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The 2023 NFL Draft format explained: number of rounds, pick order...

The 2023 NFL Draft begins today with the Chicago Bears handing first round overall pick to the Carolina Panthers. Here’s how the format and rounds work.

NFL Draft: ¿a qué hora es, canal de TV; cómo y dónde ver en USA?
Gregory ShamusAFP

Ahh, it’s that time of year when we can rejoice as a little bit of the NFL comes back into our lives. The Super Bowl seems so distant while the new season still so far away, but the draft gives us something to get excited about in the meantime.

The 2023 NFL Draft begins today, Thursday, April 27 with the first round. The second and third will be on Friday, April 28 and rounds 4-7 on Saturday, April 29. The Chicago Bears have the first overall pick in the draft, but let’s go over the rules and how all that is determined.

The 2023 NFL Draft format explained: number of rounds, pick order...

How the NFL Draft rounds work and how they are determined

There are seven rounds in the NFL Draft and they take place over three days - Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Thursday is dedicated to the first round. When the draft starts, each team will have 10 minutes to make their pick for round 1. Rounds 2 and 3 will be held on Friday. During the second round, the teams have just seven minutes to make their pick and during the third, just five. On Saturday, rounds 4-7 will be held. During the fourth to the sixth round, the teams again have just five minutes. By the last round, the seventh, teams must make their selection in four minutes. If the team lets the clock run out without making a pick, they can save the selection for a later time.

There are 32 NFL teams and every team receives one pick in each of the seven rounds. The order in which the teams pick is the opposite order in which they finished the previous season. So, the team with the worst record would pick first and the team with the best record (the Super Bowl champions) would pick last. The 20 teams that didn’t make the playoffs will get the Nos. 1-20 picks in the draft.

The 2023 NFL Draft format explained: number of rounds, pick order...

After 20, the teams who made it to the playoffs will have their draft order determined by the results in the postseason and the regular season. The four teams that were eliminated in the Wild Card round will receive picks 21-24; the four teams eliminated in the Divisional Round will receive picks 25-28; the two teams eliminated in the conference championship will receive picks 29 and 30; and the team who lost the Super Bowl receives the 31st pick with the winner receiving the last pick at 32. For those with picks 21-30, the order is from worst to best record in the regular season.

To make it complicated, some teams will end the regular season with the same record. Sorry, but it’s unavoidable. In that case, the draft position is determined by strength of schedule (the aggregate winning percentage of the team’s opponents), with the team with the lower win percentage getting the higher pick.

Even more complicated still is if the strength of schedule is also the same. In that case, tiebreakers are applied. If that doesn’t work, there will be a tiebreaker that can be broken in the following ways:

  • Head-to-head
  • Best win-loss-tie percentage in common games (four minimum)
  • Strength of victory overall
  • Best combined ranking among all teams (in points scored and points allowed)
  • Best net points in all games
  • Best net touchdowns in all games
  • Coin toss

Now, with all of that said, the draft order will still change slightly from this before the draft day arrives and even on draft day itself due to trades between the teams.

But wait, there’s more.

The 2023 NFL Draft format explained: number of rounds, pick order...

Compensatory picks

The NFL can also assign 32 “compensatory free agent” picks, which allow the teams that have lost free agents to another team to fill that spot in the draft instead. The compensatory picks happen at the end of the third through seventh rounds. The compensatory free agents are determined based on the player’s salary, playing time, and postseason awards. Compensatory picks are also eligible to be traded.

Join us right here on AS USA for all the exciting build up and emotional reaction either side of our live coverage of the 2023 NFL Draft. It’s going to be good!


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