Before 1936, professional football players were free to sign with any club as they saw fit. This, as you would expect, tended to make the strongest teams even stronger and created disparity among the newly-formed National Football League. On May 19, 1935, the league owners adopted a plan for a college player draft. Proposed by Bert Bell, the Eagles owner, at the time, and future NFL commissioner, the plan called for teams to select players in reverse order of where each club finished in the standings from the previous season. The owners were hopeful that this new format would bring a competitive balance to their league, one that would give hope to any club with each passing Spring, no matter how bleak their previous outlook came to be.
And thus, the NFL Draft was born.
Since that inaugural draft, over 25,000 players have been selected to play professional football in the NFL. Some have seen their names enshrined in immortality, in franchise Rings of Honor and league-wide Hall of Fames. Others, for reasons too numerous to name, fell short of such honors; as careers come and gone as quick as the blink of an eye.
Below is a list of every draft pick ever selected to the NFL since 1936. It is fully sortable and searchable in just about every way. For example: if you want to know who the Cleveland Browns selected in 2002, just type in “2002 Browns” (always type the year first, if you’re looking for a certain year). If you want to see all of the prospects selected from a certain school, you can do that, as well, by searching a school name.
Some years may need a little dusting off the shelf, but we hope you enjoy this resource and learn about the foundation for the reason why the NFL Draft continues to fascinate us more than 80 years after it began.