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Navigating Bear Markets: Draft Big Board Power Rankings (Part 2)

Which NFL Draft analysts have the best handle on scouting specific positions?

NFL Draft
Photo: Tim Heitman/USA TODAY Sports

Navigating Bear Markets is a series of articles I am putting out that focuses on football analytics, primarily geared toward the Chicago Bears. In time working in finance and studying for the CPA exam, I found many ways to procrastinate by navigating the never-ending world of Pro Football Reference and NFL analytics sites, pairing financial-type analysis with football. This series is the culmination of that. You can follow me on Twitter @ButkusStats for regular charts, data, and Bears analysis plus commentary.

Previously, we looked at various draft analysts’ Big Boards for the 2019 and 2020 drafts and compared them to how productive the players have been in relation to their respective ranks by each analyst. The goal was to get an idea for which analysts have a higher hit rate than others and form an expectation for draft analysts in general. The first article can be found here.

This time, I am looking at a deeper dive into each position. The goal is to determine which analysts have a better handle on specific positions and which positions are harder in general to scout. The methodology is largely unchanged. Taking each player’s AV and representing it as a percentage of the AV of the player who ranks in the same spot according to AV.

EXAMPLE:

Mel Kiper ranked T.J. Hockenson ninth on his final big board for the 2019 draft. T.J. Hockenson has accumulated AV of 9 in his career. The ninth-most valuable player to be drafted in 2019 has AV of 16 (tie between Montez Sweat, Josh Jacobs, Garrett Bradbury, among others).

So, in order to determine how well Hockenson was ranked, we divide 9 by 16 to get a resulting figure of 56.25%. This means that Kiper got a grade of 56.25% for where he ranked Hockenson.

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Positional Results:

In order to look at position groups, I gathered the stats for the top 3, 5, and 10 ranked players from each draft analyst at each position. Then, I divided their AV against that of the most productive 3, 5, and 10 players at that same position in that draft class. The grades were averaged from there in order to get to a total grade for 2019 and 2020 and to more heavily weigh the players that were ranked top 3 and top 5 by each analyst.

Here are the final results across all position groups. I included standard deviation to get an idea of which positions are more difficult to find consistency in scouting than others. The average under each position can also give us an idea of how difficult each position group is to scout in general.

  • DB is clearly the most difficult position to evaluate, with an average grade of 60%. No analyst scored above 63% when looking at DBs.
  • The second most difficult position is iOL (74%), followed closely by WR (75%), and QB (79%).
  • TE is the easiest position to evaluate, with an average grade of 87%.
  • The second easiest position is RB (83%), followed closely by OT (82%), DL (82%), EDGE (82%), and LB (82%).

Below is a summary of the top three draft analysts based on their average positional grades:

Matt Miller

Matt Miller came out at the top of the rankings with a final grade of 81.9%, or +1.05 standard deviations above the group average. He ranked as follows by position group for the 2-years:

  • QB: 5th
  • RB: 1st
  • WR: 3rd
  • TE: 3rd
  • OT: 2nd
  • iOL: 10th
  • DL: 2nd
  • EDGE: 9th
  • LB: 1st
  • DB: 4th

Matt Miller spent ten years building the NFL and NFL Draft coverage at Bleacher Report. As of 2021, he has made a move over to TheDraftScout.com. There were four position groups where Matt varied from average by more than one standard deviation:

  • Linebacker: +1.52 standard deviations above average.
  • Offensive Tackle: +1.15 standard deviations above average.
  • Running Back: +1.14 standard deviations above average.
  • Tight End: +1.00 standard deviations above average.

Dane Brugler

Dane Brugler closely trailed with a grade of 81.7%, or +0.99 standard deviations above the group average. He ranked as follows by position group for the 2-years:

  • QB: 1st
  • RB: 4th
  • WR: 2nd
  • TE: T1st
  • OT: 9th
  • iOL: 7th
  • DL: 8th
  • EDGE: 2nd
  • LB: 7th
  • DB: 3rd

Dane Brugler is a national NFL writer for The Athletic, covering the NFL Draft. He previously covered the NFL Draft for NFL Draft Scout and CBS Sports. There were three position groups in which Dane varied from average by more than 1 standard deviation:

  • Tight End: +1.2 standard deviations above average
  • EDGE: +1.09 standard deviations above average
  • WR: +1.08 standard deviations above average

Biggest Hit 2019: Jahlani Tavai (LB)
Brugler Rank: 65th
AVG Rank: 124th
Actual AV: 55th

Biggest Miss 2019: D’Andre Walker (LB)
Brugler Rank: 47th
AVG Rank: 95th
Actual Results: 210th

Mel Kiper Jr.

Kiper Jr. ranked third with a grade of 81.6%, or +0.95 standard deviations above the group average. I know, we all love to rag on Kiper. But he ranks well both ways that I have looked at these analysts. He has some wild misses like Jimmy Clausen, but for the most part, he is one of the tone setters for his field.

He ranked as follows by position group for the 2-years:

  • QB: 7th
  • RB: 8th
  • WR: 1st
  • TE: T1st
  • OT: 6th
  • iOL: 8th
  • DL: 9th
  • EDGE: 3rd
  • LB: 2nd
  • DB: 6th

Mel Kiper Jr. has served as lead analyst for ESPN’s annual NFL Draft coverage since 1984, providing in-depth information on the nation’s most talented college football players. There were four position groups where Kiper varied from average by more than 1 standard deviation:

  • Wide Receiver: +1.2 standard deviations above average
  • Linebacker: +1.2 standard deviations above average
  • Tight End: +1.19 standard deviations above average

Biggest Hit 2019: Daniel Jones (QB)
Kiper Rank: 23rd
AVG Rank: 60th
Actual AV: 6th

Biggest Miss 2019: David Montgomery (RB)
Kiper Rank: 128th
AVG Rank: 72nd
Actual Results: 13th

Below, you can find individual charts for each position, detailing 2019 scores, 2020 scores, and average scores:

QB:

RB:

WR:

TE:

OT:

https://images.app.goo.gl/6ynhoEYjtsuYHbjV6

iOL:

DL:

EDGE:

LB:

DB:

FINAL RESULTS:

Comparison charts for Draft Analysts: Below are some charts I was playing with, but I didn’t deem them to be worth using as key pieces in this article.


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