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Grading the NFL Draft is dumb - except it’s also fun

Ryan Edwards and Benjamin Allbright debated the purpose of doing Draft grades on their Monday show, and as a professional grader (of things not the Draft) I agree with both rationales.

denverbroncos.com

Grading is dumb.

As a professor, I find grading to be the only thing I really hate about my job. It’s not that I don’t see the overall benefit as a measure of some accomplishments (or not), but it’s so subjective that I find the entire exercise debilitating. I much prefer to just critique, offer feedback, give suggestions.

At the same time, grading is the best way to give feedback with some accountability, i.e., certain grades allow for certain opportunities (or not).

So I understand the push-back when it comes to grading the NFL Draft - specifically your team’s Draft. But you just have to take it for what it is - an assessment of that outcome/choice right then.

The key is having the same - and correct - criteria.

As Benjamin Allbright argued on Monday’s Broncos Country Tonight, he doesn’t like projecting how good a player might be and therefore sees no real way to offer a grade.

But Ryan Edwards noted that it’s more of a commentary at a moment in time, particularly when it comes to considering the value of a pick, not necessarily the performance of the player.

“It’s more about what’s happening right now and what you view on the draft and what the team did...rather than a projection,” he noted.

Allbright also doesn’t like guessing the value a team has on a player because it will be different for each team depending on needs.

“We say value, but do we really know the value because around the league it may be different,” Allbright said. “Addressing needs would be the one way I could wee getting away with [grades].”

To me, the most useless part of Draft grades is the tendency to only consider grades that give your team a thumbs up the grades worthy of reading. It’s the ultimate example of confirmation bias.

But the thing is...they are so fun to read. It gives a glimpse of what analysts value in players and can be great for arguing in the moment or even making total fun of years later.

Like this gem of a grade from Pete Prisco in 2011:

No. 2: Broncos select: Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M - GRADE: C
I think they are forcing getting a pass rusher with this pick. He is a little overrated. They should have taken Marcell Dareus.

Clearly Miller’s 106 career sacks to Dareus’ 37.5 probably answers that comment right there.

So we could denounce Prisco as a hater, but then how should we feel about this year’s grade from him:

Denver Broncos: A
I really like what the Broncos did. They landed the best corner in Surtain and then continued to load up on good players. Their later-round picks were impressive. I really like fifth-round safety Jamar Johnson.

The problem with Draft grades really lies in the criteria and the fact that fans, analysts, radio show hosts and team insiders are grading based on different criteria.

Fans usually give a good grade if their team took a player they like rather than if the team got great value in a player who fills a need, which is how a team likely grades itself. Analysts tend to look at the player’s level of talent, but that may or may not jibe with being a good fit for the team.

According to SBNation’s “readers react” poll, Mile High Report readers gave high marks overall to the Broncos for its Draft Class, with the majority (49%) going with a solid “B.”

That squares pretty well with our Sunday poll on the class - though there were some D and F grades and fewer C grades.

I’d be curious to know the criteria every reader used when grading.

Allbright made a point that fans should grade the team based on the players they got rather than on who they didn’t. I completely understand the logic and benefit there, but I also think it’s fair to give a grade that may reflect missing out on a player you believe would have been better for the team.

So for me, the best way to grade the Draft is not so much to give a grade to the players but a grade to the guys drafting those players - George Paton, Vic Fangio, the scouts, etc.

Did they prioritize team needs in the Draft the way I would like?

Did they get some of the best college players at the positions they drafted?

Did they get great value for the player where they drafted him?

For Paton’s first Draft as GM, I would definitely give him an A for the second question, A-/B+ for the third, and anywhere from A to C on the first ... only because I’m not convinced it wasn’t the best move to not take our chance on a quarterback while picking in the top 10 and having one of the best QBs in the class fall to us at 9.

But I’m happy to be wrong about that and also like the fact that our GM didn’t take a QB just to take a QB in the first round - even if that’s still the glaring hole in our team.

Poll

New twist - grade the grading process for the Draft:

This poll is closed

  • 63%
    A - it’s silly but useful
    (253 votes)
  • 36%
    F - it’s dumb no matter how you look at it
    (147 votes)
400 votes total Vote Now