MFE-Index – Free Agent Evaluation Rating System
How College Football Recruits Are Evaluated
Many of you probably have always had the question of “how exactly does a high school football player stand out from the millions of other players and get recruited?”
Well, they get evaluated and a lot goes into those evaluations. Recruiting evaluations on the surface differ a little bit from NFL Draft and Free Agency evaluations. Evaluation in recruiting is more about projections since the players are young and also involve several other factors.
So for this read, let’s take you through how a college football recruit gets evaluated step by step.
This is very crucial for college coaches on the recruiting trail. Many programs subscribe to some kind of recruiting service that gives them a list of thousands of players’ names in January and February of each year.
Connections are also important because maybe a coach has a friend at a high school who has a good recruit or knows somebody who knows of a player in a small town who many schools are not in on.
So recruits first get known via the ol’ network of connections. Now on to other things…
The world of pro personnel evaluation differs from college evaluations in that you are not projection players like you do in college but rather evaluating how they are performing currently at the NFL level.
While the same critical factors and position specifics apply to NFL players, after placing a number grade on a player, they are lumped into a color graded category. Every team has a pro board in their draft meeting room where each teams’ depth chart is up with individual cards placed in each position group. All the pertinent data on the player is on the card including his college grade and pro grade.
By having a color coded graded attached, it gives a visually appealing look at all teams at a glance and see where you think they are weak and strong based on the colors grades at each position. This helps to forecast if a team might be willing to release or interested in trading a player or interested in trading for a player.
This grading scale is designed to separate classes of players as well as skill sets and athletic traits. The grade only reflects what a player is currently, not what he was or can be.
7.4 – 7.0 (BLUE) = BLUE players are the top line players in the league. BLUE Players make the plays that are the difference in close games. They have Superior talent and consistently make big plays.
7.4 = One of the top handful of players in the league if not the best.
7.0 = One of top players at his position in the league.
6.9 – 6.5 (RED) = RED players win for you. They have starter type production in the league. The Top line REDS are usually BLUE in either the running or passing game but fall short in the other. RED players are impact players and start on contending teams.
6.9 = One of the best players at his position in the league. You must game plan for their presence.
6.5 = High level player at his position in the league. They cause some match up problems.
6.4 – 6.0 (PURPLE) = PURPLE players are players that you can win with even if they are not players that can win for you. They are usually RED in some areas and can match up with some REDS but overall fall short of REDS. PURPLES are very good players. They are solid starters who will usually get the job done in at least some areas. The Pro Personnel scouting axiom is to not play anyone below a PURPLE.
6.4= Upper tier in the solid starter category and are close to being a RED and may even be in some areas.
6.0 = Solid starter but not on the verge of being in the REDS and may even be close to trending to ORANGE. Could be a declining veteran or someone lacking in special physical or intangible traits.
5.9 – 5.5 (GREEN) = GREENS are young players with upside potential. While you may not be able to currently play them much, it is due to inexperience and not physical or intangible traits. You cannot to play too many GREENS unless you are in a rebuilding year or out of playoff contention.
5.9 = Players with lots of physical ability with inexperience the only thing holding them back to being in the RED area or above.
5.5 = Good young players with the physical ability with inexperience the only thing holding them back to being in the PURPLE area or above.
The above 3 rating areas are the minimum of what a club must have to win. Any Player below purple must be upgraded or the club does not match up at that position creating a mismatch advantage for their opponents.
5.4 – 5.0 (ORANGE) = An ORANGE player is one with backup ability and/or production only. They do not match up versus the REDS and are dominated by the BLUES. An ORANGE should make your squad only if they are a RED or BLUE special teamer. Otherwise, you must replace your ORANGES.
5.4 = A player with ORANGE production but may have PURPLE or above physical or intangible traits.
5.0= A player who will never be more than a back up roster player and one that you must replace unless he is a RED or BLUE special teamer.
4.9 – 4.5 (YELLOW) = A YELLOW player is one who lacks the ability and skills to contribute even as a backup OR someone who has serious medical or character issues. In any of these cases, these players are not worth developing.
4.9 = A player who is not good enough at this point but may have some qualities to develop into a backup at some point. Usually someone with decent physical traits but trying to overcome medical or character flaws.
4.5 = A player that you think is not good enough and likely has serious playing, medical or character flaws and therefore not worth developing.
INJURED PLAYER (GRAY) = A injured player is designated by a GRAY coloring or circling as even though he currently is not producing, he must be kept alive based onprevious ability and skill level and anticipated return of health.
Every NFL player is evaluated and given a numerical and color grade. Once the free agent list is established, you take the grades of the player and put them into one of the following three categories:
FREE AGENT GRADING SYSTEM
TIER ONE = Starter
TIER TWO = Compete for starting position
TIER THREE = Backup Player
A Standard for Communications
It’s one thing to have an opinion of a draft prospect, but it’s quite another to articulate that opinion to a group of your colleagues in a way that can be useful in the decision-making process, and can be understood even if you’re not standing there waving your arms and gushing about him or crinkling your nose in disgust.
Real NFL scouts use descriptive language and common verbiage to clearly and efficiently explain traits that prospects have or lack, and they have plenty of opportunity to explain in words anything unique about the person behind the facemask.
But after the personnel department hashes everything out, they need to reach a conclusion, even if dissenting opinions exist (and they do, all the time.) You either believe a guy is going to be X or he’s going to be Y, but the organization has got to make a call. The organization drafts as one, and the organization either tries to sign an undrafted prospect or they don’t.
