Check Out the Two-Minute Drill

About two weeks ago, we started a new series that I’d appreciate if you’d check out. It’s called the ITL Two-Minute Drill.

I started it because there just aren’t enough resources out there for the parents of draft prospects, and I wanted to make the process a little more transparent. That’s especially true of players rated as late-rounders or undrafted free agents. Players rated in the top 3-4 rounds are going to get good counsel on the process because the top agents mob them, but for the lower-rated prospects, it’s dodgy. They need guidance, so we’re trying to provide it.

Right now, we’re 14 shows in, and my plan is to continue it for at least two more weeks, with four shows per week. The idea is to have a decent library of topics for parents as the regular season wraps up. My experience is that as the calendar turns to November, parents and their sons start to get serious about agent selection, often wishing they had started preparing months ago. Our series, hopefully, allows them to play catch-up (See? Two-Minute Drill. Get it?).

Hopefully, if you’re reading this, you already have a good idea of ITL and what we do. But if not, we’ve got a Two-Minute Drill on it. But we also unpack a lot of other topics.

For example, if you don’t know the first thing about the scouting process, we’ve got episodes explaining National and BLESTO, as well as five things to know about an NFL scout. We examine how scouts canvas the country, and why some parts of the country get overlooked due to geography. We sort out the process whereby a player goes from ‘just another guy’ to certified draft prospect. We even talk about how scouts look at character, and how it can affect a player’s draft status.

Are agents a puzzle to you? Do you even know when you can talk to them without risking your son’s eligibility? We’ve got episodes on new agents (and why you shouldn’t fear them), why your son might be getting overlooked, and why (even if you don’t like agents) your son needs a plan to get to the league. Here’s an episode on how to research agents without actually talking to any. And by the way, don’t ‘play agent’ yourself (here’s why).

We also address a couple topics that don’t fit neatly into any categories. Is your son considering entering the draft early? Here are a few things to consider.

Today, we explain the undrafted free agent process and why it’s not something to fear (and in some cases even preferable to getting drafted).

Even if you’re a student, an agent or a scout who regularly reads our blog, and you feel this info doesn’t apply to you, maybe you know someone who could use it. We don’t take sides and we don’t make anyone look bad — we’re simply trying to make the process less confusing. Please refer us. What do you (or they) have to lose?

When A Draft Pick Fails, Whose Fault Is It?

When it comes to draft busts, it’s rare when you hear that a player “wasn’t developed well” or “he just didn’t get the coaching he needed.” The narrative you usually hear is that the GM is dumb or the scouts weren’t thorough or “every other team knew he couldn’t play.”

I wonder if that’s fair, though. Is it true that when players fail, it’s due to poor evaluation? I posed this question to some friends in scouting, and as you might expect, there was sharp disagreement over the premise that the evaluation was wrong.

Here are four responses I got on this question:

When a high draft pick fails, what percentage of the time is it because he wasn’t as good as advertised, and what percentage that he wasn’t coached/developed well by the team?

  • “That’s a hard question to answer. There’s so many different reasons. New coordinators, not used right, kid finally got money for the first time, outside influences. There’s just so many reasons. I’d really have to think on that, just because everyone is wired differently.”
  • “Players don’t fail! The teams fail for grading a talent that was not good enough based on overrating his talent, or taking him high based on need when he did not belong at that pick, or not smart enough, or the player really did not love football. Those are the players that fail. . . All teams have errors in the first round. There are first-round talents that fail because their addiction, ego or work ethic gets in their way. You can name those. . . Most new GM’s were not good scouts. Their decisions and record tell the tale.”
  • “I’d say a quarter or maybe even a third of the time the player is not coached/developed like scouts think he should be. Happens all the time. Majority of the time, if you take a guy high, the player will at the very least have the traits — height, weight, speed, athleticism etc. — so it’s extremely hard for a scout when you feel he’s not getting developed properly. And maybe a third of the time you missed on the guy’s talent and he just wasn’t good enough, good as you thought he was. Another third, you miss on the person. You didn’t realize how the kid was wired, whether it’s toughness, motivation, mental capacity, whatever reason.”
  • “Definitely, it is more often than not getting a bad match with a system or coaching staff, oh maybe would say 50/50. I have seen coaches and been told, ‘man, who do you want to make it? We totally control who plays and who looks good.’ Actually, (our defensive coordinator) told me that sitting with a couple of scouts one night. I saw it with (our head coach) and his staff. If you brought someone in they did not like, he had no chance. (That’s) totally why personnel and coaching has to be on the same page, because a lot of (coaches) do not like personnel guys telling them, ‘this guy is good,’ when what they saw they thought (at the Senior Bowl, or during limited film study), he stunk, wanting to prove they were right. (Our head coach was) totally like that. Oh, (our head coach was) nice and fun to scouts until there is a difference of opinion on a guy and he does not get the guy he wanted. But there are some (head coaches) who know that none of us are right 100% of the time, but they respect the process.”

