The NFL Draft is an annual event when the 32 teams get the opportunity to select the best talent from the NCAA college ranks to strengthen their rosters.
The draft is one of the NFL’s main mechanisms to ensure parity across the league, alongside the salary cap. The idea, essentially, is that the worst team in the league receives first choice of the best eligible college players to add to its roster. This is meant to give bad teams the chance to improve quickly.
Each franchise is allocated seven selections based on their performance in the previous season. These selections can also be used by teams as trade capital to acquire veteran players or to improve their draft position.
For college players, the NFL Draft is their main hope of making it to the professional ranks. The majority of undrafted players never play a down in the NFL, though there are some notable exceptions. Tony Romo, for example, had a pretty nice career in Dallas before becoming a superstar broadcaster.
Here is a look at who is eligible for the draft, how the draft order is decided, how many players get drafted, and where and when the next NFL Draft will take place.
Who is eligible to be drafted?
Only players who have been out of high school for at least three years are eligible to be selected in the NFL Draft.
The majority of players will have used up their four years of NCAA eligibility before entering the draft. However, ‘underclassmen’ – players who have graduated from university in three years – can make a request to the NFL to enter the draft process a year early.
Players are only able to enter the NFL Draft once, with the year coinciding with the end of their college eligibility.
How is the draft order decided?
The draft order is determined by the final records of each NFL franchise during the regular season. The first 18 picks in each round are determined solely by regular season record, with the team with the worst record earning the right to the first pick.
Picks #19-#32 for each round are determined during the playoffs. The six teams who lose in the Wild Card round are assigned picks #19-#24, with the team with the worst regular season record receiving the 19th pick, and the team with best receiving the 24th.
The process is repeated for picks #25-28, with the four teams who exit in the Divisional round, and again with the two losing teams in the Conference Championship games (#29 and #30). The Super Bowl runner-up selects 31st, and the world champions select #32 overall. This is the final selection in the first round.
If two teams own the same regular-season record, the higher pick is awarded to the team with the weaker strength of schedule, as determined by the aggregate winning percentage of each team’s opponents.
How many players get drafted?
There are 255 draft slots in the NFL Draft. Seven rounds of 32 selections and one for each team in each round make up the majority of those.
However, teams may be awarded ‘compensatory picks’ for losing key players in free agency. A team can be awarded a maximum of four compensatory picks in a single draft. These picks are added to ends of rounds 3-7.
In addition to the players who are drafted, there are hundreds of eligible players who are not selected. These players are often picked up by teams as free agents after the draft has concluded.
When and where is the 2022 NFL Draft?
The 2022 NFL Draft is set to take place from Thursday April 28 to Saturday April 30, 2022. For the first time, the draft will take place in Las Vegas.
Las Vegas had been due to host the 2020 NFL Draft, but the event was reorganised as a virtual / video conference event due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The draft was once again an in-person event in 2021, when it was held at Cleveland’s FirstEnergy Stadium.
Current 2022 NFL Draft Order (Round 1)*
- Detroit Lions
- Philadelphia Eagles (via Miami Dolphins)
- Jacksonville Jaguars
- Houston Texans
- New York Giants
- New York Jets
- New England Patriots
- Philadelphia Eagles
- Philadelphia Eagles (via Indianapolis Colts)
- New York Jets (via Seattle Seahawks)
- Washington Football Team
- Atlanta Falcons
- Miami Dolphins (via San Francisco 49ers)
- Denver Broncos
- Carolina Panthers
- New York Giants (via Chicago Bears)
- Cleveland Browns
- Kansas City Chiefs
- Minnesota Vikings
- Pittsburgh Steelers
- New Orleans Saints
- Buffalo Bills
- Tennessee Titans
- Dallas Cowboys
- Las Vegas Raiders
- Los Angeles Chargers
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Detroit Lions (via Los Angeles Rams)
- Cincinnati Bengals
- Green Bay Packers
- Baltimore Ravens
- Arizona Cardinals
* After Week 6 of the 2021 NFL Season.