You love football, right? Then you probably know all about the NFL draft. The annual event where your team gets an infusion of young talent that could change their fortunes for years to come. The drama, the speculation, the hopes and dreams of fans everywhere hanging in the balance. Whether your squad is gunning for a championship or rebuilding from the ground up, the draft is a pivotal moment.
Over three days in late April, the 32 NFL franchises will welcome the next generation of gridiron greats. But how exactly does the draft work? What strategies do teams employ? Who are the names you need to know this year and what impact will they have? We’re here to walk you through everything you need to know about the NFL draft so you can watch with confidence, cheer with passion, and second-guess your team’s picks with the best of them. The future of the league takes shape this week – don’t miss a single moment of the action.
What Is the NFL Draft?
The NFL Draft is how new players get recruited into the National Football League each year. College football players are eligible to enter the draft 3 years after high school. During the draft, the 32 NFL teams take turns selecting players to join their team.
When and Where
The draft is held each April and has been held in various cities around the country. The event spans 3 days. In the early rounds, teams have just a few minutes to make their pick. In later rounds, teams have longer to decide as there are more players left on the board.
How It Works
The team with the worst record from the previous season gets the #1 overall pick. The Super Bowl champion picks last in each round. Teams scout players all year and rank their top prospects. When it’s their turn to pick, teams announce the name of the player they want. That player is then officially part of the team!
Players who get drafted in the early rounds typically have better odds of making the team and developing into stars. Still, there are always surprise successes from late-round picks and undrafted players. Once the draft ends, teams sign other eligible players as undrafted free agents to fill out their rosters.
The NFL Draft is a chance for teams to rebuild and restock talent. For players, it’s an opportunity to fulfill the dream of playing pro football at the highest level. Dreams are made and dashed each year at the NFL Draft, but it’s a seminal event for anyone who loves the excitement and drama of football.
Top Prospects in This Year’s NFL Draft
The NFL draft is like Christmas for football fans, and this year’s class is stacked with talent. Three players in particular are poised to make an immediate impact.
Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
Lawrence is considered a generational talent at quarterback. The 6’6” passer has a rocket arm and ideal size for an NFL QB. He led Clemson to a national title as a freshman and has dominated college football since. Lawrence is expected to go #1 overall and turn around an NFL franchise.
Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
Dominant offensive tackles are rare, and Sewell is the best prospect in years. The 6’6”, 325-pound left tackle was Outland Trophy winner in 2019 as the nation’s best college lineman. Sewell is remarkably light on his feet for his size and will be a cornerstone left tackle for over a decade. Whichever team drafts him will have a major building block for their O-line.
Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
Modern NFL offenses emphasize versatile tight ends, and Pitts is the ultimate weapon at the position. At 6’6” and 240 pounds, he has the size of a tight end but moves like a wide receiver. Pitts had 12 touchdowns and over 700 yards in only 8 games last year. He’s a matchup nightmare who can line up anywhere and will change how defenses have to play. Pitts could end up as the most dynamic playmaker from this draft class.
The 2021 draft is loaded with elite prospects at several positions. Lawrence, Sewell, and Pitts have legitimate superstar potential and will make an instant impact on the field. The only question is which lucky teams will get the chance to draft them.
How the NFL Draft Order Is Determined
The NFL draft order is determined each year by the final standings from the previous season. The team with the worst record gets the #1 overall pick. The Super Bowl champions pick last.
1. The Worst Teams Get the First Picks
The draft order for the first round, as well as all subsequent rounds, is based on the teams’ win-loss records from the prior season. The clubs that had the poorest season records receive the higher choices in each round. The Super Bowl winner is awarded the 32nd and last pick in each round.
2. Tiebreakers Are Used When Needed
If two or more teams finish with the same record, the determination of draft position is based on strength of schedule – the aggregate win-loss record of a team’s opponents. The team with the weaker schedule is awarded the higher pick. If there is still a tie, a coin flip is used to determine the selection order.
3. Teams Can Trade Draft Picks
Once the draft order is established, teams are free to trade draft picks for other picks or players. This is an important part of many teams’ draft strategies. They may trade down to acquire more and lower picks, or trade up to grab a player they covet. The trading of draft picks can continue up until each pick is made.
