Lessons and Insights Learned from a Summer of Speaking with Scouts

This summer, we at Inside the League have focused greatly on bringing leading industry voices to online platforms in order to interface with active NFL scouts, agents and executives. We’ve found it to be the best way to connect people in the era of social distancing.

At the same time, there’s nothing like sitting across the table from someone, and we’ve done a little breaking of bread with our friends in the industry, as well. Between Zoom sessions and power lunches, we’ve learned quite a bit about the industry. Here are a few lessons learned this summer, especially as they relate to character evaluation in the draft process.

  • If the pro liaison loves a kid, maybe you shouldn’t: The pro liaison tends to be the guy who tells scouts the party line. Normally, he’s the one who’s going to give you the info a head coach would almost say in a press conference setting. In other words, just the facts, presented with a smile and maybe a positive spin. The players whose attitudes are best are the ones who’ll be bragged on in meetings with pro liaisons. To get the unedited version on a player, a scout typically has to speak to a coach on staff that he knows, or the strength coach. Strength coaches are typically less political.
  • A kid without a father in the home has to be judged differently from one who doesn’t: A young man who grew up with a father in the home is more likely to understand that a coach screaming at him still loves him. Maybe his father ripped him for not taking out the garbage or for mowing but not edging — he knows his father is still gonna be there at dinnertime asking him about his day, making sure he’s got what he needs, hugging him at bedtime, etc. A young man without a father in the home is more likely to see a coach berating him as someone seeking a confrontation. He’ll either tune out or, in other cases, answer with his fists.
  • Houston, Atlanta and Miami are the party cities: You better know what you have with a kid who is drafted by the Falcons, Dolphins and, yes, Texans. These are perceived as the cities where you can really get yourself in trouble with women, alcohol and drugs, or all three. Give a kid money and a lot of free time, and he’s liable to get over his skis, quickly. Or at least that’s the reputation.
  • There’s a lot of nuance to a young man’s background aside from his legal history: The example I was given was of a kid who was raised in Mississippi, a state with a low-performing educational system. If he came out of Oxford, he’s more likely to have a stable upbringing and less trouble with schooling and structure. If he is from Jackson, it depends on whether he was in private school or public school. Public school kids saw things that kids in private schools didn’t. The geographical regions of the state are also very telling. This is true of several states, but Mississippi is one place where the hometown can be very indicative of what kind of kid he is.
  • Failing a drug test means different things at different schools: For example, at LSU, after your first failure you are given certain terms, and if you meet those, you are given a clean state. In other words, you are back at zero. After failure No. 2, you are given a chance to go to rehab, and if you take that option (which is voluntary), you are treated differently from someone who doesn’t. Because schools like LSU and Texas have traditionally been very patient with those who have a problem with marijuana, kids who are kicked out for their drug problems are valued very differently from those schools who might have a zero tolerance policy.

If we’ve just whet your appetite, we encourage you to register for our Friday Wrap, in which we discuss all manner of industry-related topics each week. This week, we’ll focus on the Zoom sessions with industry professionals that we’ve already hosted as well as what’s to come later this summer. Here’s a peek at last week’s edition.

2020 ITL GM Academy: Highlights of Our First ‘School’ for Future NFL Execs

Last night, we wrapped up our first-ever ITL GM Academy, and it was a smashing success. For one night each, we had a former NFL GM talk to several young risers in the NFL scouting industry, most of them directors of college scouting, on how to get and excel in the job of NFL general manager.

I can’t say enough about how open and transparent each of our GMs — Tim Ruskell (Seahawks) on Monday, Jerry Angelo (Bears) on Tuesday, Doug Whaley (Bills) Wednesday and Billy Devaney (Rams) on Thursday — was this week. They told stories that I wish I could tell here. “The week exceeded all expectations!,”  said one of the participants.

Here are a few nuggets from this week’s speakers.

