Most draft seasons I’ll have at least a top 200 big board for you by draft day, but I’ve got a little perfectionist in me, and it didn’t feel right to rank players out to 200 without having properly studied all the prospects that would have been included. Being hired in February meant a little bit of a late start for me on studying this class, but next year you can expect all of this draft content to be ramped up to another level.
A couple things that areimportant to note about my grading process and my Top 150 Big Board so you don’t start your weekend overly triggered(maybe you still will):
• I model my grading scale after the approach of NFL teams, which means it is stingy. Most NFL teams have less first-round grades and smaller overall boards than those you see in the media. I’m not one of those analysts who will have 25 first-round grades and 40 second-round grades. The reality is that most players who attempt to make it in the NFL will not, and many that we project to be among the best at their position never get there. We all wish it wasn’t so, but that doesn’t stop it from being a reality.
As a result, my grading scale is pretty strict. Here’s the breakdown and color coded key:
Can’t Miss Grades – BLUE – Prospects that I believe will be among the very best at their position group by their third year in the NFL.
First-Round Grades–GREEN – Prospects that I believe will be excellent starters in the NFL.
Second-Round Grades– Purple – Prospects that I believe will range from very good-to-good starters in the NFL.
Third-Round Grades– GOLD – Solid starters, sometimes with significant upside that has yet to manifest itself consistently on the field, who will at their floor be important role players in the NFL.
Fourth-Fifth-Round Grades – RED – Grades range from Spot starters/solid role players at their ceiling (4th) to backups/special teams value (5th) in the NFL.
• My board does NOT account for positional value at all, other than obviously excluding kickers, punters and long snappers because I don’t know how to scout them. For example, I have five running backs with a second-round grade in this class, but I probably wouldn’t ever take a running back until later in the draft unless he was a Round 1-caliber, dynamic space player and receiver.
So although a quarterback like Oregon’s Justin Herbert may be further down this board than most, it just means I think he’ll be a solid starter in the NFL (third-round grade definition), not that I wouldn’t take him until Round 3 as a team because quarterbacks have a higher positional value. A solid starter at quarterback is obviously worth way more than a great starting running back. My Big Board just doesn’t account for that because I’m not an NFL team and I don’t need to stack my board like one. So read between the lines there.
Also, every year the majority of my grades fall in the third-fourth round range. It’s important to understand realities with these prospects, and that is that most of them range from “solid starters to backup/special teams” caliber players during the course of their careers. Very few venture into the “good-to-very good starter” territory, and even fewer into the “elite” territory, so it’s important to me to make sure my grades reflect that. I’m not into spraying and praying and giving half the class a first or second round grade.
Now you are free to hate on me from a place of understanding – rather than ignorance. Enjoy!
Jon Ledyard is PewterReport.com's newest Bucs beat writer and has experience covering the Pittsburgh Steelers as a beat writer and analyzing the NFL Draft for several draft websites, including The Draft Network. Follow Ledyard on Twitter at @LedyardNFLDraft