2021 NFL Agent Exam: Using Our Exam Prep

Wow! It’s March already. If you’re registered to take the NFL agent exam this summer, you’re probably eager to start digging into preparation for the exam (especially if you’ve been registered since last year).

We have a lot of people who check in on our exam prep materials but don’t know for sure how they should use them. Let’s go through them, and I’ll provide a few tips on each.

ITL Study Guide: This is the best exam prep resource on the market, bar none. We’ve been offering it for close to a decade, and it’s rare when a client doesn’t provide rave (and unsolicited) reviews. Once you have this, it cuts the CBA down from a gargantuan document to a more manageable size. However, the most important benefit is that the study guide focuses on the relevant topics and cuts out all the fluff. After you buy it and we verify payment, we email it to you, usually within an hour of purchase. I think it’s smart to spend at least a month on it and really absorb all the key concepts. “Exam was easy thanks to the resources available on ITL – study guide laid everything out perfectly,” said one recent client.

Practice exams 1 and 2: These are pretty self-explanatory. We offer two 40-question, multiple-choice exams. Once you complete the 40 questions, the answer key (with explanations of how we arrived at each answer) are at the end. You can take the tests as many times as you want, and I encourage all our clients to do that. The questions are very similar in format, tone and context to what you’ll see in July. So much so, in fact, that test-takers often say the questions were exact to what they saw on the exam (that’s awfully kind, but not true). Once you buy Exam 1 ($175 for non-ITL clients, $125 for clients), you can buy Exam 2 ($75/$50), though I don’t recommend buying them at the same time. In my opinion, buy the study guide, get the information down, buy Exam 1, ace it, then get Exam 2. “Appreciate the practice questions, wasn’t sure what to expect when I paid for the service blind, but I was impressed,” said one client. Said another: “The practice test is great, and I am glad I discovered you guys.”

Inside the League: This is the mother ship. If you subscribe to ITL ($29.95/mo), you’ll save a little money on the practice exams. But more than that, you’ll learn about the business of the game, and maybe more importantly, the (off-field) players in the game. You’ve got to know the big agencies, the scouts and executives who are on the rise vs. falling, the trends in the game, the kinds of players who are getting signed and succeeding in the game, etc. If you are as interested in the game off the field as you are on the field — and if your aim is to be an agent, you should be — check us out.

Zooms: Last year, with the whole world sequestered in their living rooms, we began bringing members of the NFL business community to online settings, mostly at the $25-$30/per night price point. We had current and former scouts, current and former agents, cap experts, etc. It was a lot of fun and very informative. Our first Zoom session of 2021 will be next week with Mike Sullivan, who not only has negotiated the contract of the top pick in the draft twice, and not only worked as Denver’s Director of Football Administration from 2012-20, but also won the Eugene E. Parker Award for Lifetime Service to the agent industry (read more here).

Exam prep class: At last year’s combine, we had our first-ever in-person class for test-takers. It was in Indianapolis during the combine, and led by a current player representative with a history of representing first-rounders. There’s no combine this year but the class isn’t going away. We’ll have more details in the coming weeks. 

Still have questions? Maybe signing up for our free Friday Wrap would help. It’s a weekly look at the football business, and widely read across the industry. You can register for it here.

2021 ITL Seminar: Discussing the NFL Scouting Business

The 12th annual Hound Talint Inside the League Seminar presented by Magnolia Capital Partners is just a few hours away, and I’m super-excited about this year’s event, for a number of reasons. One reason, of course, is that I’m glad we’re even having it given the challenges (no combine, etc.). Two, I’m really excited about our award-winners this year. But the third reason is, I’m excited about my address to wrap things up tonight. Here are a few thoughts on what you’ll see and hear tonight on the NFL Draft Bible on Sports Illustrated Twitch channel.

If you tune in (8 p.m. ET, https://www.twitch.tv/nfldraftbible), and you’re interested in the scouting industry, I think you’ll see and hear information that you won’t find anywhere else. People always ask me what NFL scouts make, and I used to wonder that myself. Well, tonight, after my closing remarks, you won’t wonder any longer. About a quarter of the active NFL scouting community (and growing) responds to our survey annually, and we’re starting to get a good idea of what pay looks like. It’s an honor to provide this service to the NFL evaluation family. We look at each segment of scouting, based on four tiers (0-5 years, 6-10 years, 11-15 and 16+). If you’re an NFL scout and you wonder if you’re making what your brethren make, you’ll wonder no more after tonight. What’s more, if you have questions about the information I’ll be presenting, ask me. One of the exciting aspects of Twitch is that you can send questions as we go, so it will be fully interactive, and I encourage you to let me know if you need more information while we’re under way.

