When it comes to association football (European football), transfers, and discovering new talent, the rules are pretty simple. There is an allocated timeslot in both the winter and summer that allow clubs to negotiate the purchasing of players currently under contract with another team, whilst they are able to sign a free agent at any time throughout the season.

In the United States, however, the rules are very different. Transfers for NFL players can only happen when a player is out of contract, but that can happen at any time throughout the season.

However, there are very many rules when it comes to what is called the NFL draft. This is the process by which college players are recruited to the professional teams. Much like the transfer season in European football, the hype around this is huge, which is also why college football is watched a lot in the US.

The first stage of the draft happens every year towards the end of April/early May. Representatives from each NFL team come together and pick out the best college players in the country. These players are tested and analysed, undergoing physical and mental tests at the NFL Scouting Combine. The scouts from each team will start lining up their favourite picks, and who they think will work best for their current gameplay. These players are then divided into seven rounds, with the highest ranked appearing in round 1, and the lowest ranked appearing in round 7.


The draft itself actually only lasts three days. To make the picking of players fair, the teams are ranked on their performance from the last season. The team with the worst record from last season have first pick from the draft, whilst the Superbowl winners would have the last pick in the draft. What this does is make the NFL one of the most fluid and competitive leagues in the world, as the talent on each team maintains a level playing field. In each of the rounds, an NFL team can select one new player.

Once this is done, teams can trade their picks with each other for future picks or other players to improve their draft position. So, a team might want to trade their round 1 pick with two or three of another team’s lower round picks, giving them more than just seven new recruits for the season. Alternatively, they might want to transfer a couple of their mediocre players for another team’s really good player.

What comes next is something called the compensatory picks, at the end of rounds 3-7. These are a maximum of 32 picks that can be assigned to teams that have lost players to other teams. However, this only applies to players that have transferred from one team to another, rather than having lost a player in your roster because you dropped him, dissatisfied with his performance. The number of compensatory picks you have is determined by how many players you have lost, although is capped at a maximum of four. The NFL has an algorithm which then determines in which rounds these picks are due. The general gist is that if you lose high value players, you will get high round picks, but if you lose some mediocre players, you get later round picks.

Each team then has a time limit to make their final draft pick. Whilst the overall number one is expected to become a future NFL star, in any draft, there is always a late round pick that could still go on to become the next Tom Brady or Russel Wilson.


Yet, even after these three draft days are over, it’s not quite finished, as teams can partake in the supplemental draft if they so choose. If there are college players that do not get picked in the draft or the supplemental draft, they are listed as a free agent, and can then be approached by any team. If offered multiple contracts, it also allows him to choose which team he wants to play for.

The NFL draft is extremely clever, and it creates a league that really is anyone’s game. Researching the last ten seasons of the NFL, there have been a total of 14 different teams in the Superbowl, nine different winners. When looking at the Premier League (UK), there have only been only five winners dating back to 1995.

The simple truth is that the winning teams earn more money, and so can spend it on transfers and securing contracts for better players, creating a void in the league so that a team like Bournemouth might, sadly, never have a chance at glory.

With people investing more and more in UK football teams, the void looks like it can only become bigger, creating a sport where champions are decided on who’s pockets are deeper, rather than the combined skill and effort of the scouts, coaches, and player chemistry.

If something similar would be implemented into football in this country, the millionaire investors might cry, but the game will live on.

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