Pro Football Draft History

Bert Bell, right, fathered the idea of an annual college draft.  Here he smiles after signing QB Davey O'Brien, the Philadelphia Eagles first round pick in 1939.

Hall of Famer Bert Bell spearheaded the idea of a player draft in the 1930s.

The idea came to fruition with the holding of the NFL's first ever player draft in 1936. 

Since that time what has happened in the draft room has set the stage for what happens on the field shaping the destiny of teams for years to come.

More than ten thousand of the best players from the college ranks have been drafted to play pro ball. Some never played a single down, others managed to have long careers, and a select few went on to greatness.

Here is an extensive look back at each and every draft over the years. 

Select among the decades below to see more in-depth coverage.  Select a year and view the first round of that draft and a list of Hall of Famers picked.  A team by team list of the complete draft can be found for each year at the bottom of the page. 

Note: + an ineligible player.  This was common in the earlier years of the draft before scouting became more sophisticated.  "F" denotes a future choice).***

Following a 1-15 record in 2009, the St. Louis Rams selected quarterback Sam Bradford out of Oklahoma as the first pick of the new decade. Bradford was the first of four Oklahoma players selected in the first round of the 2010 draft. Former collegiate teammates Gerald McCoy (3rd overall), Trent Williams (4th overall), Jermaine Gresham (21st overall) were all selected in the first round. 2010s>>>  
In back-to-back drafts in the 2000s, an NFL team made trades in order to select three players in the first round. In 2000, the Jets drafted in the number 12th, 13th, and 27th spots of the first round. One year later, the St. Louis Rams had the 12th, 20th, and 29th overall picks of round number one.  2000-09>>>
The 1990's

Many of the decade’s elite teams, like so many franchises before them, have built through the draft. There may be no greater example than the Dallas Cowboys, who used multiple picks to go from a 1-15 team in 1989 to winning three Super Bowls in the 1990s. 1990-99>>>

  The 1980's The NFL again fended off competition from a potential rival as the United States Football League attempted to tap into the talent pool in the mid-1980s. Perhaps the highlight of the decade, draft wise, came in 1983 when a rare group of college quarterbacks dominated the first round of that year’s draft. 1980-89>>>
The 1970's The NFL, drafting as one unified league, eventually reduced the number of rounds to 12. The fierce competition for top talent saw the number one overall pick being secured through trades four times during the decade. 1970-79>>>   The 1960's The draft became the battleground for a war between the National Football League and American Football League. The rival leagues held separate drafts through 1966 before holding joint drafts from 1967-1969. When the leagues merged at the end of the decade, the draft rivalry was over, and a new rivalry, the Super Bowl, had begun. 1960-69>>> 
The 1950'sThe idea of the bonus pick, which began in 1947, ran full cycle and was abandoned after the 1958 draft. By that time, each team in the league had been awarded the first overall pick in the annual draft, and teams resumed picking in reverse order of league standing. 1950-59>>>    The 1940's The NFL faced competition in drafting for the first time when the All-America Football Conference came onto the pro football scene in the latter part of the decade. The NFL also added a bonus selection - the first pick overall - in 1947. 1940-49>>>


The 1930's The National Football League player draft began in a Philadelphia hotel in 1936. The first player ever drafted decided against playing the pro game, not uncommon at the time. Nevertheless, the draft ultimately helped the league gain competitive balance, and set the stage for decades to come. 1936-39>>>   



Hall of Famers by Draft Year

Hall of Famers by Draft Round

Hall of Fame Coaches & Contributors Who Were Drafted

Hall of Famers Who Were Selected First Overall