On owners (former Rams GM Billy Devaney): “You get the job, you do need to develop a relationship with the owner. He’s gonna want access to you, but it’s gotta be a two-way street. If there’s a key injury or you get a chance to make a big trade, and your guy is on some yacht in southern France, you have to have the ability to have access to him. Set up a time every week to meet with him. I mean, over-communicate early with the guy. You want to keep reassuring him that you’re the right guy.

“There’s two kinds of owners: hands-on and absentee. I’ve seen it both ways. Don’t let hands-on owners be a negative. It’s a pain in the ass sometimes, but believe me, the positives far outweigh the negatives.”

On the value of networking (former Bills GM Doug Whaley): “The only reason I got the chance in Buffalo was, in ‘05-’06, the league had a masters program at Stanford and it was a week-long – I got a master’s from Stanford! — and had meetings all day, then at night they would break us up into five-man groups and have us work together. We had 3-4 questions to work on every night. I wondered, why are all of us doing the same questions? Why not all do one question, then we all talk about it afterward? And (Bills executive) Russ Brandon loved that, so when Buddy (Nix) became the GM, Brandon was really promoting me because of my work with Doug at the Stanford program.” Four years later, in 2010, Whaley was hired as the Assistant GM in Buffalo, and took over for Nix as GM in 2013.

On your most crucial hires (former Bears GM Jerry Angelo): “What do you do to offset your weakness, especially if it’s the cap? . . . The Bears let me hire a cap guy, and I hired (former agent) Cliff Stein. He was in my network. Intelligent and hard-working. I interviewed guys with a better resume, but I had a gut feeling on him.

“I wish my draft picks went as well as that hire. But you have to identify someone who is good with the cap.”

On working with your head coach (former Seahawks GM Tim Ruskell): “I had all the control, and it was an awesome responsibility. I didn’t take advantage of that. I always worked collaboratively with my head coach, and I feel you have to do that.”

If this kind of thing intrigues you, make sure you sign up for our Friday Wrap, which comes out this evening. We’ll have more about our work this week with tomorrow’s GMs in this evening’s edition. We’ll also talk about the next wave of GM candidates as told to us by people across the game. Here’s last week’s edition. I hope you’ll check it out.

How Is An NFL Scouting Dept Built? A Look at Five Teams

49ersColtsEaglesRavensSaintsNFL avg.
Scouting Assts311411.78
Combine Scout110.43
Scouting Coordinator111111
Area Scouts553845.75
Reg/Nat/Exec/Cross/Sr212152.03
Directors/Asst Directors2251.72
VP/DPP/AGM312311.56
Pro Scouting Dept543143.06
Analytics Dept.226332.91
Total211824201920.3

Last week, in the Friday Wrap, we looked at how today’s NFL scouting departments are built. How many scouts usually make up the scouting department? How big is a typical analytics team? Is middle management a big part of most teams’ evaluation department? We presented all our numbers on our website.

That’s a pay link, so rather than snub all those people who aren’t our clients, we’ve presented five teams’ results above. We feel these are five of the better-drafting teams in the league; in fact, three of them (the Saints in ’17, the Colts in ’18 and the 49ers in ’19) won the Best Draft Award as voted on by NFL scouts.

We’ll be talking about commonalities and differences among the these five teams (and the nuances that don’t show up in a grid) Friday on SiriusXM NFL Radio channel 88 with Alex Marvez and Mark Dominik. I hope you can join us.

In the meantime, a few notes:

  • Following modern trends, the 49ers have three at the VP level. The team is also mostly on trend for number of ‘reinforcements,’ i.e., scouting assistants, though the team’s pro personnel analysts are most likely on deck to plug in as area scouts, as well.
  • The Colts have four members of their information systems department; we guessed that they were not in analytics, but more traditional infromation tech people instead. The team is also light on scouting assistants, though the team does have a football operations assistant (which we counted as a scouting assistant). Finally, though the team is light on analytics personnel, it’s believed to have a greater reliance on analytics (and successfully) than most teams.
  • The Eagles are one of the teams that draw a bright line between football operations and scouting, but who include their analytics professionals in football operations (at least per their job titles). They have a significant analytics presence. The team also is light on area scouts, and clearly uses its directors and assistant directors to get out on the road, as well.
  • The Ravens are another team that has two DPPs, plus a player personnel coordinator and a senior player personnel executive. This is why it’s fair to say the Ravens are one of the most committed teams when it comes to buildin through the draft, and they usually get results. We also termed the team’s three player personnnel assistants and one player personnel analyst as scouting assistants.
  • The Saints have a pretty streamlined operation, despite having three national scouts (which is pretty unusual). They achieve this by placing the scouting department in the hands of AGM Jeff Ireland, who also fills the college director role, and assigning much of the work many area scouts would do to their national scouts. Also, though the team has three staffers in analytics, Ireland and Co. tend to rely more on their own eyes than what the math tells them.

To check out our analysis of all 32 teams, click here.

A Few Thoughts on our NFL GM Prospects List

This week, I’ve been talking to several of my friends in the industry about the best GM candidates in the game. My goal was (and is) to put together a list that isn’t agent- and/or media-driven. In other words, I don’t want the guys that are photogenic and have good bloodlines, per se, or simply the “next up” guys from winning organizations. I’m looking for guys who are less about politics and more about grinding. At least, that’s my aim.

Here are a few thoughts gathered from talking to people this week.

  • It was really, really hard to get a consensus. I started off wanting a list of 10 candidates, but struggled to get 5-6 that were on several lists. I attribute that to the nature of the business. Most scouts tend to work in one or two organizations, so they don’t get to see many people truly work. In addition, the very nature of the business lends itself to secrecy, so it’s easy to get in a silo and stay there.
  • As a matter of fact, I had a lot of friends who were very careful about even giving their opinion on GM possibilities. No one wants their bosses to even think in terms of advancement. Next week, we’ll be hosting the ITL GM Academy with four ex-GMs, and similarly, our attendees don’t want anyone to know they are trying to grow and develop themselves, which to me is kinda crazy. The “keep your head down and grind” philosophy is alive and well.
  • As I was compiling the list, one thing came through loud and clear: when a scout would give me a name, he’d almost always talk about how much he likes the guy, how he has a great personality. We’ve all heard about how fiery and tough “Battlin” Bill Polian, one of the truly great GMs in the game, was during his career. I think today’s scouts and executives want to work with someone they can relate to, rather than be subservient to.
  • I worked hard to get perspectives from guys on the pro side, but most of them recommended guys with strong college backgrounds. It’s interesting. I guess scouts  will always see the draft as the wellspring of team-building.
  • On that topic, one scout I trust opened my eyes to something I’d seen, but never really noticed. When you sift through the names of college and pro scouting directors, it’s striking how many more pro directors are black than on the college side. It’s easy to see why — pro directors have to be a bit more persuasive, almost have a recruiting side to them. To me, this is a clear focus of attention as we try to remove obstacles in the path to the GM seat for minority candidates. I’ve seen a lot more movement toward the pro side for scouts with college backgrounds; maybe this will help break down these walls.
  • I’m sure tomorrow’s list will be controversial because we’ll have a few outside-the-box names, and won’t have some of the names you typically see on these lists. Please re-read this if you take issue with tomorrow’s newsletter: JUST BECAUSE A NAME ISN’T ON OUR LIST TOMORROW DOESN’T MEAN HE’S NOT A GREAT CANDIDATE. I’m just trying to present the people rank-and-file scouts and executives that I speak to know and trust. It’s one snapshot of many.

Anyway, we’ll have 6-7 guys whose names you’ll probably know if you read this blog regularly in tomorrow’s Friday Wrap, though they may differ greatly from the names you most often see. I hope it will be fun and provocative. Make sure you don’t miss it by registering here.

Miscellaneous: Five Thoughts (Mostly) on Things We’re Working On at ITL

I didn’t have anything this week that could hold up for an entire blog post, so today we’ll take you “into the lab” and touch on several projects we’re developing at ITL (plus a quick scouting observation). Here goes.

