What is the NFL Supplemental Draft?

Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who had been suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season for NCAA rules violations, announced Tuesday that he will enter the NFL’s supplemental draft rather than return to school. Here’s a brief history of the event.

What is the supplemental draft and who is eligible for it?

The supplemental draft is a means by which underclassmen who become ineligible for the college football season after the deadline to enter the NFL’s regular draft can enter the league. To be declared eligible for the supplemental draft, a player must file a petition, which is reviewed on a case-by-case basis. In Pryor’s case, while he was eligible to return from his suspension midseason, he recently forfeited his college eligibility by hiring agent Drew Rosenhaus.

The supplemental draft is held after the regular draft, which takes place in April, and before the season begins. All players must be at least three years removed from high school.

When will this year’s supplemental draft be held?

The NFL lockout had cast some doubt on whether there would even be a supplemental draft this season, but an NFL official recently told ESPN that the draft will be held in July, at least 10 days before the start of training camp, if there are eligible applicants.

How does the supplemental draft work?

The league’s 32 teams are divided into three groups based on their performance during the previous season. Teams that won six or fewer games form one group, non-playoff teams that won more than six games form a second group, and playoff teams form a third group. A lottery determines the draft order within each group and teams with worse records have a greater chance of drawing a higher pick. For example, the team with the worst record last season, Carolina, has the best chance to win the first pick in the supplemental draft and is guaranteed to pick no lower than 13th, as there were 13 teams with six or fewer wins last season.

Unlike the regular draft, during which teams announce their picks, teams submit blind bids to the NFL commissioner indicating what players they are interested in drafting in the supplemental draft. In addition, a team must indicate what round in the draft it would like to select a given player. The team that submits the highest bid is awarded the rights to the player and forfeits its pick in that round in the following season’s regular draft. If two teams submit a bid for the same player in the same round, the team with the higher pick in that round, as determined by the semi-lottery system described above, is awarded the player.

When was the first supplemental draft?

The supplemental draft was a provision of the 1977 labor agreement between the NFL and its Players Association. During the 1977 offseason, Notre Dame star running back Al Hunter was suspended from the team for being seen with a girl in his dormitory after 2 a.m. It was the second such suspension for Hunter, who had one year of eligibility remaining. While Hunter had missed the filing deadline for the regular draft, he was declared eligible to play in the NFL because his class had graduated in June. The league held its first supplemental draft that August and the Seahawks selected Hunter, forfeiting a fourth-round pick in the 1978 NFL draft. “His troubles have been grossly overplayed,” Seahawks head coach Jack Patera said of Hunter, who would rush for 715 yards and four touchdowns in his brief NFL career.

The USFL and CFL Draft of 1984

The NFL held a different sort of supplemental draft in 1984, with its teams selecting players under contract with United States Football League and Canadian Football League teams. The point of the draft was to eliminate the bidding wars that would result when a star USFL or CFL player became a free agent. The previous season, Warren Moon left the Edmonton Eskimos for the NFL and was signed by the Houston Oilers. There were some future NFL stars among the 84 players selected in the non-traditional draft. Three of the first four picks—Steve Young, Gary Zimmerman, and Reggie White—are in the Hall of Fame.

How Bernie Kosar Became a Cleveland Brown

The semi-random process for determining the supplemental draft order that is used today was developed partly in response to the controversy surrounding the supplemental draft of 1985. After leading the Miami Hurricanes to the national title in 1984, a report surfaced that Ohio native Bernie Kosar planned to turn pro. Kosar had two years of college eligibility remaining, but planned to graduate during the summer of 1985. NFL rules required that Kosar send a letter to the league indicating that he planned to graduate before the 1985 season to be eligible for the regular draft.

The Buffalo Bills held the No. 1 pick in the 1985 NFL Draft and announced they would take Virginia Tech defensive end Bruce Smith. The Minnesota Vikings traded up to the No. 2 spot with the intent of taking Kosar, who had indicated that he was hoping to be drafted by the Browns. Agent AJ Faigin helped concoct a plan to make that happen.

