On the most recent episode of the Off The Charts podcast, we explained our football draft prospect scouting process. We went through the different factors our scouts consider, what they watch for as they watch film, and used a specific player to show how we do what we do.
For quarterbacks, we looked at Kenny Pickett from Pittsburgh.
Here’s how one of our lead editors of our upcoming NFL Draft website, Nathan Cooper, came up with his grade.
We require watching at least four games on a specific player per report.
For quarterbacks, you’re going to watch more than four. I watched nine on Trey Lance last year.
The hardest part about this process is that college offenses don’t always translate to the NFL. It’s hard to find guys in college who are doing exactly what he’s going to be asked to do. You have to find the traits, project the traits, and see as many NFL-worthy plays as you can, and rate those slightly higher than the rest.
There are 15 factors on which we grade a quarterback. Three are what we call critical factors that we put a higher value on than the other 12 factors. We grade on a scale of 1 to 9, though most of our factor grades end up either 4, 5, 6, or 7. The three critical factors for quarterbacks are accuracy decision-making and mental processing, and clutch performance.
When you think of accuracy, a lot of people think of completion percentage and for us as data collectors and even as evaluators, it goes a lot deeper than that. We’re not only looking for the ball to be caught, but was it catchable? Was it on target? Did he give the receiver a chance to make a play?
We look at the short passes, the intermediate passes and then deep down the field. Everyone obviously expects, passes to be completed a higher rate whenever you’re in the shorter areas of the field.
With accuracy, he’s not always spot-on with his short passes, his swings and flats are a little behind. He lacks a bit of touch on his shorter throws as well, so I don’t love that aspect about him. But he has a very good touch on the deep ball. He’s money from 25 to 35 yards.
I do worry about arm strength with him, about getting much deeper than 25 to 35 yards on his throws.
So I would give him a 5 overall for accuracy. But if you broke it down, I’d say a 5 on short passes and a 6 on deep.
Decision Making/Mental Processing
For decision making, there are a lot of factors. We’re looking at the ability to make smart decisions, but also mental processing.
- How well does he read the field?
- How well does he process what the defense is doing?
- Is he poised in the pocket or flustered under pressure?
- Does he sense pressure and hang in?
- Is he waiting for receivers to come open before he throws or is he throwing them open?
I like his ability to make decisions. He works the field, rarely forces the passes into super-tight windows and doesn’t take too many chances.
A majority of his turnovers come on off-target throws or late throws. He generally does a good job processing the field, going through his progressions, manipulating the safety with his eyes, holding him to one side before going back to the other side of the field. That’s one of those things that’s hard to see as a fan unless you know to look for it, as scouts do.
He doesn’t throw with anticipation a lot. You’ll see it a bit on comeback routes. I want to see it more. But his overall decision making, he’s at a good level, or a 6, for the NFL.
Our third critical factor is clutch performance
- How do they play on 3rd and 4th downs?
- How are they in the red zone in the final minutes when their team is trailing?
- How do they handle playing on the road? In adverse conditions?
Pickett had a lot of 4th-quarter comebacks at Pitt and drove the ball down the field and made the throws to put the ball in the end zone when needed. He’s a 6 clutch at the next level for me.
There are 12 positional factors and we’re not going to go through all of them.
But one of them is leadership. Leadership kind of goes back to clutch a little bit.
How does he play in adverse situations?
What’s his body language? Is he sort of dejected over on the sideline by himself when he or his team is struggling? Or is he a guy that’s trying to rally the troops?
But also, it’s things like – is he standing in there and making plays while taking hits. Is he putting his body on the line to get an extra yard for the first down. There’s an extra value for us beyond the statistical value of the first down yardage.
With Pickett, he’ll stand in and take hits if needed. His mobility allows him to gain yards with his feet and he usually seems willing to get the extra yard if he can. He gets a 6 from me for leadership.
Another positional factor is footwork, which ties in to working the pocket and resetting his base as he’s about to make a throw. You’ve got to be able to maneuver the pocket and stay away from the pass rush.
One thing that Pickett does really well and quickly is reset his base when he has the chance to, rather than throwing off one foot. Maybe he’ll see a receiver come open quicker than expected or at the last second, and instead of hurrying to throw from whatever position he’s in, he’s quick to reset his feet and get into the correct position to make an accurate throw.
With all of that in mind, I liked what I saw from Pickett on both of these. I graded him a 6 in footwork. . Remember that there are 10 other positional factors to consider. His other grades were a range of 5s and 6s, though I gave him a 7 in eye discipline, which refers back to what I said about him looking off safeties.
So when we try to come up with an overall grade, we generally have a scale ranging from 5.4 to 9 and the decimals matter. The higher the better.
For quarterbacks, a 5.4 to 6.2 are generally backups. A 6.3 to 6.9 are starters of varying degrees, with a 6.5 and 6.6 being a lower-end starter working up to 6.7 to 6.9, which are solid starters.
The 7s and above are high-end players with the potential to be among the league’s elite players.
Trevor Lawrence was a 7.2.
Justin Fields and Zach Wilson were 6.9.
Mac Jones and Trey Lance were 6.6.
I think Pickett is more of a ‘win-with’ type of quarterback, who definitely has traits to play at the next level. I just don’t think he’s going to be that top-tier talent that you see coming out early in the first round.
I have him at the 6.6 grade level for my final grade.
You’ll be able to see the full report on our new NFL Draft website in a few weeks!
And check out our Off The Charts episode in which John Todd & I broke down 3 other college football standouts in a similar manner.