Sports Tech with Ric Serritella: How Tech Streamlines Scouting

As NFL evaluation progresses and all 32 teams leave no stone unturned, one team that has seen an increased reliance on technology and analytics is the Redskins, who have incorporated new technology that provides info for the overall scouting process.

At one time, ESPN rated the Redskins as dead last in the NFL in effectiveness and buy-in regarding the team’s use of statistical analysis. “The Redskins were named by source after source as the NFL team with the least interest in using analytics in football operations,” wrote ESPN’s Kevin Seifert. Slowly, however, Washington is ramping up its use of modern techniques.

Redskins Director of Football Strategy Jeff Scott told the team’s website that the scouting staff isn’t “picking anything based on numbers.” Instead, the ‘Skins remain dedicated to trusting their scouts’ eyes rather than a mathematician’s electronic rubric.

“I would never want to make a decision based on numbers,” Scott said. “But to have another tool in your toolbox is always beneficial, and the earlier we can get that going, the better off we are.”

Two companies at the forefront of this movement are XOS Digital and Pro Football Focus (PFF). Both enable teams to sort video cutups on players based on down and distance or certain situations such as third-down pass plays for a quarterback. Less than a decade ago, scouts had to watch entire games to find these exact situations. Today, PFF charts every play for every player. The modern NFL team saves countless hours using these services.

“The numbers just give you some basis,” Scott said in the team’s report. “If I can get certain things or tendencies or pick up on certain things, we can even get that to the coaches and they can incorporate that into their game plans.”

Mike Stoeber is Jacksonville’s Director of Football Systems. Prior to working for the Jags, Stoeber was the Senior Field Support Representative at XOS DigitalOne. He’s very familiar with the NFL’s efforts to catalog every movement of every player on every snap. This past season, the NFL tracked more than 54,000 plays and recorded every tenth of a second for every player movement thanks to RF chips that feature GPS tracking technology.

These RF chips allow teams to track how often a linebacker blitzes on certain down and distance situations, or which wide receiver is likely to be targeted based on specific formations. This data is only shared by the 32 NFL teams, and players do not have access to the information being recorded and stored. Meanwhile, these innovative methods in college and pro scouting are slowly trickling down to college personnel departments.

As the NFL begins to scratch the surface of new technology, data-driven analytics will continue to take up more space in scouting binders around the league. This is good news if you aspire to work in football. Though old-school methods and analytics go hand and hand, you can be sure that more and more teams will be hiring in their analytics department.

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Sports Tech with Ric Serritella: April 6-12

Among topics we regularly discuss in this space are technology issues as they interface with the changing NFL as well as labor issues as they relate to the next collective bargaining agreement (CBA) negotiation. However, today’s edition of Sports Tech is the first time we’ve addressed the intersection of the two subjects.

Last week, we discussed the value of wearable tracking technology that emerged from the Alliance of American Football (AAF) league. We have since learned that the technology was owned by Legendary Field Exhibitions, which is operated by AAF co-founder Charlie Ebersol.

However, when MGM Resorts International became a major investor, the firm included a provision that would give MGM full ownership rights to the technology, as per this Action Network report. In addition to the technology, MGM also owns rights to the technology’s intellectual property, including trademarks, copyrights, patents, software and firmware.

This is a pretty big deal for a number of reasons. MGM is currently paying tens of millions of dollars to partner with the NBA, NHL and MLB. These deals also include access to data streams. According to Bloomberg, MGM customers will be able to bet on data-driven prop bets such as which NHL player skates the fastest during a game or rip the hardest slap shot as soon as next year. The technology acquired from the AAF deal could open a whole new world of in-game sports betting, including prop bets with odds based on data and analytics.

The rise of wearable technology and data applies to the NFL, as well, but there’s a twist. There is currently no agreement in place between the owners and players related to how this information is allowed to be recorded, stored, shared and used. When the last CBA deal was negotiated in 2011, this type of technology was still in its infancy, and hence, there were no rules or regulations in place. However, in 2018, all 32 NFL teams had access to in-game chip data technology, which provided a snapshot of every player’s location 12 times per second. NFL teams are allowed access to this chip data for use during contract negotiations. However, players do not, unless specifically granted by individual teams.

More importantly, players want to know where this data is being stored, who has access to it, how it may be used and what kind of safeguards are in place to protect this information. Does the NFL truly own this data? The league currently has business partnerships with data-driven technology companies such as Amazon, Sportradar AG and Zebra Technologies.

With access to such data, the NFL could also be in violation of privacy laws, not to mention data protection laws which vary from state to state. Wearable and chip data technology has created a booming new business, but where the legal line will be drawn remains to be seen.

Presumably, the NFLPA will want assurance that legal ramifications are covered, and will ask for ownership of the respective players’ results from new technology, or at least a fee for licensing the data. This could be a major focal point — perhaps even the major focal point — during the upcoming CBA negotiations. Will the Players Association be ready for such “techy” topics? Time will tell.

For more pro football insider industry news, signup for our free newsletter and log-on to http://www.insidetheleague.com/.

Sports Tech with Ric Serritella: How Long Till the NFL Taps the App?

After just 52 days in existence and more than $100 million spent, the Alliance of American Football (AAF) announced it would cease operations on Tuesday.

The decision was made by chairman Tom Dundon, who stepped in to rescue the league after Week 1, feverishly spending about $10 million per week to keep the AAF afloat but soon realizing that his pockets weren’t deep enough to save the startup. Dundon, who also owns the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, was unable to sustain the minor league along with co-founders Charlie Ebersol and Bill Polian. While the AAF is not yet technically “dead,” a plot has been reserved for the league right next to the USFL, XFL 1.0 and UFL.