Faigin reportedly told Kosar’s father not to file the paperwork for the regular NFL draft and to instead have his son enter the league via the supplemental draft. The Browns traded for Buffalo’s No. 1 pick in the supplemental draft, which, at the time, was determined by the reverse order of the previous season’s standings. The Vikings protested and the Houston Oilers threatened to sue, but NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle declared that no rules had been broken.

After extending the deadline for Kosar to enter the regular draft and holding a hearing on the matter, Rozelle left the decision up to the quarterback. To no one’s surprise, he chose Cleveland.

The Boz Warns Teams Not to Draft Him

Oklahoma linebacker Brian Bosworth was expected to be one of the first players taken in the 1987 NFL Draft after Miami quarterback Vinny Testaverde. Bosworth didn’t want to play for the Indianapolis Colts or the Buffalo Bills, who held the second and third picks, so the two-time Butkus Award winner, who graduated early, entered the supplemental draft instead.

The league had adopted a lottery system for determining the supplemental draft order that year, meaning there was a chance that Indianapolis or Buffalo might be in position to draft Bosworth anyway. Bosworth tried to account for this fact by sending letters to all 28 teams in the league indicating that he would play for only five of them—the Rams, Raiders, Jets, Giants, or Eagles.

On draft day, the Seattle Seahawks, who were awarded the No. 1 pick despite 37-to-1 odds, ignored Bosworth’s warning and drafted him in the first round. Bosworth threatened to sit out the season and enter the league via the regular draft in 1988, but he eventually agreed to a then-record 10-year, $11 million rookie contract. Injuries ended Bosworth’s career after only 24 games.

Have any other good players come out of the supplemental draft?

There have been 40 players selected in the supplemental draft since 1977. Here are a few more names that you might recognize:

• Cris Carter: Pryor can only hope he finds as much success in the NFL as another former Buckeye who entered the league via the supplemental draft. Carter was suspended for his senior season after accepting money from agents, but petitioned the league to allow him to enter a special supplemental draft for players who had accepted money from agents in violation of NCAA rules. The Philadelphia Eagles took Carter in the fourth round. The draft marked the first time that the NFL allowed teams to draft players before they had graduated. Thirteen of the league’s 28 teams did not participate out of protest.

• Steve Walsh: The Cowboys selected Walsh out of the University of Miami in 1989 after the quarterback led the Hurricanes to a 32-1 record in his two seasons as the starter.

• Rob Moore: The Syracuse wideout was drafted by the New York Jets in the 1990 supplemental draft after graduating a year early but missing the deadline for the regular draft.

• Dave Brown: The Duke quarterback, who grew up rooting for the Giants, graduated a year early and opted not to return for his final year of eligibility in 1992. The Giants used a first-round pick to draft him.

job secrets
10 Secrets of Hotel Room Service

Guests visiting New York City's Waldorf Astoria hotel in the 1930s enjoyed an amenity that was unheard of at the time: waiters delivering meals directly to their rooms. While the Astoria’s reputation for luxury has endured, room service is no longer exclusive to five-star stays. Roughly 22 percent of the country’s 54,000 hotels [PDF] are willing and able to bring breakfast, lunch, or dinner to people who prefer to eat while splayed out on a large and strange bed.

To get the scoop on what goes into getting food from the kitchen to your floor, Mental Floss spoke with Matt, a hospitality specialist who spent a total of 10 years working in and around room service for a major San Francisco hotel. Matt preferred not to use his last name; since his stories sometimes involved naked people, undercooked chicken, and Oprah, you can understand why. Below, check out a few things you should know before you dig into that tray.