  • I’m really excited about the video my friend, Ric Serritella of NFL Draft Bible, made to help others understand a little bit about how we work to help people build their professional network in football. It’s here. We filmed it on location in Mobile, Ala., at the Senior Bowl and at the combine in Indianapolis. As always, I hope it conveys the right message to potential partners without being too self-promotional.
  • I’m also really excited about the first-ever ITL GM Academy, which is slated to take place later this month. We’ll have four former NFL GMs (Jerry Angelo, Billy Devaney, Tim Ruskell and Doug Whaley) who’ll be discussing the interview process and how to get the job; how to deal with the media; how to hire and build a staff; and building a relationship with the owner. Each of our experts will handle a 90-minute session on each of the four nights.
  • There’s a lot of concern among scouts that they won’t be allowed into schools this fall, and that’s very possible. But here’s how to maximize your chances: be the guy who sends thank-you notes with Batman and Wonder Woman stamps. I had a lengthy phone call with a longtime scout who is obsessive about sending personal notes to all the people he talks to on his school visits. He stamps them and writes the addresses before he even gets to the school, then writes a short note when he’s killing time waiting for practice or between film sessions. Then he mails them as he leaves town. He even adds flair by using stamps depicting cartoon characters and movie stars. That is all-star level respect for the people in the game.
  • Sent the manuscript for my next book to my editor today. I think I’m going to call it ScoutSpeak: Earning, Doing & Thinking About the Job of an NFL Evaluator. It will be about 150 pages, and Saints Assistant GM Jeff Ireland wrote an absolutely superb foreword for it this week. I can’t wait to get it published, hopefully later this month. I think I counted stories and quotes from more than 30 NFL scouts, past and present. This is my tribute to the industry.
  • I’m kicking around the idea of starting a podcast. I don’t have a name yet, but the idea would be to talk to some of the most influential people in the industry about how they see the business evolving and their own personal stories of how they broke in.

OK, that’s five. We’ll have a lot more in today’s Friday Wrap, that comes out later today. If you haven’t already, register for it here.

ScoutSpeak: What’s Ahead for My Book on NFL Scouting

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It took me a lot longer to write my first book than I ever thought it would. Thanks to the quarantine, Book 2 came together a lot more quickly, and I’m ready to get your feedback before I put the finishing touches on it.

It’s going to be called ScoutSpeak, and it’s a compilation of all the content, all the interviews, all the conversations I’ve had with scouts about NFL scouting over the past 18 years. I meet so many young people who want to get into scouting, and they alway ask the same questions. What is the job really like? How do I get a job? How do I keep from getting fired? There’s so much to say. This time, I hope to put it all in one place, and put it in the actual words of dozens of scouts and administrators, active and former.

Here’s a look at the breakdown so far:

  • 10 thoughts on the industry (6.6 percent): This is basically what I’ve taken away from closely studying the industry for almost two decades. Regardless of the cliches  you always hear about the draft and scouting, these are my takeaways about how players are really evaluated and really chosen.
  • The character question (6.6 percent): We always hear about players who slip due to character. Later, we see how some players conduct themselves and wonder why they didn’t fall in the draft. The way that character really impacts and influences the draft, based on what scouts have told me, is something I just had to include.
  • The UDFA process (9.8 percent): The two hours after the draft has always fascinated me, especially when you think about all the players who were passed over by all 32 teams for seven rounds, then went on to stardom.
  • Makeup of an NFL scouting department (6.6 percent): This is more of a nuts-and-bolts discussion of the difference between pro and college scouts, how the two combines work, etc.
  • Getting the job (21.3 percent): If there’s one question I’ve gotten more than any other, it’s this one. That’s why I devoted a fifth of the book to it.
  • Losing the job (6.6 percent): I figured if I focused on how to get the job, I should include this section, as well.
  • Doing the job (26.2 percent): I’ve always found people see scouts as incredibly intriguing and mysterious, so we devoted plenty of ink to this.
  • Why do players bust? (4.9 percent): This is the eternal question, and everyone has an opinion.
  • War stories (11.5 percent): Everyone loves to hear the stories of how picks are and were made, especially when names are named. I gotta tell you, too — some of them are truly hilarious.