Screaming Eagles ‘Fanchise’ Welcoming Players AND Executives

Fantasy football has become a critical part of the NFL fan experience, and to me, the reason is obvious: people want to be part of the decision-making process of an NFL team and pit themselves against others to measure their front office acumen.

The Succeed in Football reader, however, is more than just a fan. Our readers are so passionate that they want to be part of the game. That’s why you, dear reader, need to know about the Salt Lake Screaming Eagles, an Indoor Football League (IFL) franchise that’s holding a tryout (along with several other IFL teams) in Dallas next weekend.

“If you’ve ever had a passion to help build your own football franchise from the ground up, the fanchise is necessary in your life!” said Ray Austin, a former NFL player who is the co-founder and Director of Team Operations for the Eagles. “We respect our fans, we engage directly with our fans and give our fans direct contact with us. There are so many awesome components of a football team, from scouting, coaching, or being a bad-ass play-caller, or even a part of our GM staff, to helping with marketing the Screaming Eagles. Either way, you have a say with your team.”

The Eagles are a ‘fanchise’ that literally allows members of its virtual ‘front office’ to make important team decisions, even calling plays during the game. Already, Screaming Eagles subscribers (you can become a scout, assistant coach or assistant GM depending on the monthly fee you choose) have chosen the team’s name, uniform colors, head coach and team logo, with votes ahead on the team’s field and uniform design as well as the makeup of the dance team. Still on the horizon is the big kahuna: actually selecting the players that will try out for the team.

“Fantasy football and gaming is the closest you can get to ever coming close to coaching, calling plays and or drafting or building an actual dynasty. Until Fanchise,” Austin said. “It’s easy to go off of best athletes in the world. How good are you? Can you really eye talent? Can you really choose that key third-down play? We’re giving fans the ability to decide from the name to the coach, to even 3rd and 5. Tell me, what fantasy poll can give you that?”

Though the idea of running a team is tantalizing, there have to be players at the tryout before cuts can be made. That’s why the Eagles (along with the Wichita Falls, Iowa and Colorado IFL franchises) will be in attendance Oct. 22 from noon-4 p.m. at the D1 Dallas facility, 8081 Walnut Hill Ln, #100, Dallas, TX 75231. Cost is $75.

“I grew up in Oklahoma and I  know about the athletes in Texas,” Austin said. “They bleed football. Texas has the third-most players in the NFL. It won’t be hard for us to find ballplayers.”

If you’re a player or represent one interested in trying out, click here to register. If you’re interested in becoming part of the team braintrust, click here to get started. Either way, Austin wants to welcome as many Screaming Eagles aboard as possible.

“In February 2017, the first fan-run football team will step on the field, built and run by the fans since Day 1,” Austin said. “Coaches and players will be selected by the fans who want to win. The experience has been amazing, and we look forward to sharing this with the world.”

An Agent Against the Tide

About a month ago, you might have seen it reported that there would be 103 new contract advisors in the 2016 NFLPA agent class. Well, normally, that would be true. But this year, there will be 102.