When a room service delivery employee takes a tray from the kitchen to your room, it’s typically covered in a metal lid to retain heat and to prevent other guests from sneezing on it. The higher up you are, the longer it has to travel—and the more that lid traps steam, soaking your food in moisture. “Food sweats in there,” Matt says. “Instead of having crispy, toasted bread, you get wet toast. The longer it stays in there, the worse it gets.” If you want crunchy fries, you’d better be on the first couple of floors.


A seafood dinner is presented on a plate

That lid is a nuisance in other ways. Because it traps heat, it’s effectively cooking your food in the time it takes to get from the chef’s hands to yours. “If you order a steak medium, it will probably be medium well by the time it gets to you,” Matt says. While you can try to outsmart the lid by requesting meat be cooked a notch lower than your preference, it's not so easy to avoid overcooked fish—which will probably also stink up your room. Instead, stick with burgers, club sandwiches, or salads. According to Matt, it’s hard to mess any of them up.


Just because you see a menu in your room, it doesn’t mean the hotel has a kitchen or chef on-site. To cut costs, more hotels are opting to out-source their room service to local eateries. “It might be ‘presented’ by the hotel, but it’s from a restaurant down the street,” Matt says. Alternately, hotels might try to save money by eliminating an overnight chef and having food pre-prepped so a desk clerk or other employee can just heat it up. That’s more likely if sandwiches or salads are the only thing available after certain hours.


Two coffee cups sit on a hotel bed

No, not for the reason you’re thinking. Because so many hotel guests are business travelers who are away from home for weeks or months at a time, some of them get tired of eating alone. When that happens, they turn to the first—and maybe only—person who could offer company: the room service waiter. “People are usually traveling alone, so they’ll offer you food,” Matt explains. Sometimes the traveler is a familiar face: According to Matt, he once sat down to eat with Oprah Winfrey, who was eating by herself despite her suite being filled with her own employees. He also says he had a bite with John F. Kennedy Junior, who wanted to finish watching Fast Times at Ridgemont High before heading for his limo.


Busy hotel kitchens aren’t always paying attention to whether the chicken wings they buy in bulk are frozen raw, frozen cooked, or somewhere in between. “Ask for them extra crispy,” Matt says. That way, they’ll be cooked thoroughly regardless of their freezer status. “I recommend that to everyone.”


A hotel guest pours milk into a bowl of cereal

Breakfast is undoubtedly the busiest time for room service, and those little cards that allow you to check off your menu items the night before are a huge help. “It’s great for everybody involved,” Matt says. “The kitchen can pace themselves and you can get your food on time.”


Yes, guests answer the door barely clothed. No, this is not optimal. “We don’t want to see it,” Matt says. “It's something we dealt with numerous times.” While it's likely your waiter will use discretion, any combination of genitalia, drugs, or illicit activity is best kept out of their sight.


A hotel room service tray sits in a hallway

That move where you stick your soggy fries outside your door? It can lead to some awkward encounters. Matt says he’s seen other guests stop, examine trays, and then pick up discarded food from them. Other times, people leave unimaginably gross items on the trays. “I’ve found condoms on there. Divorce paperwork. All kinds of things.”


Weird people aside, “We don’t really want it out there,” Matt says. “It stinks.” Instead, dial 0 for the front desk and let them know you’re done eating. They’ll dispatch someone to come and get it.


A tip is placed near a hotel check

People pay out the nose for room service, with hotels adding surcharges for “service” and “in-room” dining that can turn a $5 club sandwich into a $15 expense. That’s not great news for guests, but it does mean you don’t need to feel bad about not offering a cash tip. Those service fees usually go straight to the employees who got your food to your room. “I never tip,” Matt says. “Most of the time, the service and delivery charges are given to the waiter or split between the people who answered the phone and pick up the tray. It’s better to leave it all on paper to make sure it gets divided up.”

Big Questions
What is Mercury in Retrograde, and Why Do We Blame Things On It?

Crashed computers, missed flights, tensions in your workplace—a person who subscribes to astrology would tell you to expect all this chaos and more when Mercury starts retrograding for the first time this year on Friday, March 23. But according to an astronomer, this common celestial phenomenon is no reason to stay cooped up at home for weeks at a time.

