Back in the 1970s, a couple of organizations evolved that would change the way we see and experience NFL football. They arose on the basis of a need teams to share the expenses of having area scouts - in those days, they didn't want to have the costs of supporting their own organizations of scouting. The first of these is still known as 'BLESTO'. This originally stood for Bears Lions Eagles Steelers Organization and was formed in 1963. The Eagles are no longer associated with it, but it boasts a roster of 12 teams, including the Atlanta Falcons. The second was National Football Scouting, which is known by the contraction, "National" and currently has 15 teams associated with it that I've been able to uncover. Four teams use independents and/or their own organizations exclusively, including the New England Patriots who only uses their own.
Once a player analysis has been reached, by whatever combination of methods, he will receive a grade by the team and an analysis of how well he does or does not fit into the team's roster and/or plans. For this reason, any changes that are being made to the team's systems (and those on the Broncos are extensive and in degree, mysterious) will change this aspect of the grading, so any projects by media or fans can only be based on thoughts and conjecture. This last fact has been written on extensively, particularly by styg50 and Colinski; I can or will add nothing to their offerings. Finally, teams will change their level of interest based on their own interpretations of the interview process at the National Invitational Camp, which is the formal name for that week long job interview known colloquially as the Combine or even just 'Combine' (as in, 'Alfred Neelix was invited to Combine').
Following this group of rankings, the players are assigned a numerical grade that defines the role that they are thought to be looking at achieving A grade of 9.00-9.99 (A+) means that the player may or is expected to make the Hall of Fame. An 8.00-8.99 grade is an 'A' player. There is also an 8.00-8.99Q rating for a height-deficient player who will be excellent nonetheless. Next there is a circumstantial starter, one who will start right out of college but whose production in college has been limited by some (explained) factor. Those factors have to be accounted for in detail. This system goes in right down to 1.00, an NFL reject who is a waste of time.
This is not the end. In fact, this is merely the beginning - the Patriots then also grade the potential players from 1.0-9.0 in 3 different areas: major factors, critical factors and position skills. A 6.0 grade in any of these areas is the lowest that the Patriots will consider for any player. Within 'major factors' there are 7 subsections: personal behavior,athletic ability, strength and explosion, competitiveness, toughness, mental/learning (we know that McDaniels will not tolerate players who cannot learn quickly, as they just will not thrive in this system) and injury/durability. The categories and subsections that fall under critical factors and position skills are variable by position within the team. Beyond this, there is an extensive written manual on the attributes and qualities that are desired/required at each position.
I have a section available from Patriot Reigns that describes the quarterback position. I have no doubt at all that Josh McDaniels is using this in his evaluations of both Kyle Orton and Chris Simms, as well as in the drafting of 6th round pick Tom Brandstater.
"A quarterback for the new England Patriots must make the right decisions and make them fast. Just because a person is smart does not mean that they can make the right decisions under pressure." While that's certainly true, a quarterback in their system also has to pass a 6 page written examination in the week before a game that will show that they have grasped the key specifics that relate the the opponent of the week. Both intelligence and decision-making are required.
Here are some of the other things listed:
1. Be the mentally toughest and hardest working player on the team.
2. Be willing to take a big hit and then walk back into the huddle and call the next play
3. Have his head screwed on straight enough to handle the pressure and scrutiny to which all NFL QBs are subjected
Bill Belichick knows a lot about scouting players. His father Steve wrote a book on the subject. Bill's mother, a language expert, edited it so that the average reader could grasp what he said. When you read what the Patriots manual says about players, they talk about native intelligence, football smarts, character and leadership. In developing their specifics for scouting a player with a certain position in mind, they use a Pinnacle computer system that can call up any play that they've run, show you all of the plays by position, type of direction, and give you all the information that you could use on what you've done, how you've done it, and where you've fallen short. These things are all taken together with the feedback and information of the scouts, position coaches and general manager of the team to create as accurate a picture as is possible of the precise player that will or could fulfill the needs of the team.
When we, as fans, talk about the draft, most of us (myself included) have a tendency to learn a few good or bad things about a player and to form a firm decision which our time watching film or games will often tend to support. It's a good things to consider the extensive compliation of information, film and interviews that really goes into choosing the players for your team. I don't have dertails of the Mike Shanahan/Ted Sundquist years. I have read things like Stefan Fatsis' book, in which he describes Shanahan fixating on a player and shutting out all input. I have no idea if that is true, or how often it might have happened. I did emerge from the past few years like a man from a dimly lit cave, dazzled at the light of possibilities around me. The more that I've learned about how the draft is done by Coach McDaniels former team, the more hopeful I am for the direction and outcome of the Broncos' picks.
I hope that the same kind of book is being written for the Broncos even as we speak (the possibility that McDaniels might just have a spare copy of the Patriots' manuals has not escaped me). But I can say this - when the Broncos do decide on a player, I know that it is at the end of a yearlong process. I know that they know the player, their tendencies and they best know possibility of their development. When I apply that standard to our draft class, how do I feel? I feel that we took players that we knew well and felt good about in terms of their character, skill and specific abilities at the position. Coming from such a detailed background, with an equally detail-minded approach of his own, Coach McDaniels now has to show us that these choices can manifest the qualities that he saw in them.
Bring on Training Camp!