You won’t find the name of one of the 103 people that passed on the NFLPA’s list of certified player representatives updated on Friday. That’s because this young man, who’s worked with agencies the last few years and has an intimate knowledge of the business, just didn’t see any point to it.

We exchanged a few emails last week, and here’s one he wrote. I asked for his permission to use it, because I thought it was really illustrative of the way many people in the business feel these days.

“Yeah I decided not to register. I’m worried about the future of the business due to the 1.5% default commission. It was extremely difficult to break-even on rookies with the 3% commission as is. Even though there were concerns about the maximum fee dropping to 2% when I registered, I’m not sure I would have even signed up for the test in January had I been aware of the 1.5% default fee. 

“Unfortunately, not everything worked out like I thought it would have, so I decided it wasn’t in my best interests to get certified. Football already had the lowest agent commission fee for any sport, and cutting it in half is insulting to the agents who have invested so much of their time and money into this business. Agents get a bad reputation, but most of them ones I have come across work their asses off for their clients every single day. I am happy that the certification fee is staying in my own pocket.
“Even though I’m not in the business, I hope for the best for the future of NFL agents.”

I don’t have a lot to add to this. I think I’ve made my feelings pretty obvious at this point. I just don’t think the Players Association fully understands the value of good counsel and advice, and the people who provide it, given the direction the union has gone with its new SRA.

I hope I’m wrong. In the meantime, we’ll wait to see how many agents chose not to pay their dues for the 2016-17 league year. Those results will be available in a few weeks.

Another Way To Gauge Which Teams Draft Best

After dozens of conversations with scouts and executives around the game, it’s my impression that NFL teams mostly see seventh-round picks as lottery tickets. They’re high reward with low-to-no risk. They don’t usually make the roster for very long anyway, and just as importantly, the media never blames the GM when a seventh-rounder doesn’t pan out.

On the other hand, if you can hit with a seventh-rounder, you’ve done something special. Your scouting department sorted through the hundreds of players seen as undrafted free agents and picked the ones that could really make an impact. For that reason, I thought I’d take a look at the teams whose seventh-rounders have hung around the league most often.

  • What’s most interesting is that there’s a runaway winner. The Vikings have 10 seventh-rounders knocking around the league, either on the 53 or on practice squads.
  • The Seahawks are in second place with eight. This is interesting to me because, as we’ve seen, Seattle has been one of the most active teams in terms of relying on test scores and triangle numbers on draft day, maybe even more than performance or experience. The fact that eight players drafted in the last round by the ‘Hawks are still in the league tells me more and more teams are trying to copy their model.
  • The Raiders, Eagles and Steelers are tied for third with seven players. This is an indication that maybe the Eagles under head coach/GM Chip Kelly did better on draft day than Kelly did coaching his players on the field. It also tells me the Raiders  are turning things around under GM Reggie Mackenzie, and those results are starting to show on the field. The Steelers are the Steelers, one of the best franchise in the league for several years now, and their drafting acumen reflects that.
  • The Broncos are next with six, and that’s where the numbers get tougher to distill.
  • There are seven teams tied with five ‘sevens’ still in the league. They are the Falcons, Bills, Browns, Cowboys, Packers, 49ers and Titans. Of this group, the Cowboys, Packers and Niners have already shown that they know how to draft. The other teams aren’t known as ‘getting it’ on draft day, but maybe they should get more credit.
  • That’s the top third of the league. Now let’s take a look at the bottom third. Believe it or not, the Ravens have no seventh-rounders still active in the league. Without doing a lot of research, I don’t know if the team has gotten in the habit of trading its seventh-rounders or if the team has just rolled the dice far too often, but we couldn’t find any active as of the first week of the season. The team didn’t have a seventh-rounder this year.
  • The Giants and Buccaneers each have one seventh-rounder in the league, and that’s one reason why both teams, despite having franchise quarterbacks, are still inconsistent at best.

Take a look at the full list here.