"We don't know of any physical mechanism that would cause things like power outages or personality changes in people," Dr. Mark Hammergren, an astronomer at Chicago's Adler Planetarium, tells Mental Floss. So if Mercury doesn’t throw business dealings and relationships out of whack when it appears to change direction in the sky, why are so many people convinced that it does?


Mercury retrograde—as it's technically called—was being written about in astrology circles as far back as the mid-18th century. The event was noted in British agricultural almanacs of the time, which farmers would read to sync their planting schedules to the patterns of the stars. During the spiritualism craze of the Victorian era, interest in astrology boomed, with many believing that the stars affected the Earth in a variety of (often inconvenient) ways. Late 19th-century publications like The Astrologer’s Magazine and The Science of the Stars connected Mercury retrograde with heavy rainfall. Characterizations of the happening as an "ill omen" also appeared in a handful of articles during that period, but its association with outright disaster wasn’t as prevalent then as it is today.

While other spiritualist hobbies like séances and crystal gazing gradually faded, astrology grew even more popular. By the 1970s, horoscopes were a newspaper mainstay and Mercury retrograde was a recurring player. Because the Roman god Mercury was said to govern travel, commerce, financial wealth, and communication, in astrological circles, Mercury the planet became linked to those matters as well.

"Don’t start anything when Mercury is retrograde," an April 1979 issue of The Baltimore Sun instructed its readers. "A large communications organization notes that magnetic storms, disrupting messages, are prolonged when Mercury appears to be going backwards. Mercury, of course, is the planet associated with communication." The power attributed to the event has become so overblown that today it's blamed for everything from digestive problems to broken washing machines.


Though hysteria around Mercury retrograde is stronger than ever, there's still zero evidence that it's something we should worry about. Even the flimsiest explanations, like the idea that the gravitational pull from Mercury influences the water in our bodies in the same way that the moon controls the tides, are easily deflated by science. "A car 20 feet away from you will exert a stronger pull of gravity than the planet Mercury does," Dr. Hammergren says.

To understand how little Mercury retrograde impacts life on Earth, it helps to learn the physical process behind the phenomenon. When the planet nearest to the Sun is retrograde, it appears to move "backwards" (east to west rather than west to east) across the sky. This apparent reversal in Mercury's orbit is actually just an illusion to the people viewing it from Earth. Picture Mercury and Earth circling the Sun like cars on a racetrack. A year on Mercury is shorter than a year on Earth (88 Earth days compared to 365), which means Mercury experiences four years in the time it takes us to finish one solar loop.

When the planets are next to one another on the same side of the Sun, Mercury looks like it's moving east to those of us on Earth. But when Mercury overtakes Earth and continues its orbit, its straight trajectory seems to change course. According to Dr. Hammergren, it's just a trick of perspective. "Same thing if you were passing a car on a highway, maybe going a little bit faster than they are," he says. "They're not really going backwards, they just appear to be going backwards relative to your motion."

Embedded from GIFY

Earth's orbit isn't identical to that of any other planet in the solar system, which means that all the planets appear to move backwards at varying points in time. Planets farther from the Sun than Earth have even more noticeable retrograde patterns because they're visible at night. But thanks to astrology, it's Mercury's retrograde motion that incites dread every few months.

Dr. Hammergren blames the superstition attached to Mercury, and astrology as a whole, on confirmation bias: "[Believers] will say, 'Aha! See, there's a shake-up in my workplace because Mercury's retrograde.'" He urges people to review the past year and see if the periods of their lives when Mercury was retrograde were especially catastrophic. They'll likely find that misinterpreted messages and technical problems are fairly common throughout the year. But as Dr. Hammergren says, when things go wrong and Mercury isn't retrograde, "we don't get that hashtag. It's called Monday."

This story originally ran in 2017.


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