Why Are There Only 31 Picks in the First Round of the 2023 NFL Draft?

The first round of the 2023 NFL Draft features only 31 picks instead of the standard 32 selections. What happened to that missing draft choice?

The first round of the NFL draft typically features 32 selections, with each team boasting one pick. But the first round of the 2023 draft only includes 31 choices. What happened to that missing draft pick?

Why Are There Only 31 Picks in Round 1 of This Year’s Draft?

There are only 31 picks in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft because the league docked the Miami Dolphins their first-round choice as punishment for tampering with Tom Brady and Sean Payton.

The NFL found that the Dolphins had “impermissible communications” with Brady on two occasions. First, Miami contacted Brady as early as August 2019 — and through the regular season and playoffs — while he was still a member of the New England Patriots. These conversations were led by Bruce Beal, the Dolphins’ vice chairman, who kept team owner Stephen Ross and other Miami decision-makers abreast of the discussions.

The Dolphins again inappropriately contacted Brady in 2021 while he was under contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Ross and Beal were both involved in these talks, which included the concept of Brady becoming a limited partner and/or football executive with the Dolphins. Per the NFL, these conversations “at times” involved the idea of Brady playing quarterback for the Dolphins.

In January 2022, Miami contacted Payton’s agent, Don Yee (who also represents Brady), and expressed an interest in hiring Payton as head coach. However, Payton was still under contract with the Saints and had not yet announced his plan to retire. New Orleans had no knowledge of these discussions. After Payton made his retirement public, the Saints refused to grant the Dolphins permission to speak with their former coach.

The NFL stopped Miami of its first-round pick in 2023 (which would have been the No. 21 selection) and its third-round pick in 2024. Meanwhile, Ross was suspended through Oct. 17, 2022, and fined $1.5 million. Beal was fined $500,000 and banned from attending any league meetings during the 2022 season.

How Many Times Have Teams Forfeited First-Round Picks?

NFL teams have been required to forfeit their first-round draft choices on two other occasions. In both instances, Brady’s Patriots were the club disciplined by the league.

In 2007, New York Jets head coach Eric Mangini accused Bill Belichick and the Patriots of filming the Jets’ on-field defensive signals. Following an investigation, the NFL stripped New England of its first-round pick in the 2008 draft (No. 31 overall), fined Belichick $500,000, and fined the Patriots $250,000. Belichick has maintained he didn’t believe he was violating any league rules because the film was not utilized during the game.

Eight years later, the Patriots were in trouble again. In January 2015, the Indianapolis Colts accused Brady of authorizing the purposeful deflation of footballs. In May, the NFL announced New England would be docked its first-round pick in the 2016 draft and its fourth-round pick in the 2017 draft. The Patriots were also fined $1 million.

Brady was suspended four games as a result of the league’s investigation. The U.S. District Court vacated Brady’s ban in September 2015, but the U.S. Court of Appeals reinstated the suspension in April 2016. Brady eventually accepted the punishment and sat out the first four games of the 2016 NFL season.

Complete Round 1 Draft Order

For more on the 2023 NFL draft order, check out PFN’s list of 2023 NFL draft picks by team.

1. Chicago Bears
2. Houston Texans
3. Arizona Cardinals
4. Indianapolis Colts
5. Seattle Seahawks (from Denver)
6. Detroit Lions (from LA Rams)
7. Las Vegas Raiders
8. Atlanta Falcons
9. Carolina Panthers
10. Philadelphia Eagles (from New Orleans)
11. Tennessee Titans
12. Houston Texans (from Cleveland)
13. New York Jets
14. New England Patriots
15. Green Bay Packers
16. Washington Commanders
17. Pittsburgh Steelers
18. Detroit Lions
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
20. Seattle Seahawks
21. Los Angeles Chargers
22. Baltimore Ravens
23. Minnesota Vikings
24. Jacksonville Jaguars
25. New York Giants
26. Dallas Cowboys
27. Buffalo Bills
28. Cincinnati Bengals
29. New Orleans Saints (from DEN via SF and MIA)
30. Philadelphia Eagles
31. Kansas City Chiefs

Listen to the PFN Inside Access Podcast!

Listen to the PFN Inside Access Podcast! Click the embedded player below to listen, or you can find the PFN Fantasy Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, and all major podcast platforms.  Be sure to subscribe and leave us a five-star review!

Related Articles