So how am I doing? Am I on track? Are there things I should expand on? Are there things I should omit? I’d love to get your opinion. Hit me up at @InsideTheLeague when you can.

 

Where Do Today’s NFL Scouts Come From?

The bulk of the work done evaluating players for the NFL Draft is done by area scouts, the foot soldiers of the profession. At Inside the League, we spend a lot of time telling their stories and trying to make their jobs a little easier with our salary survey, helping out with pro days in March, and anything else.

Normally, May is when scouts get hired and fired. Obviously, this has not been a normal May, so rather than covering who’s coming and going, this week, we decided to take a long look at our Scouting Changes Grids from 2015-2019 to see where scouts are coming from, as well as what’s happening to the people who hold that title.

The perception is that older, more seasoned evaluators are no longer en vogue, and there’s a definite shelf life for old-school college scouts. At the same time, fresh-faced youngsters are more hirable than ever. But what do the numbers say?

We counted 90 NFL personnel professionals who took a job as area scout between 2015 and 2019 (college side only, not pro scout). Some ascended to the position from lower jobs. Some were area scouts who moved laterally to other teams, or who changed areas. Some had previously held more senior jobs and went back on the road simply to get back into the league. Here’s what we found.

  • For 71 of the 90, achieving area scout was a clear promotion.
  • Of the 71, almost half (31) were promoted from scouting assistant, which has become the most common way teams hire college evaluators.
  • Eighteen of the 70 were combine scouts (BLESTO or NFS), probably the second-most common route.
  • Eleven were in pro roles or assisted on both the pro and college side.
  • Four other scouts moved over from the pro side. All four were young scouts who were most likely being promoted, though it’s unclear if they received a bump in pay. Either way, probably good news for young scouts.
  • Three more came from non-NFL scouting services, though it’s important to note that two of the three had extensive pro football backgrounds and weren’t plucked capriciously from #DraftTwitter.
  • Another two hopped directly from other leagues (the CFL and Arena League) into area roles.
  • One was a college scouting coordinator who was sent on the road.
  • One moved over from the coaching side.

Another note: this is a hiring trend that has been sustained over the last five years. At least 10 new area scouts per year have been hired from within every year since 2015 (not counting this year, of course). In 2017, 22 (!) were elevated from scouting assistant and combine scout roles.

Of course, it wasn’t all good news for new area scouts. We identified 17 of the 90 who were taking a step down from national scout or a director-level position, presumably after a period of unemployment. Bottom line, the overwhelming majority of new area scout hires (81 percent) were people with limited experience who were promoted from within.

Two others didn’t fit any specific category and were hard to quantify.

We also counted 148 area scouts over the same time period (2015-2019) who experienced a change in job status. The news for these experienced evaluators was not as positive. We go into detail on how many received a promotion, mostly stayed static, or were pushed out of the business in the last five years in today’s Friday Wrap.

You can register for it here. It comes out this evening (6:30 p.m. CT), and if you’re interested in being an NFL scout, or you are one already, we recommend you give it a look.

 

The 2020 NFL Draft Class, by the Numbers: A Few Observations

This week, we looked at all the players signed with agents for the 2020 NFL Draft, the number drafted and the total of undrafted free agents, all sorted by position. It’s here (pay link, sorry).

We’ve done this for the past six years, and it provides an interesting snapshot of the positions most in demand by NFL teams. If you’re just passing through for a look at the top mock drafts or a ranking of NFL GMs, I apologize in advance. Today is for agents, active and aspiring. I think it gives insights into who they should be recruiting in the modern game.

