I am not a fan of box score scouting a college prospect. I am not impressed by a receiver putting up a hundred yards a game if those games are against mid-tier teams, but I do want to see how he played against teams where he was on a level playing field against other top prospects. I also do not care very much about the NFL Combine. There’s some limited data that shows that 40-time (or alternately the three-cone drill) is a decent proxy for baseline athleticism, and success in some positions seems to correspond well with the vertical jump, but I’m not worried about bench presses nor do I care about hand size. I’ll check to see if those two scores are decent (or occasionally eye-popping) and then I’ll just start watching the kid play.
Once upon a time, I spent hours and hours from January through March going over the video available on college prospects, more or less looking to confirm or disprove impressions I had picked up by watching what was probably too much college football. As time went on, I had less time to spend on this, and I needed a way to focus my “tape watching” habits. This gave rise to what I called my Confidence Board, based on the fact that if I had a Top 10 impression of a guy and eight or nine other big boards (or positional boards) said the same, then I could be confident in my impression. By contrast, if someone had scores all up and down the boards, then I wanted to be sure to watch the guy play myself so that I could see why there was such a variation in opinions.
This time, I gathered boards from Pro Football Network (February 17th), Pro Football Focus (Match 6th), Bleacher Report (March 9th), DraftTek (March 20th), Walter Football (March 22nd), CBS Sports (March 25th), and ESPN Best Available (March 25th). I only use public boards because I like to be able to share my raw data. I never personally use Daniel Jeremiah because his board usually only goes to 50 and also because for a little run there, he would give me twice as many running backs and quarterbacks in his Top 50 as I got on anyone else’s Top 100 and it got old, fast (a few times I would include him just as a nod to his fans in the comments).
Unquestioned Blue Chips
These are the 8 players who are in the Top 20 on all seven boards. While there is no such thing as a sure thing in football, these are probably the closest players available to a “safe bet” unless there are lurking concerns behind the scenes.
|Will Anderson Jr.||Alabama||EDGE||1.86||1 (3)||3 (PFF)|
|Bryce Young||Alabama||QB||4.00||1 (2)||14 (B-R)|
|C.J. Stroud||Ohio State||QB||4.57||2 (DraftTek)||8 (PFN)|
|Jalen Carter||Georgia||DL||5.71||1 (PFN)||13 (2)|
|Tyree Wilson||Texas Tech||EDGE||9.29||4 (ESPN)||17 (PFN)|
|Quentin Johnston||TCU||WR||10.14||9 (2)||12 (ESPN)|
|Paris Johnson Jr.||Ohio State||OT||12.29||7 (DraftTek)||19 (PFF)|
|Joey Porter Jr.||Penn State||CB||13.71||8 (DraftTek)||19 (ESPN)|
Nothing to say here, except that this is obviously some major football talent. For me, personally, Joey Porter is the third-best corner in this draft. However, he benefits from not having any major critics. Will Anderson is clearly one of the top players in the 2023 NFL Draft, and quarterbacks always get mentioned early and often.
Blue Chips with Asterisks
These are the players who still average being placed in the Top 20, but who have at least a few detractors, relatively speaking.
|Bijan Robinson||Texas||RB||7.57||1 (Walter)||27 (PFF)|
|Myles Murphy||Clemson||EDGE||12.71||3 (PFN)||22 (PFF)|
|Christian Gonzalez||Oregon||CB||14.29||7 (2)||43 (B-R)|
|Peter Skoronski||Northwestern||OT||14.86||5 (2)||53 (PFN)|
|Anthony Richardson||Florida||QB||15.00||6 (DraftTek)||40 (Walter)|
|Lukas Van Ness||Iowa||DL||17.00||11 (ESPN)||21 (Walter)|
|Devon Witherspoon||Illinois||CB||17.00||5 (CBS)||38 (B-R)|
|Michael Mayer||Notre Dame||TE||17.43||5 (B-R)||28 (PFF)|
|Jaxon Smith-Njigba||Ohio State||WR||17.71||11 (2)||27 (PFN)|
|Brian Branch||Alabama||S||19.29||6 (PFN)||30 (ESPN)|
The fact that we are now at 18 players who average a score in the Top 20 begins to explain a lot about the draft process already. It’s one thing to say that a team should take the “best player available”, but it’s another to see that even the so-called experts can’t even really agree on the tiers some of these players belong in, and that’s without even including two of the most important considerations–whether or not the player in question clears medical checks and character evaluations–as well as whether or not the player is even a fit within the system that will be played.
