NFL Draft Rules
by Trevor Whenham - 02/20/2008
The NFL Draft is heaven for sports geeks everywhere. There is more to be discussed and debated and measured and calculated and disputed than almost anything outside of the NFL season itself. Every year it turns into a bigger and bigger event, and it gets more and more attention from media far and wide. The stakes are high, and so an event like that can't just run itself. It needs all sorts of rules and regulations to keep everything in order. Here's a collection of some of the NFL Draft rules you might want to know so that you are completely ready for draft watching in April. After all, true football fans take their draft preparations as seriously as the players who will be drafted.
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College players are eligible for the NFL draft after they have completed their eligibility (in most cases that means four years of roster time, plus an optional fifth redshirt year). Players can choose to leave college early provided that they have been out of high school for at least three years. In most cases, that means that the draft is full of seniors and extraordinary juniors, but in some cases redshirt sophomores or players who played in a pro league like the Arena Football League will be eligible. Players have to apply for the draft by Jan. 15, and once they are officially part of the draft they are no longer eligible for college.
If a player is drafted but does not want to play for a team he can sit out for the year and re-enter the draft the next season.
In the first round of the draft each team has 10 minutes to make their pick. This used to be 15 minutes, but it was cut down after the 2007 draft in hopes of making the first round a bit less of a marathon for TV viewers - it took more than six hours in 2007. In round two the time has been cut down to seven minutes per pick from the previous 10. Rounds three through seven allow five minutes for each pick. If a team doesn't get to its pick in time it is still allowed to choose, but the teams after it in the NFL Draft order can pick first if they are ready. This happened in 2003. Minnesota was late with their first round pick, and didn't get to make their selection until Jacksonville and Carolina had made theirs.
For the first time in recent years, the first day of the draft will have only two rounds instead of three. The last five rounds of the draft along with the compensatory picks will take place on the second day.
In addition to one pick for each team in each round, there are 32 compensatory picks which are spread out over rounds three to seven. The picks are used at the end of each round as needed. Teams are awarded compensatory picks if they lose more free agents than they gain in free agency in the previous season. The placement of the picks is determined by a special formula. Teams are not able to trade their compensatory picks. If all 32 compensatory picks are not needed then the remaining picks are used at the end of draft, and are used in the same order as picks were earned in the first round.
The NFL can choose to penalize a team as it sees fit for violating league rules by forcing the team to forfeit any draft pick it chooses. The most prominent recent example of this is the New England Patriots in 2008. They had their first round pick stripped as a result of being caught video taping illegally when they played the New York Jets at the start of the season.
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Players who do not declare for the NFL draft can subsequently declare for the supplemental draft, which takes place later in the summer. Players rarely use the supplemental draft - less than 40 players have been chosen in the draft since it began in 1977. It works differently than a normal draft. Teams still choose in the same order as the regular draft. It doesn't look like a normal draft, though. Instead, teams can bid on which round they would pick a particular player in. The team that bids to choose a player in the highest round gets the player. If two teams choose the same round then the one that has the higher pick would get the player. If a team chooses a player in the supplemental draft, they lose that equivalent pick in the following year's draft.