  • As usual, there were more wide receivers signed by agents (244) than any other position. It stands to reason; receivers are plentiful as well as popular in a pro game that’s committed to the pass. What’s more, their numbers are easy to track. On the other hand, receivers’ draft rate is annually around 10 percent, one of the lowest “hit rates” of all the positions. This year’s draft rate was highest ever at just under 15 percent, owing to the talent in the class, though the total number of signees was well below recent classes.
  • More on wide receivers: In the six years we’ve been tracking the numbers, this year’s total number of pass-catchers signed to SRAs is the lowest ever. The high-water mark? It was 2016, when 313 receivers signed with agents. We may never see that total again.
  • A cornerback’s plight is very similar to a wide receiver’s, i.e., lots and lots of them sign with agents, but opportunities are limited. Agents signed 190 corners, but only 28 were drafted and 53 signed as undrafted free agents. In total, 109 cornerbacks (more than half of all who were signed) are on the street mere weeks after draft day. In short, if you’re an agent and you want to maximize your chances on draft weekend, focus on the big slow guys and less on the sleek, sexy guys.
  • Though it’s not sexy, our numbers show, again, that it all starts up front. At only four positions — tight end, guard, tackle and defensive tackle — did better than half of all players signed to standard representation agreements get either drafted or signed as undrafted free agents.
  • Similarly, only four positions — center, guard, tackle and outside linebacker — saw more than 20 percent of all signees selected in the draft. The offensive line isn’t sexy, but if you’re an agent, that’s where the money is.
  • On the other hand, the most popular position immediately following the draft is tight end. A higher percentage of tight ends — just under 39 percent — signed post-draft than did players at any other position. Only two other positions (fullbacks and defensive tackles) signed UDFA contracts at a rate north of 30 percent.
  • it was a tough year to go undrafted. This year, 421 players signed UDFA deals. Last year, 497 signed, while another 522 players attended at least one rookie mini-camp on a tryout basis. With no rookie mini-camps this year, it doesn’t look like any players will get tryout opportunities this year.

To look at all the numbers this year (and since 2015), click here. For a review of what happened in the football business this week, click here. Thank you, as always, for reading.

A Look at Why NFL Scouts Get Hired and Fired

In the last week, two seasoned area scouts have been non-renewed by their NFL teams. When I was new to the game, this used to puzzle me — why would you remove seasoned evaluators? Now that I’ve watched hiring practices for about a decade, it makes a lot more sense.

I’ve spent most of Thursday texting with several scouts and discussing the ‘brain drain’ in NFL scouting. This time of year, especially, I get asked about how you get (and keep) a job as an NFL scout. I’ll take a few of the texts I’ve received today and expand on them in an attempt to illustrate how modern teams hire and fire.

  • “Teams are hiring their buddies and using scout money on director positions. Creating spots but not hiring the workers.” — It’s a great point. If you want to surround yourself with people you trust, but the owner won’t increase your budget, you hire less-seasoned scouts. This has been a rising trend across the business for at least the last 2-3 years. It’s mainly because decision-making has become increasingly centralized while “metrics” for scouts are limited at best. When a scout is fired, you rarely hear from others that he was a bad scout (or even a good one). Very hard to pin accountability on any one scout, so reasons for dismissal are similarly elusive.
  • “Look at some of the staffs. Titans have two directors of player personnel. . . Buffalo has a director and assistant director at every position and a assistant GM.   Seattle has two directors of player personnel.  Miami has an asst GM and two personnel directors.” — I never thought about this before, but it makes a lot of sense. We’re seeing a lot of duplication of position in league front offices right now while we’re simultaneously seeing some pretty nebulous titles, like “executive scout” or “senior advisor.” It makes for a lot of chiefs and a limited number of Indians.
  • “I also think that guys can be slow to change at times and feel they have tenure in certain situations when they don’t and are making top dollar.” — This is another good point, and one that you don’t often hear from scouts. It’s the other side of the “why fire all the experienced scouts?” argument. Scouts often become entitled, especially after they have several years under their belts.
  • “. . . A scout’s presence at a school has to (include being) a good guest, too.” — I think this is as important as it’s ever been. As college head coaches’ salaries increase and the pressure to win grows higher than ever, there’s less transparency and sometimes less of an open-door policy for scouts. I hear often from college personnel directors and recruiting staffers that they’d love to accommodate scouts, but at the end of the day, that doesn’t keep them employed. I get it.