We’ll also hand out awards. As you know, for the fourth year, we’ve commissioned active NFL scouts to vote on which team did best on draft day last spring, and we’ll hand the Best Draft Award for 2020 to the personnel director of that winning team. That will be fun, and it’s gratifying to offer that “job well done” to a team executive each year, because they rarely get any positive feedback when things go right. We’ve also got the Eugene E. Parker Award for lifetime achievement in the agent industry, and the C.O. Brocato Award for service to the scouting industry. Once again, these awards will go to the overshadowed stars of the game. Maybe the coolest aspect of things is that Eugene Parker’s son, an established NFL agent in his own right, will present the award, while Becky Brocato, C.O.’s daughter, will hand out the prize that has her father’s name on it. Quite an honor for me.

It’s disappointing that we won’t all be able to gather together in the Indiana Convention Center to do this, like we normally do. On the other hand, it’s exciting that we will be able to bring the seminar, the honors, and the information to a much wider audience, as it happens, courtesy of Ric Serritella and his team at NFL Draft Bible, as well as our two great sponsors, Hound Talint and Barry Ozer of Magnolia Capital Partners

Make sure to join us here. If you’re interested in the football industry, you won’t want to miss this. See you tonight.


2021 ITL Seminar: Three Reasons You Should Join Us

The 12th annual ITL Seminar will be held Wednesday, Feb. 24, at 8 p.m. ET. This year, as you know, there’s no NFL Combine, so we’re going online. I hope you can join us! Here are three reasons you should tune in.

This is your chance to hear from football business leaders: There was a time when we brought in people from around the industry to talk about the football business. Among our list of previous speakers includes former Bears GM Phil Emery and former Browns GM Ray Farmer; we’ve also had panels with ex-scouts; analytics seminars; and we were even honored to host the contract advisor conference led by Peter Schaffer of Authentic Athletix in 2019. This year, I’ll give closing remarks based on pay and hiring practices based on what I’m seeing this year. So many people want to get into scouting; my goal is to give them tips and a look at where the industry is headed.

If you want to work in the business, you need to know what’s going on: We’ve had people like Saints AGM Jeff Ireland, Colts GM Chris Ballard and 49ers GM John Lynch on hand to accept awards the last three years, along with Bears scout Jeff Shiver and Arizona State Director of Athletics Ray Anderson, just to name a few. People are always asking me how they can separate themselves from the pack when they are job-seeking. Well, one way is to celebrate with the people who are being honored. If you attended our seminars the last three years — or really, the last 11 years — you had multiple opportunities to meet and congratulate the leaders in the game. Sending an executive a congratulatory text, email or tweet when their team wins a game is easy. Lauding him when he wins an industry award provides far more resonance.

We’ll have you out in an hour: Normally, when we’re in person, the goal is to keep everyone no more than an hour and a half. Of course, during a normal year, we also offer an open bar and plenty of chances to network, so people are more eager to hang around. With none of those attractions this year, we’re going to make it short and sweet. The idea is to bring you an hour of education and information, then let you get back to your life. 

We’ll be talking more about our program, and about the industry in general, in today’s Friday Wrap, that comes out this evening. You can register for it here.

I hope you can join us next week. As with everything since the virus changed our lives, this year’s seminar will be a little different. Still, I”m hoping we can preserve the spirit of things and honor some of the unsung heroes of the industry. See you Wednesday.

2021 NFL Agent Class: Some Things to Know

Friday is the last day you can apply to take the 2021 NFLPA agent exam, so I’m starting to hear from more and more aspiring contract advisors. After so many impactful developments over the past year, I thought now was a good time to make a few points on the industry.

