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How the Yearly NFL Draft Works

Every year in late April or early May, the great minds of professional football convene for the most exciting non-game day event in the National Football League (NFL). The NFL Draft is the primary source for the 32 teams of the NFL to replenish their squads after free-agency losses, retirements and trades. The draft is held in a predetermined location over a 3 day period.

Facts About the Draft

  • The draft consists of 7 rounds
  • Eligible draftees must be 3 years removed from school
  • Draft picks are made by each team’s predetermined representative

How is Draft Order Determined?

All 32 teams participate in the draft. Selection order is determined by using the reverse order of the standings from the prior season. In other words, the worse team drafts first in each round, the second worse team drafts second, etc. If there is a tie for any of the draft positions, the following tiebreakers are used:

1. Strength of Schedule

2. Divisional tiebreakers

3. Conference tiebreakers

4. Coin toss

The only exception to this rule occurs if a new expansion team is voted into the league. In that case, the expansion team is automatically awarded the first pick of each round.

Draft Procedures

During the first round, each team will have 10 minutes to submit their pick. The 10 minute period is referred to as “being on the clock”. At any time prior to the expiration of their time, the team can select a player or make a trade of that pick to another team. The trade can be for a roster player, for any of the available draft pick slots for the current year or any future year, or any combination of the two. Once the decision has been made, the draft form is presented to the league’s commissioner who records the pick and makes the appropriate announcement to waiting fans and media. Each subsequent round proceeds in a like manner with a couple of exceptions. Each team is allowed only 7 minutes to make their pick in round 2 and 5 minutes for picks in rounds 3-7. The other exception occurs in the 7th round. Additional compensatory picks are awarded in the round for any team that has lost more or better compensatory free agents than they signed the year before. If by chance any teams misses the time deadline for any particular round, the can submit that pick at any subsequent time. However, the draft continues on and the team that missed the deadline may lose an intended pick to the team currently “on the clock”, depending on which teams makes its submission to the commissioner first.

Fun Facts About the Draft

  • The first draft was held in 1936
  • In 1980, ESPN began live coverage of the draft
  • Teams can be stripped of picks for rules violations
  • The last pick of each draft is affectionately referred to as “Mr Irrelevant”

When ESPN began covering the draft on live television, the NFL Draft exploded in popularity and became a major national event. The draft is of paramount importance for two reasons. First, it determines where eligible players will be restricted to play unless they are traded. Secondly, it helps establish a quasi pecking order for salary negotiations, meaning the first pick usually earns the biggest contract. While there are 17 weeks (plus playoffs) of exciting action on the field, many football purist believe the draft has a significant affect on determining league champions.

About the author:

Susan writes about sports mainly on allpro and loves watching basketball.

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