We’ll talk more about NFL scouting and what’s happening in the NFL evaluation community in the Friday Wrap, which comes out at 6:30 p.m. CT tomorrow. If you haven’t registered for it already, I’d love it if you did, and I think you would, too.

 

Thinking Through A Few Corona-Related Football Issues

Now that the draft is over, there’s been a kind of return to reality for those of us who work in football. It’s given me a chance to have plenty of conversations about the direction many things will take in the wake of the national quarantines. Here are my thoughts, and the thoughts I’ve gotten back from others, on where several issues stand.

  • Supplemental Draft: There’s been a lot of talk that the NFL may allow top NCAA players to enter the supplemental draft, but there are several problems with that. No. 1, traditionally, a player has to have a “change in status” before he’s allowed draft eligibility, and short of the NCAA cancelling the season, that’s not happening. What’s more, the NFL has always tried to forge a delicate balance with the NCAA, and if the league peeled off all of college football’s top players — just when all of college athletics needs football most — I could see teams shuttering their practices and offices to scouts entirely.
  • Rookie camps: I addressed this in Tuesday’s Rep Rumblings report, but bottom line, California and New York look like two states that are a long way from reopening, and for different reasons, the Saints and Jets won’t be having rookie camps (at least, traditional ones). That means six teams can’t have rookie camps and two more won’t. I don’t see the Competition Committee allowing anything that goes counter to a level playing field.
  • Name/Image/Likeness: There’s been a lot of discussion of the NIL issue as it moved farther along the course this week, and some are alarmed while others are celebratory. I almost see the changes as a benefit for the agent business because the one thing I hear from agents every day is that their clients expect them to pile up a mountain of marketing money as soon as they reach the NFL. By 2023, the Joe Burrows of the world — touchdown-scorers on major BCS programs — will make nice side money during their college days. The Mekhi Bectons and the Tristan Wirfs — super-talented players at non-sexy positions in non-sexy markets — will not. Maybe NFL players will have a better understanding of their relative marketability as a result of this.
  • Agencies: The draft gave a business-as-usual veneer to the NFL last week. However, I’ve had several conversations with contract advisors over the last 2-3 weeks, and they all say the same thing: we’re about to find out who really has resources and who doesn’t. My read is that the quarantine is going to heavily exacerbate the gap between the haves and the have-nots, most of whom needed rookie camps and OTAs to help their clients make rosters.
  • Combine prep facilities: I’ve seen two rather desperate Facebook posts this week from trainers who can’t reopen because their businesses have been deemed non-essential. I know agents hate to hear this, but most training facilities are run on rather narrow margins. I could see fewer combine prep facilities after all this is over. If fewer agencies are willing to pay for training next year, that could be a 1-2 punch.
  • Scouting changes: Normally by now, several teams have turned over their scouting staffs, or at least made a few cosmetic changes. Not so this year. So far, we’ve only seen one change, with maybe 1-2 more on the way. I’ve heard some teams have instituted hiring freezes, while others are probably leery of the media chiding them for making cuts during such an uncertain time.
  • NFL agent exam: At some point soon, we’re supposed to find out if the NFLPA will proceed with the agent exam, which is normally in July in Washington, D.C. This seems to be headed to some form of online testing. The NFLPA conducted a continuing education exam for veteran agents a couple years ago which was all online, so the template is already there. It would just mean the PA would have to move the attending pre-exam seminar online, as well.

We’ve got a long way to go before everything is worked out. Like everyone else, I’m hoping we’re not about to see seismic changes in college and NFL schedules, the agency landscape, scouting lineups and everything else associated with the football business.

As more issues crop up and there’s more clarity on some of these topics, we’ll address them. In the meantime, make sure you’re registered for our weekly newsletter, the Friday Wrap, to get a regular look at what’s going on in the business.