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A Scout’s Take: A Club’s Draft Board vs. an Analyst’s Draft Board

NFL Draft talk is heating up, so Greg Gabriel has a reminder about draft boards.

Syndication: Detroit Free Press Mandi Wright / USA TODAY NETWORK

A lot has been written or posted on X recently about how different NFL Draft Analysts have players ranked. When looking at player rankings, there is a huge difference between a single Analyst's rankings and an NFL club's board. The most obvious difference is when an Analyst ranks players, it's strictly his opinion, which is fine, but it's the opinion that just one person has, and no one of us knows exactly what went into that person's grade.

I am not criticizing them as they do a great job, but as compared to how a club comes up with rankings, it's far different.

An Analyst may have three or four game tapes to watch, maybe a few more, and verified measurables from the Combine or All-Star Games. The Pro Day information they get isn't always accurate as it's usually what has been published in an article and in most cases, those are far from being accurate.

What they often don't have is accurate character information and reliable and accurate medical information. They also don't have the results of the various test scores (and I don't mean the Wonderlic test, as that is no longer a valid test). Each player takes several different tests while at the Combine; some are related to psychological profiling while others are intelligence testing, and others can be reaction testing. They all have their importance, but each club determines how much weight they put into a certain test. In the end, all that information goes into a final grade.

When a club puts a grade on a player — unlike an analyst's opinion — a club is going to have a minimum of six grades and more than likely more than that. Each scout that saw the player in the fall writes a report; then there is a cross-check scout as well as one or more decision makers (GM, Player Personnel Director, or Scouting Director) reports. After the NFL season ends, the coaches get involved, and usually both the position coach and the Coordinator write a report.

Interestingly, each report is usually different and has different grades. In the end, the player's final grade probably isn't as high as the highest grade nor as low as the lowest, but somewhere in the middle. In actuality, it is a consensus grade derived from not only scouting reports but also all the other information (testing, medical, etc.) the team has. When a team stacks their board in April, there is a hell of a lot of information that went into that grade.

Another difference between an Analyst report and a club's report is scheme fit. An analyst, for the most part, is grading the player's general talent and does not figure scheme fit into that grade. A club, on the other hand, always figures in scheme fit. What happens here is a player who is not a fit gets a fair grade, but in all likelihood, he won't be on the Club's Draft Board. The reasoning is, why have a player on the board who the team is not going to even think about Drafting? It makes no sense.

In a usual Draft, there are about 255 players selected, depending on how many compensatory draft picks there are. Most clubs' draft boards have less than half that number. In my final years as the Bears Scouting Director, our Draft Board had less than 100 names on it. Those names were only the names of players we had an interest in. In the end, all our picks and several UDFAs would come from that small list. I have heard of clubs that have as little as 60 names on their board. Back when Hall of Fame General Manager Bobby Beathard was running the San Diego Chargers, they supposedly had around 25 names on their final board.

In the end, there are always fans who complain about their team's draft picks because the picks didn't necessarily line up with their favorite Analyst's Board. Trust me, it seldom does, and for all the reasons I mentioned above.

I have been grading players for over 40 years, but I also realize that my grades won't be close to what a team has. They will have a lot more information than I have, and I get much more information than most Analysts because of my years in the League and connections. It's still my one opinion versus several opinions on each player that the team has. The more reports a team has, the more accurate the final grade is.