How the NFL Draft Works

It is that time of the year again and in less than a week, NFL team representatives will all converge in New York for the 2013 NFL Draft.

While some people understand all the intricacies of how the draft works, most fans only know that each team will pick a player when their turn comes up and they hope that their favorite NFL team picks their favorite college players.

Therefore, with this week’s blog I am going to explain how the NFL Draft works and what the rules are.


There are seven total rounds with the first round on Thursday, rounds 2 and 3 on Friday, and concluding with rounds 3-7 on Saturday.

During the first round the team on the clock gets 10 minutes to submit a player’s name to be drafted. If time expires before the team submits their pick, the next team on the clock can submit their pick, but the team whose time expired can then submit their pick at any time.

In round two time drops to seven minutes per pick and then down to five minutes per pick for rounds 3-7.

Besides compensatory selections, any team’s draft picks can be traded at any time.


While most NFL fans know that the draft order is based on the previous season won-loss records, there are a few other details that you should be aware of.

For teams that did not make the playoffs, draft order is determined by regular season records with the worst team picking first.

Draft order for teams that have the same regular season record are decided in order by:

• Strength Of Schedule
• Record Against Conference Opponents
• Record Against Divisional Opponents
• Coin Flip If Tie Still Exists

For teams that made the playoffs, draft order is determined by playoff record, with teams that lose picking higher based on which round of the playoffs they lost with the Super Bowl winner getting the last pick.

For playoff teams that lost in the same round, their order is determined by their regular season record.

Once the first round is completed, teams with the same record flip flop their draft order every round.


Not just any player can declare himself eligible for an NFL Draft, there are rules and restrictions concerning which players are eligible for drafting.

For instance, in order to be draft eligible a player must be out of high school for a minimum of three years. The majority of the time this means that a player must complete three years of playing college football, although there have been some players that have played pro football without playing college football including:

• Antonio Gates- Played College basketball but not football. Was not drafted, signed as a free agent.
• Eric Swann- Grades prevented him from going to college but was drafted in the first round after playing semi-pro football.

In addition, if a player is drafted but does not sign a contract with the team that drafted him that year he can be drafted again the following year by any team.


There are a total of 256 draft slots through seven rounds in every draft as long as a team has not had any picks taken away by the NFL for disciplinary reasons such as the New Orleans Saints did last year for the bounty scandal.

Each team is assigned one draft pick per each of the 7 rounds. This always changes from year to year due to trades. Some teams will have less than seven picks and some will have more.

32 additional picks are given out as compensatory selections to teams that in the previous year’s free agency period lost more or better free agent players than they signed in that same period.

The formula for which teams receive compensatory picks is based on:

• Players’ Salaries
• Playing Time
• Post-Season Awards
• Net Amount of Free Agents Lost Compared to Free Agents Signed

The maximum amount of picks any team can be awarded is four and those picks cannot be used in a trade.

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