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

    The NFL Supplemental Draft is for draft-eligible players who did not enter the main NFL Draft in the spring. We dive into how it works and when it is.

    After disappearing for three years, the NFL Supplemental Draft is back in 2023. Dane Brugler of The Athletic reported the Supplemental Draft would take place this July, almost three months after the main draft took place at the end of April. We dive into the history of the NFL Supplemental Draft, how it works, and when it is.

    A Brief History of the NFL Supplemental Draft

    For as popular as the main NFL Draft is, with more than 50 million viewers over three days, there is a lesser-known draft that has taken place in the months following its conclusion. The NFL Supplemental Draft began in 1977 as another avenue for draft-eligible players to enter the league.

    From 1977 until 1990, the only players who were able to take part in the Supplemental Draft had to have either graduated or used their maximum amount of collegiate eligibility. Since 1993, the NFL has allowed players who faced other adversity, including disciplinary reasons, to petition the league for Supplemental Draft entry.

    The first player ever taken in the Supplemental Draft was Notre Dame running back Al Hunter. 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, 46 players have been drafted since 1977. The most recent draft pick was former Washington State safety Jalen Thompson in 2019. The Arizona Cardinals used a fifth-round pick on Thompson.

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

    How Does the Supplemental Draft Work?

    The Supplemental Draft has its own unique way of determining which teams select first. The order of team selections doesn’t reflect the main draft’s order, instead favoring a tier system that splits the league’s 32 teams into three different buckets. Once they’re in the three tiers, a weighted lottery that favors teams with worse records is used to determine the order within the tiers.

    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.

    It’s a blind-bidding system where teams are in the dark about what other teams have submitted. The team that submits the bid in the highest round with the highest pick will acquire the player and forfeit the corresponding pick in the following main draft.

    For example, a player selected in the first round of the 2023 Supplemental Draft would cost the team their first-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.

    When Is the 2023 NFL Supplemental Draft, and Why Do Players Enter It?

    The 2023 NFL Supplemental Draft has been scheduled for Tuesday, July 11.

    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 were academically ineligible, and prior to the NCAA transfer portal’s recent expansion, the next-best option was to enter the NFL.

    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 who was drafted in the Supplemental Draft without such a background was former Florida State guard Milford Brown in 2002.

    Prior to 2002, it was more frequent that players entered the Supplemental Draft after using up their competition eligibility but didn’t file for the main 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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