Each personnel department has its own approach that comes from the top down, but most follow common practices, which makes orienting scouts hired from other organizations more efficient. It’s analogous to the common elements in NFL playbooks; of course there’s variation, but there are only so many ways to describe receivers’ route trees, and there’s a benefit to employing language that newcomers from other teams will find familiar and comfortable.
Before the prospects go up on the team’s master draft board, they get a grade, and most teams use a similar system. Some of the more serious NFL Draft analysts in the media do the same, which is no surprise given that some of them have experience as scouts, and many of the rest wish they did!
Most commonly, a team assigns a numerical grade that represents their best projection of what that prospect should become as a professional in the National Football League. The following table melds a system taken directly from the scouting manual of an NFL team from the mid-2000s with descriptive text from a similar system used by long-time veteran scout and personnel executive Greg Gabriel of the National Football Post. There are subtle variations, but the approach is very similar.
“Scouting is really the lifeblood of any NFL team. You are only as good as the players you have.”
– Phil Savage
|Numerical Grade||Summary Description||Verbose Description||PowerHouse Grade|
|9.0||Rare; Elite||Immediate starter; rare prospect w/ rare physical attributes; instantly one of best in NFL||R1+/R1|
|8.5-8.9||Immediate starter; physical attributes to create mismatches; will become one of best in NFL|
|8.0-8.4||Immediate starter; physical mismatch vs. most opponents; will be a featured player on his team|
|7.5-7.9||Exceptional; Impact||Becomes a starter as a rookie; physical mismatch vs. most opponents; will be a featured player on his team||R1-/R2+|
|7.0-7.4||Outstanding; Starter||Becomes a starter as a rookie; solid NFL player with no major weaknesses to exploit||R2/R2-|
|6.9||Excellent; Potential Start||Contributes as a rookie, starts second year||R3|
|6.8||Contributes as a rookie; starts eventually|
|6.7||Contributes as a rookie; impactful sub/situational player|
|6.6||Physical tools to start, but has a limitation to overcome; boom or bust|
|6.5||Tools to start, but deficient in a way that he should overcome|
|6.4||Very Good; Solid Backup||Tools to start, but deficient in a way that will be difficult to overcome||R4 , R5|
|6.3||Tools deficient in a way that cannot be overcome, but may become a starter anyway|
|6.2||Lacks physical tools to start, but should make an impact as a sub/situational contributor|
|6.1||Tools to start, but will require significant development at pro level|
|6.0||Tools to start, but has not played to potential; boom or bust|
|5.9||Good; Chance Make||Tools to contribute as a backup; should be able to overcome deficiencies||R6, R7, PFA|
|5.8||Tools to contribute as a backup; will struggle to overcome deficiencies|
|5.7||Tools to contribute as a backup; cannot overcome deficiencies|
|5.6||Free agent with speed, character, and competitiveness|
|5.5||Free agent with athletic ability, character, and competitiveness|
|5.4||Above Average / Developmental||Free agent with size, character, and competitiveness||PFA|
|5.3||Free agent at a high level of competition with size, speed, or athletic ability|
|5.2||Free agent with size or speed|
|5.1||Free agent with character and competitiveness|
|4.0-4.9||Average / Below Average||Lacks the qualities/attributes required for pro football||FA|
“When I was first breaking into scouting right out of high school, I emailed and talked on the phone a lot with Charley Casserly, who was the general manager of the Houston Texans at the time. One thing he told me then that I try to always remember now is that scouting is fluid. No grade should ever be filed and forgotten.”
– Matt Miller
Dan Shonka, another long-time NFL scout who runs Ourlads Guide to the NFL Draft, uses a different numerical system to convey the same information. This system has always appealed to me, because it makes mathematical calculations easier, it’s the system that I “grew up” on (I’ve been an Ourlads subscriber since the 1980s,) and it more elegantly describes the hypothetical perfect prospect as a “10.”
|Grade||Round||Ourlads Description||PowerHouse Grade|
|9.99-9.00||1||First-year starter (except QBs); talent to contribute early; impact player||R1+/R1, R1-/R2+|
|8.99-8.00||2||Eventual starter; probable first-year starter; minimal development time||R1-/R2+, R2/R2-|
|7.99-7.00||3||Good backup; upgrades marginal starter; eventual starter with development time||R3|
|6.99-6.00||4||Solid backup; ascending skills & production; good upside based on measurables; needs development time||R4|
|4.99-4.00||6||Upgrades roster depth; deficient measurables or size/speed prospect with inconsistent skills/production||R6|
|3.99-3.50||7||Upgrades size/speed at position of need; borderline pro skills; has a chance to develop||R7|
|3.49-3.00||PFA||Developmental prospect with draftable qualities||PFA|
|2.99-2.50||FA||Free agent with height, weight, speed, or another special asset||FA|
|2.49-2.00||Camp||Emergency player for camp||NR|
In our iGMTM virtual NFL General Manager simulation, we use the Ourlads system, but the numbers don’t show anywhere on the site. They’re used behind the scenes in a few ways, like to support the calculations made when the computer picks in our Mock Drafts. If you have a prospect ranked 37th, for example, he may carry a numerical grade of, say, 8.76. We’ll multiply that value by a factor a bit above 1.00 if a team has a need at the prospect’s position, or a bit less than that if they don’t.
