Bill Belichick Shares Fascinating Insight Into Patriots’ Draft Grading System

'... we don't grade players like 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. That's just not the way we do it'


Bill Belichick closed out his late-night video conference with an unprompted glimpse inside the system the New England Patriots use to grade and rank NFL draft prospects.

After the Patriots drafted Alabama quarterback Mac Jones 15th overall on Thursday, a reporter had asked Belichick whether Jones was the highest-graded player left on the team’s draft board when it made the selection. The coach dismissed the question, saying he was “not going to go through all the grades on everybody on the board.”

One night later, though, after Belichick was through fielding inquiries about Day 2 picks Christian Barmore and Ronnie Perkins, he revisited the draft grade question, saying he wanted to “give a quick comment on that” before he ended his call.

That quick comment turned into a three-plus-minute explanation of the “complex scale” New England employs when creating its draft board. Belichick didn’t share specifics about this system but described several interesting details, like how the Patriots use a combination of numbers, letters and colors to piece together their prospect hierarchy.

Here’s a full transcript of Belichick’s remarks:

“Not trying to be evasive about the grading and all that, but I would just say that we don’t grade players like 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. That’s just not the way we do it. We use a combination of numbers, letters, colors, and those things all have different meanings depending upon what they would indicate about the player’s circumstances or situation or whatever it is that involved the players. And all the players are different, and a lot of them — you know, in the end, there really aren’t that many of them that come to a school, play their career there and leave. There’s things that happen in between and a variety of circumstances, and so we have ways to identify those.

“So sometimes, the color’s going override the number; sometimes, the letter is going override the numbers or the colors and so forth. And so it’s not, you know, this guy’s at an 85 and this guy’s at an 83. It just doesn’t work like that. There’s a number, a color, possibly a letter or letters that go with those players, and those things could all — depending upon what they represent — could all override something else that’s a part of the grade. So it’s just really the way we identify the player and tag the player is one that helps us classify.

“It’s just too hard to generalize and give a player an 85 grade or whatever and then — like, what does that mean? But if you can tag that grade — that number grade, whatever it is — with something that would indicate other things regarding injuries or how many schools he’s been to or whether he was a transfer or if he came out early or if he switched positions or so forth and so on, played at a lower level of competition. I mean, there’s dozens of things here that we could talk about. It becomes a pretty complex scale.

“So not trying to ignore with him what it is, but it would be impossible for me to sit here and explain the grade scale and how it works and interacts and all that. That takes, honestly, you know, months of, I would say, understanding between the scouting department and working through a lot of different situations to really be able to utilize it effectively so we can categorize players in the right, in what we feel is the right fashion.

“Not saying it’s right, but we do it so that we can identify things and have ways to work through players and their situations to try to have as fair and as good an evaluation on them as we can.”

The 2021 NFL Draft wraps up Saturday. The Patriots currently are scheduled to pick once in the fourth round, once in the fifth, twice in the sixth and once in the seventh.

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