The 2014 NFL Draft is just 7 weeks away now and Draft content is flooding the social media streams and the news pages. Teams are interviewing player X while the GM is elsewhere to watch player Y work out and scouts are at Team A's university to watch player Z's pro day. Knee jerk reactions are bountiful following scripted throwing sessions and 40 yard times into the wind. So how do you filter through the information overload to make sense of what matters and what doesn't? Here are a couple of helpful tips to keep your head on straight and how to make yourself a more knowledgeable, even keeled draft enthusiast.
Hint #1: Recognize and embrace the difference between draft "grades" and draft "values".
A draft grade is easiest to explain as such: The top 32 players are 1st round GRADES, because no matter what there are going to 32 players selected in the first round. But what happens when only 22 of those 32 are WORTH a 1st round pick? There you have draft value. The great teams always seem to manage to get great value for their picks. Trading up to get that last guy with a 1st Round value or trading back a round when they pick 20th in the 2nd RD and no one has a value worth selecting at that spot. For example, this year I have 19 prospects valued worth a 1st Round grade. If they all go in the top 19, teams picking 20-32 will still be getting players with first round grades (because they're in the top 32 overall players) but they are getting poor value because those players aren't actually worth a 1st round selection.
Hint #2: Trust nothing between now and May 8th.
Teams are well aware that the media is in a full fledged frenzy right now. The media will take any slightest trace of a lead and turn it into a full blown story for a chance to be the one to break the big story. NFL executives regularly take advantage of this with calculated words about what the team needs, who the team is interested. Sometimes teams will even send executives to watch a player they have NO interest in what so ever. So all of these rumors and stories about Teddy Bridgewater going here or Clowney falling there? Ignore them. You'll be able to focus much more of your energy on what matters most, exploring and finding the draft values of this year's prospects for yourself.
Hint #3: Know what you're looking for, don't let folks tell you otherwise and don't try to tell other folks otherwise, either.
The draft evaluation process is an inexact science with many, many theories on the best approach. There is no single method that works. There are, however, different methods that appeal to different populations. Some NFL teams put a lot of value in a certain number of metrics and calculated kinesiological values (like the Chicago Bears last year with G Kyle Long). Some teams value experience (like the Pittsburgh Steelers) while others are film purists. The New England Patriots' draft board every year is rumored to have no more than 20 names on it, while the Dallas Cowboys board is said to have them by the hundreds and hundreds. Teams don't tell each other that they are wrong, so why should we as evaluators ourselves? Embrace the different ideologies you see illustrated, you are never too wise to learn from others.
Hint #4: The best way to collect data and analysis is to do it yourself. But if you can't, these guys can help.
There is no substitute for your own hard work and research. It is best suited to fit your own personal ideologies because you're collecting specifically what you're interested in. But if you need a little help, the following guys can be found on Twitter and are some of the best in the business:
- Josh Norris, Rotoworld: (@JoshNorris)
- Dane Brugler, CBS Sports: (@dpbrugler)
Josh and Dane are some of the more higher up in the Twitter draft ranks that don't belong to ESPN or NFL Network. However both have great access to scouts and opinions expressed in person that those who are lucky enough to be there to hear can pick up on. Both have a lot of resources available to them that make them some of the most knowledgeable about the behind the scenes workings of the NFL Draft build up.
- Ric Serritella, NFL Draft Bible: @NFLDraftBible
Ric has been doing this for a very long time, evident by the depth he approaches each draft. NFL Draft Bible leaves no stone unturned in their evaluations of players across the board.
- Bryan Perez, First Round Grade: @FirstRoundGrade
I fancy myself as someone who takes the extra step in my evaluation process, but Bryan is a very thorough and educated scout who takes great detail in putting together his evaluations, some of which he shares on his website.
- Matt Miller, Bleacher Report: @nfldraftscout
Matt Miller is living the dream of about half of you reading this article. Self made, Matt has an entire army of minds at Bleacher Report at his disposal that make his draft content well articulated, well thought out and usually very insightful.
- Luke Easterling, NFL Draft Report: @NFLDraftReport
Luke Easterling puts out a weekly NDR Top 100, giving his followers a breakdown of who is trending upwards and who is not. Of course, the actual substance behind it is moot but Luke doesn't do it via NFL rumors, he does it through his own eyes and he's a great evaluator.
- Jeff Lloyd, RESN: @nflfanscomx
Jeff does a weekly podcast with some sharp minds from the NFL Draft media and just last night interviewed several Draft DB prospects, including Dez Southward of Wisconsin and Pierre Desir out of Lindenwood. Quality work that is well worth your time.
There are many, many more minds you can keep tabs on and many, many more tips for you to become a better draftnik. Hopefully this just nudges you off in the right direction. Attached below is a bonus scouting report from my 2014 NFL Draft Guide, available for pre-order now at www.ndtscouting.com. For just $10, you will receive a PDF at the end of April sent to your inbox with over 325 prospect evaluations just like this one of former Oregon TE Colt Lyerla. Also included will be exclusive NDT Scouting commentary, a 2 round mock draft, a comprehensive big board and more. I kindly thank you for your consideration! Any questions? You can reach me on Twitter @NFLDraftTracker or you can reach me at my own headquarters: www.ndtscouting.com.