NFL Draft Madness
Written by: Quintin Bentley Crevling
The NFL draft is the annual event held in April during which all 32 teams will select eligible college football players to join their organization. An eligible player is defined as a person who has been out of high school for 3 years (Non-negotiable), and used up their college eligibility. If a player graduates early, they can petition for the NFL to grant them access to the draft. The draft committee has already granted special eligibility to 95 underclassmen to this year’s draft.
The draft is a seven round event with each team receiving one pick per round. The NFL will also award an additional 32 compensatory picks teams who qualify. Compensatory picks are given to teams who have lost more productive players than they have gained in the previous year’s free agency period. The NFL has a highly complex formula based on player salaries, playing time, post season awards, and number of players lost or gained in the offseason. No team can be awarded more than 4 compensatory picks.
The NFL can also take away a team’s draft picks as a method of punishment for a serious infraction. The most common way teams lose draft picks is from instances of cheating, failure to disclose player injuries to the NFL, and by withholding important information related to ongoing player investigations.
Each draft pick needs to be made in a predetermined allotment of time, with the 1st round receiving 10 minutes, the 2nd round receiving 7 minutes, and rounds 3-7 receiving 5 minutes. This is generally referred to as being “on the clock”. If the time expires, the next team in order can make their selection, but the team whose time expired can still make their selection at any time.
When a team is on the clock they can select a player to join their team, trade their pick for a player (or players), trade their pick for additional present/future draft pick (or picks), or any combination of these options.
For teams who failed to make the playoffs, the draft order is determined by each team’s winning percentage with the lowest winning percentage picking first. The teams that make the playoffs will be added to the draft in the order they are eliminated. If two teams have the same win percentage, the team with the worse divisional record picks first.
If a player does not want to sign with a team that drafted them, they can hold out on signing their contract or request to be traded. Most NFL organizations would likely attempt to wait out the player while they found a team willing to make a trade. If a player selected in a later round does not want to sign, they will most likely just be released from the team, making them a free agent to sign with whomever they like. If a player has not been officially traded or cut, the team that drafted them would still own their NFL rights, meaning that the player is not free to sign with any other NFL team.
Each rookie that is drafted will enter into a four year contract with the team that selected them. First round players have an additional fifth year added to their contract, so organizations can keep a player for a fifth season without using their franchise tag. A franchise tag is a designation that a team can place on a player to keep them on the roster for an additional season. A player who has been franchised tagged is compensated with the average salary of the top five earners at their position, or 120% of their current contract, whichever is higher. A player can be franchised tagged as many times as the team wants, but the price would quickly become expensive after the second tag.) The compensation is determined by a secretive formula that the NFL will not release to the public. Mathematicians everywhere have attempted to crack the NFL’s formula determining that there is a drastic drop in value with each pick in the first three rounds, with the compensation becoming more equal for rounds 4-7.
If a player is not selected in the draft, they can sign with whichever team they please under a league minimum contract. There have been many great NFL players who have gone undrafted, including Tony Romo, Antonio Gates, Kurt Warner, and Warren Moon.