Some of these players, like Bijan Robinson, are likely getting knocked down because of position; some are also being judged by things as simple as a measuring tape, like Peter Skoronski.
These are the players who are Blue Chip (or Top 20) on at least one board. By now, there are some pretty wild fluctuations.
|Will Levis||Kentucky||QB||21.57||4 (PFF)||59 (PFN)|
|Jordan Addison||USC||WR||22.57||15 (ESPN)||33 (PFN)|
|Jahmyr Gibbs||Alabama||RB||26.86||7 (Walter)||51 (PFF)|
|Bryan Bresee||Clemson||DL3T||28.71||11 (B-R)||74 (Walter)|
|Anton Harrison||Oklahoma||OT||29.14||20 (PFN)||50 (Walter)|
|Dalton Kincaid||Utah||TE||29.57||17 (PFF)||50 (PFN)|
|Cam Smith||South Carolina||CB||30.29||13 (CBS)||40 (ESPN)|
|Calijah Kancey||Pitt||DL5T||32.14||13 (PFF)||41 (CBS)|
|Antonio Johnson||Texas A&M||S||32.29||13 (PFN)||47 (PFF)|
|Nolan Smith||Georgia||EDGE||35.29||10 (ESPN)||74 (PFN)|
|Darnell Wright||Tennessee||OT||37.57||19 (B-R)||69 (PFF)|
|Broderick Jones||Georgia||OT||37.71||17 (B-R)||N100 (Walter)|
|Deonte Banks||Maryland||CB||38.00||18 (PFF)||81 (Walter)|
|Emmanuel Forbes||Mississippi State||CB||39.00||18 (ESPN)||55 (B-R)|
|Kelee Ringo||Georgia||CB||39.14||15 (PFN)||73 (PFF)|
|Drew Sanders||Arkansas||ILB||40.29||29 (2)||55 (PFF)|
|Zay Flowers||Boston College||WRS||41.71||20 (CBS)||N100 (Walter)|
|Trenton Simpson||Clemson||OLB||43.29||28 (DraftTek)||66 (PFF)|
|Isaiah Foskey||Notre Dame||EDGE||43.29||19 (PFN)||64 (PFF)|
|B.J. Ojulari||LSU||EDGE||43.86||20 (B-R)||68 (DraftTek)|
|O'Cyrus Torrence||Florida||OG||44.86||19 (DraftTek)||N100 (Walter)|
|Tuli Tuipulotu||USC||DL||55 (50th overall)||17 (Walter)||86 (DraftTek)|
|Jartavius Martin||Illinois||S||N100||20 (Walter)||N100 (6)|
I’d be tempted to dismiss many of the idiosyncrasies as being the fault of WalterFootball, but players like Nolan Smith have squirrely ratings from all over, with two scores in the Top 15 and two out of the Top 50.
Squirrels and Nuts
Which board produces the most outliers? Obviously, once we get toward the end of the Top 100, things get even more difficult to sort out. However, among the Top 50 composite-ranked prospects where there was more than a 2-rank, the two most likely to provide the outlier score were Pro Football Network with 16 outliers (13 of those were much lower-ranked than the average) and Pro Football Focus with 12 (10 of those were much lower-ranked than the average). Meanwhile, CBS, DraftTek, and ESPN all had no more than two outliers in this group.
Finally, for anyone who just wants to see the raw data in a semiorganized format, here is a link. I noted when the source was updated, and any player outside of the Top 100 was normalized to 101.