(CNN)Over the past three years, the NFL Draft has attracted an average viewership of between six and eight million people throughout the three-day event.
Its popularity trumps that of any other major league sports draft in the United States, becoming a signature event for the NFL over the course of its 87-year history by offering fans a first glimpse at the league's future stars.
With all eyes on the teams and potential franchise-altering players on the line, it is useful for fans to understand how the draft works, how picks are awarded and the rules that govern everything from player eligibility to how long teams have to decide on their selections.
This year, the 2022 NFL Draft begins on April 28 and ends on April 30 and will be broadcast on the NFL Network, ABC, ESPN and ESPN Deportes. Here's what you need to know.
How does the draft work?
The draft is seven rounds, with each of the 32 NFL teams receiving an automatic pick in each round. The event spans three days, with the first round taking place on Thursday, the second and third rounds on Friday and the remaining fourth through seventh rounds on Saturday.
Each team is assigned a table at the designated venue -- this year at the home of the Las Vegas Raiders, Allegiant Stadium -- where team selection representatives sit.
The representatives stay in contact with executives making the final decisions back at team headquarters and communicate each selection to NFL staff before officially announcing them to the world.
Each team receives 10 minutes to decide their selection during the first round, seven minutes in the second round, five minutes in the third through sixth rounds, and four minutes in the seventh round.
Should time expire before a team has submitted its pick, the team is still allowed to make a selection; however, this would leave the door open for the next team(s) to make their pick ahead of them.
When it comes to selecting the best future NFL talents, you're going to want to be timely.
How is the draft order assigned?
Teams draft in the opposite order of the final standings of the previous season, with the regular season last-placed finisher drafting first, and the remaining non-playoff qualifiers taking picks 2-20 following the same order.
The teams that did make the playoffs are calculated both by how far into the postseason they advanced in addition to their regular season standings.
Those eliminated in the wild card round take picks 21-24, divisional round picks 25-28 and conference round 29-30. The wild card round loser with the worst regular season record drafts first among those teams, while the wild card loser with the best regular season record drafts last, and so on.
The loser of the Super Bowl receives the 31st pick, with the Super Bowl champion receiving the 32nd and final pick of each round.
In the case of a tie in regular season records, the teams involved will be compared based on the strength of their schedules. The team that played opponents with a collectively higher winning percentage will draft after the team whose opponents had a collectively lower winning percentage.
If teams also had identical strengths of schedule, then it moves into division and then conference records. If this still does not break the tie, or if the teams involved are from different conferences, there are seven additional tiebreakers: head-to-head, win-loss-tie percentage, strength of victories, points scored vs. points allowed, net points per game, total net touchdowns and finally a coin toss.
So each team gets seven total picks and drafts in reverse order of how they finished the previous season?
Not quite. In addition to the seven standard picks awarded to each team, the league also began awarding supplemental "compensatory free agent" picks under the 1993 Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Compensatory picks were created with the goal of evening the playing field for teams that experienced significant losses due to free agency.
According to the league, any "team losing more or better compensatory free agents than it acquires in the previous year is eligible to receive compensatory draft picks," which are spread throughout the third through seventh rounds.
The way in which compensatory picks are bestowed on teams is decided based on a confidential formula concocted by the NFL Management Council, but several known variables are included, such as player salary, playing time and postseason accolades.
So if you lose a big name player like Tom Brady to free agency, you could be awarded additional picks in the next draft.