NFL Draft Picks: How Do They Work?

NFL Draft Picks: How Do They Work?

The National Football League is the most popular sports league in America. Over the last several years, the NFL Draft has become an event in itself to watch unfold. 

In 2021, 6.1 million people tuned in to the draft. But, how does it work? 

These are the rules for NFL draft picks. 

Draft Order

This is rather simple. Team records from the prior season decide the draft order. 

In 2020, the Jacksonville Jaguars had the worst record in the NFL, so in return, they received the first pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. For teams that do not make the playoffs, it goes in order from worst to best record with various tiebreakers along the way. 

Then, for teams who do make the playoffs, it goes in order of when the team got eliminated. So, in the NFL, 14 of the 32 teams make the playoffs.

That means that non-playoff teams take the first 18 spots but then picks 19-24 go to teams who get eliminated in the wild card round.

Then, picks 25-28 go to teams eliminated in the divisional round, picks 29-30 are for teams who lost their conference championships, pick #31 is for the Super Bowl loser, and pick #32 is for the Super Bowl champion. 

You can get free NFL picks if you are on the betting side of the sport to help you get an idea of who might end up where at the end of the season. 

Player Pool 

The players eligible for the National Football League draft are those who have been out of high school for at least three seasons. In addition, those who have no college eligibility remaining. 

To find these players, nearly all of them are selected from schools part of the NCAA. 

Format and Time Allowed

The NFL Draft takes place over three days. It is normally either in April or May. 

The first round is broadcast on a Thursday night. Then, the second and third rounds are broadcast on that Friday night. Finally, rounds 4-7 are broadcast that Saturday. 

As for time allowed, teams have 10 minutes to make a selection in the first round. Then, that goes down to seven minutes in the second round, five minutes in rounds 3-6, and four minutes in the seventh round. 


Trading draft picks is allowed here. Normally, trades will be for other draft picks, and they can even be for a player currently on your team. 

Total Picks 

In total, the NFL Draft has 256 picks up for grabs for teams. Every year, each team is awarded at least seven (though they can be traded to another team or taken away if a team violated league rules). Fans eager to experience the culmination of these draft picks in action often secure their Super Bowl tickets early through platforms like TicketSmarter.

Those seven picks each add up to 224. But, the NFL also awards 32 compensatory picks.

These are given to teams who lost a significant amount of players to free agency in that offseason. Teams can get up to four additional picks, and these picks take place in the fourth through seventh rounds. 

Learn More About NFL Draft Picks

These are just the rules for how teams come to have NFL draft picks. For more information about the format and what players actually get picked, check out our entertainment section.