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NFL Draft Guide: How many picks per round in the 2021 NFL draft?

NFL Draft Guide: How many picks per round in the 2021 NFL draft?

There are 32 NFL teams. Therefore, there must be 32 picks in each of the 2021 NFL Draft’s seven rounds, right? 

Nope. Similar to many of the draft intricacies, the number of draft picks per round can change year-to-year. Fortunately, there are a few consistencies that we can outline.

Rounds one and two

Generally, the first two rounds of the draft will consist of 64 picks (one pick in each round for each team). There have been some occasions where there were less than 64 picks thanks to a team forfeiting their first- or second-round pick. For instance, we saw the Patriots give up their 2016 first-rounder following the fallout from Deflategate.

Teams may also forfeit draft picks thanks to acquisitions from the supplemental draft. This separate, somewhat-unrelated event accommodates players who (for whatever reason) were unable to enter the standard NFL draft. If a team takes a player in, say, the second round of the supplemental draft, they’ll be required to sacrifice the equivalent pick in the following year’s real draft.

However, the general rule of thumb is that the first two rounds will never consist of more than 64 picks, but you may occasionally see a handful of forfeited picks. For the 2021 NFL Draft, we, fortunately, won’t be dealing with any funny business:

1st Round: 32 picks

2nd Round: 32 picks

Round three and beyond

After that, it gets a bit more complicated. From the third round through the seventh round, the NFL will hand out an additional 32 “compensatory” draft picks. These extra selections are to compensate teams for players they lost via unrestricted free agency. 

While the league has never revealed the formula, all we know is the NFL weighs “free agents lost” vs. “free agents gained.” When determining the discrepancy between each player, the league accounts for salary, playing time, and postseason success.

Compensatory picks are tacked on to the end of each round, effectively extending the individual round’s number of selections beyond 32. 

If all of the 32 compensatory picks aren’t handed out via the league’s formula, the picks are added on to the end of the seventh round.

We know it’s a bit confusing. This year, we’ll see the following number of picks in rounds three through seven: 

3rd Round: 41 picks (including ten compensatory picks and one forfeited pick from the New England Patriots)

4th Round: 39 picks (seven compensatory)

5th Round: 40 picks (eight compensatory)

6th Round: 44 picks (12 compensatory)

7th Round: 31 picks (one forfeited pick from the Minnesota Vikings)

That ultimately leads to 259 selections in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Pickswise Guide to the 2021 NFL Draft

A comprehensive guide to all your 2021 NFL Draft questions below:

Pickswise is the home of free expert NFL Picks and NFL Odds. Be sure to check out all of our season previews and NFL Futures Bets leading up to the 2021 NFL Season.

Last updated: Fri 23rd April 2021

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