A (sports) draft is a process by which professional sports teams select players not contracted to any team, often from colleges or amateur ranks. Baseball, American football, basketball, ice hockey, and some other predominantly North American sports utilize a draft system. The system is virtually unknown to European association football (soccer), where most professional clubs develop young players through their youth teams.
The National Football League's college draft, which began in 1936, is probably the best known. Draft order in the NFL is determined in a reverse-record order (the previous season's worst team picking first, the Super Bowl winner picking last). Trading draft choices between teams is common practice.
The Major League Soccer draft is similar to the National Football League one.
The National Basketball Association and National Hockey League use draft systems similar to that of the NFL; however, these leagues conduct a draft lottery whereby the first several draft positions are ordered by random selection. This is designed to deter teams from deliberately playing poorly toward the end of a season in order to obtain a higher draft position.
The Major League Baseball draft is not nearly as reliable in terms of predicting player skill or prominence at the major league level as the other drafts. This is often because players are often drafted from high school with limited observation by scouts, as well as the fact that Baseball has a highly-developed minor-league system. Teams have three levels of minor league teams (A, AA, and AAA, in ascending order of skill) into which a draftee arrives and is evaluated for promotion to the majors based on his performance in the minors, as well as other factors such as "signability" and other intangibles. First-picks in the draft will often either not sign with the team at all, get into some kind of trouble, or just not develop into a quality baseball player. Some of the more recent exceptions to this have been Alex Rodriguez, Chipper Jones and Ken Griffey, Jr., all of whom have proven to be excellent baseball players at the major league level.
Fans often pay close attention to the draft selections made by teams they support, sometimes conducting their own mock drafts.
Other related forms of drafts are the expansion draft, in which a new team is allowed to pick a certain number of players from those of teams already in the league, and the dispersal draft, in which players contracted to a now-defunct team are allocated among the remaining ones.