How Many Picks Per Round in the NFL Draft: Decoding the Draft Landscape

Picks Per Round in the NFL Draft

The NFL Draft is an annual event where teams have the opportunity to select the most promising college players and inject fresh talent into their rosters. It’s a mecca for football enthusiasts, filled with anticipation, excitement, and intricate strategies.

But amidst the buzz and excitement, you might wonder: how many picks does each team get in the NFL Draft? Buckle up, because the answer isn’t as straightforward as it seems.

How Many Picks Per Round in the NFL Draft
Picks Per Round in the NFL Draft

One Pick per Round, (Mostly)

Initially, each of the 32 NFL teams receives one pick in each of the seven rounds of the draft. Think of it like a line-up, where teams are positioned based on their previous season’s performance, with the worst-performing team picking first and the Super Bowl champions picking last. So, in essence, every team has seven chances to grab a future star.

However, the NFL Draft is a dynamic ecosystem, much like the game itself. This brings us to the concept of trades.

Shifting the Landscape

Teams can trade their draft picks with one another, offering them in exchange for players, other draft picks, or even a combination of both. This allows them to move up or down the draft board, depending on their needs and strategies.

Imagine a team desperate for a specific quarterback. They might be willing to trade away multiple picks from different rounds to secure a higher position in the first round and land their coveted player.

Conversely, a team with a strong roster might be happy to trade away their first-round pick for a package of players or picks from later rounds, focusing on immediate needs or building long-term depth.

These trades significantly impact the number of picks per round. A team that acquires picks through trades might end up with more than one pick in a single round, while the team that traded away their pick would have one fewer.


Compensatory Picks

Adding another layer of complexity are compensatory picks. These are awarded to teams that lose valuable free agents to other teams or have minority coaches and general managers hired by other organizations. The purpose is to balance the playing field and reward teams for developing talent and fostering diversity within the league.

Compensatory picks are awarded at the end of each round (except for the first round) and their number and position vary based on a formula considering the lost player’s value and the hiring team’s record. This further increases the number of picks in certain rounds beyond the baseline of 32.

Round-by-Round Look

Now, let’s delve into the specifics:

  • Round 1: This round typically has 31 picks due to the Super Bowl champions picking last. However, trades and compensatory picks can push this number higher.
  • Round 2: All 32 teams have a natural pick in this round, making it the only round with a guaranteed 32 picks.
  • Round 3: This round sees the first wave of compensatory picks, bringing the total to around 39 picks.
  • Rounds 4-6: These rounds typically have between 33 and 42 picks each, again influenced by trades and compensatory picks.
  • Round 7: This final round traditionally has 32 picks, similar to Round 2.

Understanding the Strategy

While understanding the number of picks per round is essential, it’s crucial to remember that the NFL Draft is all about strategic maneuvering. Teams meticulously analyze college prospects, project their potential, and leverage trades and compensatory picks to maximize their draft capital and build a winning roster.


The NFL Draft is not just about the number of picks per round; it’s a strategic dance where teams navigate trades, leverage compensatory picks, and utilize their draft capital to secure the future of their franchise. This intricate system, fueled by ambition and strategic thinking, is what makes the NFL Draft such a captivating and unpredictable event.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can a team have zero picks in a round?

Yes, due to trades, a team can trade away all of their picks in a specific round, leaving them with no selections.

Do all compensatory picks guarantee a player?

No, compensatory picks are assigned a round and a position within that round, but they do not guarantee a player will be available at that specific spot. The team still needs to make a selection based on the available talent.

Can a team trade away their future draft picks?

Yes, teams can trade away their draft picks from future years. However, the NFL enforces a rule that prevents teams from being without a first-round pick in consecutive years. This ensures that teams maintain long-term competitiveness and prevents them from mortgaging their future.

How do compensatory picks impact the draft order within a round?

Compensatory picks are slotted into the draft order within each round based on a predetermined formula considering the departed player’s value and the receiving team’s record. This means they can fall anywhere within the round, pushing other teams’ picks down the order.

What happens if a team is awarded multiple compensatory picks in the same round?

Multiple compensatory picks awarded to a single team within the same round are slotted consecutively based on their assigned value. This can create a mini-cluster of picks for that team within the round.

Can teams trade compensatory picks?

No, teams cannot trade away compensatory picks they receive. These picks are meant to reward specific situations and remain with the awarded team.

How can I stay updated on the latest NFL Draft news and information?

Several resources offer dedicated coverage of the NFL Draft, including official league websites, sports news networks, and dedicated draft analysis websites. These platforms provide real-time updates on trades, compensatory picks, and player profiles, keeping you informed throughout the process.

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