When you’re setting up your rankings, you assign a “Grade” of R1+/R1, R1-/R2+, R2/R2-, R3, R4, R5, R6, R7, PFA (“priority free agent,”) FA (other “free agent,”) or NR (“not ranked,” a simple catch-all for anyone you’re not interested in.) You can then re-rank prospects within each group. Behind the scenes, our system assigns Ourlads-system numerical grades automatically, but you don’t need to bother with them.
Fundamentally, most drafts have really only about twenty or so prospects who are clearly first-rounders. Then there’s a group that could go late in R1 or towards the top of R2. Our system encourages you to set your board up that way, but, of course, you’re free to use it any way you like.
I have developed both a Digital Draft Board and a Digital Pro Board. The digital pro board tracked movement throughout the NFL of players from 53-man rosters, to practice squads or those put on injured reserve) as well as priority free agents, street free agents and emergency list players and or trades.
Emergency player listing is extremely important and is used in case there are injuries, which happen every day. For a player that is injured in a game, they must be replaced. Personnel directors and general managers look at this list during games once notified of major long- term injuries. This allows the personnel staff quick reference so they can start calling agents immediately. These calls are made mid-game if needed. Emergency players are those on the street with NFL experience and good production.
The grading chart ranges from 8.00 down to 1.0. The same grading scale is used to keep continuity between college and pro player reports, even though the description relates to the level of play. Players are grouped by color before a grade is given. A numerical grade is added for stacking purposes later, creating separation.
|8.00||EXCEPTIONAL||ELITE PLAYER||#1 Pick||PRO BOWL PLAYER|
|EXCELLENT||POTENTIAL PRO BOWL PLAYER||2-5
|TOP 4-5 NFL PLAYERS AT HIS POSITION; DIFF. MAKER|
|OUTSTANDING||PROBABLE STARTER ROOKIE YEAR||2ND||OUTSTANDING STARTER|
|6.0-6.49||VERY GOOD||EVENTUAL STARTER W/ DEVELOPMENT||3RD||VERY GOOD STARTER|
|5.6-5.99||GOOD||STRONG SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER; CAN START IN EMERGENCY. FLASHED SKILLS TO DEVELOP INTO 6.0 PLAYER||4TH||GOOD BACKUP|
|5.5-5.59||ADEQUATE||STRONG SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER; CAN FINISH WITH, BUT CAN’T WIN A CHAMPIONSHIP WITH||5TH||ADEQUATE BACKUP|
|5.0-5.49||BORDERLINE||ON ALL TEAMS; LOOK TO REPLACE ASAP||6 & 7||BORDERLINE|
|4.6-4.99||PRIORITY FREE AGENT||FREE AGENT||FA||AGED VETERAN/STREET|
|4.0-4.59||NON-PRIORITY FRE AGENT||FREE AGENT||FA||EMERGENCY PLAYER|
|3.50||NOT FOR ROSTER||MIGHT APPEAR ON ANOTHER ROSTER||DON’T WANT IN CAMP|
|2.0||INCOMPLETE||NEED MORE INFO; LACKS NFL QUALITIES||MORE INFO IS NEEDED|
|1.0||REJECT||LACKS SKILL SET TO CONTRIBUTE IN NFL||REJECT|
Grading chart explanation of color codes
BLUE: Blue players are playmakers and difference- makers in every game. Playoff teams need at least 10 or more on the roster.
RED: Starters/heavy contributors teams can win with right away. They have Blue traits with ascending skill set.
ORANGE: Backup/special teams players with limited production. They struggle to match up with high red players and have limited skill set to ascend to a low red player.
GREEN: A high percentage of free- agent greenies get hurt and lack the skill set to ascend to an Orange player.
Computer systems are designed to down grade those players who do not grade out high in their Critical Factors (Athletic Ability, Strength/Explosion, Playing Speed, Competitiveness, and Size). Our goal is to build a Championship team with Fast, Athletic football players, who are Productive, Tough Mentally/Physically, solid Work Ethic, Competitive with good Character.
The principles behind the grading system are not to grade the players for you, but rather guide you towards the prospects that fit into our philosophy. The grading system will look to eliminate these who don’t. In order to be considered as a potential starter (6.0 or higher) for this franchise, the player must meet specific requirements for the position. If he meets these requirements, the grading system will lead you to the grade he should receive. You as a Scout may agree or disagree with the systems grade, but you are at least aware that he has certain specifics and that he may be “what we are looking for as a player”.
It is very important for our Organization that we all (Scouts) are on the same page in terms of player evaluation. Before you go on the road this year, you should have a clear understanding of what we are looking for with regard to position and character. Allow the grading system and lettering system describe the player, and do not let your personal feeling about a player make you down grade him. For example; a prospect meets all the specific requirements for his position and is a Competitive, Productive prospect and plays at a high level of competition, but has some major Character issues. DON’T DOWN GRADE PLAYERS FOR CHARACTER ISSUES!! Let the grading and lettering system alert the Ram organization that the prospect is an outstanding player with problems or deficiencies. It will be the Head Coach, Presidents, VP/Player Personnel, and the College Scouting Director decision where, when, and if at all, the organization drafts this type of prospect.
We would like to find Multi-dimensional players who can stay on the field all three downs. They will have more value than a role player, who will only be on the field part time. There is certainly a place for the role player, but he MUST be exceptional at what he does best, with the ability to help on Special Teams ASAP! We would like the prospects to meet the Height, Weight and Speed minimums for the position. If a prospect is at a lower level of competition, they must dominate their level.