Team Total
Minnesota Vikings 10
Seattle Seahawks 8
Philadelphia Eagles 8
Oakland Raiders 7
Pittsburgh Steelers 7
Denver Broncos 6
Atlanta Falcons 5
Buffalo Bills 5
Cleveland Browns 5
Dallas Cowboys 5
Green Bay Packers 5
San Francisco 49ers 5
Tennessee Titans 5
Carolina Panthers 4
Chicago Bears 4
Indianapolis Colts 4
Jacksonville Jaguars 4
Los Angeles Rams 4
Miami Dolphins 4
New England Patriots 4
New York Jets 4
Cincinnati Bengals 3
Detroit Lions 3
Houston Texans 3
New Orleans Saints 3
Washington Redskins 3
Arizona Cardinals 2
Kansas City Chiefs 2
San Diego Chargers 2
New York Giants 1
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1
Baltimore Ravens 0



A Three-Year Look at the NFL’s Stealth Success Metric

On this blog, we’ve tried to highlight an overlooked metric that really correlates with NFL success. That metric is the total number of former draftees still in the league by team, and we’ve totaled up the numbers for three years running now.

This year, we moved our September roster analysis to our Friday Wrap email that chronicles the week in the football business (if you’re interested in receiving it, click here). However, we didn’t take a look at the last three years, so I decided to do that here. I think it gives a good look at which teams are doing things right on draft day, and how they’re being rewarded in the W-L area.

The numbers are below. Here are a few quick observations.

  • Most people expected the Vikings to struggle to win more than a handful of games this season after losing first Teddy Bridgewater, then A.P., by mid-September. However, the Vikes have been climbing the ladder when it comes to draftees in the league the last three years, going from No. 15 in 2014 to No. 8 last year and this year. Staying in the top half of the league all three years and in the top ten the last two has to be one reason the team has enjoyed such success.
  • The Vikings aren’t the only early-season success story that could have been predicted with the grid below. Check out the Eagles — despite some bumpy years under head coach/GM Chip Kelly the last few years, the team has done pretty well on draft day, and new head coach Doug Pederson has been able to take advantage of that. The consistent play of Carson Wentz so far has given the team just the bounce it needs.
  • Of the top ten teams listed below, only one (the Niners) hasn’t made the playoffs at least once in the last three years. Half have been to the playoffs at least twice, and the Packers, Bengals, Seahawks and Patriots have been all three years.
  • What’s more, the AFC East (Patriots), AFC North (Steelers and Ravens) and AFC South (Texans) are led by teams on this list, while in the NFC, the East and West divisions are led (Eagles) or tied (Seahawks) by teams on the list.
  • I know there’s one huge outlier in these numbers that can’t be avoided: the Niners. How can they be so far out in front despite so little on-field success the last three years? My only response is that there’s got to be a two-tiered approach here. The talent level that comes from these numbers must be coupled with consistent QB play. That’s why the Niners have struggled despite the number of winners the scouting department has picked, while the emergence of Kirk Cousins last year got the ‘Skins into the playoffs despite a lousy talent acquisition mark over the last three years. I believe the 49ers would still be at least a playoff contender had the team not been hit so hard by retirements the last few years.
Rank Team 2014 2015 2016 Total
1 San Francisco 49ers 59 59 54 172
2 Green Bay Packers 55 52 51 158
3 Pittsburgh Steelers 56 52 47 155
4 Baltimore Ravens 49 50 55 154
5 Cincinnati Bengals 48 50 53 151
6 Philadelphia Eagles 51 50 44 145
7 Seattle Seahawks 49 49 47 145
8 Dallas Cowboys 48 47 49 144
9 New England Patriots 50 46 46 142
10 Houston Texans 51 47 42 140
11 Minnesota Vikings 44 49 47 140
12 Denver Broncos 46 47 46 139
13 Miami Dolphins 48 45 44 137
14 Tennessee Titans 43 47 47 137
15 Oakland Raiders 44 44 47 135
16 Arizona Cardinals 42 47 44 133
17 Kansas City Chiefs 40 48 45 133
18 Buffalo Bills 41 46 43 130
19 St. Louis Rams 41 44 44 129
20 New York Jets 47 44 37 128
21 Cleveland Browns 36 44 45 125
22 Detroit Lions 41 43 40 124
23 Carolina Panthers 42 44 37 123
24 Jacksonville Jaguars 43 38 38 119
25 San Diego Chargers 42 40 37 119
26 Atlanta Falcons 46 39 31 116
27 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 36 37 35 108
28 New Orleans Saints 31 40 37 108
29 Chicago Bears 33 38 34 105
30 Indianapolis Colts 36 35 31 102
31 Washington Redskins 32 33 34 99
32 New York Giants 39 30 28 97

