Fanspeak Series: Veteran scout gives insight into the size of most teams’ NFL draft big boards

NFL Draft News
2020 NFL draft.First Draft

Note: What do teams say about the “best player available” vs. “biggest need” debate? How do they factor in injuries when evaluating players? How do teams put together their own big boards? This week, Fanspeak will answer those questions and more as we provide an insiders’ look into the player evaluation process with veteran NFL and college scout Chris Landry of LandryFootball.
Click here to read Monday’s report.
Click here to read Tuesday’s report.
Click here to tread Wednesday’s report.
Today, Fanspeak wraps up its series with Landry by looking at how many players most NFL teams include in their own big boards.

Take a look at the Fanspeak player database.

As you can see, Fanspeak has ranked 425 players for its On the Clock draft simulator. The players are ranked per the Fanspeak-Steve big board. By all accounts, 425 players is a hefty number of prospects, especially since only 254 players will be selected in the 2020 NFL draft.

So, naturally, an NFL team’s final big board includes twice as many prospects, right?

Not necessarily.

Chris Landry of would know. Landry has spent time with both the Tennessee Titans/Houston Oilers and the Cleveland Browns. He’s served as the director of the Scouting Combine. And Landry currently serves as a scouting consultant for NFL and college teams.

In other words, he has keen insight into how teams craft their own big boards.

“There is no such thing as a universal draft board of who’s best at each position,” Landry said. “It depends on scheme and each individual team’s critical factors.”

That’s an important distinction. For example, a 6-foot-3, 245 pound outside linebacker who primarily played out of a 3-4 front on defense could transition into a defensive end in a 4-3 front in the pros, but it’s probably not ideal. Therefore, the teams that operate out of the 3-4 would likely have a higher grade on that outside linebacker than the teams that run a 4-3 defense.

“When I work for teams, the best fits at corner for one team would look different (to another team) due to schematic fits and profiles,” Landry said, “although there are always some players that fit and transcend any style or scheme.”

To be clear, teams maintain phonebook-thick volumes of data on players prior to each draft. There’s probably not a draft-eligible player that scouting departments don’t know about.

But the overall size of each team’s big board is relatively small compared to the size of most draft analysts’ big boards.

That’s because teams remove or downgrade prospects who don’t fit their unique needs and standards, which includes everything from schematic fit to injury history to player interviews and more. Simply put, culling 80-90 percent of a 1,000-player big board makes it easier for teams to just focus on the players who would be the best fit for them.

“Bill Belichick goes into his draft with only about 75 players on his draft board – more than enough for his entire draft because what he’s looking for is much different than others,” Landry said. “Most teams finish their draft board with no more than 150 players, which, again, is more than enough to get them through their draft.”

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