How Does NFL Draft Work?


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The National Football League (NFL) draft is a chance for teams to upgrade their rosters and for rookies to go pro by joining the league. This is a three-day event that involves the selection of college players. If you aren’t familiar with the NFL, you probably don’t understand the draft. In this article, we’ll explain everything you need to know about the NFL draft. 

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The Format

The NFL draft runs for three days, normally from Thursday to Saturday. The 32 teams in the league get one draft pick every round for seven rounds. The first round takes place on Thursday, the second and third rounds on Friday and the fourth to seventh rounds on Saturday. 

The teams send a representative to the venue. As the selections happen, they’re in communication with the team’s executives who are back in their headquarters. 

Now that you know how the NFL draft is set up, let’s look at the picks and selection process.

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Getting Draft Picks

Each of the seven NFL draft rounds consists of 32 draft picks, one for every team. To determine the kind of pick each team gets, the NFL looks at the performance of the previous season. 

The team with the worst result receives the first pick and the winners of the Super Bowl get the last pick. 

The teams that didn’t make it to the NFL playoff season get the first 20 picks and those that made it get the 21 to 32 picks. 

Here’s a further breakdown of how teams get selections:

21 to 24: Teams that didn’t make it past the wild-card round in the playoff

25 to 28: Teams that didn’t make it past the divisional round in the playoff

29 to 30: Teams that lost in the conference championships

31: Loser of the Super Bowl

32: Winner of the Super Bowl

Should two teams have the same record, the team with a better schedule gets the better pick. If their record and schedules look similar, tiebreakers are used. These include comparing their conference or division playoffs, head-to-head and strength of victory among others. 

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Compensatory Picks

Teams that lost staff as a result of them becoming free agents get an opportunity to fill in the gaps via these picks. These are made during the third to seventh rounds.

The NFL determines players who fall in this category by looking at factors such as their playing time, salary and achievements. Each team is awarded picks that match their loss. Each team can only receive a maximum of four compensatory picks.

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NFL Draft Rules

 The NFL draft process works under the following rules:

  • The first rounds open on a Thursday, usually at 8 pm Eastern Time.
  • In the first round, every team is given 10 minutes to make a pick.
  • In the second and third rounds, every team gets 7 minutes to make a pick.
  • In the fourth to sixth rounds, every team gets 5 minutes to make a pick.
  • In the seventh round, a team gets 4 minutes to complete its picks.
  • If a team doesn’t make a pick within the allotted time, they can do it later. However, a team can’t prevent other teams from choosing their desired players.

Trading of Draft Picks

NFL teams are allowed to trade their picks. They can do this before or during the draft. If it happens as the NFL draft is going on, the team has to inform the head table to have it supervised. The trade is announced to the league.

Player Eligibility For NFL Draft

Any player who wants to join the NFL draft must:

  • NFL draft applications are done only in the first year after college eligibility is used. 
  • Put their college eligibility to use before the next college season begins.
  • If a player’s college eligibility hasn’t been used, they have to approach the NFL to get approval to enter the draft.
  • Have graduated from high school for at least three years.

That’s everything you need to know about the NFL draft. We hope that this guide is useful and helps in understanding some of the NFL’s processes. 

If this stokes your interest and you want to learn more about the NFL, there’re plenty of books that have been written about the topic. You can buy them on Amazon

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