4. The Draft Continues for 7 Rounds
The first round of the draft receives the most attention, but the draft continues for seven rounds over three days. Rounds 2 and 3 are on Day 2, followed by rounds 4 through 7 on Day 3. Hundreds of players are selected overall, as each team tries to find new talent to improve their roster.
While the draft order sets the stage, there’s no telling exactly how the action might unfold. Trades, surprising picks, and draft day drama make the NFL draft must-see TV for football fans and a pivotal moment for teams trying to build a championship roster.
What Happens on Draft Day?
On draft day, all 32 NFL teams are on the clock to select college players to join their team. As a fan, draft day can be an exciting glimpse into your team’s future! Here’s what you can expect:
The Draft Order
The draft order is determined by the teams’ win-loss records from the previous season, with the team with the worst record picking first. Teams that make the playoffs pick last. The order “snakes” back and forth, so the Super Bowl teams have the 31st and 32nd picks.
Draft day brings lots of trades as teams maneuver to get their top choice players. Teams will trade their draft picks, sometimes for a current star player or for a higher pick. There are also draft pick trades made long before the actual draft in anticipation of who might be available.
The Clock is Ticking
Each team has a limited amount of time, usually just a few minutes, to make their selection. If a team lets the clock run out, the next team can swoop in and make their pick. The draft moves quickly, especially in the later rounds.
When a team is on the clock, the Commissioner announces the team’s selection. The new player then gets a phone call from the team, walks out on stage, and holds up the team jersey for photos. Fans either cheer or boo based on whether they approve of the pick!
Draft day brings excitement, suspense and the thrill of new potential. While the impact of the draft may not be known for several years, draft day gives fans optimism and a glimpse into their team’s future. Tune in, make your predictions and see if your team scores big with a future star!
Notable NFL Draft Picks Throughout History
The NFL draft has produced some incredibly notable picks over the years that have shaped the league. Let’s take a look at a few of the most memorable ones.
Tom Brady, Quarterback
The New England Patriots selected Tom Brady as the 199th pick in the 2000 draft. Brady went on to win six Super Bowls and three league MVPs, cementing his status as arguably the greatest quarterback of all time. His late-round selection is a reminder that teams can find franchise-changing players, even in the later rounds.
Peyton Manning, Quarterback
The Indianapolis Colts chose Peyton Manning first overall in the 1998 draft. Manning lived up to the hype, winning two Super Bowls and a record five league MVP awards during his 18-year career. Manning helped turn around the Colts franchise and became one of the most recognizable athletes in the U.S. His success showed why teams covet the first overall pick.
Lawrence Taylor, Linebacker
The New York Giants drafted Lawrence Taylor second overall in 1981. Taylor redefined the linebacker position and helped popularize the 3-4 defense. He won two Super Bowls, was a 10-time Pro Bowler, and 1986 league MVP—the only defensive player to ever win the award. Taylor proved linebackers could be game-changing players on par with offensive stars.
Joe Montana, Quarterback
The San Francisco 49ers selected Joe Montana 82nd overall in 1979. Montana won four Super Bowls and two MVPs during his 14-year career, displaying a knack for clutch plays and comebacks. His success showed how teams could build dynasties around mid-round quarterbacks, not just top prospects. Montana became an icon and helped establish the 49ers as one of the NFL’s premier franchises.
The draft has given us so many unforgettable players over the years. While the early picks often get the most attention, some of the NFL’s biggest stars have emerged from the later rounds. You just never know when your team might land a legend.
So there you have it, everything you need to know about the NFL draft. As a fan, the draft is one of the most exciting times of the year because your team has a chance to pick up talented new players that could change the franchise. Now you’ll be able to follow along with all the action, knowing the ins and outs of how it works and what each pick means. You’ll recognize names of top prospects, understand draft day trades, and see how your team’s picks fit into their needs and strategy. Most of all, you’ll be able to join in the debate and speculation with other fans about who your team should grab. The NFL draft is a fan’s delight, and armed with this knowledge, you’re ready to dive in and enjoy the show.
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