Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Draft Grading Methodology: Talent Scores

2014's Draft marks a change in the way I grade draft prospects, and I'm hoping it can provide some of you draftniks out there with some insight and challenge you to stop and re-evaluate your OWN grading process.  A friend of mine has recently made the big time, taking the leap from online scout and talent evaluator to the professionals, hired by an NFL team as a member of their scouting department.  I couldn't be happier for someone.  Before he ascended the ranks, just before the draft last season, he passed along to me and a few others his comprehensive draft guide (think Shawn Zobel quality with explanations for the draft methodology being utilized in the guide).  It totally revolutionized my approach.  This was an in depth approach with graded prospects based on FIVE factors: Talent, Athleticism, Production, Size and Leadership, all with varying levels of weights on the grades based on positional value and importance.  This is the draft grading I will be adopting for 2014 and beyond.

The issue with a lot of the grading at this point is that things aren't concrete for a while yet, they're subject to change.  Players don't get official weigh ins and run official 40's until February.  Production will not be final until (for some teams) January.  One thing that does NOT lie, however, is the tape.  You get your talent evaluations based on what you see on the football field, it's what we are all doing week in and week out.  You see Teddy Bridgewater resetting his feet in the pocket and you KNOW he has the talent in his footwork.  I try not to give out grades on talent until I've seen a player at least 5 times.  Some smaller school guys make it difficult and I have to make work with 3...that hasn't changed in forever.  So what I will begin to do as I start seeing players and can begin making talent evaluations, is I will share them here with you.  The first thing that needs to be understood is the grading scale.

My grading goes on a scale of 9.0 and down:

Multiple Pro Bowl Player, Top 10  8.5 – 9.0
Highly Productive Starter, 1st Round  8.0 – 8.4
Very Good Starter, Early 2nd Round  7.8 – 7.9
Reliable Starter, 2nd Round  7.5 – 7.7
Potential Starter in Year 2, 3rd Round  7.0 – 7.4
Backup/Spot Starter, 4th Round  6.5 – 6.9
Productive Backup, 5th Round  6.0 – 6.4
Very Good Backup/STs, 6th Round  5.5 – 5.9
Quality Backup/Good STs, 7th Round  5.0 – 5.4
Backup/STs/Project Player, 7th Round  4.5 – 4.9
Priority Free Agent w/ Limitations  4.0 – 4.4
Non-Draftable    < 4.0

So when I share my overall talent grade (which comprises between 40-65% of a player's overall grade depending on the position) on QB X at 7.4, that means as far as talent goes, QB X is a fringe 2nd/3rd round player.  So where does this figure come from?  Do I just watch a player and assign him a number that I think fits his grade?  No, it's actually much more in depth than that.  Each and every scouted player is assigned a position, and each position has 10 components that are required skills at the next level.  Each of these skills is given a particular weight based on importance and then grades at each skill are handed out accordingly and an overall grade is produced based on the weight.

For example:

Skill Weight
Route Running 4
Speed 3
Hands 3
Run Ability 3
Adjust to Ball 2
YAC Ability 2
Toughness 2
Effort 2
Instincts 2
Block Ability 2

Total: 25

This is a sample grade for Texas A&M WR Mike Evans (this is NOT my final talent grade, this is actually based on 2012 tape.  However, this is what I saw out of Mike Evans last year in preparation for watching him live for the first time this Saturday vs. Vanderbilt, which will be one of my live tweet and showcase games).  As you can see, route running is graded with the most importance, it is graded out of 4.  Meanwhile blocking ability is a less important skill, it's only graded on a scale out of 2.  Take all 10 grades, add them up, divide by the maximum possible grade and then multiply by 9.0 to put you on a graded scale.  Viola!  Evans grades last year in my eyes as an early 4th round player base STRICTLY on the talent.  This doesn't factor in size, production, leadership and athleticism.  Strictly game tape, which in a WR's case is 50% of his overall grade.

I hope this gives you some insight into my grading process, and keep this in mind when in the future I refer to my 'talent' scores.  This is what I'm talking about.

Check back in tomorrow for a preview of tomorrow night's SEC game featuring Kentucky and Mississippi State!  Also feel free to follow me on Twitter @NFLDRAFTTRACKER for live insight and talent observations.  Thanks for reading!

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