American Football Database

The NFL Draft is an annual event in which the 32 National Football League teams select new eligible college football players. It is the NFL's most common source of player recruitment.

NFL Draft.png


Procedure and rules


Selection format

The Draft currently lasts seven rounds.

Rules for draft order

The draft order is determined by first generating the order for the first round. That order is based generally on each team's regular season record, with the exception of the two Super Bowl contestants, who are placed at the end of the draft order. Tiebreakers and specifics are as follows:

  1. Any expansion team automatically gets the first pick; if there are two expansion teams, a coin toss determines who picks first; the other team will pick second in the expansion draft.
  2. The winners of the Super Bowl are given the last selection, and the losers the penultimate selection.
  3. Teams that made the playoffs are then ordered by which round of the playoffs they are eliminated.
  4. Teams that did not make the playoffs are ordered by their regular-season record.
  5. Remaining ties are broken by strength of schedule. For draft order, a lower strength of schedule results in an earlier pick. If strength of schedule does not resolve a tie, division and/or conference tiebreakers may be used. If the tie still cannot be broken, a coin toss at the NFL Combine is used to determine draft order. (Note: Strength of schedule is the combined records of a team's 16 opponents, including games played against the team in question, and counting divisional opponents twice. Because of this, each team's opponents' combined wins and losses—counting a tie as a half-win, half-loss—will add up to 256, so a team whose opponents had more combined wins has a better strength of schedule.)
Status Draft picks
Non-playoff teams 1–20
Eliminated in Wild Card round 21–24
Eliminated in Divisional round 25–28
Eliminated in Conference Championships 29–30
Super Bowl losing team 31
Super Bowl champion 32

Barring any expansion teams entering the league, the first overall draft pick goes to the team with the worst record in the previous season.

Once the order for the first round is determined, generally speaking and barring other arrangements, the selection order remains the same for subsequent rounds. However, teams with the same record within the same status group "cycle" picks in each subsequent round. For example, in the 2008 draft, Arizona, Minnesota, Houston, and Philadelphia all finished 8–8, and picked in that order in the first round. In the second round, the order became Minnesota, Houston, Philadelphia, and Arizona. That cycling continues through all seven rounds.

For the first time, the NFL Draft in 2010 was over three days. The first round of the 2010 NFL Draft was on Thursday, April 22 at 7:30 p.m. ET, with the second and third rounds on Friday, April 23 at 6 p.m. ET, followed by Rounds 4–7 on Saturday, April 24 at 10 a.m. ET.[1]

The first overall pick generally gets the richest contract, but other contracts rely on a number of variables. While they generally are based on the previous year's second overall pick, third overall, etc., each player's position also is taken into account. Quarterbacks, for example, usually command more money than defensive linemen, which can skew those dollar figures slightly.[citation needed]

Each team has its representatives attend the draft. During the draft, one team is always "on the clock." In Round 1, teams have 10 minutes to make their choice (previously 15). The decision time drops to 7 minutes (previously 10) in the second round and 5 minutes in Rounds 3–7. If a team does not make a decision within its allotted time, the team still can submit its selection at any time after its time is up, but the next team can pick before it, thus possibly stealing a player the later team may have been eyeing. This occurred in the 2003 draft, when the Minnesota Vikings, with the 7th overall pick, were late with their selection. The Jacksonville Jaguars drafted quarterback Byron Leftwich and the Carolina Panthers drafted offensive tackle Jordan Gross before the Vikings were able to submit their selection of defensive tackle Kevin Williams.

Pick trades

Teams may negotiate with one another both before and during the draft for the right to pick an additional player in a given round. For example, a team may include draft picks in future drafts in order to acquire a player during a trading period. Teams may also make negotiations during the draft relinquishing the right to pick in a given round for the right to have an additional pick in a later round. Thus teams may have no picks or multiple picks in a given round.

Compensatory picks

In addition to the 32 picks in each round, there are a total of 32 picks awarded at the ends of Rounds 3 through 7. These picks, known as "compensatory picks," are awarded to teams that have lost more qualifying free agents than they gained the previous year in free agency. Teams that gain and lose the same number of players but lose higher-valued players than they gain also can be awarded a pick, but only in the seventh round, after the other compensatory picks. Compensatory picks cannot be traded, and the placement of the picks is determined by a proprietary formula based on the player's salary, playing time, and postseason honors with his new team, with salary being the primary factor. So, for example, a team that lost a linebacker who signed for $2.5 million per year in free agency might get a sixth-round compensatory pick, while a team that lost a wide receiver who signed for $5 million per year might receive a fourth-round pick.

