Hetraft season is the best time of year for teams that aren’t real contenders. Every fan hopes and dreams of finding the sixth-round QB who will win seven Super Bowls in his 57-year career. With NFL Draft Day a month away in Cleveland, I’m sure many people are scouring the big boards of Kiper, McShay or PFF looking for their gem or trying to figure out why no one went to Bo Callahan’s birthday party. I’m sure Ryan Pace will have a recap of the day of shooting and talk about how Sonny Weaver Jr. was able to make all those choices AND David Putney.
But how often do we look at the big charts of the past few years to see which sources are more or less reliable?
I’ve been following Big Board’s data for the last two drafts (2019 and 2020), and recently decided to find out and answer the question of how good their scouting skills really are. I followed the records of the Grand Council:
- Mel Kiper Jr. (ESPN) Scouts Inc. (ESPN)
- Todd McShay (ESPN)
- Big Board Athletic – Consensus
- Athletics – Dane Brugler
- Lance Zierlein (NFL.com)
- Project Network (PNN) – Major Consensus Board
- USA Today – Newswire
- Chris Trapasso – CBS Sports
- Cleacher Report (B/R) – Matt Miller
- Message: Matt Miller recently left B/R and now runs his own website, TheDraftScout.com.
That’s a pretty good description of AV, to be honest. Xibit hits the nail on the head.
AV ProFootballReference.com was used extensively in this analysis. Pro Football Reference tells AV how to assign a numerical value to a player’s season, at a position, in a year.
AV is awarded to offensive players based on the team’s points per drive relative to the league average and distributed to each player. A similar strategy is used for defensive players, where points are added up against In addition, points are awarded for being an All-Pro or Pro Bowl selection at certain positions. A more detailed definition can be found here.
I have subdivided each NFL draft class based on the evaluation of AV players on the bigboards and draft slots. In the table below, you can see each Big Board source (i.e. ESPN – Kiper) and the percentage under each grouping (i.e. Top 5, Top 10, etc.). It can be described as follows:
- The matrices for ESPN – Kiper and Kiper’s top 10 players on his Big Board for 2019 were AV of 136.
- The top 10 players in the draft class (BPA) made AV 196.
- Therefore, Cyprus’ top 10 score is calculated by dividing the average Big Board value by the average APB value: (136 AV Big Board / 196 AV BPA = 69%).
- There is also a row in the spreadsheet for reference called NFL Draft.
- This line shows the total VA of the top 10 recruited players divided by the VA of the APB : (149 AV drafted into the Top 10 / 196 AV BPA = 76%).
*Miller’s Big Board has grown to 50 players
*Dane Brugler’s Big Board has grown to 100 players
None of the above analysts won the 2019 draft, so to speak. The mean is the even-numbered average of the individual percentiles of the columns to its left. I thought about a weighted average to emphasize the importance of the top positions, but I thought it was getting too complicated to explain clearly. ESPN dominates these rankings between Kiper, McShay and Scouts Inc, with the Athletic Consensus behind them.
I noticed that Todd McShay’s 2019 bigboard is pretty much the same as Scouts Inc. No one has ever beaten a top 5, top 10 or top 25 pick. But we saw Scouts and McShay make the top 10, and we also saw Kiper and the Athletic Consensus win the top 50 for the best candidates.
We see many more misses in the top 5 and top 10 than in the top 25 and above. In the top 5 and top 10 the margin of error is indeed much smaller. One wrong move can bring your grade all the way down.
*Miller’s big board has expanded to 50 players.
In 2020, seven analysts outperformed the draft in the top 5, five analysts outperformed the draft in the top 10, and four analysts outperformed the draft in the top 25. At the end of the day, we see three analysts for the draft in average:
- Mel Kipper Jr.
- Sporting consensus
- TDN Consensus
- Honorable mention to Dane Brugler, who shot 0.2% over par. Impressive for someone doing their own research, unlike the big boards.
The combined results of the two draft/big board classes can be seen in the chart below:
2019 and 2020 Draft Combinations
* The Big Miller Board has been reduced to 50 players.
As noted above, the combined results show that no analyst was able to outperform the draft in terms of average valuation, with Kiper coming closest by falling 2.3% below the actual draft results (that should be a hair). Here are some closing remarks about the combined classroom/big board project:
- Kiper performed better in the Top 10 (+0.6%), Top 25 (+0.5%) and Top 50 (+1.0%). On the other hand, it decreased in the Top 100 (-0.9%), the Top 150 (-1.8%) and the Top 200 (-3.7%). Consensus Athletics won the draft in the top 50 (+1.7%), but stalled in all other windows.
- Dane Brugler’s Top 200 is the most accurate list of 200 successful players in the NFL. His top 200 had a BPA of 96.8%, a measly 3.1% higher than what NFL teams put together. No other analyst came within 5% of his top 200 position.
- Brugler would probably be at the top of the list if he wasn’t missing in the top 5 and top 10, where he is well below average. If you’ve never heard of the Draft Guide he publishes before each draft, I highly recommend checking it out if you subscribe to The Athletic. It’s 250 pages of information on recruiting prospects.
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Next time I will look at the results of each analyst in each position group (QB, RB, WR, TE, OL, DL, EDGE, LB, DB). Below is a summary of each analyst’s ratings for the top 100 offensive players and the top 100 defensive players.
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