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What is the Supplemental Draft in Football?

By Leo J
Updated May 23, 2024
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The National Football League's (NFL) supplemental draft is an infrequently used option for selecting college players who generally have lost their collegiate eligibility to play football. The supplemental draft is usually held during the summer, but it is not uncommon for no players to be selected. The first supplemental draft occurred in 1977, when Notre Dame running back Al Hunter was declared academically ineligible to play college football. The 1977 NFL Draft had already taken place, but rather than wait until the 1978 draft and force Hunter to miss an entire season of football, the NFL chose to have a draft specifically for him.

The supplemental draft is now mostly used for players with eligibility problems or players who miss the deadline for the NFL Draft for one reason or another. Selections in the supplemental draft are rare, though. In the first 26 years of the supplemental draft, only 32 players were chosen, compared to the more than 200 players chosen every year in the NFL Draft.

The format of the supplemental draft has evolved throughout the years. When it began, NFL teams would draw names out of a hat to determine the order. Then each team would have a chance to draft a player or pass. What discouraged teams from drafting players, aside from the scarcity of players eligible for the supplemental draft, was the fact that any pick used would result in the loss of a pick in the following year's draft. If a player was chosen in the fourth round of the supplemental draft, that team would lose its fourth-round pick in the following draft.

The order for the supplemental draft is now determined by the previous year's NFL Draft. The team picking first in the normal draft gets the first chance to pick in the supplemental draft. Rather than go through, pick by pick, with most teams passing, teams are required to place a "bid" for any player they wish to choose in the supplemental draft. The teams have an incentive to make the bid reasonable, though, since they will lose a pick the following year based on what round a player is selected. So if a team puts a second-round bid on a player, it will receive that player if no team put a first-round bid on him and if no team picking ahead of it put a second-round bid on him.

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Discussion Comments
By ravenmaniac — On Jul 19, 2010

I understand that some players miss the real draft and still wish to be considered for an NFL team, but for the most part this supplemental draft seems to be an out, or even a reward, for players whose poor grades make them ineligible for the college season. This second draft seems to tell college players it's OK to have bad grades because they have an alternative. What is this going to teach kids who look up to football players?

By malena — On Feb 03, 2008

Sometimes no players will declare their intention to enter the NFL after the regular draft is held. If this happens, there are no players eligible, so there will be no supplemental draft.

Also, Brian Bosworth was the greatest supplemental draft pick ever!

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