Apr 22, 2015
NFL Draft Grades: An Athletic Trainer’s Role

When the 2015 NFL Draft kicks off on Thursday, April 30, the athletic trainers from the Kansas City Chiefs aren’t likely to get much screen time. However, their work behind the scenes in the months prior will play a major role in who their team decides to select. Here, Kansas City Head Athletic Trainer Rick Burkholder provides an inside look at the process he and his staff go through in coming up with a medical grade for each draft prospect.

In an interview featured on the Chiefs’ website, Burkholder said that he and his staff work very closely with Kansas City General Manager John Dorsey and his staff to examine the medical backgrounds of the 300-plus players who appear at the NFL Combine. Burkholder says they also look at another 300 or so players who weren’t invited to the combine.

“We accumulate medical histories, give physical exams and decide what doctors they should see and we rely on our physicians, both Dr. Barnthouse and Dr. Monaco, and then all the great physicians at the University of Kansas Hospital to help come up with what we consider a medical grade for all the draft-eligible players,” Burkholder said. “We meet for endless hours to come up with that grade. We’ll meet with [Dorsey and coach Reid] a couple times to get that grade finalized. They in turn take that grade and put it into their draft process.”

Even though he and his staff are putting in a lot of time during the offseason to craft their evaluations, Burkholder realizes that it’s important work.

“My guys don’t mind to work, so nobody ever complains about it,” he said. “We’ve had some pretty good drafts with John (Dorsey) and he understands us, we understand him and it’s a neat part of the job. There’s a lot of hours spent at it and unfortunately, it’s not an exact science, but it is part of the job that I enjoy because I like to interact with (Dorsey) and you get to know the players medically before they come to you, so I think it’s beneficial.”

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