How the NFL Draft Works

With the NFL draft in April, now seems like a great time to help bring the uninformed up to date on how this process works. The NFL draft is situated halfway between the Super Bowl and the beginning of training camp for the players in July. The draft serves as the attempt at redistributing the wealth in the NFL, by giving the weaker teams the chance to pick the best new talent to hopefully make their drive to top the NFL. However, this process can be very complicated.

The NFL draft on paper is fairly straightforward. Teams are ordered from worst to best based upon their performance the year prior. The teams then pick for seven rounds in this manner, with a few picks sprinkled throughout rounds three through seven that change this called compensatory picks. These picks are given to teams that lost more players to free agency than they gained. While the draft starts with this order in mind, it rarely maintains this simplicity. The reason for this is that many teams will trade their draft picks, or forfeit them to other teams when they pick up free agents. As a result of these maneuvers, you will see some years in which specific teams will have very few picks in the draft, while others will seem to appear over and over again.

On the day of the draft, teams might attempt to trade up or down the draft order if there is a specific player they are fighting for. There are many benefits to undergoing these trades. First, if you are ranked near the top, trading down will help you pay players less because the higher a player is picked, the more money you will have to pay them. On the flip side, trading up can help you obtain a coveted player that might be impossible to gain from your current position.

The draft itself is actually spread out over three days, making for a lengthy process. The first night includes the first round of the draft while the second night does the second and third rounds of the draft. The final day covers the remaining four rounds of the draft. In addition to spreading out the drafting, each of the days offers different lengths between picks. The first day allows teams fifteen minutes to decide, while the second day reduces this period to ten minutes and the third day, to five.

Within the draft, you also don’t see the same amount of young players pulled up like you see in Basketball. The reason for this rarity is that the NFL bars athletes from entering the draft unless there have been three football seasons since that player graduated from high school. Still, because of the time period specified within this rule, there are some sophomores and juniors who enter the draft on occasion. The 2010 draft has a large number, at 54, entering the draft as underclassmen due to worries that rookie pay scales might be imposed in later seasons due to arguments between the players and owners.

Overall, the NFL draft is an exciting process that helps keep people talking about the football season, even when it’s not going on. As the draft comes and goes, prepare for tons of speculation as to which teams will come out on top in the next year of football.

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