The following lettering system helps Personnel Executives and Scouts describe the prospect’s deficiencies or character issues, these are RED flags and sometimes MAJOR ALERTS for our Organization. These letters will appear in the system and print out on reports, but not shown with grades on prospect labels for the Draft Board.
|A||Prospect with academic problems, no longer at the University, has transferred to another University, academic failure and no longer in school.|
|B||This player presently lacks the BULK for the position, but has the frame and growth potential to add weight in the very near future. With time and weight room development, this player will reach the minimum weight for his position.|
|C||This player has some very serious CHARACTER issues that the Organization should be aware of. It may involve drugs, steroids, alcohol, criminal, temperament and/or disposition, uncoachable, low motor. This type of prospect warrants further investigation into his problems.|
|D||This prospect has no real weakness; however, he is not ready to contribute at the NFL level of competition because he needs further development for any number of reasons, e.g. inexperience at the position, level of competition, poor or little coaching, the system and how he was used. Be careful when giving this letter to a prospect, it is not a catchall category to keep a player alive.|
|F||This prospect lacks the frame to ever add enough weight to bring him to the minimum weight necessary for the position.|
|M||His Mental capabilities in regard to football intelligence warrants further investigation. This player may have a learning disability that might not allow him to play football at the next level. A (10) or single digit Wonderlic test score is a major RED flag that there are some learning issues.|
|O||This prospect will grade high in competitiveness and production, but fall short in critical factors, particularly A/A. He is the great motor guy who plays with a lot of heart and fire in his belly while making a lot of plays against all levels of competition, in spite of his A/A shortcomings. He is an OVERACHEIVER and this is not a negative. There is a place in the NFL for a player like this that is smart, aware, great character, is tough both physically and mentally and productive, but just not a good athlete.|
|P||A PROJECTION to a position in the NFL that the prospect has never played in College is a huge decision. This is a true projection and the move to the new position is going to require refinement and time. For example Offensive linemen are not projections to another area of the offensive line; however, an undersized down rush end to linebacker is because you have not seen him play at that position. We should have no more than two/five (P) players each year. Grade the player at the position you see him at – don’t get into the projection business.|
|T||Prospects who are generally very Tight/Stiff. He has flexibility problems that affect his play. This player will always have a degree of difficulty in bending his knees, dropping his weight, changing direction, getting in/out of cuts. He is generally a straight-line player who may or may not possess initial quickness and borderline speed. A scout should not put a letter (T) on a player graded 6.0, if you do, be ready and able to defend your decision.|
|U||This prospect is an UNDERACHEIVER. He has high critical factor grades, but grades out very low in competitiveness. He has a low motor, lack of desire, poor work ethic, etc. He has all the measurables and A/A, but doesn’t play up to his ability. A possible coach-killer type of player so be very careful.|
|W||Weight issues throughout career; eating disorder, binge eating. Where weight will fluctuate 5-30 pounds during the season/off-season.|
|X||This prospect has missed a lot of time or is presently INJURED. He has had a list of medical problems in his history that warrant further investigation. Any situation which causes a prospect to take time off from practice, miss part or all of some games or not play as well in certain games, must get a (X). This would include orthopedic problems (chronic knees, arthritic spines, stingers, etc.) as well as such things as asthma, heat problems, and eye problems.|
Philosophy of a Pro Player
Athletic Ability – Quickness, Agility, Hand and Eye coordination, Balance, Fluidity of movement, Flexibility and Change of Direction with overall body coordination.
Strength Explosion – Not weight room strength but functional strength in upper and lower body. This is the player’s ability to overpower his opponent: breaking tackles, running over defenders, explode into defender, ability to stack and neutralize, leverage, and playing through blocks, explosion into tackle, out leaping opponents and use of hand explosion.
Playing Speed – Pad speed during game competition. This does not always relate to a prospects timed speed, as some players run slower with their pads on, while others run faster than their timed speed, with their pads on. It relates directly to a player’s Start, Acceleration/Burst, and Change of Direction along with his stride and fluidity during game and practice situation. The Scout is responsible for a visual evaluation of estimated playing speed.
Competitiveness/Production – A prospects toughness and intensity, both physically and mentally. A WIN at all cost clutch player, who wants to be the best, works at being the best and plays with confidence and aggressiveness. His competitiveness will tie in with his work ethic, both on and off the field and would go hand in hand with his Production. It is difficult for a prospect to be a good competitor unless he has Production, though there may be some exceptions to the rule; (playing out of position), hustle and second effort.
Size – A prospect must meet the minimum requirements for his position. Obviously, the bigger a player is from the norm for that position, the more value he has and should be graded accordingly.
Mental Qualities – Intelligence; ability to learn and retain football information; Wonderlic.
Toughness – Mental and physical toughness.
Passion for the Game – Must love the complete process of the game of football. Off season and end season training. Rehabbing all injuries to get back on the field as soon as possible.
Football Instincts – Naturally instinctive player.
Basic Player Data
Value Over Stream (VOS) – The VOS metric calculates each player’s fantasy points per game above the average waiver wire replacement in standard fantasy league formats during either the current or previous season, depending on the time of year. VOS also incorporates a bust rate coefficient to throttle each player’s VOS according to the fragility and subsequent uncertainty of forecasting the annual fantasy point output of players at his position. By incorporating a volatility-related coefficient, VOS is the evolutionary next step in Value-based Drafting (VBD) and provide a helpful guidepost to be utilized during fantasy football drafts.
A comprehensive review of the rationale behind the VOS metric is available here: Introducing: Value Over Stream (VOS)
Quality Score – Aggregates elements of a player’s prospect profile (college production and athleticism) and NFL production. As a player’s NFL tenure lengthens, Quality Scores become more heavily weighted by NFL production. For examples, Antonio Brown’s Quality Score is now solely driven by his on-field performance as his Central Michigan career has lost relevance.
