How Many Rounds Are in the NFL Draft? The Tutorial Guide
Seven rounds and 32 picks total—one for each team—make up the NFL Draft. In order to restock their rosters, teams can pick from this year’s crop of college players. Here is all the information you need to know about the Draft.
The NFL Draft is a multi-day extravaganza with the top college football players discovering where they will begin their professional careers. Teams no longer have to make decisions over the course of 30 rounds, but how many rounds are there this year and what are the key NFL Draft regulations you should be aware of?
How Much Time to Pick Compensatory Free Agents?
As the NFL Draft goes on, each team’s window of opportunity to select compensatory free agents will get smaller and smaller. It indicates that teams have less time to choose as the NFL Draft draws to a close.
Each franchise has ten minutes to choose its compensatory free agents for the first-round selection. The next round will only give each club seven minutes to choose their player.
Rounds 3, 4, 5, and 6 all have shorter times. Teams have just five minutes to make their picks in these rounds. It takes the shortest amount of time to choose in the final round. Each club has exactly four minutes to make a choice.
The Rules and the Process of the NFL Draft
Over time, the NFL Draft’s regulations have evolved. All 32 teams currently receive one pick in each of the seven rounds, which are currently in effect. Teams are assigned to a particular Draft “slot” based on their performance during the previous season.
The groups that missed the playoffs are listed first. Based on their regular season records, these teams are ranked from 1 through 20. Teams with worse records will be assigned to earlier slots, and teams with better records will be assigned to later slots.
Teams that advanced to the playoffs are given slots 21 through 32. Based on their records during the regular season, the four losers from the wild card round are given the positions 21 through 24. The losers in the divisional round—also determined by regular season records—take the positions 25 through 28. The conference championship losers receive spots 29 and 30. The Super Bowl loser makes their selection in position 31, and the Super Bowl winner takes the final spot.
The NFL uses a number of tiebreakers to determine the order of the draft in the event that two teams have the same final record. In most cases, the first tiebreaker—strength of schedule—is adequate. The league totals and compares each team’s opponents’ winning percentages. The team with a more demanding schedule is selected first.
The NFL compares the strength of each division when two teams have similar strength of schedules. Strength of conference is employed if that is insufficient. If somehow two teams are still the same, the league falls back on the following methods:
- Head-to-head record
- Best record in common games (minimum of four)
- Strength of victory for the entire season
- Best combined points scored and points allowed for the season
- Most points scored for the season
- Most touchdowns for the season
- Coin toss
2019 was the first year that the NFL added these later tiebreakers. Before that, a coin toss would determine the winner if two teams had the same final record and strength of schedule.
Meaning of Rounds in the NFL
All 32 teams will have one player available to them in each round of the Draft. The team with the lowest record, or the one in first place, goes first. The league is meant to be more competitive by maintaining as much parity as possible between teams. Once all teams have chosen, the team with the second slot goes first.
The pick order is switched around for the second round. The team in position 32 makes its decision first, followed by the team in position 31, and so forth. With every round, the order keeps switching. Consequently, in rounds with odd numbers and even numbers, the team with the first slot makes its decision first.
How Many Picks Are in Each Round of the NFL Draft?
The 2022 NFL Draft order has yet to be finalized. The worst-performing team from the previous campaign will once again get the No. 1 overall pick, while the The 32nd choice will be made by the Super Bowl champion. The Jacksonville Jaguars will pick first overall for a second straight year, and the 32nd and final choice in the first round will be made after Super Bowl 56.
In the first round of the draft, each team is given one pick. However, a lot end up being traded. Consequently, most rounds have more than 32 picks because the league also distributes compensatory picks.
- Round 1: 32 picks
- Round 2: 32 picks
- Round 3: 41 picks
- Round 4: 39 picks
- Round 5: 40 picks
- Round 6: 44 picks
- Round 7: 31 picks
Ultimately, assuming that no NFL Draft rules are broken, there are 259 total picks in each NFL Draft.
How Long Does Each Team Have to Pick?
Each team’s amount of time “on the clock” reduces as the draft proceeds. Each franchise has ten minutes to choose a player in the opening round. In Round 2, each team has seven minutes to make a selection. Teams have five minutes for each round in Rounds 3, 4, 5, and 6. They have just four minutes remaining in the final round.
The guidelines for the NFL Draft are unambiguous. The next team in line officially enters the clock if a team doesn’t make their selection or trade it before the timer runs out. The decision-making process becomes competitive even though they still have the option to choose. Whenever a player is desired by both teams, the player’s rights belong to the first team to lock and send up their card.
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Meaning of Compensatory Picks in 2022 NFL Draft
The NFL also gives out up to 32 compensatory picks in addition to the 32 standard picks in each round. Compensatory picks, technically called “compensatory free agent” picks, are given to teams that have lost significant value due to free agency. At the conclusion of the third through seventh rounds, these selections are made.
The NFL has a formula they use to determine a player’s value when a team loses him to free agency. The formula itself is proprietary, but the NFL says it includes “a player’s salary, playing time, and postseason honors.” In order to determine the worth of players signed as free agents, the NFL employs the same formula.
The league adds up each team’s losses and gains prior to the Draft. The team may receive up to four compensatory picks if its value has decreased. Picks made earlier are worth more, whereas picks made later are worth less. Like standard picks, compensatory picks can be traded.
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Meaning of Trades
Positions in the draft are regarded as assets. Once a team receives their slots, they can use them however they see fit. When negotiating player trades, teams frequently use Draft slots as leverage. Even draft slots from subsequent years can be traded.
Given that neither team knows how good that future pick will be, this is a gamble for both teams. Uncertain of whether the pick will come early or late in the second round in 2024, a team might trade for it.
In addition, teams can exchange picks on Draft Day. On demand, they frequently perform this. With the 16th pick in the first round, a team might be hoping to select a specific running back, for instance. If that player gets picked by the team with the 14th slot, the team might be willing to “trade down.” They could exchange their 16th selection for a later one in exchange for earlier selections in the 2nd and 4th rounds.
Just one possible scenario for a trade on Draft day. Each trade is distinct and occurs for a different reason. Both teams must inform the league of a trade in order for it to be approved, and both teams must communicate the same details. The league will then announce its decision and inform all 32 teams. They also notify the media and make an official announcement in person at the Draft location.
What is Player Eligibility?
The NFL Draft is not open to just anyone. A player must have graduated from high school at least three years prior to being considered for eligibility. Additionally, they had to have exhausted all of their college eligibility. Only the year following their last year of college eligibility is when players are eligible for the Draft.
Other players, however, are eligible to apply for Draft eligibility. College freshmen are eligible to join by securing a unique waiver. Graduates with pending college eligibility can also become Draft-eligible by submitting an application to the league.
Teams are free to sign non-Draft eligible players, but only after the Draft. These athletes are referred to as undrafted free agents.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Many Days Did NFL Draft 2021 Take?
From Thursday to Saturday, it happened over three days.
When is the First Round in the NFL’s Draft 2021?
On Thursday, April 29, the first round begins.