I have been meaning to write this FanPost for over a year now and here we are a week away from the start of the 2012 NFL Draft. In Part 1, I went in-depth into how a scout with Pioli connections scouts a player and the requirements for a scouting report. In this section I will talk about how a player is graded and typed and how that translates into the final draft board that Pioli uses to make his selections. I will also talk about the importance of the Combine, Pro Days, and individual workouts in the scouting process. This information is primarily from New England Patriots Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio and his annual pre-Draft meetings with reporters. Here is a video link on his discussion of draft cards, which is part of the system that Scott Pioli and Bill Belichick implemented in New England that I will go into further detail below. Follow me after the jump...
Grading the Players
So where are we at in the process? If you have been following up to this point, you will know our scouts have finished constructing their scouting reports and now it is time to grade the players. The scout will look at as many games as possible and grade the player for each game. The scout will then assign a final grade for a player on a numeric scale of 1-9, 9 being the best and 1 being the worst. As Caserio notes (and Pioli has echoed), they ask their scouts to grade the player for who he is on the field, regardless of injury, workout numbers, etc. Pioli is honest when he says that his draft board doesn't change much based on workout numbers. The board is arranged by grade, and workout numbers do not change the initial grade directly-- the basis is on actual game film. What a surprisingly strong workout may do is prompt the scout go back and try to watch more tape to make sure nothing was missed. In most cases, the grade remains the same.
Grading is probably the most important task of the scout, and this is where conflict may arise. If the player's individual game grades are much lower or higher than the player's final grade, the scout has to answer to the scouting director and Pioli and explain the discrepancy. Maybe the scout sees untapped potential at a different position or maybe the player just isn't a good fit. No matter the reason, the scout better be able to articulate and support his grade. These types of discrepancies may also lead to further investigation through further game film or going to work out a player individually.
Once the scout has assigned his final grade and the scouting director and GM have concurred, the grade is inputted into a computer database that is used to stack the players and form draft cards that are printed out and used in the War Room.
The Draft Card
Again, this system was implemented by Pioli and Belichick, so what you will see explained here is very similar to the actual draft cards the Chiefs use to construct their board. It is easiest to explain this by looking at an example card, so I constructed one for potential Chiefs draftee David DeCastro:
1. Player Typing: This where you designate a player based on their size, speed, and bulk for their position. The Chiefs will have size, speed, and bulk (weight) standards for each position. This is based on players that are in the league as well as players we are looking for to fit our defense (e.g. an average NFL outside linebacker may be 6'2"/235, but our standard may be 6'3"/250). A player who doesn't meet the standards gets "typed" here. This by no means eliminates them as a candidate, but is just a characterization of the type of player they are.
S = Speed Deficient
Z = Size Deficient (Height)
B = Bulk Deficient (Weight)
2. Player Grade: This is where the scout's final grade is incorporated. This is probably the most important parameter as it is used to stack the board. As noted previously, the scale is 1-9, with 9 being a top-level rare talent. Again, the grade is based on the scouting report, which is based mostly on game film. Terms that often get thrown around by draftniks like "positional value" and workout numbers are NOT factored into the final grade that is used to stack the board for a Pioli draft.
3. Player Alerts: This is where factors that may impact the interpretation of a player's grade or draftability are noted. I noted "w" above for DeCastro, which would signify a weight problem. Either the player has trouble keeping weight off, or he doesn't have the frame to keep weight on/add muscle. Both of these concerns would lead to a "w" alert. DeCastro doesn't have a weight problem, but I included the alert for demonstration purposes. An "l" alert would signify lower level of competition. In these players, Caserio notes that they want to see that player against the best level of competition when determining their grade, whether that be in a non-conference game or at an All-Star game somewhere. Things like character concerns, past arrests, medical concerns, playing in a spread offense, etc. would be noted here. An alert doesn't necessarily remove a player as a candidate, but it is an alert that there needs to be more investigation. This is where player interviews. coach interviews, and individual workouts come into play. With the computerized system, the scouting department can run a query based on typing and alerts if they want to compare some of these players side-by-side, as well as compare players from previous years to this year's class.
