Dak won't make it to the top two of most lists, unless it's "Shortest First Names in NFL History" or "Top Daks All-Time." But here he absolutely deserves to be in the top two. You'll notice that he is the only quarterback on this comp pick list, beating out Tom Savage, Trevor Siemian, Cardale Jones and C.J. Beathard. That's because it's hard to hit on a QB in the draft past the first two rounds, and even that's not a sure thing (*cough* Hackenberg *cough*). Of the 32 starting QBs from 2018, only three were drafted lower than Prescott's 135 (Tom Brady, 199; Case Keenum, undrafted; Nick Mullens, undrafted).

Not only is Dak a rare egg as the only viable comp-pick QB of the last decade, he's a heralded one at that. Prescott was the 2016 Offensive Rookie of the Year and has led Dallas to the postseason twice in three seasons. Debate can continue to rage whether Dak is worth a big-time, multi-year extension this year or the next, but there's no doubt Prescott was a brilliant use of the compensatory pick.

1) Mike Daniels, DT, Packers

2012 NFL Draft: Round 4, Pick No. 132

One of the league's best interior linemen absolutely deserves top billing on this list. Not only did Daniels earn a $41 million extension in 2015, he lived up to the investment. The Packers defensive tackle made his only Pro Bowl in 2017 and has been a consistent run-stuffer on Green Bay's defensive line since joining the club in 2012. Playing in the same league as Aaron Donald and the same division at one time as Ndamukong Suh, Daniels rarely gets the credit that those interior linemen do, but he has done what no other compensatory pick on this arbitrary ranking has: Performed at an above-average or elite level for the same team over an extended period of time. It's a low bar, but he cleared it.

Also considered: Aaron Jones, RB, Packers; Pernell McPhee. LB, Ravens; Kelvin Beachum, T, Steelers; Ryan Jensen, C, Ravens; Devon Kennard, LB, Giants; Mark Glowinski, G, Seahawks; Alex Collins, RB, Seahawks; Elandon Roberts, LB, Patriots; Jatavis Brown, LB, Chargers; Max Garcia, G, Broncos.

Follow Jeremy Bergman on Twitter @JABergman.

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