How the NFL Draft Works
'common use in Britain, which can be mystifying'
Charlie Spittal | 15 July 2018

From Super Bowl to the NFL Draft, many terms from American football are in common use in Britain, which can be mystifying. So here is an introduction. The National Football League is the professional American football league which consists of 32 teams from all around the USA. The teams are put into 8 tables and then separated into the American Football Conference (AFC) and the National Football Conference (NFC). The teams with the best records in each table enter the ‘playoffs’ of either the NFC or AFC. The winners of these playoffs compete in the ‘Super Bowl’ final each year.

The NFL draft is a way of signing players into NFL teams from college American football, which has a huge number of supporters in the US. Before the NFL draft day occurs, the teams in the NFL are ordered from worst to best, based on the overall league season as well as the Super Bowl final. The teams keep that order in each round when they choose which college players they think will be most promising and which ‘rookie’ will be best for their team. By allowing the weakest teams to sign the strongest rookies, the aim is to make the league more even and give the teams with a bad record a better chance of reaching the playoffs. For the NFL teams to get an idea of what the college football players are like, there is an annual ‘combine’ which tests the mental and physical attributes of the college players. The tests vary depending on what position the players play. For instance, the larger players in the offensive line are tested on bench-press abilities, whereas ‘running backs’ (the faster players) are tested on their 40-yard speed. The first ‘pick’ of the draft is supposedly the most promising player in college football, as seen in the combine and the college regular season, but it is hard to tell how impressive they will be when playing for the professional league.

The draft takes place over a weekend, and this is where the college players meet with the NFL team representatives. Round 1 starts with the first team having ten minutes to pick the college player they would like to sign, and each team then similarly has ten minutes. The amount of time in the next rounds decreases and the draft ends after seven rounds. The college players who have not been ‘drafted’ after the 7 rounds of 32 picks become ‘free agents’, who the teams are able to sign normally. Before, during and after the seven rounds occur, the teams are able to use their picks for trading of players and this is what makes the draft day so interesting to watch.

Original image by Will Fennel

James Routledge 2016