What is the NFL Supplemental Draft?

Image credit: 

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.

June 17, 2011 - 4:03am
webby
submit to reddit