Tony Softli's Scouting Secrets

For every player evaluated in the draft process, all personnel departments have a grading chart and formula in order to stack or separate players within their positional category. This is the grading system I created over 11 years as a director with the Carolina Panthers.

All 32 teams have their own grading system and structure. The two scouting organizations that a majority of teams subscribe to are NFS (National Football Scouting) and BLESTO. Both have their own grading systems that are quite different from each other.

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.

GRADE DESCRIPTION COLLEGE RND PRO
8.00 EXCEPTIONAL ELITE PLAYER #1 Pick PRO BOWL PLAYER
7.6-7.99
7.5-7.59
7.0-7.49
EXCELLENT POTENTIAL PRO BOWL PLAYER 2-5
6-10
11-32
TOP 4-5 NFL PLAYERS AT HIS POSITION; DIFF. MAKER
6.7-6.99
6.6-6.69
6.5-6.59
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.

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.