For the past three years, the NFL draft has drawn an average of 6 million to 8 million viewers over the three-day event.

Its popularity exceeds that of any other major league sports draft in the United States, becoming a landmark event for the NFL throughout its 87-year history by giving fans a first look at the league’s future stars. .

With all eyes on the teams and potential players that could change the franchise, it’s helpful for fans to understand how the draft works , how picks are awarded and the rules that govern everything from player eligibility to time the teams have to decide their selections.

This year, the NFL draft begins this April 28 and ends on April 30 and will be broadcast on NFL Network, ABC, ESPN and ESPN Deportes. This is what you need to know.

How does the NFL draft work?

The draft consists of seven rounds, with each of the 32 NFL teams receiving an automatic pick each round. The event lasts three days, with the first round on Thursday; the second and third rounds, on Friday; and the remaining rounds, from the fourth to the seventh, on Saturday.

Each team is assigned a table at the designated location—this year at the home of the Las Vegas Raiders , Allegiant Stadium—where the teams’ selection representatives sit.

Representatives stay in contact with the executives who make the final decisions at team headquarters and communicate each selection to NFL staff before it is officially announced to the world.

Each team has 10 minutes to decide their selection during the first round, seven minutes in the second round, five minutes in the third to sixth rounds and four minutes in the seventh round.

If time runs out before a team has submitted their choice, the team can still make a selection; however, this would leave the door open for the next team(s) to make their choice before them.

When it comes to selecting the best future talent in the NFL, you have to be timely.

How is the draft order assigned ?

Teams draft in the reverse order of the previous season’s final standings, with the last regular season qualifier drafting first, and the rest of the non- playoff qualifiers taking the 2-20 picks following the same order.

Teams that made the playoffs are calculated based on how far they went in the postseason, in addition to their regular season ranking.

Those eliminated in the wild card round take picks 21-24; those in the divisional round, 25-28; and those in the conference round, 29-30. The wild card round loser with the worst regular season record picks first among those teams, while the wild card loser with the best regular season record picks last, and so on.

The Super Bowl loser receives the 31st pick, and the Super Bowl champion receives the 32nd and final pick of each round.

In the event of a tie for regular season records, the teams involved will be compared based on the strength of their schedules. The team that played opponents with a collectively higher winning percentage will draft after the team whose opponents had a collectively lower winning percentage.

If the teams also had identical schedule strength, then go to division and then conference records. If this doesn’t break the tie, or if the teams involved are from different conferences, there are seven additional tiebreakers: head-to-head, win-loss percentage, strength of wins, points scored vs. points allowed, net points per game, touchdowns total nets and finally a coin toss.

So each team gets seven total picks and drafts in the reverse order of how they finished the previous season?
Not at all. In addition to the seven standard picks awarded to each team, the league also began awarding supplemental “compensatory free agent” picks, under the 1993 CBA.

Compensatory picks were created with the goal of leveling the playing field for teams that experienced significant losses due to free agency.

According to the league, any “team that loses more or better compensatory free agents than it acquires in the previous year is eligible to receive compensatory draft picks “, which are spread from the third through seventh rounds.

How compensatory picks are awarded to teams is decided based on a confidential formula developed by the NFL’s board of trustees, but includes several known variables, such as player salary, playing time and achievements. in the postseason.

So if you lose a big-name player like Tom Brady in free agency, you could get additional picks in the next draft.

And the exchanges?

If picks are the meat of the draft , trades are the spice. Teams can agree to trade picks for players throughout the trade window up to the season deadline.

So while teams start with seven picks — plus compensatory picks awarded by the league — they can win or lose picks depending on their trades.

The Kansas City Chiefs earned five draft picks , three in 2022 and two in 2023, when they traded six-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins. This ties the Chiefs for the most picks heading into the 2022 draft , along with the Jacksonville Jaguars, with 12 picks available for each.

Eight teams made trades to acquire multiple first-round picks, including the Chiefs, while eight teams will be left without a single first-round pick.

Teams can trade for or with future draft picks until the trade deadline, but can also trade during the draft itself .

Patriots coach Bill Belichick has been known in particular for his practices of “pick hoarding” on draft day : trading players or top draft picks (pick-for-pick trades) in order to acquire as many players as possible. total picks.

“Pick hoarding” became a more viable option for teams in 2011 with the new CBA, which established a salary cap for rookies in order to allow teams to test their athletes at the NFL level sooner. handing out huge multi-million dollar contracts. This means that today teams can count on the best young talent at bargain prices, giving draft picks even greater value.

