Scouting Tool Guide Part 6: Off-Season Planning

This series of posts form a detailed guide to my Madden 17 CFM Scouting Tool, which can be downloaded from this location:

  1. Part 1: Introduction
  2. Part 2: Data Input
  3. Part 3: Scouting Tips
  4. Part 4: Blue Chip Criteria
  5. Part 5: Red Chip Criteria
  6. Part 6: Off-Season Planning
  7. Part 7: Draft Day


To take full advantage of the tool, there are a number of things you can do to prepare for draft day so that you can hit your targeted players without reaching for them, and make sensible decisions about which positions you should strengthen through the draft and which you should look to Free Agency to reinforce. Version 3 of the tool and newer provides you with some helpful extra features to enable you to do this.

Think Like a GM

Before I go into specific detail about the tool, it’s probably worth noting a few tips for how to plan out where you’re going to look in order to strengthen your roster.


The salary cap means that there will only be a finite number of players you can sign beyond their rookie deals. You will have to pick and choose the cornerstone players you want to build your franchise around and award these players with cap-eating deals, while you find bargain free agents and draft talented rookies to make up the rest of your roster. To draft (and indeed scout) effectively, you need to be thinking anything up to 3 years down the road about what your roster is going to look like and where the holes will be based on who you can/cannot sign beyond their rookie deal.

Cornerstone Positions

The following positions are the ones where I would recommend trying to re-sign productive players beyond their rookie deals, since they are either very important to your team’s performance or hard to reinforce via the draft:

  1. Quarterback: Well, duh!
  2. Tight End: Top quality TEs usually go in the first round of the draft, so keep in mind that you’ll have to use a high pick to replace a starting TE with like-for-like quality. You’re probably better off retaining a TE than relying on the draft.
  3. Productive Pass Rusher: Make sure you retain at least one productive pass rusher beyond their rookie deal. The key word here is ‘Productive’, i.e. a pass rusher that actually gets sacks. There are plenty of good, high OVR DEs and OLBs who look like they’re worth retaining but never actually get to the QB. You should let these guys walk.
  4. Coverage OLB: There are very, very few blue chip coverage (i.e. non-Pass Rushing) OLBs available to draft. If you have a good one, hold onto him.
  5. Cornerback: You need at least one shut down corner, and it takes a while to develop one if you draft a new CB, plus the good ones tend to go in the 1st round meaning you’ll need to expend a high pick.
  6. Safety: This one probably goes against traditional NFL GM wisdom, but in Madden, FS is statistically the hardest position to draft and SS isn’t far behind. You need to retain a stud at at least one of these two positions, as it might be several years before you find one worth drafting to replace him.

Disposable Positions

The following positions are readily available in the draft, so don’t worry about retaining players at these positions unless you have an absolute megastar:

  1. Wide Receiver: WR is the easiest position to draft, so unless you have a Megatron-style difference maker at wideout, you’re better off letting these guys walk and spending your cap elsewhere.
  2. Interior O Linemen: Blue chip-quality Guards, Centers, and even RTs are readily available in the mid/late rounds of almost every draft class. You will find using the tool that you quickly have a conveyor belt of talented O Linemen rolling into your starting lineup as veterans leave for free agency. Never pay an O Linemen (except maybe one superstar, preferably at LT).
  3. Halfback: A good HB can be hard to find, but you have a decent shot at picking up a talented one in the middle/late rounds using the tool. For this reason, HBs should be considered disposable.
  4. Middle Linebackers: You can find productive MLBs in most rounds of the draft, so don’t prioritise resigning players at this position unless they’re absolute studs.
  5. DEs that don’t sack the QB: By this I mean 5 technique Ends (i.e. 3-4 scheme DEs), and guys who don’t post double digit sack stats. You can find DEs in the draft easily and even convert DTs and OLBs, so they’re not scarce. Sometimes a DE can look like a stud with a high OVR, but if he’s not putting the opposition QB on his butt on a regular basis, he shouldn’t get paid stud money. In my opinion at least!
  6. Any player that isn’t a starter: You can pick up the same player or an equivalent for far, far cheaper than the so-called “fair offer” you use as a starting point for negotiations in-season. For this reason, you should always let your depth players test free agency when their contracts expire.

Rookie Contracts

The most cost-effective way to build a winning team is to ensure you have productive players on low-cost contracts. Pretty obvious… But the best way to have players that outperform their contracts is to draft them. When you draft a player, you lock him up for four years on a pretty favourable deal if he turns out to be half decent. For this reason, the only way you’re really going to win consistently in Madden is by building through the draft.

Player Development

The other thing to keep in mind from a team building perspective is how you develop your players. This excellent post on goes into explicit detail about how much XP it costs to develop elite players, and highlights the need to grab players young since they hit a development wall at 26 and start regressing at 28.

This is something you need to keep in mind from both a scouting perspective, as 21 year olds are much more worthwhile drafting than 24 year olds, and when you are resigning players. If your player’s coming off his rookie deal and he’s only 25, you know you’ve got another year of solid development and 2-4 more peak years from him before he begins to regress. But if your player came out of college at 24 and is now 28 coming towards his second pro contract, you should probably let him walk as it will be downhill from here on out.

Draft Class Strength Analysis

Version 3 of the tool introduced some new functionality to analyse the strength of your draft class compared to the average Madden 17 CFM draft class. This was done by taking data for around 15 post-tuning update classes and calculating the mean, standard deviation and normal distribution curve of a myriad of factors including number of blue chips identified, number of red chips, players draftable at each round and position within each round, and numbers of players available on average for each position. The result is the Draft Class Strength Analysis (DCA) sheet.