Hand Size – data presented by John Bales from Fantasy Labs showed a relationship between hand size and quarterback performance, particularly in cold weather conditions.Because of this positive correlation over a large sample size between hand size and productivity, hand size is a relevant, predictive attribute for quarterbacks.
Body Mass Index (BMI) – formerly referred to as the “Quetelet Index,” BMI dates to the 19th century and provides a simple numeric measure of a person’s thickness or thinness. Formula is as follows: Mass (lb) / Height (in)^2 x 703. Individuals with high BMIs tend to be built more like a bowling bowls, an ideal stature for an NFL running back. Therefore, BMI indicates a running back’s relative sturdiness.
College Dominator Rating – first outlined by Frank DuPont in the book Game Plan, the college dominator rating represents a player’s “market share” or his percentage of his team’s offensive production. For example, a 35+% dominator indicates that a wide receiver has the potential to be a team’s No. 1 WR and/or a high caliber contributor. 20-35% indicates a mid-level talent with situational upside. Less than 20% is a red flag.
For wide receivers and tight ends, the dominator rating is the percentage of team receiving production. For running backs, it is the percentage of total offensive production, because running backs are involved in both the running and passing game. College Dominator Rating is not relevant for the quarterback position.
Breakout Age – the younger a person is when he/she first becomes a leader in their respective field, the more likely that person is to go on to become *phenom*enal at their craft. Following this logic, Frank DuPont and Shawn Siegele first examined each wide receiver’s breakout age on RotoViz.com.
The breakout age for wide receivers is defined by their age at midpoint of the college football season when they first posted a Dominator Rating at or above 20% (unless an or other extenuating circumstances prevented the player from playing a full complement of offensive snaps). For tight ends and running backs, a 15% Dominator Rating is necessary to qualify for a breakout designation. Quarterback breakout ages are determined by their age when they first posted a QBR of 50 or higher in a college season, and quarterbacks must average 20 or more action plays per team game played to qualify.
In order to display a more granular percentile rank for comparison purposes, Breakout Ages are listed to the tenth decimal place.
Best Comparable Player – aggregates physical attributes, college production, workout metrics, and NFL productivity and efficiency (when available) to find each player’s most similar peer at his position.
40-yard Dash –for quarterbacks and tight ends, any 40-yard dash under 4.70 seconds is considered fast. Running backs and wide receivers are held to a different standard as times of 4.50 or below are considered fast for RBs and WRs.
Speed Score – Bill Barnwell first posited the metric in Pro Football Prospectus to better predict running back success. The formula is (weight*200) / (40-time^4). It factors weight into a player’s 40-yard dash time assigning a premium to fast times run by bigger, often stronger, running backs.
Height-adjusted Speed Score (HaSS) – first discussed by Shawn Siegele on his Money In The Banana Stand blog, it builds on Bill Barwell’s Speed Score concept to create a more relevant metric for wide receivers and tight ends. Unlike running backs, weight and height are correlated to wide receiver and tight end production, because height expands the player’s catch radius. HaSS layers height into the traditional speed score equation by also dividing the player’s height by the average wide receiver height: 73.0 inches (6’1”) or average tight end height: 76.4 inches (6’4 5/12’’). This results in a measure of a player’s speed that also incorporates a premium on both body weight and body length.
Agility Score – Agility Score is simply the sum of a player’s 20-Yard Short Shuttle time and 3-Cone Drill times. This number measures a player’s short area quickness and balance and correlates with an ability to avoid tackles and compile yards before contact.
Burst Score – indicates a player’s zero-inertia explosiveness (stop-and-start acceleration) and ability to catch the ball outside the body. Similar in concept to Agility Score, Burst Score sums a player’s Vertical Jump height and Broad Jump distance. Additionally, the metric is calibrated to give Vertical Jump and Broad Jump equal weight.
Catch Radius – first discussed by Scott Smith in a piece titled “The Catch Radius Project: In Search of Better TD Production”, the metric incorporates a player’s ability to cover ground as well as his ability to get vertical in order to score a player’s capacity to reaching the football in a 3-dimensional space. Catch Radius affects a player’s ability to succeed in the red zone, particularly on fade routes and 50-50 balls. The equation squares a player’s 40-time, 20-yard shuttle, and 3-cone and multiplies it by the square of a player’s height, arm length, and vertical jump. The values of all six data inputs are normalized to have equal weight.
Wonderlic Test – group intelligence test used to assess the aptitude of prospective employees for learning and problem-solving in a range of occupations. It consists of 50 multiple choice questions to be answered in 12 minutes. The best score in the history of the NFL was Harvard graduate Ryan Fitzpatrick’s 48. Athletes scoring in the 30-50 range are considered smart. Both Matt Ryan and Giovanni Carmazza scored a 32. Athletes in the 20-30 range possess solid functional intelligence. Both Ryan Leaf and Rich Gannon scored a 27. Scores under 20 indicate that a player may be challenged to process information on-the-fly. Both Dan Marino and Vince Young scored a 15. Blaine Gabbert crushed the Wonderlic with a score of 42, so he has that going for him.