Thoughts on the Football Biz from ex-Lions Exec Cedric Saunders

Last week, Bay Harbor Island, Fla.-based Goal Line Sports announced that it had hired former Detroit Lions executive Cedric Saunders as the firm’s new Vice President of Football Operations.
It’s an interesting hire. Goal Line Football isn’t a powerhouse agency on the level of CAA or Athletes First, but it’s no less respected. In fact, Goal Line CEO Brian Levy is among the more powerful agents in one of the fastest-growing areas of sports representation: coaches. Among his clients are Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin and Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph.
I wanted to get Cedric’s thoughts on the business and the direction it’s going, especially when it comes to the slowly disappearing line between NFL personnel and contract advisors. He was kind enough to oblige. Here are a few selected answers based on the questions we had.
What kinds of things will you do for the agency? How can you help Brian expand his firm?
“I’m  bringing over 17 years of experience in the NFL from being a player, scout, and front office executive. I will be helping on the operations side of the business in terms of targeting good coaches and front office personnel and growing our clientele the right way with the right people. We really want our company to stand for what the (agency) motto says: ‘Faith – Family – Football.’
“We want our clients to be successful and to feel a part of the family and know that we are all in this together.  I will help with negotiating coaching contracts. I will also help on the player side as well with helping our player agents with which players to target and scout and how we can mainstream the process from an operational standpoint. I will also play a part in prepping our players for all-star games and combine interviews. Also with my background in player development, I can play a role in the (players’) long-term career goals for while they are playing and once their career is over.
“I believe my experiences in the NFL and the friends and contacts I’ve made over the years lends well to helping Brian expand our firm from a coaching standpoint and a player one, as well.”
There’s a lot of volatility in scouting and front offices, and it seems harder than ever to get hired and stay hired in the football world. What do you attribute that to? 
“I believe some of the volatility can be attributed to owners getting less and less patient with keeping GMs and coaches in place if they are not producing within a three-year span and them staying consistent. They are getting more and more pressure from the fans to make changes as well (if) the team is not doing well. It use to be GMs would get a chance to at least hire two coaches, sometimes three, before the owners would start looking at them for replacement. Now it’s down to two and sometimes only one chance to hire a head coach. Bottom line, owners want results more quickly then they did in the past. Then the thing about GMs is you only get one shot at it. You can probably count on one hand how many two-time GMs there are in the league.”
In a business as competitive as pro football, changes are pretty constant. What trends in scouting, or in media, or in college football or whatever, will have the most impact on the pro football business in the next decade, in your opinion?
“I believe technology will have the most impact on the pro football business in the next decade. Look at what’s going on with the tablets on the sidelines, and now how much more analytics is playing a part in how teams are preparing. There’s also the virtual reality googles. Every year something new in technology is coming out that is supposed to give you an advantage, or makes it a little easier to get done.”

Crunching Numbers: An Interview with its Authors (Pt. 2)

On Wednesday, we discussed the book Crunching Numbers: An Inside look at the Salary Cap and Negotiating Player Contracts, written by Jason Fitzgerald of Over The Cap and football biz veteran Vijay Natarajan. I’m pretty excited about this book because I think it makes a difficult topic, one that’s central to the modern NFL, a lot easier to understand.
I had several questions for Jason and Vijay and I covered some of them yesterday. Here are a few more questions and answers regarding their book, as well as the cap and its perception across the nation.