If fewer than 32 such picks are awarded, the remaining picks are awarded in the order in which teams would pick in a hypothetical eighth round of the draft (These are known as "supplemental compensatory selections").

Compensatory picks are awarded each year at the NFL annual meeting which is held at the end of March; typically, about three or four weeks before the draft.


The NFL allots each team a certain amount of money from its salary cap to sign its drafted rookies for their first season. That amount is based on an undisclosed formula that assigns a certain value to each pick in the draft; thus, having more picks, or earlier picks, will increase the allotment. In 2008 the highest allotment was about $8.22 million for the Kansas City Chiefs, who had 12 picks, including two first-rounders, while the lowest was the $1.79 million for the Cleveland Browns who had only five picks, and none in the first three rounds.[2] The exact mechanism for the rookie salary cap is set out in the NFL's collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA). (Those numbers represent the cap hits that each rookie's salary may contribute, not the total amount of money paid out.)

The drafted players are paid salaries commensurate with the position in which they were drafted. High first-round picks get paid the most, and low-round picks get paid the least. There is a de facto pay scale for drafted rookies. After the draft, non-drafted rookies may sign a contract with any team in the league. These rookie free-agents usually do not get paid as well as drafted players, nearly all of them signing for the predetermined rookie minimum and a small signing bonus.

Two other facets of the rookie salary cap impact the makeup of rosters. First, the base salaries of rookie free agents do not count towards the rookie salary cap, though certain bonuses do. Second, if a rookie is traded, his cap allotment remains with the team that originally drafted him, which make trades involving rookie players relatively rare. (This rule does not apply, however, to rookies that are waived by the teams that drafted them.)

Teams can also agree to a contract with a draft-eligible player before the draft itself starts. They can only do this if they have the first overall pick, as by agreeing to terms with a player the team has already "selected" which player they will draft. A recent example of this would be quarterback Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions in the 2009 NFL Draft. The Lions, with the first overall selection in the draft, agreed to a 6-year, $78 million deal with $41.7 million guaranteed with Stafford a day before the draft officially started. By agreeing to the deal, Stafford had already been chosen as the first overall pick in the draft.


The commissioner has the ability to forfeit picks the team is allotted in a draft. For example, in the 2007 NFL season, the New England Patriots were penalized for videotaping the Jets' defensive signals. As a result, the Patriots forfeited their first-round pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. Similarly, the San Francisco 49ers were forced to forfeit a fifth-round pick in the same draft for tampering with a player under contract to the Chicago Bears, and were also forced to swap third-round selections with the Bears (moving the 49ers down and the Bears up six spots).

National Football League Draft

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Supplemental Draft

Since 1977, the NFL has also held a Supplemental Draft to accommodate players who did not enter the regular draft. Players generally enter the Supplementary Draft because they missed the filing deadline for the NFL Draft or because issues developed which affected their eligibility (such as athletic or disciplinary matters). The draft is scheduled to occur at some point after the regular draft and before the start of the next season. In 2009, the Supplemental Draft occurred on July 16. In 1984 the NFL held an additional draft for players who were under contract with either USFL or CFL teams.

Draft order is determined by a weighted system that is divided into three groupings. First come the teams that had six or fewer wins last season, followed by non-playoff teams that had more than six wins, followed by the 12 playoff teams. In the supplemental draft, a team is not required to use any picks. Instead, if a team wants a player in the supplemental draft, they submit a "bid" to the Commissioner with the round they would pick that player. If no other team places a bid on that player at an earlier spot, the team is awarded the player and has to give up an equivalent pick in the following year's draft. (For example, FS Paul Oliver was taken by the San Diego Chargers in the fourth round of the Supplemental Draft in 2007; thus, in the 2008 NFL Draft, the Chargers forfeited a fourth-round pick.)

The 1985 Supplemental Draft was particularly controversial. Bernie Kosar of the University of Miami earned his academic degree a year early but did not enter the regular draft that year. Rather than finish his eligibility at Miami, he entered into talks with his favorite team, the Cleveland Browns. They advised Kosar to delay his professional eligibility until after the regular draft. They then traded for the right to choose first in the Supplemental Draft. This angered many teams, notably the Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants, who had expressed interest in choosing him in that season's regular draft. Following that season, the NFL instituted the current semi-random supplemental draft order.

Even with that rule change, top players continued to not declare for the NFL until after the regular draft for various reasons. In some cases, it was because they did not want to play for the team that would have drafted them in the regular draft. For example, Brian Bosworth did not declare because he did not want to play for the Indianapolis Colts or the Buffalo Bills, the teams who drafted second and third that year. The Colts had offered him a 4 year, $2.2 million deal before the draft.[3] The Seattle Seahawks won the right to draft first in the supplemental draft, and later signed him to a 10 year, $11 million contract.[4] At the time that was the largest rookie contract in NFL history.

