Draft Primer By Rafael Vela Before people get too embroiled in Combine numbers and measurables and Pro Day times and draft books and whether a guy should be in the late first or the early second, lets get our facts straight. Pro teams do not rate players the same way Mel Kiper and Mike Mayock and the draft book gurus do. 1. Teams make up draft boards at least twice during the offseason. The Cowboys guys were hard at work in draft meetings last week and are probably assembling their preliminary board. For all we know, they may have one completed already, based on college season tapes and data from the Senior Bowl. They’ll make another one after the Combine and Pro Day workouts are held. 2. Ratings are not relative. Players are not rated relative to one another. In other words, the Cowboys don’t say, this guy is the 20th best player and this next guy is the 21st best player. The staff will debate a players merits and then assign a grade that relates to a round. I don’t know the numerical system but a guy might get a number that translates to a 5th round grade. He’s then put on the board in the 5th round. The ratings system does not change from year to year, which means… 3. The number of players rated in each round varies from year to year. You never see 32 players get a first round grade. In some years, 22 players might earn that ratings. In others, you might see only 15. I’m told that typically, you get somewhere from 18 to 20 players getting a first round grade. Conversely, you may see more than 32 players get a third round grade, or a fourth round grade. This is the reason why a team might trade up or down from its position, because it feels it won’t get value in the spot where it picks. Let’s look at Dallas this year. It picks 22nd and 28th. Let’s assume that the ‘08 board is a typical one and there are 18 players with first round grades as I’m told there were last year. If the Cowboys are determined to get a first round graded guy, they could move up, but would probably only do this if – the player fit a need, like RB or CB; the cost of moving up was not prohibitive; Dallas could stay at 22 and hope that one of their top rated guys falls. This type of thing happens a lot. Jason Witten had a late first round grade in ‘03 and the Cowboys seriously considered taking him at the very top of round two. It was decided that Dallas needed a center and Al Johnson was the pick instead. One full round later, Witten was still available and Dallas got a superb value. Similarly, Marion Barber had a second round grade, I’ve been told. And Tony Romo had a 5th. This is why teams can work themselves into a hole trying to jump up and down to match their boards. Everybody has to pick. There are lots of teams in the last third of round one who won’t get players with first round grades. But ten teams can’t trade down. Somebody has to stay and take the best value. That why, barring some Brady Quinn-like drop by an elite player, I don’t think we’ll Dallas do too much moving. They’ll stay where they are and let the players come to them. 4. Not everybody gets on the board. Teams weed out players who don’t fit their schemes. They weed out players who are character risks. They weed out players who other teams might like but who they don’t. A source told me, “if you do your job right, you’ll likely only have 80 or so players on your board. People who haven’t seen this will think it’s risky and all your guys will get taken, but if you’ve prepared correctly, you’ll have guys available when you pick.” We can infer what the Cowboys’ player profile are from the types of players they’ve been drafting lately. The player schemes are the same — Dallas will run the same offense and the same 3-4 defense its run before. It’s not going to start drafting completely different types of players because Bill Parcells took Jeff Ireland with him to Miami. – We’re going to try and rate players in the same way here. I seriously doubt that I can find out which players are getting first round grades, but I can probably learn how many. And how many are getting second, third, fourth round grades, etc. Figuring out the rest will be up to us.