SPARQ-x – An approximation of Nike’s SPARQ Rating (acronym it stands for: Speed, Power, Agility, Reaction and Quickness), a project started in 2004 to create a standardized test for athleticism similar to an SAT test for athletes. SPARQ input factors are 40-yard dash, vertical jump, 20-yard shuttle, and the power ball throw. Because Nikeʼs actual SPARQ formula is not public, we compared publically available SPARQ scores to their related input factors, reverse-engineered an approximation of the SPARQ formula, and then applied the formula to each playerʼs workout metrics. For calculation purposes, power ball throw was converted into bench press to ensure that all input factors aligned with specific NFL Scouting Combine events.
Athleticism Score – summarizes a player’s workout metrics and normalizes for size. It is derived by aggregating each player’s 40-yard Dash, Burst Score, and Agility Score, and then factors in a relevant measure of player size to ensure that big players receive a premium for speed, quickness and explosiveness. For QBs, PlayerProfiler adds a height premium. For RBs, we add a BMI premium. For WRs and TEs, we add a height and weight premium.
Percentile Rank– physical attributes and workout metrics include an overall percentile rank (100 being the best possible score) in parenthesis. The pool of players included in the percentile ranks consists of those currently signed to active and futures contracts.
Advanced On-field Stats and Metrics
Production Premium – isolates a player’s situation-agnostic efficiency. Production Premium compares the outcome of all pass attempts, carries, and targets to league-average outcome in those same game situations (yard line, down, and distance). Production Premium also takes into account time remaining and game score to account for non-standard situations such as 2-minute drills, clock-milking, and garbage time.
Positive values indicate that a player is more efficient than the average player, while negative values indicate that a player is less efficient than his peers with similar opportunities in similar situations.
Every player’s on-field performance is affected by his teammates. When a given player’s supporting cast changes (via trade or free agency), this metric is particularly helpful, because it measures that player’s capabilities across league-average situations.
Game Script – First defined by Chase Stuart on his Football Perspective blog in his “Introducing Game Scripts” piece, game scripts are the average point differential at any point in any game that season. Positive values indicate teams are often playing with a lead. Negative values indicates teams are more often playing from behind.
Opportunity Share – percentage of total team running back carries + targets for a particular back. Comparing Alfred Morris and Roy Helu’s 2013 usage help to illuminate the utility of this metric. Helu’s snap share was not significantly less than Morris’, but Washington gave the majority of opportunities to Morris, while Helu was asked to do a lot of blitz pickup work as opposing defenses relentlessly blitzed Robert Griffin III when Helu was on the field.
Juke Rate – isolates a running back’s elusiveness and tackle-breaking power by charting the number of broken, missed, and otherwise avoided tackles (displayed to the immediate left), and then dividing by the total number of touches (carries + receptions).
Yards Created – originated by Graham Barfield on his Fantasy Game Theory blog, his “Introduction to Yards Created” piece defines yards created as all yards generated above and beyond what was blocked. Yards Created are accrued after the running back’s first evaded tackle.
Air Yards – for quarterbacks, air yards are completed passing yards not including yards after the catch. The higher the percentage, the less a quarterback is being helped by his receivers gaining yards after the catch. For wide receivers and tight ends, air yards are total completed receiving yards from the line of scrimmage to the catch point. Air yards are also referred to as “completed air yards” by Josh Hermsmeyer in his introduction to the predictive qualities of air yards on RotoViz.com and his AirYards.com property. On PlayerProfiler, air yards differs from total pass attempt distance and total target distance, which aggregates all completed and incomplete air yards.
Adjusted Yards Per Attempt (AY/A) – Modified yards per attempt incorporates a premium for touchdowns and a discount for interceptions. This stat was introduced and fully outlined in the book The Hidden Game of Football by Bob Carroll, Pete Palmer, and John Thorn.
Total QBR – Total QBR was developed by ESPN’s Stats & Information Group to measure the degree to which a quarterback contributed to scoring points for the team, and also to a win by the team. QBR adds a “clutch factor” to more traditional quarterback efficiency metrics. For example, it assigns a premium to a completed pass that earns a first down at the quarterback’s own 20-yard-line with 30 seconds left in the game. That completion may be unlikely to lead to any points for his team, but if the quarterback’s team is leading, it increases the win probability enabling the leading team to run out the clock.
Deep Balls – charts the total number of passing attempts that travel 20 yards or farther in the air. This metric is a window into the vertically-oriented nature of a quarterback’s offensive system. Quarterbacks with a high deep ball percentage generally play in vertical passing attacks as opposed to systems that emphasize short, quick passes.
Slot Rate – the percentage of passing down snaps a wide receiver or tight end lines up in the slot. To qualify as a slot receiver on any given play, a receiver must be lined up inside and covered up by a outside receiver in either three or four-receiver sets.
Route Participation – Indicates the percentage of total pass plays that the player ran a route in game when he was active.
Hog Rate – captures the rate of passing game utilization on a per play basis by calculating the number of targets per snap. This metric helps to identify wide receivers and tight ends with limited route trees that may have a low snap count and target share, but when they are on the field, are a focal point of the passing offense.
Target Share – measures the percentage of all passing targets directed at a particular wide receiver or tight end in games that that receiver was involved in the passing attack.
Red Zone Target Share – measures the percentage of all passing targets from a line of scrimmage at or inside the 20-yard line directed at a particular wide receiver or tight end in games that the receiver was involved in the passing attack.
Target Separation – A receiver’s average yards of separation from his assigned defender at the moment the pass arrives.
Target Distance – Total distance traveled by all intended targets. Target Distance may also be referred to as total target depth or air yards elsewhere. Average Target Distance may also be referred to a average depth of target elsewhere.
