After gathering NFL draft boards over the past five years, the most common question I get is “which board is the best?” — a reasonable question that’s difficult to answer because “best” depends on definition.
Some analysts do an excellent job reflecting the consensus of the league and can predict the draft with unerring accuracy, while others provide unique analysis to view players through frames that others can’t. For fans wanting a quick consensus, some evaluators do a great job giving readers a snapshot of what third-party scouts covering the league think, while others blaze their own trail.
All of these boards have their own value, and they add even more value once we know the historical context of the evaluators.
We’ve already looked at which boards have done the best job predicting player performance over the last two years, but it may be just as important to figure out which boards can provide value through every one of those dimensions.
To that end, we’ve awarded “big board awards” every year, awarded to the evaluators whose big boards best reflect consensus (the Gold Standard), stand out among the crowd (the Odd Duck), best predict the draft (Nostradamus) and those who don’t seem remotely concerned with predicting the draft (Out of Sync).
Not every big board has been submitted yet this year, so things may change — but with the draft as close as it is, it’s worth recognizing the best (or most interesting) big boards now.
It’s a good year for NFL Rough Draft; not only did they earn marks for best predicting player performance in the 2015 draft, they also worked their way towards being the most cohesive reflection of the third-party analyst consensus in 2018.
The most unusual board was written by Ethan Young, who was formerly in the draft world before he got hired by the NFL League Office last summer. Young recently transitioned from the NFL to the UCLA Football program after their recent coaching change, but he still does draft work and sent me his big board.
Though Young’s board is not publicly available, you can find unique draft analysis from a former winner, NDT Scouting. Kyle Crabbs’ board placed second this year (Young placed second the year prior) in having the most unique board and you can check out his analysis, as well as the analysis of his colleagues at their website.
As for predicting the NFL draft, no one was better than Mike Mayock of the NFL Network in 2017. The methodology used to evaluate predictiveness has changed a little bit over the years, so Mayock would not have finished first in 2014, but he has finished either second or first in every single year his big board has been graded against the draft.
Had the Forecaster board — a consensus board crafted solely from media sources that engage in access journalism, with sources inside teams and an inside track to information like injury flags and team tendencies — been included in the rankings in 2017, it would have finished at its lowest mark ever, at fifth overall. In 2014, it would have finished first and would have done so again in 2015. In 2016, it finished second.
At the other end of the spectrum, is NDT Scouting, which should come as no surprise, given that they once again had the most unusual board that year.
Overall, we can rank the predictiveness of an analyst over time — from 2014 to 2018 — and see which boards do the best job of matching the draft since starting this project five years ago.
Mike Mayock has not released his final big board yet, but when he does, it should be a good preview for the NFL draft.
As always, you’ll be able to find the Consensus Big Board, the Forecaster Big Board and the Evaluator Big Board here at Zone Coverage.