An important thing to note is that the DCA sheet doesn’t become useful until you have around 20 prospects fully scouted, which in turn is unlikely to happen until Week 2 of free agency when the combine stats are revealed. This is unfortunate since you won’t know the true strength of your draft class until after the top free agents have already been poached, but I would argue that you shouldn’t be signing megastar free agents anyway. It’s far more cost-effective to develop your own franchise-caliber players than to pay through the nose to get them via free agency.

Basic Info

Numbers of Draftable Prospects

The DCA sheet will show you the number of blue chip, red chip and grand total of draftable prospects in your class.


Class Assessment

The DCA sheet will assess your class compared to the average Madden 17 CFM draft class. It compares based on three assessment areas:

  1. Top-End Talent: Blue chip players available in the early rounds so you can ensure you have maximum chance of hitting a difference maker with your big picks.
  2. Hidden Gems: Blue chip talent in the mid/late rounds so you can find top-tier prospects late in the draft.
  3. Classs Depth: Numbers of red chippers in the mid/late rounds so you can maximise value.

The sheet will provide a ‘Grade’ against each of these criteria, which can be one of the following:

  1. Poor: Class is in the bottom 25% of the normal distribution for numbers of prospects for a given criteria. I.e. your class is exceptionally bad in this area.
  2. Average: Class is in the middle 50% of the normal distribution for numbers of prospects for a given criteria.
  3. Excellent: Class is in the top 25% of the normal distribution for numbers of prospects for a given criteria. I.e. your class is exceptionally good in this area.


So now that you understand what the assessments mean in terms of the grades and the assessment criteria, here are some tips about how to react to them and prepare for draft day:


Position Assessment

This section of the DCA sheet (Draft Class Analysis sheet) will also give you some info on your class’s strength at different positions compared to the average class. Some positions are more prevalent than others in Madden 17 CFM, in terms of providing draftable prospects (i.e. players that fit either the blue chip or red chip criteria). The tool uses the same logic as the ‘Class Assessment’ section to grade different positions within your class.


You can use the info presented here to make decisions about whether to use the draft or free agency to strengthen a given position. The below guidance should help you:

matrix 2.png

The other factor to keep in mind is number of years remaining on your starter’s contract, his age, and how much cap room he uses up. If he’s old, costly, and only has one year left on his current deal despite being a good overall player, it might make sense to cut or trade him and look to the draft if the position is at least average according the the DCA sheet.

Detailed Analysis

Further down in the DCA sheet are some extra bits of info you might also choose to peruse if you’re looking into your class in great detail.

Total Draftable Prospects Analysis

This section of the DCA sheet provides more detail about where in each round (early, middle, or late) each blue chip/red chip prospect is located. This section should be used to help you find players you’re targeting in the draft based on the picks you have available.


Blue Chip Prospect Analysis

This is quite important info in that it tells you precisely where your blue chippers are. Pay particular attention to blue chip players in rounds 3 and later, as these are the guys you need to select to truly differentiate yourself from the competition.


Red Chip Prospect Analysis

Again, a bit of extra data to help you plan which players to select when. This one isn’t as important as the blue chip analysis though.


Total Draftable Players By Position

The final three sections are Total Draftable Players by Position, Blue Chip Players by Position and Red Chip Players by Position. You can use these areas to see at a glance the rounds/positions within rounds that players at targeted positions will be available. This is particularly useful if you have a real area of need on your team that you’re looking to the draft to strengthen, or it could help you if you have a “borderline” decision about whether to stick with your current roster or not: if you see that you have a potential blue chipper available late on, you probably will want to roll with him and cut your starter. But if the only blue chippers available at a position are right at the top of the draft, you’re probably better served by sticking with your current player.


Pre-Draft Prep

Know Your Picks

Before you advance to the draft it is vital you know where you’re picking so that you can target certain players at their best value. You don’t want to lose out on a player projected to go in the middle of the 3rd round who is Top 5 on your big board because you didn’t realise your 3rd round pick wasn’t until the 20s, rather than in the top 10 of the round.

You can go to the trade center to find out which picks you have in which round and target players based on that.

Ranking on True Value Rating

Before the draft, I always re-sort the board in my tool by the ranking (small to large, i.e. number 1 at the top). This allows me to spot any outliers, or players from lower rounds that are appearing very high on my board. I earmark these players as ones I want to snag with my later picks.


Double Check Projected Rounds

During the off-season, players often fall or rise on draft boards around the league if they have a great/terrible combine, senior bowl, or pro day. If you’re targeting a particular player, make sure you double check his projected round before the draft in case he’s risen up the board and will be selected sooner than you anticipated.

Position Changes

Some users of the tool have had great success changing the positions of ‘do not draft’ or red chip players, and seeing them suddenly becoming elite prospects. This is not foolproof by any means, but if you see a player that has great measurables and looks like he has only missed out on a draftable status by one criterion/check, you can try changing his position.

You should, however, only change positions within position groups:



To really build a winning team in Madden 17 CFM, you need to think longer term. Only sign the right players to big second contracts, and look to fill out your roster with draftees and bargain free agents. The tool provides you with the DCA (Draft Class Analysis) sheet to guide you in terms of positions to focus on in free agency and the relative strength of a particular draft class, all of which can help you make the right decisions for your franchise in the off-season.


 < Previous Post in the Series: Part 5: Red Chip Criteria | Next Post in the Series: Part 7: Draft Day>


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