4. College: Pretty self-explanatory here. Almost every college imaginable has a four-letter code that is used on the draft card.
5. Height: Again, just the player's height. "v" would signify that it is a verified height, either at a Pro Day, Combine, or measured during an individual workout. "e" would signify an estimated value based on information from the player's school.
6. Weight: Same concept as the height parameter.
7. 40-time: Here is the player's 40-time, again as either a verified number or an estimation. The A/1 is another code that signifies the surface the time was recorded on (grass, turf, track, etc.). Scouts may note some surfaces that are "historically fast" so this is just another alert to be aware of when interpreting the data.
8. Wonderlic: This is where the player's Wonderlic score is incorporated if the player went to the Combine. As noted in Part 1, football intelligence (FBI) is of high value to Pioli and the Wonderlic gives you some sort of marker for cognitive ability.
The rest of the fields are pretty straightforward: last name, first name, position, and date of birth. Again, these draft cards are printed out and placed on the board in the War Room for Pioli to make his selections from.
Today, Chris posted an updated list of the Chiefs draft interests, but what should we take away from that? The scout's goal is to get as much information as possible from the Senior Bowl, Combine, All-Star games, and Pro Days -- i.e. due diligence.
Senior Bowl/All-Star Games: In these situations, scouts gain valuable information by watching the players practice against top-level competition. Here is where you can possibly investigate some of the "l" alerts, depending on who gets invited. Scouts can also interview players at these events and see how they interact with coaches and other players.
Combine/Pro Days: These events are mainly used to gather the verified quantitative data that goes onto the draft card. As explained above, this data is used in typing the player against standards that are set for each position. You also get a chance to look at players work out at various positions, but the scout's don't have as much control over the drills. Also at the Combine, the Chiefs will interview 30 players, where they can assess FBI, leadership, etc. Pro Days are a little more valuable to scouts, as you can meet with players the night before and interview them and watch some tape in a setting that is a little more unscripted.
Individual Workouts: Scouts will utilize individual workouts to gain more information about players that need more investigation based on the alert system above. Things like medical concerns, and "character" issues can be looked at here, but most importantly is probably looking at players with lower level of competition alerts that weren't invited to the Combine or any All-Star games. Also, if there is a player who you want to see work out at a different position, this is where you do it. Scouts will work out between 100 and 200 players individually and they can do so pretty much up until the day of the Draft to make sure they are going in with the most accurate picture as possible.
Player Visits: The Chiefs have a limited number of player visits, so the decision on who to invite in should have some significance. Joel just had a great post about how player visits correlate to our first-round picks. Check it out.
In summary, the primary benefit to "draft interests" is to address alerts that arise and gather more information about a particular player. Scouts want to paint the most accurate picture possible for their final grades and make sure every alert is investigated. If you are looking to try to use a draft interests table to try to gauge our interest in a player, I would put more weight into Combine interviews and player visits than Pro Days or individual workouts, because those are limited.
The 'War Room'
Now it is Draft Day -- the culmination of a year's worth of research, traveling, interviews, and workouts. The players have all been graded and the draft board is stacked and ready to go. This is the point in the process where I believe Scott Pioli is among the best in the business. When dealing with teams and negotiating trades, Pioli always seems to come out on the winning end of the deal. For the best description of what goes on in these situations, I would recommend reading it from a guy who was there -- author Michael Holley. As mentioned previous, his book 'War Room' should be prerequisite reading for any Chiefs fan or draftnik out there.
Pioli has final say over each draft pick and I hope we now all have a better appreciation for the type of research that goes into the most important part of the entire process -- the final decision of who to select as a new member of the Kansas City Chiefs. I hope you all enjoyed this "Inside the Draft" series and learned a little something about the player evaluation process. Go Chiefs!