Target Premium – Rich Hribar coined the term Target Multiplier in an XN Sports Fantasy Football: 2013 WR Review article. Referred to here as Target Premium, it is the percentage of additional fantasy points per target that a wide receiver or tight end generates over and above the other pass receivers on his team. This metric is especially useful when examining the impact of a quarterback upgrade on a wide receiver’s future production.
Catch Rate – captures a player’s ability to secure to secure the football in all situations regardless of the level of difficulty by dividing the total receptions by total targets.
Burn Rate – Percentage of targets allowed in which the defensive back’s assigned receiver gained more than 5 yards of downfield separation.
Coverage Rating – an comprehensive cornerback efficiency metric incorporating target rate, pass break-ups, catch rate allowed, and fantasy points allowed per snap.
All of the Football Positions, Explained
As in other team sports like soccer and baseball, football requires players to play distinct positions. Players in each position have different responsibilities and line up in different areas of the field. Thus, knowing the name and role of each football position is critical to learning the game. If you’re a beginner, knowing the ins and outs of each football position can help you pick the one best suited for your skillset. For this article, we’ll cover the basic football positions on both offense and defense.
Offensive Football Positions
Offensive football positions are all aimed at achieving one goal—advancing the ball down the field and scoring a touchdown. That sounds simple enough, but each position has different responsibilities, which the players must carry out for the offense to be successful. Here’s what a basic offensive set looks like.
Now let’s break down each offensive football position.
How many are usually on the field: 1
Typical alignment: directly behind the center
Main responsibility: throwing the ball, handing off the ball
The quarterback is one of two players who touch the ball on every play (the other being the center.) To begin each play, the quarterback lines up behind the center and receives the ball when the center “snaps” it. How far the quarterback stands from the center depends on the formation. Once he receives the snap, the quarterback can either throw the ball or hand it off to another player (or run it himself).
Playing quarterback requires a high level of intelligence. You need to be know what every offensive player does on every play and occasionally adjust the play based on what the defense is doing. Speed is not essential to success at the quarterback position, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. The typical quarterback is a tall, intelligent player with a good throwing arm and strong leadership qualities.
How many are usually on the field: 1
Typical alignment: behind or next to the quarterback
Main responsibility: running with the ball
The running back position includes the tailback (or halfback) and fullback. The tailback usually lines up either directly behind or right next to the quarterback. His exact alignment depends on the formation. Tailbacks are typically the players who receive the handoff from the quarterback and run forward to try to gain yardage. Tailbacks are typically shorter, smaller players who are light on their feet and can maneuver through tight holes. Tailbacks are sometimes used as receivers out of the backfield. The typical tailback is a fast, agile player with good vision and the ability to break tackles and carry the ball effectively.
How many are usually on the field: 1
Typical alignment: directly in front of or next to the tailback
Main responsibility: lead blocking for the running back
The other running back, called the fullback, usually lines up directly in front of or directly next to the tailback (which also puts him in close proximity to the quarterback). His exact alignment depends on the formation. For example, in certain offenses the fullback lines up right behind the line of scrimmage, an alignment in which the fullback is commonly referred to as the “H-Backs.” The fullback is typically the player who lead-blocks for the tailback on running plays. They’re usually strong, stocky players who can move defensive players out of the way to give ballcarriers room to run. Occasionally, fullbacks receive a handoff and run the ball themselves. This usually occurs when only a small amount of yardage is needed. They also occasionally go out for for a pass. The typical fullback is a tough, powerful player with above average size and a knack for blocking.
How many are usually on the field: 2 or more
Typical alignment: on or close to the line of scrimmage, the widest players on the field in terms of horizontal alignment
Main responsibility: catching passes
The wide receivers usually line up on or near the line of scrimmage. The width of their alignment depends on the formation, but they typically have the widest alignment of any offensive player. There are two wide receivers in a basic offensive formation. However, an offense can line up as many as five wide receivers, depending on the formation. Wide receivers are typically players of medium to above-average height, with a fair amount of speed and an ability to catch passes. There is a lot of variation in terms of size at the wide receiver position. For example, Antonio Brown is 5-foot-10, 186 pounds, and Calvin Johnson is 6-foot-5 and 236 pounds. Yet both have had a tremendous amount of success playing wide receiver. The typical wide receiver is a quick player who has a knack for catching the ball and has the balance and agility to run good routes.
How many are usually on the field: 1
Typical alignment: directly over the football
Main responsibilities: snapping the ball, blocking
The center begins every offensive play by snapping the ball to the quarterback. Together with guards and tackles, the center is a part of the “offensive line.” After he snaps the ball, the center’s main job is to block defensive players. Exactly who and how he blocks depends on the opposing defensive alignment and the offensive play call. Centers are typically fairly tall, thick players with good levels of strength. They are usually one of the heavier players on the offense. A good center must have a high level of intelligence, since it’s his job to communicate the defensive alignment to the other offensive lineman and inform them of their assignments. The typical center is a big, intelligent player who is good at snapping the ball and highly skilled at blocking.
How many are usually on the field: 2
Typical alignment: directly to the left and right of the center
Main responsibility: blocking
A standard football offense has two guards on the offensive line. One lines up directly to the left of the center, the other directly to the right. Fittingly, these players are known as the left guard and the right guard. Guards are typically similar to centers but bigger. The primary job of a guard is to block defensive players. The typical guard is a big player who is highly skilled at blocking.
