The NFL draft is only a couple days away, and the excitement is reaching unimaginable levels. But, how does the draft work exactly? Here’s a complete breakdown of everything you’ll need to know.
The NFL Draft is set to begin on April 30th and will end on May 1st. The draft can seem kind of complex, but once you get the rules down it’s fairly simple. This year’s NFL draft will be held in Cleveland.
— NFL Draft (@NFLDraft) April 23, 2021
How The NFL Draft Works For Dummies
NFL Draft Rounds Explained: How Many Rounds Are There & How Much Time Do Teams Get Per Pick?
The NFL draft is a long one. Unlike the NBA which only has two rounds, the NFL goes a full seven rounds. It makes sense, as there are far more prospects as team sizes are greater in the NFL than the NBA, but this means that the draft is a straight up marathon.
Additionally, all the rounds aren’t done on the same day. Round 1 will be on Thursday, April 29th, rounds 2-3 will be on Friday, April 30th, and rounds 4-7 will be on Saturday May 1st.
To add on, teams also have a certain time slot in which they must make their selection. This time slot varies per round.
In round 1, teams are given 10 minutes to make their selections. In round 2, teams have 7 minutes, in rounds 3-6 they have 5 minutes, and finally in round 7, teams have only 4 minutes.
How Is The NFL Draft Order Set?
The order that teams select is pre-determined based on the results of the regular season. So, the team with the worst record in the previous year winds up with the first overall pick while the Super Bowl winners have the last pick in every round.
That’s why the Jacksonville Jaguars hold the #1 overall pick while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are all the way back at 32.
Of course, if two teams end up with the same records, there are tie-breakers in place. Here’s the order of the tie-breakers that are used to determine which team will pick first:
- Strength of schedule (Opponent’s win percentage)
- Best win-loss stat in common games played (minimum of 4 common games)
- Strength of victory in all games
- Highest combined total of all points scored and all points allowed
- Most net points
- Highest net touchdowns
- Coin toss
Trades and compensatory picks can impact the order of the draft, and that’s why you’ll see that teams may not be in the order you expect, especially in rounds 2-7.
Who Is Eligible For The Draft? How Many Years Of College Football Must A Player Play Before Being Drafted?
The rules for which college athletes can declare for the draft, and who can’t are pretty simple. In order to be eligible for the NFL draft, an athlete must be at the very least three years out of high school.
Thus, unlike the NBA in which freshman are allowed to declare for the NBA draft (the one-and-done trend), college athletes looking to make it in the NFL must go much longer in college.
Following the end of the College National Championship Game, a college athlete has 7 days to decide if he wants to declare for the draft. If he does, the NFL Player Personnel Staff will verify, along with teams, schools, and agents, that the player is indeed eligible. This verification happens after the draft as well to ensure everyone who was drafted was indeed eligible.