NFL Draft Guide

The NFL Draft is an annual event rich with history and with a significant impact on the sport –  marking a critical period when NFL teams rebuild and enhance their rosters for the upcoming football season.

Here’s a view of its historical development and key facts:

Historical Overview

  • The NFL Draft was first held in 1936, initiated by Philadelphia Eagles co-owner Bert Bell.
  • The concept was introduced as a mechanism to maintain competitive balance by allowing weaker teams to improve by selecting the best college football players available.
  • The first draft was a modest affair, held at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Philadelphia, where teams selected players from a small pool of 90 athletes across nine rounds​.

2024 NFL Draft Dates

The 2024 NFL Draft runs from Thursday Apr 25, 2024, 6:00 PM until Sat, April 27th, 2024.

#1 Draft Picks 2014-2023

Here’s a list of the #1 overall picks from the NFL Drafts over the last ten seasons, along with the teams that selected them:

  • 2024: Caleb Williams, QB, USC- Chicago Bears
  • 2023: Bryce Young, QB, Alabama – Carolina Panthers
  • 2022: Travon Walker, DE, Georgia – Jacksonville Jaguars
  • 2021: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson – Jacksonville Jaguars
  • 2020: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU – Cincinnati Bengals
  • 2019: Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma – Arizona Cardinals
  • 2018: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma – Cleveland Browns
  • 2017: Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M – Cleveland Browns
  • 2016: Jared Goff, QB, California – Los Angeles Rams
  • 2015: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

(view a complete historical list of #1 draft picks in the NFL here.)

Evolution and Structure of the NFL Draft

The NFL Draft (officially known as the Annual Player Selection Meeting) has evolved significantly since its inception, adapting to the league’s expansion and changing strategies. It now spans seven rounds with teams making selections based on their performance in the previous season—worse teams pick earlier. This structure helps maintain parity by distributing new talent in a way that ideally strengthens lower-performing teams​.

The draft consists of seven rounds over three days. Teams make their selections during these rounds unless they have traded their picks away.

Eligibility: Players who have been out of high school for at least three years are eligible for the draft. This typically includes college players, but occasionally players from other football leagues or international players might enter the draft.

Draft Picks: Each team has one pick per round, but they can gain or lose picks through trades with other teams. There are also compensatory picks awarded at the end of rounds 3 through 7, given to teams that lost more or better free agents than they acquired the previous year.

Recent Example: 2022 NFL Draft

  • Order and Trades: The Jacksonville Jaguars, having the worst record in the 2021 NFL season, selected first. The order for each team in each round could vary based on trades made before or during the draft.
  • Player Selection: With the first pick of the 2022 NFL Draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars selected Travon Walker, a defensive end from the University of Georgia. This pick was strategic based on the team’s need to bolster their defensive line.
  • Strategic Decisions: Throughout the draft, teams like the Detroit Lions and Houston Texans also made significant selections aimed at addressing specific team needs, such as Aidan Hutchinson to the Lions and Derek Stingley Jr. to the Texans, both aiming to strengthen their defensive squads.

NFL Draft Interesting Facts, Records and Statistics

  • Jay Berwanger, the first-ever draft pick and Heisman Trophy winner, never played in an NFL game due to salary disputes​.
  • Quarterbacks are the most frequently chosen position at the No. 1 overall spot, with this trend particularly pronounced in recent drafts​.
  • Notable late-round success stories include Tom Brady, picked 199th overall in 2000, who went on to become one of the most celebrated quarterbacks in NFL history.

The NFL Combine, introduced in 1982, centralized the player evaluation process. This event allows team scouts to assess physical and mental attributes of prospects in a structured environment. The Combine has been crucial in shaping team’s draft strategies​.

The draft has grown into a major media event, attracting millions of viewers. It not only impacts team rosters but also affects sports media, merchandise sales, and even local economies hosting the events .

The NFL Draft continues to be a cornerstone of league strategy, fan engagement, and media attention (including from sportsbooks – offering bets on players’ draft positions), illustrating the dynamic interplay between sports management and athletic performance.

This annual event not only decides the immediate fate of young athletes but also shapes the strategic direction of the franchises involved.

David Burke

A computer science graduate living in London, David is an MLB, NFL and NHL fan and general sports-nerd who loves analyzing data to glean useful insights, writing about sports and cheering for underdog.