When did the NFL draft change to seven rounds?

The NFL draft has existed for nearly 90 years. The inaugural event in February 1936 was held in a Philadelphia hotel with just 90 players to select from -- and only 81 were drafted, according to the league.

Today, the NFL draft is a televised and ticketed event that sees at least 224 players enter the league each year -- not accounting for additional compensatory picks given to teams for various reasons each year.

The current draft structure features seven rounds, but that has been the norm for only the past 30 years.

There have been many changes to the draft over the decades. According to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the first draft in 1936 had nine rounds, and that number was increased to 10 in 1937. In 1939, it was again expanded, this time to 20 rounds. In the 1940s, there were as many as 32 rounds. Years after merging with the AFL, the NFL reduced the number of rounds from 17 to 12 in 1977.

So, when did the NFL draft finally become seven rounds? The answer is 1994 -- after the NFL first tried out eight rounds in 1993.

To understand why, let's look at the state of the NFL in 1993-94.

In 1993, the modern-day free agency structure was put into place, and, in 1994, the NFL's salary cap was born -- restricting how much owners could spend on player salaries.

As for the draft, fewer rounds meant fewer players drafted. But that's not exactly a bad thing. Undrafted players become free agents and have the ability to sign with any team that wants them. In a 12-round draft, the fate of players drafted in those late rounds were in the hands of the team that picked them.

Today, free agency can be as important as the draft in building a championship team. Teams no longer have to rely on the draft to get the best talent possible.

The NFL has evolved in many ways over the years and, if history tells us anything, it will continue to do so.