In 1947, the NFL adopted a bonus selection, in which the first overall pick would be determined by a lottery. The Chicago Bears won the first such lottery, selecting Bob Fenimore from Oklahoma State (then known as Oklahoma A&M). The bonus selection process continued through the 1958 Draft.
In 1959, the American Football League was founded and held its first draft on Nov. 22. The league held a second draft on Dec. 2 to fill out the rosters of each of its eight teams. The two leagues didn't hold a common draft until 1967, three seasons before the official merger of the AFL and NFL.
The draft was reduced in length from 20 rounds to 17 for the first common draft, and reduced again from 17 to 12 rounds in 1977. In 1993, the draft had only eight rounds, and another round was eliminated in 1994, bringing the draft to its current length of seven rounds.
Within a tied segment, non-playoff clubs are given priority over playoff clubs. Priority of playoff clubs within a tied segment is based on their advancement in the playoffs, but they don't drop out of their tied segment unless they participate in the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl champion selects 32nd and the runner-up 31st.
Starting in 2010, the draft will take place over three days. The first round will be held in primetime on Thursday, with the second and third rounds on Friday, and the remainder of the draft on Saturday. Each team has 10 minutes to make its selection in Round 1, seven minutes in Round 2 and five minutes in Rounds 3-7. The times for Rounds 1 and 2 were reduced prior to the 2007 Draft.
In addition to the 32 assigned picks per round, there are a total of 32 compensatory picks awarded in Rounds 3-7. These are awarded to teams based on player losses in free agency. These are the only selections in the draft that cannot be traded.
Once selected, a player can only negotiate a contract with the team that selected him, unless his rights are traded by that team to another NFL franchise. If a drafted rookie does not sign a contract by a certain date (August 8th in the 2008 season), he cannot be traded to another franchise at any point during the season. Additionally, a drafted rookie must sign by a certain date (Nov. 11 in the 2008 season) or he will not be allowed to play at all during that season, even if he comes to terms on a contract at a later date.
If a player chooses to sit out the entire season and not sign with the team that drafted him, he re-enters the draft pool the following season. If a player continues to hold out for the entire following season, and has not signed before the following draft, that player becomes a free agent and is eligible to sign with any team.
In 1988, the first day of the draft was held on a Sunday, and ESPN drew a 3.6 rating during its seven-hour coverage of the draft. Over the last 20 years, the NFL Draft has consistently drawn more than five million viewers on American television. In 2006, the NFL-owned NFL Network began televising its own coverage of the NFL Draft.
Selection order in the supplemental draft is divided into three groupings: teams with fewer than six wins, non-playoff teams with six wins or more, and playoff teams. If a team wishes to select a player, it submits a request to the commissioner, stating which round it would give up a pick in to select that player. If a team chooses to exercise a pick in the supplemental draft, it loses the corresponding pick in the following draft.