The average fan hears about the salary cap all the time, but do you feel most have a reasonable understanding of the cap and how it works?
“We think the average fan has a basic understanding that there is a limited amount of money that can be used on the roster and that there are ways to manipulate the cap to make it happen. But when it comes to understanding the future consequences of the actions being made, we think there is much less understanding. For example, you may see a team (beat) reporter (discuss) moves made by a team to comply with the cap that adds millions of dollars to the following year. Fans listen to this and their initial thought is their favorite team is doing great finding ways to manipulate the system with no understanding that the team is actually putting themselves in a bad situation the following year. Then the team goes out, has a stinker of a season, and is now millions over the cap. There are also many misconceptions about contract values, guarantees, and true earnings on a contract.”
How about the general media? Do they ‘get’ how the cap works, in your estimation?
“The print media has gotten much better with their understanding of the salary cap in recent years. It helps that they can often lean on agents or even team front office executives to help clarify some things. We think the increase of bloggers who focus on contract-related items, and the social media-fueled, hard-core football audience that they have to write for, has made them learn more and more about this side of the NFL. There is still a similar lack of understanding when it comes to long-term consequences, both good and bad, on contract decisions, reasons behind certain contracts, free agent possibilities, and certain rules concerning the cap. We think when it comes to your radio/TV personalities the cap knowledge is lacking. Granted, that side of the NFL is going to have limited appeal for everyday discussion, but if you are going to criticize a team on air for a salary cap charge or contract value for a player, you should at least have a fundamental understanding for why the team did it.”
Do you think the average fan wants to understand how the cap works?
“Guess it depends on what you consider average. If the average fan is the person who starts paying attention in September, and whose interest level is dependent on their fantasy football roster or team record, and only has an offseason interest in the team at the start of free agency and on the first day of the draft, we doubt they would have (deep) interest in the cap. If the average fan is the person interacting all year on forums and blogs, actively follows reporters on social media, and engages with other fans either online or offline for a majority of the year, then we would expect them to be interested in learning about the cap. Crunching Numbers gives you another avenue to become invested in your team and speak more intelligently about the NFL.”
How long did it take each of you to ‘understand’ the cap?
“In terms of understanding the basics in a way where we could go and sit down with someone who has worked in the NFL for years and have an intelligent conversation, we would say a couple of years. The reality is, we are still in a learning (phase) and you gain more knowledge all the time.”
In general, do you think most teams manage the cap well, or are there teams that put themselves in jeopardy consistently due to simple mistakes?
“Being a fan of the NFL, for a long time, and having seen various approaches to salary cap management, we would say that the majority of teams have gotten much better at managing the salary cap than they were 10 to 15 years ago.  The decision-making process has changed a lot since then for most teams, and it’s led to more efficiency, even though the dollars in contracts are getting bigger and bigger. Still, there are more than a handful of teams that, year after year, are having to find ways just to comply with the cap because of some really bad decisions. Check out Chapter 17, Salary Cap Philosophies, for different strategies executed.”

If you’re part of that hard-core fan base that lives and breathes the NFL, I really encourage you to give Crunching Numbers a look. I know Vijay and Jason are passionate football people but also regular guys, and that’s why they can convey such a complicated topic in a plain-talk kind of way.

Crunching Numbers: An Interview with its Authors

Though I feel like I’ve got a good handle on the football business, I know I’m completely out of my depth on the salary cap. It’s something I’ve always wanted to become more knowledgeable of, and I’ve looked for a book that might illuminate that.
Along comes the book, Crunching Numbers: An Inside look at the Salary Cap and Negotiating Player Contracts, written by Jason Fitzgerald of Over The Cap and football biz veteran Vijay Natarajan.
Vijay is a longtime friend and ITL client, so I reached out to him when I heard he’d co-authored his first book. I shipped over a few questions, and he and Jason teamed up to answer them. Their responses are below.

