If the NFL is canceling the supplemental draft but nobody is there to watch it anyway, does it make a sound? We are about to find out as the event has become the latest to fall victim to the Coronavirus pandemic: as first reported by NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero on Wednesday, the league has decided to cancel the 2020 version of the supplemental draft that would have been taken place in mid-July due to the current health crisis.
What is the supplemental draft, you might ask yourself?
The lesser publicized version of the”‘regular” draft takes place every year and serves as an additional opportunity for college players — typically those facing eligibility questions — to enter the league. That being said, the supplemental draft is noticeably different from the one taking place in late April both in terms of procedure and players being available. As a result, teams rarely use it to bring talent on board at this stage of the offseason.
The New England Patriots under head coach Bill Belichick, for example, have yet to add a player that way. Other teams have been similarly reluctant as only 15 men heard their names called in the supplemental draft this century. Just two of them, Ahmad Brooks and former Patriot Josh Gordon, made a Pro Bowl in their careers. Last year, one player joined the league via the supplemental route: safety Jalen Thompson, who was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals with a fifth-round pick.
One of the fun quirks of the supplemental draft is that it uses a different procedure when compared to the one in late April.
While the “normal” draft ranks teams from worst to best to establish a picking order, the supplemental draft is a bit more complicated. It basically works like this: the league separates all 32 teams into three tiers. Teams with six or fewer wins enter one of them, non-playoff teams another, and playoff teams the third. The NFL then runs a weighted lottery system — teams with fewer wins have better odds — to determine the order.
This order becomes important because teams essentially bid on players: if a club wants to add one of the available candidates, it submits a round in which it would like to draft him. The team with the highest bid is awarded the player and will subsequently have to give up a corresponding selection in next year’s draft (the Cardinals, for example, did not have a fifth-round pick this year after spending it in last year’s supplemental draft). If two or more teams bid the same round on a player, the predetermined draft order decides who gets him.
If a player does not get selected through this process, he enters free agency just like any other undrafted rookie. Given that the draft itself will not take place this year, however, players that would have entered will likely have to wait until next year to become eligible to join the league either through the normal draft or the subsequent free agency period.