  • Don’t take anything for granted: I’ve been doing this long enough to know that most people come into the industry believing they’ve already got a commitment from an NFL talent, and that signing their first client will be easy. All I have to say is, make sure you have a Plan B. That player you helped raise, or coached in youth football, or who has been relying on you for the past several years . . . well, as he gets closer to realizing a lifelong dream, he may become less willing to put his goals in the hands of a novice. Don’t take that personally. Just be prepared for it.
  • Making relationships will be harder than ever: Under perfect, pre-Covid conditions, connecting with a young player was difficult. Now that players and their parents (and maybe even you) are less inclined to meet one on one, the personal link that is vital to winning a player’s trust is ever more elusive. That doesn’t even factor in something else that’s more important than ever, which is . . . .
  • Players just expect a “package” these days: Last week, a longtime agent friend texted me about a recently signed client — one who is barely on the fringes of even being an NFL prospect — who sent him a late-night text asking if he was supposed to get money simply for signing with his firm. NFL Draft coverage, locker-room talk and friends and family often create outsized expectations for players. Congratulations! You get to unwind and reset those expectations if you expect to sign a player who (a) has NFL ability and (b) doesn’t drive you crazy before the last weekend of April, 2022.
  • You can’t do this on the cheap: Actually, I guess that’s not true if your goal is simply to achieve NFLPA certification. Shoot, there are a lot of players who really only want the status that comes from signing with an agent so they can splash it all over their social media and brag to their friends. However, if you’ve gone to the trouble to spend $2,500 you can’t get back to take a test that you’ll probably fail (55 percent of test-takers do every year), you probably want to succeed. You’re going to need to set a budget and stick to it, and that starts with knowing what’s smart and what’s not.
  • Knowledge is power: The most common mistake I see from young agents is thinking they know more than they do. I don’t care if you’ve got a degree from an established sport management program, and I don’t care if you were captain of the football team in high school. There are relationships, opportunities and potential signees you will miss out on unless you approach this business humbly. And if you don’t, you’ll find it humbles you anyway despite your best efforts. 

We can definitely help with the last point. It starts with our agent exam prep materials — our study guide and practice exams A and B — but it doesn’t end there. Our daily emails, which start in November and go all the way through the draft, have become must-read material for rookie agents who subscribe. We also have former NFL scouts who can write a report to tell you if a prospect can actually play (for just $100); we have a book on the NFL draft process and a book on the NFL scouting profession that are reasonably priced and focused on the information you need to know; and a weekly email that encapsulates the industry every Friday (you can register for it here). 

We hope to work for (and with) you. Best of luck on the exam, whether or not we cross paths in the next five months. 


Stafford Travels South: Who Won the Lions-Rams Trade?

What’s the Profile of This Offseason’s GM Hires?

If there’s one question I always get from young people who love the game, it’s, “how do I become a scout?” Most often, they want to get into scouting because their ultimate goal is to be a GM. Shoot, I can relate. That was once my ambition, as well. 

With that in mind, I decided to look at the men hired this cycle. There’s no better gauge of what NFL teams are looking for than to look at who they hired. Five years ago, we took a detailed look at who was getting hired at the position, and found that teams sought people less than 50; with Patriots experience; and who had been around, but not necessarily a very long time.  

So what’s the profile of this season’s GM hires? Let’s take an alphabetical look at them.

Trent Baalke, Jaguars 

  • Age: 56
  • First NFL experience: 1998, Jets pro scout
  • Prior GM experience: 49ers, 2011-2016
  • Background: Baalke’s rise to the job in San Francisco, followed by his assumption of  the role in Jacksonville, has been pretty traditional. He’s got some pro experience with the Jets when he started out, but he’s mostly held a series of college scouting jobs since.

Nick Caserio, Texans

  • Age: 45
  • First NFL experience: 2001, Patriots personnel assistant
  • Prior GM experience: None
  • Background: Caserio is unique because he’s so well-rounded. Between being hired in New England in 2001 and taking over as Director of Player Personnel in 2008, he was an entry-level scout, an entry-level coach and an area scout for one year each. Then he was pro director for three seasons before jumping all the way to DPP, where he’d been for 13 seasons.

Scott Fitterer, Panthers

  • Age: 47
  • First NFL experience: 1998, Giants part-time scout
  • Prior GM experience: None
  • Background: Like Baalke, Fitterer followed an exclusively college scouting path as he climbed the ladder. Obviously, he’s had pro experience in his more recent senior roles in Seattle, but the lion’s share of his career has been on the college side. 

