Before, during and after Monday night’s National Championship Game, I was reading all sorts of tweets about how “sources” have told certain analysts that their club doesn’t have certain players in the first round. When I read these I laugh because 90 percent of these “tweets” are total fabrication.
The grading process is a very long a fluid process and in almost all cases is never final until just before Draft Day. There are many different “systems” used throughout the NFL, but the end result is the same….line the players up best to worst.
Having worked for four different clubs during my career, I was exposed to many of the different systems. In some systems the scouting “calendar” is different as to when things are done than others. For instance, in the New England-type system that many clubs use, the scouts are done with the current draft class in February and then they being starting on the next class. That doesn’t mean the grades are final that early, it just means that the scouts' work is done. From that point on until the draft, the coaches are involved and their grades have input into what the final grade is on a player.
In other systems, the scouts are involved right up until Draft Day and they can change their grades on players as they get more information. The coach’s grades are also figured into the final grade and final grades on each players aren’t determined until all the pertinent information is in. In almost all systems, a final grade on a player and his place on the draft board aren’t set until shortly before the draft. So when someone tweets two weeks from now that such and such prospect is in the top 10 of a certain team’s board, he is full of it.
Every place I worked had a similar schedule for meetings. We would meet in December for a week and that meeting was usually to eliminate players that we had no interest in going forward. We would also use that meeting to assign some extra cross checks on players we liked. We would also made lists of players we wanted the coaches to evaluate. Even though the coaches wouldn’t enter the process until mid-January, their lists were ready.
Grades through the bowl games are still fairly preliminary. Yes, they include how the player played during the college season but there are many other important factors that haven’t been entered yet.
There will be an added grade for how the player looked at an All Star game, then after the Combine a player’s grade can change again. Often, we don’t know a player's verified measurables until after the Combine. Guys we thought were fast turn out to be slow and vice-versa. Also guys are either bigger or smaller than we originally thought. Arm length is always an important measurement that is needed. Offensive or defensive linemen with short arms generally have their grades lowered a bit. The same can be true for a defensive back.
When coaches get involved, they not only put a number grade on the player, but they are also looking at if that player “fits” within his position group. Personality and character have a lot to do with that. Depending on the team, a coach’s grade can have a small or large factor in the final grade. One thing to remember is that the coach has to work with a certain player and it is never a good idea to give him a player he doesn’t want or like. That is a set up for failure.
Pro Days have value especially if a player either didn’t work out or had a poor workout at the Combine. It gives the player a chance to further help himself with a strong workout. While a Combine or Pro Day workout isn’t a huge factor in a final grade, it is an important factor.
I still haven’t talked about the medical grade and that is always a huge factor in the final grade. Often, a player’s medical can determine if he is drafted high, low or not at all depending on the medical condition. I can’t tell you how many times we had a high grade on a player only to have to drop him form the board because of the results of his medical.
That said, medical grades will be different with each team. Clubs often put a medical grade on a player based on their past experience with a player who had a similar condition. I have seen cases where one club failed a player while another club took the same player in a premium round. When that happens. you always watch the player closely during his career to see who was right with their medical opinion.
Once Pro Days end in March, clubs will again meet for 10 days to two weeks to begin the final grade process. All the players a team is interested in are talked about. A final grade is assigned and their place on the draft board is also set. Often these grades aren’t “in cement” until about a week before the draft. Even then a grade on a few players can change as more information comes in.
That being said, the next time someone says or tweets what a players ranking is on certain teams boards, don’t listen. That information isn’t accurate because especially now, clubs really don’t have a clue where a player will line up on the final board.