How many rounds are in the NFL Draft?

2023 NFL Draft - Rounds 4-7
2023 NFL Draft - Rounds 4-7 / Kevin Sabitus/GettyImages

Every year the National Football League holds a first-year player draft at the end of April for the next wave of college prospects hoping to fulfill their dreams of playing professional football. It's a full three-day event that's turned into a weekend of fun and festivities for the whole family, but at its core, it also remains a very serious tentpole on the NFL's calendar through which teams will either set themselves up for success or failure for the long-term.

The draft operates the same way every year with the first round taking place throughout the opening night—held on a Thursday. From there, the selections for the next two rounds (2 and 3) are unveiled on Friday night with the final four rounds concluding on Saturday afternoon starting at noon (ET).

There are, in total, seven rounds in an NFL Draft in the modern era with a frenzy in the hours and days after the draft's official conclusion to sign players who went unselected—those termed as undrafted free agents.

The draft has undergone several changes in its format over the years. The first year of the draft, in 1936, had 9 total rounds and that amount increased to 10 the following year. From there it went to 20 and as high as 32 rounds in the 1940s. Eventually with the introduction of the AFL and the subsequent merger to become the basis for the NFL as we know it, the draft deflated in size back to 17 rounds and then 12 until the 1993 season. That year, the NFL went with 8 rounds before settlign on the current 7-round format in 1994. It's remained that way ever since.

The reduction in rounds has proven effective in maintaining fan interest and keeping the draft event concise. It also ensures that teams can efficiently address their roster needs while allowing for a more straightforward and streamlined selection process. Since 1994, the seven-round format has become a standard for the NFL draft, providing an ideal amount of action for what is now a must-see event for football fans.