Terry Fontenot, Falcons

  • Age: 40
  • First NFL experience: 2003, Saints marketing intern
  • Prior GM experience: None
  • Background: Fontenot is unusual because he’s been exclusively on the pro side during his climb. Naturally, no scout does only college or pro, but he’s been decidedly more pointed toward pro scouting. He’s not unprecedented, though, as Bears GM Ryan Pace and former Lions GM Bob Quinn are two similar examples of pro-oriented hires.

Brad Holmes, Lions

  • Age: 41
  • First NFL experience: 2003, Rams public relations intern
  • Prior GM experience: None
  • Background: This is a hire I’m excited about, because Holmes is a scout’s scout. He’s done plenty of ‘road warrior’ work, all on the college side, moving from scouting assistant to combine scout to area, then national, scout. That’s the route most people perceive as the road to the GM chair, though it’s less and less likely to be true.

Martin Mayhew, Washington

  • Age: 55
  • First NFL experience: 1999, Redskins personnel intern
  • Prior GM experience: Lions, 2008-2015
  • Background: Mayhew has seen all sides of the game, having played in the NFL, served with the XFL in its first iteration, served as a cap guy, and worked for three organizations, gathering plenty of personnel experience with a team (49ers) that went to the Super Bowl last year. 

George Paton, Broncos 

  • Age: 50
  • First NFL experience: 1997, Bears scouting intern
  • Prior GM experience: None
  • Background: Paton, like Fontenot, has spent the majority of his career on the pro side. On the other hand, he’s spent more than a decade in a DPP role, so he’s gotten plenty of time on the college side, as well. That’s one reason he was seen as one of the most prepared candidates on the market. 

Conclusion: I like it when people who’ve paid their dues are rewarded, and we’ve seen that during this hiring cycle. We’ve also seen a refreshing respect for age; though Holmes and Fontenot are barely out of their 30s, the idea that no one past 45 gets hired is dead, at least for now. Here’s hoping all seven enjoy successful runs.

Ask the NFL Scout: Tips on Getting the Job from Minnesota’s Mike Sholiton

I was at the College Gridiron Showcase in Fort Worth this week, and one thing I always try to do while I’m there is hold a professional development event for aspiring scouts. We have so many young evaluators who come here to network that I always want to make sure I do all I can to help them. 

In the past, we’ve had former scouts like Danton Barto (Rams) and Bob Morris (49ers, Browns) as well as scouts who are in the league now like Shawn Heinlen (Eagles) and Chris Hall (Cowboys). The point is not to talk about prospects, or even how to evaluate, but how to build a network that can launch your career. Many evaluators that I greatly respect have been willing to give back.

Tuesday evening, Vikings National Scout Mike Sholiton was kind enough to give about an hour of his time to 8-10 scouting hopefuls in one of the smaller ballrooms at the Fort Worth Sheraton. 

Here are a few highlights from Mike’s talk with the guys.

  • Like everyone else, Mike is a human being who likes to hear positive things. He encouraged scouting wannabes to get to know people in the industry, learn their backgrounds and preferences (perhaps by using our Know Your Scouts feature?), and use that knowledge to send encouragement. Know a scout’s birthday? Send him best wishes. His alma mater secure a great recruiting class? Great time to send him congratulations. Mike gave one specific example of when he loves to hear from his friends and family, but I’ll leave that to those who listened in on Tuesday evening.
  • Mike also cautioned members of his audience not to expect instant gratification. Just because an aspiring scout makes the effort to initiate a conversation or make a new contact, it’s not reasonable to expect it to lead directly to a job opportunity. The goal should be to make a new friend, and to develop and cultivate a meaningful relationship over time. Through those relationships, and the skills honed while developing said relationships, you will be more front-of-mind when job opportunities arise.
  • Sometimes effort isn’t enough. Mike told the story of his early days as a Vikings intern when combine interviews were taking place, and Minnesota’s scouts and executives were eager to spend some time with Florida DE Jevon Kearse. At the time, interviews had no time limits, and Mike waited more than an hour as Denver chopped it up with Kearse. Finally, Kearse emerged from the room, and just as Mike stepped forward to seize his opportunity, an older, much bigger scout (a former offensive lineman) stepped forward, grabbed Kearse’s arm, and commanded, “come with me.”

