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Rumblings Draft Scouting: Our Grading System

Clarity. That's really what I'm going for with this story. This article has great potential to leave everyone, including me, saying "huh?" I'm at my best explaining things off a white board or using something visual. Especially something mathematical. That said, I'm going to give my best shot at explaining how we graded the 2010 NFL Draft prospects, and how we'll continue to do so over the next couple of months. 

The "we" is really the Buffalo Rumblings Scouting Staff. The current version of the scouting staff started about mid-November, with Brian, kaisertown, and I forming the working group. Job one to effectively covering the draft was finding a method to objectively grade players. From there, we could rank the players, which would lead to other draft season coverage.

The grading system started by borrowing a positional traits grade sheet from Mocking Dan at Mocking the Draft. The grade sheet, as I've found, is an outstanding way to organize thoughts and notes while grading players during a live-telecast of a football game. For our purposes, the grade sheet had too many categories for each player, lengthening the time needed for any sort of enumeration.

So we modified the grade sheet to only evaluate five traits per position. We combined traits where it made sense to. For example, in grading a running back, one of the evaluation criteria we used was "passing game." This is a combination of the separate evaluation criteria of "pass catching" and "pass blocking."  We used this methodology to combine traits until we had five per position.

We also separated positions where it made sense. Defensive linemen were separated from one position into "Defensive Ends" and "Defensive Tackles / 3-4 Ends." Linebackers were also separated into "Outside Linebackers," "Inside Linebackers," and "Rush Linebackers." Traits were modified to reflect the differences in the positions where needed.

Next came the math. We wanted to keep this from becoming a science project, so we decided to grade players 1 through 5, with a grade of five being the best score a draft prospect could receive. Instead of each criteria accounting for one whole point out of the five a player could receive, we weighted the points with a percentage. This allowed us to weight traits as more important than others.

For example, 30% of a cornerbacks' grade are weighted to athletic ability. 25% each go towards man coverage and zone coverage abilities. 10% are accounted for in run support abilities, and the final 10% come from mental acumen.

To get a player's grade, we graded each player attribute 1 through 5. 3 qualified as average per a draft prospect. 1 is poor. 2 is below average. 4 is above average, and 5 is outstanding. After a grade was determined by criteria, that score was multiplied by the percentage. For example, a cornerback possessing outstanding (or a grade of five) athletic ability received 1.5 total points toward his overall grade (5*.3 = 1.5).

Each grader evaluated each trait and added up the total to come up with a raw score somewhere between 1 and 5.  The grader was allowed to add or subtract points in intervals of 0.1 to adjust a grade due to character, injuries, or intangibles. This then became that grader's final grade for the player.

The last step was to average the scores. This was the crucial step in taking subjectivity out of our grades. Three graders lessened the weight of personal favorites, opinions or dislikes. We posted our grades to a database, which averaged the three scores, giving us and you the "final" grade for a draft prospect.

Finally, here is the Buffalo Rumblings Positional Traits Gradesheet.

GENERAL TRAITS FOR ALL POSITIONS
Intangibles (Leadership ability, Character, Competitiveness, Work Ethic)
Durability
Up or down in 0.1 intervals for each player if warranted

POSITIONAL TRAITS
QUARTERBACK

Accuracy/Touch (25%)
Arm strength (25%)
Athleticism/mobility (includes Size) (10%)
Mental Acumen (Decision making/Field vision/Pocket awareness/poise, intelligence) (30%)
Mechanics (Throwing motion, footwork) (10%)

RUNNING BACK
Athleticism (Speed, Acceleration/burst/quickness) (20%)
Agility/Elusiveness/Feet (20%)
Passing Game (Pass catching, Pass blocking) (10%)
Power and Balance, (includes Size) (20%)
Running (Vision, running instincts, Ball protection) (30%)

FULLBACK
Athleticism (Speed, Acceleration/burst/quickness) (10%)
Run Blocking (30%)
Passing Game (Pass catching, Pass blocking) (25%)
Power and Balance, (includes Size) (25%)
Running (Vision, running instincts, Ball protection) (10%)

WIDE RECEIVER
Athleticism (Speed, Acceleration/burst/quickness, Agility/Leaping ability) (30%)
Catching (Body Control/Ball Adjustment/Concentration/Hands) (25%)
Technique (Release, Route Running, Separation) (25%)
Vision/Run after catch (10%)
Size/Length/Hand size (10%)

