The 2023 NFL Draft starts on Thursday night.
On draft day, the biggest winners are the players, many of whom have spent their entire lives training to make it to the highest level of football. And alongside their name on the back of a pro team’s jersey comes life-changing money as well.
But how much do NFL draft picks actually make?
Draftees receive four-year contracts that come with a base salary, a signing bonus, and a specific allotment of guaranteed salary. But rookie contracts in the NFL differ depending on when a player is drafted. Simply put, the earlier the pick, the bigger their corresponding contract. But because the draft goes for three days, seven rounds, and sees over 250 players selected, there is a drastic difference between the top selection and the final selection, or the pick coined as ‘Mr. Irrelevant.’
The first pick in the draft this year, who is expected to be Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, will sign a four-year contract worth $41.2 million according to Spotrac. The base salary actually only hovers around $1 million per year for the top pick, but the big chunk of money comes from the signing bonus and roster bonus, which comes once a player makes the final 53-man roster.
For instance, Travon Walker, the top selection in the 2022 NFL draft, received a contract worth $37.3 million from the Jacksonville Jaguars, with $24.3 million coming as a signing bonus and about $9 million as a roster bonus.
For first rounders, the entire contract is guaranteed and there is a significant signing bonus. They are also eligible for a fifth-year extension. But the differences between picks are stark. For instance, the 11th pick this year earns nearly $20 million less than the top selection. And the 31st pick, the last of the first round, will sign a $12.8 million deal, around 31% of the top selection’s contract.
But the luxury of being drafted in the first round really comes from the guaranteed money.
Lewis Cine, the last pick in the first round of the 2022 draft, received a fully guaranteed $11.5 million from the Minnesota Vikings. Logan Hall, who was drafted one pick later but in the second round, signed a four-year deal worth $9.3 million, but had only $6.8 million guaranteed.
Meanwhile, those in the later rounds are not assured salaries that would provide their families with generational wealth. Mr. Irrelevant, who this year will be pick No. 259, will receive a $3.9 million deal but receive a signing bonus worth just $85,276.
Many of these late picks don’t receive their full deals given that only their signing bonus is guaranteed, though last year’s Mr. Irrelevant Brock Purdy showed that it’s very possible for these players to work towards the money as he ended up starting an NFC Championship game during his rookie season.
Purdy’s deal with the San Francisco 49ers is $3.7 million over four years.