We’ll talk more about the week in Fort Worth in today’s Friday Wrap. You can register for it here.

Also, if you aspire to work in an NFL front office someday, I hope you join us in Fort Worth next year. Get started here.


Getting to Know New Broncos GM George Paton

When I heard the news that George Paton would be the next GM of the Denver Broncos, I thought two things: at last, as it seems Paton has become the designated interviewee for nearly every GM vacancy the last 5-6 years; and, who really is this guy? I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Paton, so I wanted to learn a little about him.

Turns out I wasn’t the only one wondering. Try Googling his name and you pretty much get two things: he was a walk-on at UCLA, and he’s spent over a decade with the Vikings. Fat lot of good that did me. However, I had an advantage. I have a lot of people I know who know him well, so I asked them to give me a few thoughts on the Broncos’ new chief.

The following comments are what I got, mostly from friends and people who’ve known him longest. Are they glowing? Yes. Are they from his friends? Again, yes. Still, there were a few things I took away from the comments. But first, check them out.

  • “He’s awesome. He’s amazing. Doesn’t do interviews, not a self-promoter, media trying to do interviews but they can’t get anything because he’s not out there shoving himself in front of cameras. He’s everything you’d want out in front of your org. Strong evaluator, great with people, likeable, good chemistry guy, checks every box.”
  • “He’s really smart, organized and not only works hard, but works smart. He has earned everything he’s got. He will listen to all voices and then make a decision. Most of all he’s a great person. No ego. Big loss for us. He has zero ‘look at me’ to him.”
  • “I’m a big fan of George Paton. George has a great football mind, he’s a terrific communicator, and I think he’s been the unsung hero for the Vikings for many years. Runs the draft, runs free agency, communicates well with agents. College scouting, pro scouting, cap, he does contracts. I think the Broncos hired the best guy in the marketplace. I mean, Nick Saban likes George Paton. He’s really good.”
  • “George combines great player knowledge, experience and the ability to lead  and communicate in the building. He is both highly respected and liked by staffs he’s been around and his peers.”
  • “As good of an evaluator as we had in the building, smart, detailed, prepared. He’s been ready! Denver’s lucky to get him.”

So, like I said, very positive comments from several people in the game. What I took away from them, though, is that Paton seems to be the kind of communicator today’s game demands. As we see fewer dictatorial, Bill Polian-style general managers and more work-with-the-head-coach-who’s-the-true-face-of-the-franchise types, Paton is probably a perfect fit. That’s a good thing as he’s got a question mark under center, his best defensive player is 31 and coming off a season lost to injury, and he has to play the Chiefs twice each season.

He also seems to be a great evaluator, which as a fan of veteran scouts who pay their dues, I greatly admire. It’s interesting that the Vikes had to go “outside the building” to get their QB after mixed results on Teddy Bridgewater and Christian Ponder. Probably Paton’s first big test will be determining if Drew Lock gets the benefit of the doubt.

At any rate, it will be fun to watch. I’ll discuss the Broncos’ move as well as the seats of power that are yet to be filled in tomorrow’s The State of Football with former NFL scout David Turner and several other great guests. It kicks off at 9 a.m. ET here. I hope you can tune in.


Thoughts and Observations on 2021 GM Searches

This week, Outkick published a pretty good page tracking interviews with the relative teams. Here are a few thoughts based on each team’s interviewees.

