Revealing Some Criteria Used by Giants, NFL Teams in Grading Draft Prospects

Ever wonder what criteria NFL teams use to grade draft prospects and then determine which way to go when they're on the clock? Wonder no more.
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Every so often, I receive a reader question that inspires a longer article. Well, thanks to Twitter user @Steve10gmen for his question, the inspiration of this article.

Steve asked:

Can you describe how the Giants grade draft prospect players and, in particular, how the grading system allows for the comparison of grades between a LT, WR, or CB?

Let’s take the first part of the question. Grades are subjective, meaning just because the Giants have a grade of 90 on one player doesn’t mean the rest of the league will have the same grade.

But most every NFL team, to my knowledge, uses the same sort of scouting system to arrive at a grade, and that starts with the scouting report, which I was fortunate enough to learn in two semesters at The Scouting Academy.

The scouting report consists of several parts, beginning with the prospect’s jersey number, position, date of birth and age, college, and high school/junior colleges attended.

Then there is a section called “Career Information,” which includes games played/started, games won, winning percentage, position(s) started, and if the player was ever a captain. This is usually followed by injuries and key stats and then the players’ measurables from the combine (if held) or pro day.

Scouts then list what tapes they viewed along with dates, indicating best and worst of the viewing, and arrive at a projection as to where the prospect fits, e.g., if it’s an offensive tackle in college, does he project to guard at the next level.

Finally, you have other elements such as scheme fit, body type/athletic ability, and what the player can and can’t do. All of these elements are then compiled according to a team’s grading system, and the more boxes a player checks off that relate to a fit on the team, usually the higher the grade given.

There are five core, or “Critical Factors,” that teams evaluate regardless of the prospect and the position played. These include Athletic Ability, Mental Processing, Competitive Toughness, Play Speed, and Play Strength.

Within each position are specific factors evaluated. For example, for a linebacker, some position specifics include run defense at the point of attack, run defense vs. wide runs, zone and man coverage abilities, ball skills, and pass rush/blitzing ability.

Now specific to the Giants, I don’t know exactly how they grade—do they emphasize scheme fit? On position skills? On Critical Factors? All of the above? Do they knock points off for character concerns or injury histories?

What I do know is they don’t force picks based on needs, e.g., going into a round with a focus on getting a player at a specific position. (Dave Gettleman, by the way, has said this before, so I’m not giving away any state secrets.)

If there are multiple players at different positions with a similar set of grades--we're talking grades separated by a fraction to maybe 5 points max--that’s where the need and depth of the class come into play.

Let’s say the Giants have a similar grade on an interior offensive lineman and edge rusher, both needs. They might go with the position that isn’t as deep in the draft in that case, especially if they anticipate there might be a run at that position.

Two years ago, the Giants reportedly had very similar grades on edge rusher Josh Allen and quarterback Daniel Jones. In the end, they went with Jones, a decision based on a need (with quarterbacks, you have to also factor in any developmental time he might need). 

Remember Grades are subjective. Every team has its own specific nuances in how they arrive at a numeric value or in some cases, what row they put a prospect).

Generally you might hear members of the scouting community agree on certain characteristics of  prospect, e.g. a wide receiver who doesn't excel during contested catches, but at the end of the day, the true beauty is in the eye of the beholder. 

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