When talking about NFL prospects, there are a wide range of ranking systems available. Some folks may grade potential NFL draftees with a ranking from zero to 8; others may rank out of 100.
Some just say a guy has talent equatable to a particular round, such as being a first round or second round talent. While you will also find some evaluations which just give a somewhat useless sequential positional ranking.
In a multi billion dollar business, there’s got to be a better way - right?
That’s why I think football could benefit from implementing something akin to the common prospect grading system used in professional baseball. Major League Baseball prospects are graded on five tools, each scored 20 ~ 80, with 50 as the median (what you would expect from an average MLB player).
Hitters are scored on different tools than pitchers, so taking a look at the Cincinnati Reds top offensive prospect, Nick Senzel, he is graded as follows:
Hit: 60 | Power: 50 | Run: 55 | Arm: 60 | Field: 55 | Overall: 60
In baseball’s system, each 10 point increment represents 1 standard deviation. Since plus or minus three standard deviations covers 99.7 percent of the sample, the scale is 20 thru 80, and not 0 thru 100.
Senzel, having a 60 grade as a hitter, arm strength, and overall, means those tools are considered to end up being better than 84 percent of major leaguers - that is good. His power is projected to be league average, and his running and fielding are graded slightly above average, better than two thirds of players in the major leagues.
Similarly, the Reds top pitching prospect, Hunter Green, has the following scouting grades:
Fastball: 70 | Slider: 55 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 55 | Overall: 55
So is fastball is considered to be elite, and grades out to be better than over 97 percent of his contemporaries. While his other pitches are considered to be league average, or slightly above. It gives one a clear indication that at the time of the draft, the 17 year old Green had a fastball which rivaled any pitcher in baseball, while his other pitches are seen to be able to be on par with an average major leaguer.
So how would this work in football?
Just like in baseball, players of similar positional skills would need to be grouped together. On offense, for example, quarterbacks would probably be in a group of their own with tools like arm strength, accuracy, the ability to read and decipher a defense. Wide receivers and tight ends might be evaluated on tools such as their hands, and route running.
Applying this to a football prospect, a grade for the Bengals first selection in the 2017 NFL draft, John Ross, may have been something like this:
Hands: 50 | Speed: 80 | Route Running: 55 | Blocking: 40 | Overall: 55
His speed was clearly elite, setting the record for the fastest electronically recorded time in the 40 yard dash at the event. While his other wide receiver tools were seen as average, or slightly above, in terms of getting open and catching the ball.
Implementing such a common grading system in football would provide a standard platform for scouts, commentators, and fans to use in comparing prospects in a common sense manner that would have universal.