Draft Grading Systems: Why You Need Numerical Scoring
How does the saying go? There's more than one way to skin a cat? This is exponentially true when it comes to grading draft prospects. But regardless of how you rank your players, you ultimately come to one side or another of a two sided coin. You either assign a player a grade with a round value, or a number value. Personally, I've been on both sides of this coin. 2014 marks the first draft season I'll be operating under a numerical scoring system, including formulas to calculate the grades. In the past I've simply watched a player, analyzed the numbers and said: "Player X is worth a 1st round grade, while Player Y is only worth a 2nd round grade."
I will say this: I don't know how I ever scored that way. Now that I have a numerical system, which correlates to a specific round value. When you grade prospects subjectively (without any dictation or direction of a formula or a system) you leave a lot of room for bias and error in your scoring. And the worst thing you can do is grade a prospect with your heart. I'll give you a couple of examples of my own, from this year and last:
1. Quarterback Matt Barkley, University of Southern California - Drafted in 2013, I had Barkley as my top Quarterback and a late 1st round value. I absolutely loved his production and play style and thought he'd be a very nice fit in a West Coast offense. But when grading him subjectively, I allowed my bias to cloud a number of issues with Barkley, mainly his total lack of arm strength. I went back recently and tried to grade Barkley as honestly as possible paired with what I acknowledged at the time as his biggest flaws. The conclusion I came to? According to MY OWN formula, adopted this season and used retroactively to grade Barkley, I should have scored Matt Barkley as a late 2nd round talent. His lack of arm strength was crippling in my formula but because I did not have the tool at the time, I did not weigh this issue appropriately and erred in slotting Barkley so high on my board with a subjective 1st round grade.
2. Center Tyler Larsen, Utah State University - When watching Larsen, I became really down on what looks like a lack of effort on a number of plays. He's not very active in space, he's content to jog behind perimeter runs instead of trying to get himself up field to potentially be in position for a cut back. As I graded a number of Larsen's games...it became a glaring problem I had with his game and mentally I was prepared to say "Larsen is overrated, no way he's challenging to be the top Center in the class and a potential Day 2 prospect." But then, I utilized my grading formula and with his other talents, Larsen still scores as a mid-2nd round value based on his film. Grading objectively, by scoring his pros and cons in different areas and utilizing my formula has amended what otherwise would have been an error, mentally obsessing over a single trait of a player to the point of penalizing them beyond the proper weight.
3. Quarterback Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M University - I love Johnny Manziel. I would absolutely draft him to my team and I love to watch him play football. But again, passion for a player can be your worst enemy without a numerical system and a formula to keep you honest and check your emotions. My heart tells me that Manziel has good arm strength, good accuracy when throwing from his platform and a play making ability rarely seen...and that potential alone is worth a 1st round pick. But then I get to my formula and I'm seeing a number of issues arise and manifest in his scoring values...pocket presence is poor. Mechanics are inconsistent. And suddenly, Manziel is scoring in the early 2nd round for me. He still might be my favorite player to watch play in the class, but the numbers don't lie. My passion and bias is removed and Manziel is what he is...inconsistent with special tools.
The bottom line is this. It doesn't matter HOW you arrive at a numerical value, or what that value is. I've seen scores graded out of 100, out of 10, out of 7...mine personally goes on a scale of 9. Whether you score on 10, 5 any number of categories on any specific position and whether you just average the scores, add them up, assign THOSE scores subjectively, it doesn't matter. As the saying goes, there's more than one way to skin a cat. It doesn't matter how you arrive to the destination. But I implore you: GRADE YOUR PROSPECTS WITH NUMERICAL SCORING! It'll change not just the way you grade but your perpsective and you'll never know how you did it the other way around.