As of the 1990 season, only players who had graduated or exhausted their college eligibility were made available for the supplemental draft. Since 1993, only players who had planned to attend college but for various reasons could not have been included in the supplemental draft.

List of NFL Supplemental Draft Picks

As of 2010, 40 players have been taken in the Supplemental Draft[5]

Year Drafted Player Position Round NFL Team College Reason For Entering Supplemental Draft
1977 Al Hunter RB 4th Seattle Seahawks Notre Dame
1978 Johnnie Dirden WR 10th Houston Oilers Sam Houston State
1978 Rod Connors RB 12th San Francisco 49ers USC
1979 Rod Stewart RB 6th Buffalo Bills Kentucky
1980 Matthew Teague DE 7th Atlanta Falcons Prairie View A&M
1980 Billy Mullins WR 9th San Diego Chargers USC
1981 Dave Wilson QB 1st New Orleans Saints Illinois
1981 Chy Davidson WR 11th New England Patriots Rhode Island
1982 Kevin Robinson DB 9th Detroit Lions North Carolina A&T
1985 Bernie Kosar QB 1st Cleveland Browns Miami (FL) did not declare for the NFL until after the regular draft had been held.
1985 Roosevelt Snipes RB 8th San Francisco 49ers Florida State
1986 Charles Crawford RB 7th Philadelphia Eagles Oklahoma State
1987 Brian Bosworth LB 1st Seattle Seahawks Oklahoma did not declare for the NFL until after the regular draft had been held.[1]
1987 Dan Sileo DT 3rd Tampa Bay Buccaneers Miami (FL)
1987 Cris Carter WR 4th Philadelphia Eagles Ohio State
1988 Ryan Bethea WR 5th Minnesota Vikings South Carolina
1989 Steve Walsh QB 1st Dallas Cowboys Miami (FL) did not declare for the NFL until after the regular draft had been held.[2]
1989 Timm Rosenbach QB 1st Phoenix Cardinals Washington State did not declare for the NFL until after the regular draft had been held.[3] As an underclassman, he was allowed to enter the draft because his school had changed coaches.
1989 Bobby Humphrey RB 1st Denver Broncos Alabama
1989 Brett Young DB 8th Buffalo Bills Oregon
1989 Mike Lowman RB 12th Dallas Cowboys Coffeyville Community College
1990 Rob Moore WR 1st New York Jets Syracuse graduated from college with a year of eligibility remaining, and did not declare in time for regular draft. [4]
1990 Willie Williams TE 9th Phoenix Cardinals LSU
1992 Dave Brown QB 1st New York Giants Duke graduated from college with a year of eligibility remaining, and did not declare for the NFL until after the regular draft had been held.
1992 Darren Mickell DE 2nd Kansas City Chiefs Florida suspended from team for senior season for undisclosed violations of team rules.
1994 Tito Wooten DB 4th New York Giants Louisiana-Monroe
1994 John Davis TE 5th Dallas Cowboys Emporia State
1995 Darren Benson DT 3rd Dallas Cowboys Trinity Valley Community College
1998 Mike Wahle OT 2nd Green Bay Packers Navy suspended for senior season after testing positive for steroids.[5]
1998 Jamal Williams DT 2nd San Diego Chargers Oklahoma State declared academically ineligible.[6]
1999 J'Juan Cherry DB 4th New England Patriots Arizona State dismissed from the team.[7]
2002 Milford Brown OL 6th Houston Texans Florida State out of NCAA eligibility.[8]
2003 Tony Hollings RB 2nd Houston Texans Georgia Tech declared academically ineligible.[9]
2005 Manuel Wright DT 5th Miami Dolphins USC declared academically ineligible.[10]
2006 Ahmad Brooks LB 3rd Cincinnati Bengals Virginia dismissed from the team.[11]
2007 Paul Oliver S 4th San Diego Chargers Georgia declared academically ineligible.[12]
2007 Jared Gaither OT 5th Baltimore Ravens Maryland declared academically ineligible.[13]
2009 Jeremy Jarmon DE 3rd Washington Redskins Kentucky suspended for senior season after testing positive for a banned supplement.[14]
2010 Harvey Unga RB 7th Chicago Bears BYU voluntarily left school after violating its honor code.[15]
2010 Josh Brent NT 7th Dallas Cowboys Illinois declared academically ineligible.[16]

Events leading up to the Draft

NFL Draft Advisory Board decisions

College football players who are considering entering the NFL Draft but who still have eligibility to play college football can request an expert opinion from the NFL-created Draft Advisory Board. The Board, composed of scouting experts and team executives, makes a prediction as to the likely round in which a player would be drafted. This information, which has proved to be fairly accurate, can help college players determine whether to enter the draft or to continue playing and improving at the college level. There are also many famous reporting scouts, such as Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay.