How many are usually on the field: 2
Typical alignment: directly to the left of the left guard and directly to the right of the right guard
Main responsibility: blocking
A standard football offense has two tackles on the offensive line. One lines up to the left of the left guard (and is known as the “left tackle”), and the other lines up to the right of the right guard (and is known as the “right tackle”). Tackles are typically the largest players on the field. Their primary job is to block defensive players. They are usually a tad quicker and stronger than the other offensive linemen since they often have to block defensive players in space with little or no help. Like the center, tackles need to be intelligent so they can analyze what the defense is doing and make the proper adjustments.The typical tackle is a large player who is highly skilled at blocking.
How many are usually on the field: 1
Typical alignment: directly outside of the tackle
Main responsibilities: catching passes and blocking
The tight end is essentially a combination of an offensive lineman and a wide receiver. He’s typically bigger and stronger than a wide receiver yet smaller and faster than an offensive lineman. While tight ends can line up virtually anywhere on the field, they are most often aligned directly next to the left or right tackle. Although it’s common for one tight end to be on the field, it’s becoming increasingly popular to have two tight ends on the field at the same time. The typical tight end is a tall player who’s both a skilled pass-catcher and a serviceable blocker.
Defensive Football Positions
Defensive football positions are all designed to achieve one goal—stop the offense from gaining yards and scoring. That sounds simple enough, but players at each position have different responsibilities they must carry out for the defense to be successful. Here’s what a basic defense looks like.
Now let’s break down each defensive football position.
How many are usually on the field: 2
Typical alignment: across from the offensive center or guards
Main responsibilities: preventing runs up the middle, rushing the quarterback
Though the number of defensive tackles can change depending on the formation, most basic defenses have two defensive tackles on the field. Along with defensive ends, defensive tackles are part of a group of players known as the “defensive line.” Defensive tackles line up next to each other in the middle of the defense across from the offensive center and guards. Defensive tackles are typically very large players who can hold their ground even when being double-teamed by two offensive linemen. The main job of the defensive tackle is to prevent the offense from running the ball up the middle and to put pressure on the quarterback in passing situations. The typical defensive tackle is a fairly tall, heavy player with great strength who can hold his ground against offensive linemen.
How many are usually on the field: 2
Typical alignment: outside of the defensive tackles, across from the offensive tackles
Main responsibilities: preventing runs to their side, rushing the quarterback
Though the number of defensive ends can change depending on the formation, most basic defenses have two defensive ends on the field. Their name likely derives from the fact that they “bookend” the defensive line. Their main job is to prevent the offense from running the ball to their side and to attempt to sack the quarterback on passing plays. Since their duties require them to cover more ground, defensive ends are typically lighter and faster than defensive tackles. The typical defensive end is a tall, strong player with the ability to hold his own against an offensive tackle and the speed and quickness to get to the quarterback or chase down a running back.
How many are usually on the field: 1
Typical alignmentt: 4 to 7 yards behind the line of scrimmage, directly across from the center
Main responsibilities: run defense, pass coverage, communicating assignments
The middle linebacker is often referred to as the “quarterback of the defense,” because he needs to know every defensive player’s assignment and occasionally make adjustments to the defense based on what the offense is doing. The middle linebacker is essentially a jack-of-all-trades—he must be able to stop the run and cover the pass effectively. The middle linebacker often finds himself in the middle of the action and usually leads the team in tackles. The typical middle linebacker is a strong, intelligent player who is a good tackler and can make plays both in space and in traffic.
How many are usually on the field: 2
Typical alignment: 3 to 5 yards behind the line of scrimmage, about the width of the defensive end
Main responsibilities: run defense, pass coverage, blitzing
Most basic defenses have two outside linebackers on the field. Where they line up depends on the formation, but they’re usually about 3 to 5 yards behind the line of scrimmage and either just inside or just outside the defensive ends. Outside linebackers are usually a bit more athletic than middle linebackers, because they’re asked to blitz more and usually have tougher assignments in pass coverage. The typical outside linebacker is a long, strong athletic player who can make plays in space and is a solid tackler.
How many are usually on the field: 2
Typical alignment: across from the wide receiver
Main responsibilities: pass coverage
Though the number of cornerbacks can change depending on the formation, most basic defenses have at least two cornerbacks on the field. The cornerbacks typically line up across from the wide receivers. Cornerbacks are often similar physically to wide receivers, and their main job is to prevent passes from being completed. Many times, wide receivers who have issues catching the ball switch to cornerback. The typical cornerback is a small to average-sized player with great speed, acceleration, instincts and coverage skills.
How many are usually on the field: 1
Typical alignment: deep in the middle of the defensive backfield
Main responsibilities: pass coverage
The free safety typically lines up in the middle of the defensive backfield at least 10 yards away from the line of scrimmage. Often, he does not have a specific responsibility and is free to follow the ball as the play develops—hence the title of “free” safety. The free safety is expected to help the cornerbacks defend against passes, especially deep balls. If the offensive formation employs more than two receivers, a free safety may be asked to cover one of the extra receivers. The typical free safety is a small to average-sized player with good speed, range, anticipation and ball skills.
How many are usually on the field: 1
Typical alignment: deep in the middle of the defensive backfield, either even with or slightly closer to the line of scrimmage than the free safety
Main responsibilities: pass coverage, run support
The strong safety typically lines up toward the middle of the defensive backfield, either even with the free safety or several yards closer to the line of scrimmage. The strong safety is usually a bit bigger and stronger than the free safety, because he plays a larger role in stopping the run. The strong safety often covers the tight end or extra receiver, depending on the formation. The typical strong safety is an average-sized tough, athletic player who is adept at pass coverage and tackling.