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Rookie Ceiling Grades

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NFL Scouting

Rookie Ceiling Grades


When I first started writing about football, I wrote through the veil of analytics.  One of the first endeavors I undertook was developing an algorithm that uses player size and athletic numbers to assess a ceiling grade.  While I now have a background in scouting, thanks to The Scouting Academy, I still value the numbers.

Why do I value the numbers, you might ask?  I am a firm believer that a player can only be as good as his athletic potential allows him to be.  Elite athletes have higher ceilings than lesser athletes.  While a player may never reach this ceiling due to injuries, lack of football intelligence, lack of coachability, or other reasons, I still believe that taking high floor, high ceiling guys is the way to win Super Bowls.

While I value athleticism because I believe it corresponds to ceiling, watching tape for me is the opposite.  I believe that tape will tell you a player’s floor.  Ideally, general managers want to take players with high ceilings and high floors.

Series Specifics

This is going to be an eight part series–nine part if you include this explanation article. I am going to include the grades on undrafted free agents along with the draft class grades.  I will, however, only be highlighting the standouts for undrafted free agents.  Because of the difficulty in acquiring measurables (and my doubts that they really matter) I will not include specialist grades.

A few players every year choose not to take part in certain events at the NFL Combine or at their Pro Day.  For those players, I go through a database (dating back to 1999) and take the average of those events for players that had similar athletic profiles in all the other events.  While this may help or hurt some players, it is the best way to approximate the data.


A quick note on the grading scale: players are rated anywhere from one to seven.  Here is the scale:

1-2 Camp Body

2-3 Camp Body/Backup

3-4 Backup/Spot Starter

4-5 Starter/High level starter in a role

5-6 Very good starter

6-7 Perennial Pro Bowler

Finally, I would like to reiterate: these are ceilings.  Some guys who grade out as very good starters may never reach that potential.  While some players have high ceilings, they may never reach that due to a number of reasons.

Most noteworthy, only a handful of players have ever graded out in the 6-7 range. Due to the difficulty in getting players who grade out that high, I’ll list the top ones: Cam Newton, JJ Watt, Patrick Peterson, and Luke Kuechly.


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