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    What Is the NFL Supplemental Draft? How It Works, When It Is, and More

    While everyone knows the main NFL Draft, there's another, lesser-known draft. How does the NFL Supplemental Draft work? Why does it exist?

    While the NFL Draft has become a huge event that football fans look forward to each year, there’s another draft that tends to fly under the radar: the Supplemental Draft.

    The NFL’s Supplemental Draft returned in 2023, although no players were picked. This year, the NFL announced that there won’t be a Supplemental Draft, meaning the event hasn’t happened in four of the last five years.

    What is the Supplemental Draft? Why does it exist? How does it work? We’ll answer all those questions and more below!

    A Brief History of the NFL Supplemental Draft

    The main NFL Draft is one of the most popular events on the NFL calendar, with more than 50 million viewers tuning in over three days. The Supplemental Draft has been around for a long time, too, beginning in 1977 as another avenue for draft-eligible players to enter the league.

    For the first 13 years, from 1977 until 1990, only players who either graduated or used all of their eligibility were able to take part in the Supplemental Draft. However, since 1993, the NFL has allowed players who faced other adversity, including disciplinary reasons, to petition the league for Supplemental Draft entry as well. Basically, the Supplemental Draft is for players who weren’t eligible to be picked at the time of the NFL Draft.

    Al Hunter, a former Notre Dame running back, was the first player ever taken in the Supplemental Draft. The Seattle Seahawks used a fourth-round pick on Hunter, who was suspended from the team for disciplinary reasons but was already draft-eligible since he was out of high school for three years.

    In total, there have been 46 players drafted in the Supplemental Draft since 1977.

    A player hasn’t been drafted via the Supplemental Draft since 2019, when the Arizona Cardinals selected safety Jalen Thompson. The Cardinals used a fifth-round pick on Thompson, who played at Washington State.

    There have been eight first-round picks used in the Supplemental Draft, including on Pro Bowlers such as quarterback Bernie Kosar, running back Bobby Humphrey, and wide receiver Rob Moore. The best Supplemental Draft pick of all time, however, was former Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Cris Carter, who was a fourth-round selection in 1987.

    How Does the Supplemental Draft Work?

    While the main draft works from worst team to best team, the Supplemental Draft has a different way of determining which teams select first. It uses a tier system that splits the league’s 32 teams into three different buckets. Once they’re in tiers, a weighted lottery is used to determine the order within the tiers, favoring teams with worse records.

    Here are the three tiers that are used to group teams, with the records pulled from the previous season:

    1) Non-playoff teams with six or fewer regular-season wins

    2) Non-playoff teams with more than six regular-season wins

    3) The 14 teams that made the playoffs

    The draft uses a bidding system where teams are blind, not knowing what other teams have submitted. The team with the bid in the highest round with the highest pick will acquire the player and forfeit the corresponding pick in the following NFL Draft.

    For example, a player selected in the first round of the Supplemental Draft would cost the team their first-round pick in next year’s NFL Draft.

    When Is the 2024 NFL Supplemental Draft, and Why Do Players Enter It?

    The last NFL Supplemental Draft was on July 11, 2023, but only two players were available and neither was selected. The NFL announced that there won’t be a 2024 Supplemental Draft.

    Players have entered the Supplemental Draft for a variety of reasons. Of the 46 players selected, 23 had off-field circumstances that influenced their decision to enter the NFL. The majority, however, were academically ineligible, and before the NCAA transfer portal’s expansion, the next-best option was to enter the NFL.

    MORE: Top 10 NFL Supplemental Draft Picks: Cris Carter, Josh Gordon, and More

    In recent years, disciplinary reasons that became prevalent after the deadline to declare for the main draft have been the driving force for most to jump into the Supplemental Draft. The last player drafted in the Supplemental Draft without such a background was former Florida State guard Milford Brown in 2002.

    Before 2002, it was more common for players to enter the Supplemental Draft after using up their competition eligibility but not filing for the NFL Draft in time. The 14 players selected since Brown each had off-field situations that influenced their decisions to enter the NFL during the summer months.

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