Whose idea was the book? Why did you decide to do it?
“A few years ago, we were pretty much chatting about salary cap stuff and realized that there was a common interest and kept in touch from there. The decision to co-author Crunching Numbers was easy. Take a topic that you really enjoy that had no resources available outside of the CBA. It seemed like a natural idea for a book.”
How long did it take to write it?
“We worked on and off on Crunching Numbers since late summer of 2013. A good portion of the book was written by the end of 2014 but with so many changes in the NFL contract landscape and rules, not to mention front office changes, we found ourselves updating constantly to keep things current. This was good because with the added time, and no firm deadline, we expanded the book to include a number of (new) things we probably did not intend to originally have in there – such as small bios on the people behind the scenes (i.e. contract negotiators) around the NFL. Basically, every time we would go to update we would realize, “hey, wouldn’t it be good to have this in the book?” and then add a new portion to a chapter or sometimes an entire new chapter. Each time you add something there is a great deal of research involved. We have over 300 citations in the book, so it was a time-consuming process to do it correctly.
“Since this book is the first of its kind in this field, it was really important to take the time and do it right and not do a rush job. The last few months have really been spent in the editing process and working with some (cap) people in the NFL just to make certain we didn’t miss anything.”
Besides selling plenty of books, what would you like to accomplish with this book?
“Really, the main goal of the book is to educate more people about a very important side of the NFL. Every year, between December and March, the talk about the salary cap and contracts dominates the NFL, but so much of what you hear on the radio, see on Twitter, or read is incorrect or uninformed.
“There is nothing worse than listening to a popular sports radio host answer a question on the salary cap and respond, “it’s too hard to understand and explain to you.” That’s nonsense! Even if you go to work in the NFL, it’s trial by fire when it comes to learning. This book, we hope, gives people the fundamentals to succeed much faster.”
Thursday, we’ll talk more with Jason and Vijay about their perception of how well the cap is understood, even by NFL teams; who seems to ‘get’ the cap and who doesn’t;  and how easy it is to go from cap novice to expert in Thursday’s edition of SIF. In the meantime, I hope you’ll check out the book’s Website.
I enthusiastically endorse the book for anyone who reads my blog regularly, loves the business of football, and wants to have a fuller understanding of one of the main drivers of personnel decisions in the NFL.

A Few Thoughts on the New AFCA-NFL Scouting Agreement

As you know, there was a major announcement Monday that FBS schools will designate up to five underclassmen that NFL teams can scout essentially a full year before they can become eligible.

Presumably, this means a number of redshirt freshmen and true sophomores will become eligible for NFL evaluation this spring in anticipation of these players potentially entering the ’18 draft. Perhaps this means players already three years out of high school will be designated as ‘underclassmen.’ It’s also unclear if it will be made public which teams receive these designations.

Setting aside the questions that remain regarding the new policy, here are a few thoughts on how it might change the business of football.

  • My guess is that it will become harder for fringe players to get recognized as legitimate NFL prospects. Why? Increasingly, NFL teams see draft picks after the fourth round as disposable, and this is because they only see the top 100 or so draftees as real difference-makers. These are the guys that win ballgames for you, and in an era where coaches only get two, maybe three years to prove themselves, it’s a win-now world.
  • The players designated as underclassmen to watch will automatically be seen as sexier and more desirable to NFL teams. Obviously, that makes a lot of sense for the players from Florida State, Alabama and the like, but there will be other ‘middle class’ teams that designate their own players, and I expect those athletes to get more acclaim, even by scouts. It’s human nature.
  • As the agent middle class starts to dissolve (given the tighter margins dictated by the NFLPA), you’re going to see a polarization of the draft. The top 30 or so agencies will strictly recruit the underclassmen designates and the very best seniors, while the other 60 percent of the agent world will try to pick up the scraps. That’s not a lot different from how things work today, but I see it hardening and becoming even more cut and dried. The big firms that have overhead and who are willing to make the investment that recruiting players entails will just have no choice.
  • Maybe I’m looking at this as a glass that’s half-full, but this could be an opportunity for those smaller agents and agencies. Younger, less-established contract advisors will have to work harder to find these off-the-grid players, and will have to promote them more aggressively, but there’s a higher ceiling for these players now, I think. So maybe, just maybe, this can be a good thing for players trying to break into the biz.