How Does The Nfl Draft Work?
The NFL draft may seem confusing, and you may ask yourself “how does the NFL draft work?” There are a few basic rules that govern the draft and the order in which NFL teams choose players. Similarly, there are rules about how college players can declare themselves for the draft. From an obscure, back-room event, the draft has turned into a major fan attraction.
Most anyone can declare themselves eligible to be drafted, though very few will be. The only stipulation the NFL has is that a person must be out of high school for three years to enter the NFL draft.
There is an order to the NFL draft in which theoretically, the worst team in the league—based on record from the previous year—drafts first in a round. Other teams follow, from worst to best, finishing with the Super Bowl winner. Teams who made the playoffs are ranked based on their playoff performance; others are ranked simply on regular season record.
If two teams are tied, the team with the weakest strength of schedule gets the higher NFL draft pick. Other tie breakers follow, with a coin toss being used if the tie cannot be broken otherwise.
At any point after the NFL draft order is set, teams may negotiate to trade picks with each other, either for other picks, players, or a combination of the two.
After a player is drafted, he is considered the “property” of that team and they have exclusive rights to negotiate a contract with him. If the two sides cannot come to terms on a contract, the player can sit out the season and enter the NFL draft again the following year, though this virtually never happens.
There are seven rounds in the NFL draft. If a player goes undrafted, he is free to attempt to sign with any team as a free agent.
Williams, Pete. The Draft: A Year Inside the NFL's Search for Talent. St. Martin's Press, 2007.