TIGHT END
Athleticism (Speed, Acceleration/burst/quickness, Agility/Leaping ability) (20%)
Blocking (25%)
Catching (Body Control/Ball Adjustment/Concentration/Hands) (25%)
Technique (Release, Route Running, Separation) (10%)
Size/Length/Hand size (20%)

INTERIOR OFFENSIVE LINEMEN
Mental Acumen (Awareness/Reaction) (25%)
Size/Length/Arm Length (10%)
Athleticism (Balance, Initial quickness, Blocking in Space, Pulling/Trapping) (20%)
Pass Blocking (Balance, lateral movement, anchor, technique and hand placement) (20%)
Run Blocking (Power, strength, explosion, pop, leg drive, Technique and hand placement) (25%)

OFFENSIVE TACKLES
Mental Acumen (Awareness/Reaction) (10%)
Size/Length/Arm Length (20%)
Athleticism (Balance, Initial quickness, Blocking in Space, Pulling/Trapping) (20%)
Pass Blocking (Balance, lateral movement, anchor, technique and hand placement) (30%)
Run Blocking (Power, strength, explosion, pop, leg drive, Technique and hand placement) (20%)

40 FRONT DEFENSIVE ENDS
Pass Rush (Closing ability/Moves and counter moves, Technique/Hand use/Leverage) (30%)
Run defend (Recognition, Ability to shed blocks, Pursuit/Lateral movement, ability to set edge, tackling, Technique/Hand use/Leverage) (20%)
Athleticism (Quickness/Explosion off line, strength) (30%)
Mental acumen (recognition, instincts, Versatility) (10%)
Size/Length/Arm Length (10%)

40 FRONT DEFENSIVE TACKLES & 30 FRONT DEFENSIVE ENDS
Pass Rush (Closing ability/Moves and counter moves, Technique/Hand use/Leverage) (25%)
Run defend (Recognition, Ability to shed blocks, Pursuit/Lateral movement, ability to anchor, tackling, Technique/Hand use/Leverage) (25%)
Athleticism (Quickness/Explosion off line, strength) (20%)
Mental acumen (recognition, instincts, Versatility) (10%)
Size/Length/Arm Length (20%)

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS
Pass Defend (Coverage/Zone defense skills, blitzing, Closing ability, angles) (20%)
Run Defend (Pursuit/Lateral movement and agility, tackling, Ability to shed blocks/technique, angles) (20%)
Mental Acumen (Instincts/Recognition) (20%)
Athleticism (Quickness/Explosion, strength, agility, range) (30%)
Size/Length (10%)

INSIDE LINEBACKERS
Pass Defend (Coverage/Zone defense skills, Blitzing, Closing ability, angles) (20%)
Run Defend (Pursuit/Lateral movement and agility, tackling, Ability to take on and shed blocks, technique, angles) (30%)
Mental Acumen (Instincts/Recognition, versatility) (20%)
Athleticism (Quickness/Explosion, strength, agility, range) (20%)
Size/Length (10%)

RUSH LINEBACKERS
Pass Defend (Coverage/Zone defense skills, Pass Rush, Blitzing, Closing ability/Moves and counter moves, hand use) (30%)
Run Defend (Pursuit/Lateral movement and agility, tackling, Ability to shed blocks/technique, angles) (10%)
Mental Acumen (Instincts/Recognition) (20%)
Athleticism (Quickness/Explosion, strength, agility) (20%)
Size/Length (20%)

CORNERBACK
Athleticism (Agility/Hips, Body Control, Speed) (30%)
Mental Acumen (Instincts/Recognition) (10%)
Man Coverage (turning ability/press skill, Technique, hand use, ball skills) (25%)
Zone Coverage (awareness, technique, ball skills) (25%)
Run Support (Tackling, pursuit, ability to take on and shed blocks, includes size) (10%)

SAFETIES
Athleticism (Agility/Hips, Body Control, Speed, range) (25%)
Mental Acumen (Instincts/Recognition, versatility, field vision, awareness, intelligence) (25%)
Man Coverage (turning ability/press skill, Technique, hand use, ball skills) (10%)
Zone Coverage (awareness, technique, ball skills) (20%)
Run Support (Blitzing, Tackling, pursuit, ability to take on and shed blocks, includes size) (20%)