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NFL Draft Explained: How long is it, rules and eligibility

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The NFL draft is one of the biggest events in the American football calendar. It gives the chance for the 32 teams to upgrade their rosters with fresh college talent for the season ahead, they have to battle with the other teams to gain the signatures of the upcoming talents in he sport.

Here’s how the full process works from duration, rules and eligibility… 

NFL Draft rules

Let’s start with the basics. There are seven rounds in the NFL Draft; Round 1 will take place on Thursday, 23 April 2020 and the draft will conclude on Saturday, 25 April. Every team is represented at the NFL Draft with differing amounts of selections with which to work.

As a baseline, each of the 32 teams receives one pick in each of the seven rounds. In addition to this, the NFL months before the draft can assign as many as 32 compensatory picks at the end of the third through seventh rounds.. All these picks are eligible to be traded between teams.

The order of the draft is determined by the previous season’s final standings, with the team who have the worst record going first in each round and the Super Bowl winner going last in the round. This way it gives teams a chance to catch up on last season and therefore essentially get the best picks out of the draft. For teams that finish with the same record, the tiebreaker is strength of schedule, or win percentage of opponents – if these are the same, then the next tiebreakers are conference and divisional records.


In the first round of the NFL Draft, teams get 10 minutes to make each pick. In the second round, the time between each selection drops to seven minutes. In Rounds 3-6, teams get only five minutes to make their picks, and in Round 7, they get just four minutes.

If a team fails to make a pick in the allotted time, it is not necessarily out of luck … unless the next team on the clock makes a pick quickly.

How long is the NFL Draft?

The NFL Draft is more of a marathon than a sprint. It lasts three days, and if you do the maths — the time permitted between each pick in each round, multiplied by 256 picks — you’ll get a feel for the crazy amount of hours the selection process consumes.

The NFL Draft begins Thursday, April 23 with the start of the first round at 8 p.m. ET. The end of the NFL Draft, after all seven rounds and all three days, typically arrives sometime between 6-7 p.m. ET on Saturday.

Those who are watching the draft on TV can expect the first round broadcast to last roughly three hours and end around 11 p.m. ET. On Day 2, when Rounds 2-3 will be completed, the broadcast that starts at 7 p.m. ET will last roughly four hours, also ending around 11 p.m. ET. Day 3, which begins at noon with the top of the fourth round, typically lasts six to seven hours.


That’s three days and roughly 14 hours of NFL teams being on the clock in the NFL Draft.

Of course, this doesn’t include the year-round preparation on the part of each team’s scouting and personnel staffs. In that regard, one could argue the NFL Draft never ends.

NFL Draft eligibility

The rules for player eligibility in the NFL Draft are relatively simple. In order to be eligible for the NFL Draft, a player must be at least three years removed from high school. That means a college football player is eligible to enter the NFL Draft after his junior season or, in some cases, his redshirt sophomore season. These underclassmen must apply for approval to enter the NFL Draft (reviewed by the NFL’s player personnel staff), and they have until seven days after the college football national championship game to do so. As for seniors who enter the NFL Draft, they are only eligible in the year after the end of their college eligibility.

How many NFL Draft picks does each team have?

Because some teams receive compensatory picks and others don’t, and because teams often package multiple draft picks in trades, one team might enter the NFL Draft with, say, 12 selections at its disposal, and another might enter the draft with only six.

With the NFL Draft coming so soon, let’s hope this clears up any questions that you may have had about the draft and now you can understand the whole process.

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