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Draft {{#invoke:main|main}} Each April (except in 2014 when it was moved to May), the NFL holds a draft of college players. The draft consists of seven rounds, with each of the 32 clubs getting one pick in each round.<ref name="What's the NFL draft all about? ">{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=news }}</ref> The draft order for non-playoff teams is determined by regular-season record; among playoff teams, teams are first ranked by the furthest round of the playoffs they reached, and then are ranked by regular-season record. For example, any team that reached the divisional round will be given a higher pick than any team that reached the conference championships, but will be given a lower pick than any team that did not make the divisional round. The Super Bowl champion always drafts last, and the runner-up always drafts second-to-last.<ref name="Complete order of first round of 2011 NFL Draft determined">{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref> All potential draftees must be at least three years removed from high school in order to be eligible for the draft.<ref name="NFL draft rules a bad deal for Jadeveon Clowney">{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref> Underclassmen that have met that criterion to be eligible for the draft must write an application to the NFL by January 15 renouncing their remaining college eligibility.<ref name="NFL officially grants draft eligibility to 65 underclassmen">{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref> Clubs can trade away picks for future draft picks, but cannot trade the rights to players they have selected in previous drafts.<ref name="Addressing NFL draft trade rules, times">{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref>

Aside from the 32 picks each club gets, compensatory draft picks are given to teams that have lost more compensatory free agents than they have gained. These are spread out from rounds 3 to 7, and a total of 32 are given.<ref name="NFL Announces 32 Compensatory Draft Choices to 15 Clubs">{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref> Clubs are required to make their selection within a certain period of time, the exact time depending on which round the pick is made in. If they fail to do so on time, the clubs behind them can begin to select their players in order, but they do not lose the pick outright. This happened in the 2003 draft, when the Minnesota Vikings failed to make their selection on time. The Jacksonville Jaguars and Carolina Panthers were able to make their picks before the Vikings were able to use theirs.<ref name="Offseason overview: Minnesota Vikings">{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref> Selected players are only allowed to negotiate contracts with the team that picked them, but if they choose not to sign they become eligible for the next year's draft.<ref name="Bo knows stardom and disappointment">{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref> Under the current collective bargaining contract, all contracts to drafted players must be four-year deals with a club option for a fifth. Contracts themselves are limited to a certain amount of money, depending on the exact draft pick the player was selected with.<ref name="NFL Draft Picks More Valuable Than Ever Under New System">{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=news }}</ref> Players who were draft eligible but not picked in the draft are free to sign with any club.<ref name="What's the NFL draft all about? " />

The NFL operates several other drafts in addition to the NFL draft. The league holds a supplemental draft annually. Clubs submit emails to the league stating the player they wish to select and the round they will do so, and the team with the highest bid wins the rights to that player. The exact order is determined by a lottery held before the draft, and a successful bid for a player will result in the team forfeiting the rights to its pick in the equivalent round of the next NFL draft.<ref name="Supplemental draft primer: Josh Gordon has NFL teams buzzing">{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref> Players are only eligible for the supplemental draft after being granted a petition for special eligibility.<ref name="Terrelle Pryor remains in draft limbo">{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref> The league holds expansion drafts, the most recent happening in 2002 when the Houston Texans began play as an expansion team.<ref name="Building Block">{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref> Other drafts held by the league include an allocation draft in 1950 to allocate players from several teams that played in the dissolved All-America Football Conference<ref name="Allocation Draft">{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref> and a supplemental draft in 1984 to give NFL teams the rights to players who had been eligible for the main draft but had not been drafted because they had signed contracts with the United States Football League or Canadian Football League.<ref name="1984 Supplemental Draft">{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref>

Like the other major sports leagues in the United States, the NFL maintains protocol for a disaster draft. In the event of a 'near disaster' (less than 15 players killed or disabled) that caused the club to lose a quarterback, they could draft one from a team with at least three quarterbacks. In the event of a 'disaster' (15 or more players killed or disabled) that results in a club's season being cancelled, a restocking draft would be held. Neither of these protocols has ever had to be implemented.<ref name="'God forbid it should ever be needed'">{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref>


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