How the NFL Draft Works (Ultimate Guide)

Have you ever wondered how the NFL Draft works? After reading this complete guide you will know everything there is to know about the NFL Draft.

The NFL Draft is an important annual event that plays an integral part in shaping professional football’s future. 

Attracting college talent from across the country to join NFL teams allows these individuals to showcase their abilities at an elite level.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore all aspects of how this draft works – from eligibility requirements and selection processes all the way through to what happens after the draft finishes.

Who is eligible for the NFL Draft?

Before diving into the NFL Draft process, it is vital that NCAA college players understand all eligibility requirements to enter it. Here are a few key points:

– Three-Year Rule

To become eligible for NFL draft eligibility, college players must have completed three years. Underclassmen who declare for the draft early are known as early entrants.

Some players with exceptional talent may opt to forego their senior year of college to enter the draft early.

– Declaration Process

Players must declare their intent to enter the draft by an established deadline, typically several months prior to the draft itself, provided by the NFL. Once declared, players become eligible for selection by NFL teams.

Did you know? The last pick of each NFL Draft is affectionately known as “Mr. Irrelevant, ” a tradition that began in 1976 when Paul Salata, a former NFL player, created the title to celebrate the final pick.

    How does the NFL Draft order and rounds work?

    All 32 NFL franchises take part in the draft
    All 32 NFL franchises take part in the draft

    The NFL Draft comprises seven rounds, in which teams from 32 franchises select their desired picks from among available options. Here’s how draft order is determined:

    – Reverse Order

    This draft order system uses the previous year’s standings as its foundation, with teams with poorer records picking first in order to promote competitive balance by giving weaker teams an opportunity to improve.

    – Trades and Compensatory Picks

    Teams have the option to trade draft picks with each other. Additionally, compensatory picks provide teams that have lost significant free agents with additional selections at specific rounds.

    To find out who takes part in the draft, take a look at our full list of all the NFL teams and their stadiums.

    Did you know? In 2003, the Minnesota Vikings made an unprecedented move by trading their seventh-round draft pick to the Baltimore Ravens in exchange for additional TV airtime during the draft. The Vikings wanted to honor their loyal fans by allowing them more exposure and airtime to celebrate their picks.

    How does the NFL Draft selection process work?

    There are time limits when the selection process takes place
    There are time limits when the selection process takes place

    The NFL Draft involves an in-depth selection process in which teams select players who best meet their needs, so let’s examine this phase.

    – On-the-Clock Selections

    Each team is provided a specified time limit in each round to make its selection, typically starting with 10 minutes for the initial round and decreasing as more rounds pass by.

    – Player Evaluation and Scouting

    In advance of any draft, teams conduct thorough scouting and evaluation of players. Scouts analyze performances in college while attending games and conducting interviews to evaluate skills, character traits, and potential fits within teams.

    – Draft Strategies

    Teams employ various strategies in their search for suitable players for their draft needs. Some teams focus on filling positional needs, while others aim to find the most capable available player regardless of position.

    Did you know? In the 2017 NFL Draft new record was set with 38 trades made during the three-day event.

    How do NFL Draft day trade deals work?

    Trades are a huge part of the NFL Draft
    Trades are a huge part of the NFL Draft

    Draft day can be full of thrills, and trade deals can often occur between teams in order to acquire specific players or additional draft picks. Here’s what you need to know:

    – Trading Picks

    Teams may exchange draft picks for players or additional picks during or even before the draft begins, either to buy better players or obtain additional selections. These trades can occur anytime.

    – Draft Trade Value Chart

    This tool assigns point values for each draft pick when negotiating trades, providing teams with an accurate representation of the fair value of picks when making deals.

    Once the draft concludes, teams assess and develop their newly selected talents. Here is what happens next:

    Did you know? Archie Manning, Peyton Manning, and Eli Manning were all drafted as the first overall picks in their respective draft years (1971, 1998, and 2004). This makes them the only family in NFL history to have three generations of quarterbacks selected with the top pick.

      What happens after the NFL Draft?

      An NFL Rookie player signing his first contract
      An NFL Rookie player signing his first contract

      – Rookie Contracts

      Drafted players sign rookie contracts with their teams outlining the terms of their rookie deals, which depend on their draft position and contract length, and financial terms.

      – Rookie Camps and Training

      After the draft, teams hold rookie camps to orient newly drafted players to their systems and coaching staff, providing rookies an opportunity to showcase their talents while adapting to the team playbook.

      – Development and Integration

      Teams place considerable importance on developing the skills of their rookie players while integrating them into team structure as part of off-season and preseason programs.

      Coaches provide guidance and training to rookies in order to facilitate a smooth transition into the professional football environment.

      – Regular Season Opportunities

      Once the regular season kicks off, drafted players have an opportunity to showcase their performance and abilities and earn playing time based on them. Some rookies may start immediately, while others will gradually earn more playing time as they adapt and prove themselves on the field.

      Did you know? NFL teams have selected players who were serving in the military. In the 2015 NFL Draft, the St. Louis Rams drafted Navy Midshipman and wide receiver Keenan Reynolds in the sixth round.

        What is the impact of the NFL Draft?

        The NFL Draft is watched by many American Football fans every single season
        The NFL Draft is watched by many American Football fans every single season

        The NFL Draft can have a major effect on teams and players across all league divisions, as well as the league office. Below are a few key aspects that you should keep in mind during this year’s Draft:

        – Team Building and Future Planning

        Drafts serve as an invaluable opportunity for teams to bolster their rosters, address weaknesses, and plan for the future. Successful draft picks can give teams long-term stability as well as a competitive edge.

        – Career and Pathway Aims

        For college players, the draft presents an invaluable opportunity that may transform their lives forever – it offers them a pathway into professional football while setting in motion their careers for future success and recognition.

        – Fan Engagement and Excitement

        The NFL Draft brings immense excitement among fans. They eagerly anticipate discovering the newest talent to arrive with each selection made and see how their teams could potentially improve through this annual process.


        The NFL Draft is an eagerly awaited event, marking a new era for both players and teams alike. By understanding eligibility requirements, draft order, selection process, and post-draft development processes, fans can gain greater insight into its inner workings – as the league evolves, the draft remains a cornerstone for talent acquisition, team formation, and the future of professional football.


        Can an NFL player refuse a draft pick?

        No player may refuse a draft pick; once selected by their chosen team, they must either sign with it or sit out the season. They may, however, negotiate contract terms with the team that selected them.

        How do NFL teams decide who to draft?

        NFL clubs conduct extensive player evaluation processes when choosing draft selections. This typically entails scouting players, evaluating their skills, interviewing them, and reviewing college performance evaluations. Teams also consider positional needs and overall team strategy before selecting players in this draft process.

        What happens to players who don’t get drafted?

        Undrafted NFL hopefuls still have opportunities to realize their dream of joining the league by signing as undrafted free agents, participating in rookie camps and tryouts, and even having successful NFL careers as undrafted free agents.

        Can you trade a player you just drafted?

        Yes, trading players shortly after being drafted is indeed possible. While not a common practice among teams, players they just drafted may be traded directly, traded via trade for players or draft picks or other considerations from another team; but first, the player must sign an official contract agreement with his or her original club that drafted them.

        Do undrafted players get paid?

        Undrafted free agents who sign with an NFL team as free agents receive compensation. They’re eligible to sign contracts that include signing bonuses and salaries, though typically, their financial terms tend to be less generous compared to players selected in earlier rounds.

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