  • The time is now for Saints Assistant GM Jeff Ireland, who’s interviewed or will interview (via Zoom only) with the Lions and Panthers. Of the two, the Lions job makes a lot more sense for Ireland. Whoever goes to Charlotte will (a) need a strong analytics presence (Browns VP of Football Operations Kwesi Adofo-Mensah fits the bill, and the Panthers have asked permission to interview him) and (b) will have to answer to Panthers head coach Matt Rhule. Those are not the perfect conditions for Ireland. On the other hand, the Lions have a much bigger staff, more scouts (and more veteran scouts), and more responsibilities.
  • What’s more, given that former Lions great Chris Spielman has a major role in the team’s hire, he may be more likely to give Ireland the nod given that his brother, Rick, has been such a success after getting a second chance of his own.
  • Presumably, if the Lions had gotten blown away by Thomas Dimitroff, George Paton, Scott Pioli, Louis Riddick, Rick Smith or any of the three in-house candidates, they would have already made a hire. All of them are eligible for in-person interviews. On the other hand, Rams college director Brad Holmes, Saints Assistant GM Terry Fontenot, Seahawks GM John Schneider and Ireland are not. The question is, how long will Detroit be willing to wait?
  • It’s impossible to guess what kind of interest the Jaguars have in any of their five publicly known candidates. It all hinges on what Urban Meyer decides. Maybe that’s why the team has interviewed three former GMs; they have executive experience, but might be willing to defer to Meyer in order to get back in.
  • Similarly, until the Falcons decide if Raheem Morris returns, it’s hard to make a decision on a GM. If Atlanta waits for one of the hot coordinators, it might be one of the last teams to hire a GM. If so, the Falcons may have to take their second choice.
  • Washington has done little more than satisfy the Rooney Rule so far. Does that mean the team already has its pick made? Same is true of Denver. Bears assistant DPP Champ Kelly makes a lot of sense there.
  • Unless there are names missing – and that’s very possible – it’s surprising that Bills Assistant GM Joe Schoen and 49ers VP of Player Personnel Adam Peters (each with Panthers) haven’t gotten more interest. Based on our survey of scouts and executives last spring (here and here), they’re both highly regarded. Ditto for Seattle’s Alonzo Highsmith and Dallas’ Will McClay.
  • It’s mildly surprising that the Colts, one of the current “it” franchises under talented GM Chris Ballard, haven’t been targeted by teams with GM openings. So far, only scouting director Morocco Brown (Falcons) and Assistant GM Ed Dodds (Panthers) have gotten looks. 

We’ll be keeping an eye on the interviewees as they’re published and the teams as they make hires. Make sure to check out the mother ship as well as the Friday Wrap (register here) for more. 



Save the Date: ‘Inside the NFL Draft Process’ this Sunday at 8 p.m.

If there’s ever been a more uncertain time to be an NFL draft hopeful, I can’t remember it. This Sunday, however, several experts in the football business (along with yours truly) will try to make the picture a little clearer, especially for players weighing returning to school.

Sunday at 8 p.m. EST, Ric Serritella’s program for pro football hopefuls, Inside the NFL Draft Process, goes from a conference room in New Jersey (where he’s held it the last two years) to the Zoom platform. I’m excited about that, because it obviously allows far more participation. Ric has made room for 100 participants, and we’re hopeful we’ll be at or near capacity when things get started Sunday.

As you know, the NCAA handed all fall athletes an optional extra year of eligibility. That means seniors, especially those who are on the draft bubble, have a decision to make. Do they cast off for the NFL, knowing that they might have no pro days and maybe no rookie mini-camps (again)? Or do they return to school, hoping they can distinguish themselves from the hundreds, maybe thousands, of others in their situation who are gambling that the 2021 draft will offer a more back-to-normal experience?

Our panel will include Kevin Dunn, owner of TEST Football Academy, a major combine prep facility in New Jersey; Rich Salgado, owner of Coastal Advisors LLC and one of the leading insurance specialists in the industry; former Jets and Florida State standout Marvin Jones, who’s also the father of a budding college student-athlete; David Turner, a former NFL scout who runs Maverick Sports Consulting; Mook Williams, a retired agent and co-founder of Vayner Sports; and Carlos Dias, founder of MVP Wealth, a wealth management firm for pro athletes.

Among other questions we’ll answer.

  • How will the ’21 draft class look vs. ’22 and how does this affect players?
  • How will combine prep be different this year? What if I have to handle costs? What role will my trainer play in my pro day if my school doesn’t host one?
  • What factors should go into staying or leaving?
  • Is there a deadline for entering the draft?
  • What should I expect from an agent? Is there any reason I shouldn’t just take the best ‘package’ I can find?
  • What about a financial advisor? Is one really any different from another?

If you’re the parent of a senior college football player at any level, you owe it to yourself to join us and listen in. We’ll go about an hour, maybe a little longer, but we’re gonna keep it tight and concise. I sure hope you can join us. Just email sam@allaccessfootball.com. See you Sunday night.