During the 2021 draft, eight trades occurred in the first round alone. Most of them were pick-for-pick trades, with teams like the Philadelphia Eagles trading several bottom picks to move up the draft order so they could select a player they assumed wouldn’t be available if they waited, in the case of the Eagles, 2020 Heisman-winning wide receiver DeVonta Smith.

But other teams looked at players outside the draft -eligible pool , such as the Los Angeles Rams, who snapped up cornerback Jalen Ramsey during the first day of the 2021 draft , trading a first- and fourth-round pick in that draft together. with the rights to his 2020 first-round pick, K’Lavon Chaisson. Ramsey went on to win a Super Bowl with the Rams this past season.

Some of the most notable draft day trades in recent history include the Chiefs trading for the 10th overall pick in 2017 to select future MVP and Super Bowl champion quarterback Patrick Mahomes, as well as the Ravens who traded for the last first-round pick in 2019 to hook their franchise on quarterback Lamar Jackson.

Perhaps the most memorable draft day trade of all time took place in 1985, when the defending Super Bowl champion 49ers took a chance and traded the 16th pick for wide receiver Jerry Rice. This player became the best player in the NFL.

Who is eligible to be recruited?

According to the NFL, “players must be out of high school for at least three years and must have exhausted their college eligibility before the start of the following college football season” in order to be eligible for the draft .

So, essentially, any college senior who has played four seasons of NCAA football would be a draft choice .

However, younger and senior players who have not used all of their college football eligibility may also apply to the NFL for special permission to declare for the draft . In this case, these players must submit their applications to the NFL within seven days of the NCAA National Championship.

These exceptions can put more than 100 athletes in the draft -eligible pool , but many requests are denied. Once a player declares for the NFL draft , he loses the rest of his NCAA eligibility, so the NFL is careful to grant “special eligibility” only to those with true potential on draft day. .

The NFL relies on its College Advisory Committee — made up of “senior personnel evaluators from NFL clubs and directors of the two league-sanctioned scouting organizations” — to make these decisions.

Since 2014, the College Advisory Committee has used a ranking system to decide whether a player applying for special eligibility has the potential to be drafted within the first two rounds; if not, it is generally recommended that you stay in school.

The NFL player staff is responsible for confirming the eligibility of all players prior to the draft , and again on draft day , verifying that each selected player is indeed eligible.

How do teams know who to recruit?

There are no guarantees that even the most promising prospects will become NFL stars, but teams rely heavily on their NCAA scouts to make the best possible picks to fill any gaps in their rosters.

In addition to the scouting reports they receive, teams also have a handful of opportunities to watch the top prospects gather at NFL-sponsored events like the East-West Shrine Bowl and the Senior Bowl — two All-Star-style games. who face the best prospects. However, the most notable of these events is the National Invitational Camp, or NFL Scouting Combine.

This invitation-only event was introduced in 1982 and takes place every February, giving teams the chance to see all the best players in one place. This gives teams the opportunity to test prospects on a deeper “variety of medical, mental and physical criteria.”

Before the Combine was introduced, teams like the New York Jets would fly prospects they were interested in to their team headquarters for their own evaluations. So not only were teams spending good money bringing in potential players, but top prospects were being dragged across the country.

A centralized week-long event streamlines all of this and, with modern media, also gives fans an up-close look at some 300 of the top prospects.

For teams, this is an opportunity to judge the accuracy of the information they’ve already collected about their prospects.

According to Jeff Foster, president of the National Football Scouting Inc. (NFS, for its acronym in English) and head of the NFL Combine, “Most evaluators agree that the National Combine serves to validate what they have seen in the film.”

Participants in the Combine are put through a series of grueling exercises – including the bench press , vertical jump and the infamous 40-yard dash – to test their fitness. In addition, they undergo hours of medical and psychological tests.

NFS relies on its healthcare partners at Indiana University Health to review each applicant’s medical history and conduct additional medical evaluations. Each team is assigned up to 60 15-minute interviews, a unique opportunity to assess whether a prospect has the mental toughness to survive an NFL season.

Between their scouts and the NFL Combine, teams gather a significant amount of information about draft prospects so that when draft weekend rolls around, they have all the information available to make the best decisions possible.

From the draft statement to the Combine, the NFL draft is the culmination of many players’ journeys to professional football; but it’s also just the first page of what could be future Hall of Fame careers.

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