There’s two things I’ve come to accept as truth during my nearly four years in the football industry. The first is that the instant you think you’re the smartest guy in the room, it’s game over. You’ll be humbled very quickly, a byproduct of a collection of experience and intelligence from those inside and outside the league.
As a result, I try to approach the draft (and the process) with an open mind each and every year. The end result is learning something from nearly every person I talk to, whether that be about a player, about the evaluation process or about a player from years gone by. The other? It isn’t exactly a football exclusive concept, but it’s one that rings true all the same.
Get 1% better every day.
My approach to the NFL Draft is methodical. It’s process oriented and possesses a number of measures and metrics in an effort to limit any of my conscious or sub-conscious biases when watching players. It’s not an approach everyone will agree with, but that’s the beauty of what I do. It’s an art form. There’s ample ways to conduct an assessment, but the important thing is to come to a process and end result that you feel comfortable with. (It’s also important to have an end result that’s accurate, but that’s a story for another day.)
The changes I’ve made since founding NDT Scouting in the fall of 2013 have been small, incremental ones. Building my method has been based largely in trial by error.
For example, my inaugural season (2014 NFL Draft), my scoring scales were too large, which over-saturated each round range with an excessive number of values. So in 2015, I cut the round tiers in half; going from a half a point per round to a quarter point per round.
The end product of that change is anywhere from 20-40 round values for any specific tier after the 2nd round.
My most recent change, prior to the 2017 NFL Draft, was an altered approach to quantifying historical data for both prospect size and athleticism. Instead of giving players a historical “Size” and “Athleticism” score, the two metrics were combined into a PSAR Metric (Physical Size and Athleticism Rating).
The change allowed me to add a marginal amount of overall weight back into film assessments; where the core basis of any NFL Draft assessment should lie.
Numbers do hold value, of course I subscribe to that school of thought given my personal approach to grading players. But they’re supplemental and best used as filters to identify trends and risk assessments.
That process of constant adjustments will continue into the 2018 NFL Draft cycle. I’ve had the pleasure to tap into a number of veterans in the NFL Draft/media world, and their experience (remember Rule #1!) has offered me a chance to further streamline my evaluation tool. I’ll be implementing multiple ideas into my methodology this coming year.
Change #1: An overhauled prospect summary
In years past, this piece of the report has been a 300-400 word final summary of a player. That could included notable off field and background, X’s and O’s, etc. See below for an example.
This year? I’ll be avoiding reiterating things which I’ll have ample time to mention elsewhere and aim to bring a more reader friendly final summary, composed of three parts:
- Player Comparison
- Best and Worst Individual Traits
- Optimal Scheme Fit
This rapid succession of information will give you exactly what you need to know, faster. The film assessment will hold the context you need to see why I feel the way I do.
Change #2: Red Flag ‘Tagging’
Have you ever heard your favorite Draft analysts lament how they’re going to factor or quantify a prospect’s red tape off the field? It could be a Joe Mixon case, or it could be a John Ross case. Whether the issue is injury, violence, crime or a number of other issues, each one is unique to the player it is relevant to.
So how does one factor that into grading, especially when using a number score? After talking to seasoned veterans of the Draft industry, here’s the answer: You don’t.
No more five hundredth of a point deductions for having over 1,000 career touches in college. No more tenth of a point penalties for ACL injuries.
The fact of the matter is that information just simply isn’t available to us on the outside. Without full knowledge of the situation, we cannot properly gauge the risk it presents. But there’s NFL teams, who do have all of this information, that still don’t penalize the players for red flags. Why? Because a player worth a first round selection is never on the same tier as a player worth a third round selection. Instead, the teams will mark prospects with flags. Some are deal breakers all together. But that doesn’t mean you didn’t walk away from his film and athletic resume and not feel that player is worth of a high selection otherwise.
NDT Scouting will be tagging red flags in 2018 in an effort to stay authentic to the NFL Draft environment and our respective final assessments.
Some of the red flag (but not all) tags introduced this year include:
- Level of competition
- Medical history
- Size concern
Change #3: Positional bonuses will no longer be “flat rate”
Everyone knows there’s premiere positions on the football field. A quarterback is more valuable to the team’s success than an offensive guard. All positions are, in fact, not created equal. It’s why you see pay scales grossly different for many positions on the roster.
Every year since 2014, I’ve granted positional bonuses to players playing “premium” positions. Quarterbacks, pass rushers, offensive tackles, etc. But aside of decreasing the score bump from year one to year two, it hasn’t been changed since.
But that’s changing this year as well. A quarterback selected in the 5th round shouldn’t get the same value bump as a quarterback taken fifth overall. There’s diminishing returns for selections later and later into the draft (there are of course, exceptions to this rule; but that’s another thing I’ve learned in football media: never assume the exception to be the rule).
So it’s only fair there’s diminishing bonuses for players at the same position as you get further down the draft board. That change is, like all of the above, implemented effective immediately.
These three changes are my effort at getting 1% better in 2018. I’d like to cordially invite you to experience the full 2018 NFL Draft cycle with us here at NDT Scouting; where a $20 annual payment unlocks every formal scouting report written since 2015 (300 in 2015, 300 in 2016 and 300 each from myself and Joe Marino in 2017) plus a download key for the 2018 NFL Draft reports when those are published this spring.