2020 NFL Draft Guide: The Basics of Game Film

It’s Christmas at USN, or erm… Draft Season… so basically Christmas here at USN. Our Christmas tree is game tape, and our gift to all of you is the 2020 USN Draft Guide, we’ll watch the tape (because we have no lives and love it), and break it down for in the #Unfiltered way that only USN can. But, instead of throwing around confusing grades, and numbers and metrics and expecting total understanding, we decided to break down our process a bit.

Trust the Process: How it works

Game film, game film, game film that’s what you’ll see twitter draft groan on about as way to make it’s point about one prospect or another. Here’s a question, what does that mean? For a person who doesn’t have inside knowledge, what film should watch? Where can you find it? And what in the world do you do with it once you watch it? I’m going to give you a peek behind the curtain and hopefully answer some of those questions for you, or at least show you how I answer them.

The 3 W’s of Game film

What is Game Film? This one feels obvious but we want to absolutely clear here. Game Film…is…film… of the Game. In all seriousness this can come in a few forms, All-22 film or Coaches tape, a recorded copy of the TV version, or individual player cuts found on places like YouTube or even on Twitter.

Where can I find Game Film? Depending on what you are looking for this can be easy or challenging. To get Coaches tape you probably need to know people at or around the university. For the TV version, you can obtain that yourself, provided you have a DVR. But let’s say want more of a focused experience on one or two players? There are a number of free databases available to the public. What’s On Draft is my personal favorite, and if you enjoy it as much as I do, consider supporting them on Patreon.

What in the world do I do with it when I get it? You can watch it once, watch it religiously, watch it all. But, there’s a difference between watching tape and scouting it. We’ll go over how we break down film in part two.

Tale of the Tape

Everyone who breaks down tape has their own process, so this isn’t a one size fits all solution, it’s meant to evolve and be tweaked as you discover what gives you the best results. Here’s how I approach each game that I scout:

Step 1: Chart everything

The first step in my process (after an initial watch just to get my feet wet) is to go back through and chart every assignment on every play, for every player. This means every route, every coverage, every blocking assignment. It’s quite the grind, but if you are evaluating a QB’s decision making for instance, you can’t truly do it effectively without knowing everything going on the field for that particular play. If you go this route, I suggest acquiring a notebook or two to record your findings.

Step 2: Break it down by trait

Once you know all of the assignments you can just watch leisurely right? Wrong. It’s time really break down what you are scouting for. For USN we break QB’s down to six categories: Accuracy, Pocket Presence, Decision Making, Arm Strength, Mobility, and Intangibles, in your scouting you can break them down by whatever you feel is important.

Once that is established it’s time to watch the tape, I personally watch the tape at least once per trait. For instance if I’m scouting for Accuracy, I will watch the tape and focus solely on the accuracy of each pass. For me best practice to do this for each trait as many times as I need to, in order to feel confident in my assessment of each trait.


This will be a series of article posted for here for all to read for the sole process of helping readers understand our process and what our draft grades mean. In hopes of sparking educated conversation that we can all learn new things from as opposed to just another set of confusing draft grades. Future topics for this will include creating passing charts, assigning trait grades, understanding overall grades and pro comparisons and hopefully many more.

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