In this guide, I’m going to walk you through each category and mechanic that I take into account when evaluating the talent level of a college athlete looking to take the jump to the NFL.
The final prospect grade formula goes like this:
Overall Grade = (athleticism+film+talent+competition) x 10
Athleticism, Film Evaluation, the Level of Raw Talent, and the Competition Level at their program are all essential aspects to consider when looking at each player. Each category can tell you something different and may even change your mind on where to rank XYZ Prospect.
Next, I want to take a look at each individual category and explain my thinking in regards to each one.
0-1= Not NFL level 1-2= Average 2-2.5= Great Athlete 2.5-3= Elite
Athleticism is one of the easier ones to look at with the naked eye and evaluate. I like to use a mix of college film and the athlete’s pro day/combine scores to help determine these scores. Usually you can use NFL scouting events to see the basic size, speed, strength, and agility– but watching film can allow you to see their footwork, position related mechanics (release point for QBs, or tackling technique for a LB), or how they use their hands (catching, hand placement on a block, pass rush, etc.).
It’s important to keep in mind the position that the prospect plays when making this grade. A potential Pro-Bowl offensive lineman is not going to be the same type of athlete as a wide receiver, but they both can be elite athletes in their own respect. A wide receiver may run a 4.30 40 yard dash, but a good O-line prospect might hit 30 reps on the bench and test highly in the agility/footwork drills. You need to know what makes an athlete in their respective position great to do this correctly.
Film Grade: (Max Grade:3 )
0-1= Consistently bad 1-2= Bad, but some good 2-2.5= Consistently good 2.5-3= Near perfect
- Big Play Ability
- Pros vs Cons
- Impact at their position
To me, the film analysis is the most telling part of a player’s translation to the next level. You can’t just watch highlights, you need to see how a player performs from down to down in varying situations. As an evaluator, you want to see their best and worst plays in order to see what they do well consistently and what needs work.
With watching film, you can look for their ability to make plays as an individual, see what mistakes they make most often, and how they impact their teams success from their position (how many sacks does a OT prevent/give up, does a RB make tough runs on 3rd/4th and short situations, etc.). This will help you understand the pros vs cons to this prospect and whether or not the good outweighs the bad– aka can they be fixed or perform in the NFL at a high level?
Talent (Max Grade: 3)
0-1= Bad 1-2= Average 2-2.5= Good 2.5-3= NFL Ready
- Raw skills
- Football IQ
- Season Stats/Production
Talent is a very broad term to think about as an evaluator, but really what I think of as ‘talent’ is good of a football player are they? Do they understand/have perfected the fundamentals of their position? Are they a leader of the team? Do they react well under pressure? How well do they understand the game?
As an outsider, I have no way of interviewing each athlete and determining their football IQ or their ability as a leader, but if you watch the right games/situations you can make an educated decision on a lot. Especially Bowl Games, Conference Championships, or the playoffs.
Competition (Max Grade: 1)
0-0.25= Weak conf/Poor perf, 0.25-0.5= Avg Comp/Perf, 0.5-0.75= Good comp, Bowl App. 0.75-1.0= Best comp, Playoff/Bowl App
- Playoff appearance?
- Bowl Appearance?
- Division I,II,III?
Now, this part of the scale is ranked last on my list and has the lowest impact value, but I think it’s still important to think about when grading a prospect. If a player plays DII ball, plays in a weaker conference, or wins a championship/bowl game– it is very much worth noting. Sometimes the level of competition and their level of success is indicative of how a prospect will perform at the next level.