NFL Scouting Combine

The NFL Scouting Combine is a six-day assessment of skills occurring every year in late February or early March in Indianapolis, Indiana's Lucas Oil Stadium. College football players perform physical and mental tests in front of NFL coaches, general managers, and scouts. With increasing interest in the NFL Draft, the scouting combine has grown in scope and significance, allowing personnel directors to evaluate upcoming prospects in a standardized setting. Its origins have evolved from the National, BLESTO and Quadra Scouting services in 1977, to the media frenzy it has become today.

Tests/evaluations include:

  • 40 yard dash
  • Bench press
  • Vertical jump
  • Broad jump
  • 20-yard shuttle
  • Three-cone drill
  • 60-yard shuttle
  • Position-specific drills
  • Interviews
  • Physical measurements
  • Injury evaluation
  • Drug screen
  • The Cybex test
  • The Wonderlic Test

Athletes attend by invitation only. Implications of one's performance during the Combine can affect perception, draft status, salary and ultimately his career. The draft has popularized the term "Workout Warrior" (sometimes known as a "Workout Wonder"), describing an athlete who, based on superior measurables such as size, speed and strength, has increased his "draft stock" despite having a possibly average or subpar college career.[6][7][8]

Pro Day

Each university has a pro day, during which the NCAA allows NFL scouts to visit the school and watch players participate in NFL Combine events together.

Mr. Irrelevant

The last overall player selected in the NFL Draft is traditionally given the title "Mr. Irrelevant". This practice was started in 1976 by former NFL player Paul Salata, who founded "Irrelevant Week" in Newport Beach, California. During the summer after the NFL draft, the new Mr. Irrelevant and his family are invited to Newport Beach for a week of activities.


The draft has taken place since 1936[9] and has had to move into larger venues as the event has gained in popularity, drawing fans from across the world. The 2006 draft was held at Radio City Music Hall, the first time this venue has hosted the gala, and it has been held there ever since. The Theater at Madison Square Garden had hosted the event for a ten-year period, but the NFL moved it to the Javits Convention Center in 2005 following a dispute with the Cablevision-owned arena, who were opposing the West Side Stadium, which would have served as home of the New York Jets and the centerpiece of the New York City bid for the 2012 Summer Olympics, because the new stadium would compete with the Garden for concerts and other events.[10]

Tickets to the NFL Draft are free and made available to fans on a first-come first-served basis. The tickets are distributed at the box office the morning of the draft, one ticket per person.[11] Long waits in line can be expected for fans hoping to get a live glimpse of their team's high-profile picks. Fans must arrive early in order to attend the draft.[citation needed] 2010 was the first year the NFL draft was moved to primetime. Tickets for the first two days, Thursday and Friday were available to fans who waited in long lines. Tickets for day three, Saturday, are generally easy to come by, just by going to Radio City Music Hall in the morning. Those fans who have been grandfathered into the NFL Drafts' Day 2 Diehard program are mailed tickets each year for the NFL draft. This program was discontinued in 2008.

See also


  1. NFL draft's first round moves to Thursday night for 2010
  2. ESPN – Chiefs get largest rookie pool to pay draft picks – NFL
  3. ["" "Colts Insist: Not Trade For Rights to No. 1 Pick"]. "". Retrieved 2010-08-22.
  4. "Bosworth signs".,4330985. Retrieved 2010-08-22.
  5. "Bears pick Unga; Price-Brent to Dallas". Retrieved 2010-07-15.
  6. Isaac Cheifetz, Hiring Secrets of the NFL: How Your Company Can Select Talent Like a Champion (2007), 68, available at Google Books
  7. Rich Eisen, Total Access: A Journey to the Center of the NFL Universe (2007), 128, available at Google Books
  8. David Schoenfield, Page 2: The 100 worst draft picks ever,, April 26, 2006 (see #45, Mike Mamula, a "workout wonder")
  9. "NFL Draft History". Retrieved 2008-10-28.
  10. Hack, Damon (2005-02-11). "N.F.L. Is Seeking New Home for Draft". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-01-18.
  11. "NFL Draft Basics: Fan Tickets". Archived from the original on 2008-01-03. Retrieved 2008-01-04.

External links