NFL's Supplemental Draft and How It Works

Wide receiver Lucky Whitehead #82 of the New York Jets


Mark Brown / Getty Images 

The Supplemental draft is designed to give underclassmen -- who did not petition the NFL for early entry before the draft deadline but find themselves ineligible for the upcoming college season -- a way to enter the league. The supplemental draft is held after the traditional NFL draft and before each season begins.

How It Works

The football league uses a weighted three-step, semi-lottery system to determine the order of the supplemental draft as follows:

  • Teams with six wins or fewer participate in the first lottery for the top supplemental draft picks. The team that posted the worst record among that group is given a weighted advantage over the following team, with each team's "weight" being decreased until reaching the team with the best record in the group.
  • The second group consists of non-playoff teams and follows the same weighted system.
  • The third group consists of last season's 12 playoff teams and, again, follows the same lottery system.

Teams Express Interest

After the order is determined, each team submits to the league the name of the player(s) they are interested in, as well as the round of the supplemental draft they would like to choose them in. The team that submits the highest bid is awarded rights to the player. If more than one team bids a pick from the same round, the team with the highest pick in the round wins.

If a team uses a pick in the supplemental draft, it must forfeit its choice in the corresponding round of the next year's NFL draft.

A Second Chance

Bleacher Report, a sports news website, notes that NFL teams are not required to participate in the supplemental draft, but they often choose to do so. "While it might not be the most traditional way of acquiring talent, teams have the ability to bring in some high-upside players through the NFL supplemental draft," the website notes.

Cris Carter, a Hall of Fame inductee, came into the league via the supplemental draft, as did Josh Gordon, Ahmad Brooks, and Terrelle Pryor, the website explains. notes that the supplemental draft is essentially a bidding process -- one that allows teams another shot at picking up just the right players for their franchise after the regular draft is complete. It's important because drafting the right players is key to success as a franchise.

"A successful draft can forever change the trajectory of a franchise," the NFL says. "Teams do their best to predict how a player will perform at the game’s highest level, but any draft pick can turn into an NFL legend." The supplemental draft, the NFL adds, gives teams that second chance to try to pick a player who can help them win now -- and for years to come.