However, the league still has a chance to have a legacy. Much has been made of the AAF application (“app”), which Ebersol dubbed as “Stats 2.0.” With legalized sports gambling on the horizon and “in-play” wagering seen as the next big coup, MGM was quick to invest in the app. To make it work, the AAF outfitted its players with wearables that could transmit data in real-time. The league’s proprietary software helped create instant odds on whether the next play would be run or pass, the direction of the play, and whether the play would result in a first down or touchdown. At full capacity, users would be awarded points and could advance levels, based on their predictions.

Unfortunately, time ran out on the league and the application. However, it seems inevitable that the collision of football and interactive online participation is a matter of when, not if. Here are a few questions regarding the direction of such technology and the answers, as best we can ascertain.

So what of the app?: Ebersol has previously stated that various investors had bought into the technology, so who actually owns the innovative app still remains somewhat of a mystery publicly. However, the technology behind it is sure to live on and could lead to some very lucrative licensing rights. “You’re talking about tens of millions in points of data that we’ve figured out how to compress and deliver it in real time,” Ebersol said in an interview with USA TODAY earlier this year. “So any industry that needs to take that level of data and then compress it and deliver it instantly can use that application. Obviously, the application out of the gate is the gambling platform, but we’re doing it for a variety of other partners.”

How long until a viable league offers similar technology?: Other startup leagues, from Your Call Football to the Fan Controlled Football League, have tried similar ventures to minimal success. However, the amount of money the NFL could pour into such a venture dwarfs anything an alternative league could do. As the hunger for new ways to enjoy football grows, it’s just a matter of time until the big boy on the football block gives it a shot.

Will the XFL attempt to pick up the tech baton?: Vince McMahon’s league has gone so far as to set up a Reimagination Committee designed to bring innovations to the game,  and it’s got some pretty high-powered members (with Doug Flutie, John Fox and Jim Caldwell among them), but they’re more geared toward speeding up the game and making it more efficient. One source told us the XFL won’t put the cart before the horse when it comes to introducing technological advances. “At some point we will (have an app),” we were told, “but we will only launch it  when it is right.”

Still interested in the end of the AAF and what it means, especially to people who work in the game? Check out today’s Friday Wrap, in which we talk to several scouts and administrators who got pink slips this week. What did they think about the league, their co-workers, and management? Would they do it all again?

As always, the Friday Wrap is free, and you can register for it here. Join the thousands of members of the football business community who read it regularly. Check out last week’s edition here.

Sports Tech with Ric Serritella: March 23-29

In 2017, Ric Serritella of NFL Draft Bible wrote a series on emerging technology in NFL and college football circles. We found it very illuminating and learned plenty, and we know we weren’t alone. Now that he’s finished his service’s draft guide for 2019 – and for $10, it’s a bargain and something we encourage you to check out — we asked him to continue his series. Enjoy.

Cell blocks: When isn’t it appropriate to check your phone these days? Well, welcome to the modern-day NFL, which now features “phone breaks,” courtesy of Kliff Kingsbury. The Arizona Cardinals’ new 39-year-old head coach said that the time for “cell phone breaks” has come at the annual NFL league meetings this week. “Twenty minutes at a time,” he said in this report. “Give them a break and get them back in. You start to see kind of hands twitching and legs shaking, and you know they need to get that social media fix. So, we’ll let them hop over there and then get back in the meeting and refocus.” Apparently, he brought this over with him from his time at Texas Tech, where he went 35-40 in six seasons. Is this the beginning of a new trend or a fad from the college ranks that will surely be frowned upon amongst more traditional coaches? Only time will tell, but it’ll be interesting to monitor.

Sunday Ticket termination?: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told Bloomberg that the league is exploring its options for the NFL Sunday Ticket package, currently carried by DIRECTV. AT&T-owned DIRECTV pays the NFL $1.5 billion per year for the exclusive rights to Sunday Ticket, but the NFL could opt out of that agreement after next season. “We’ve had a 25-year partnership and we want to continue that partnership, but we also are looking to see how we can change the delivery,” Goodell said. “We want it delivered on several different platforms.”

Sherman becomes SportsCastr: SportsCastr, the live-streaming company that lets anyone become a live color commentator, announced 49ers DC Richard Sherman has joined the company as its first Brand Ambassador. SportsCastr is a real-time live-streaming app that lets anyone become a color commentator, and enables viewers to select which sportscaster they wish to have call, recap, or make predictions on a game. SportsCastr is currently in public beta, and is available for free on the App Store. “I was drawn to SportsCastr because its technology really has the potential to change the way athletes engage with their fans, and the way fans connect with their favorite players,” Sherman said. “I’m excited to start using SportsCastr to share exclusive ‘behind the scenes’ content, and to help the company reach a broader audience.” Sherman’s first SportsCastr stream will be shared later this month at www.sportscastr.com/richardsherman.

CFL footballs get ‘smart:’ Three QBs in this weekend’s Canadian Football League combine will be using the X-Pro Connected Football designed by Wilson Sporting Goods. These footballs will utilize an undetectable sensor to measure quarterback performance in the areas of throw quality and play timing. The data points that teams will be able to see include snap to release, snap to target and release time, along with spin rate, spiral efficiency, and throw count and velocity. “In essence, we are replacing what we’ve relied on for years—the “eye test”—with quantifiable facts on a player’s ball speed, spin rate, launch angle, timing and much more,” said Kevin Murphy, General Manager at Wilson Sporting Goods.

Check back next week for the latest tech trends and happening occurring across the football landscape. For more industry insider news and info, be sure to visit Inside the League.

Breaking Down the NFLPA’s Agent Issues

Since last weekend, when the NFLPA sent out a rather inflammatory memorandum, there’s been some interest (and confusion) regarding issues between contract advisors and the union. While this is about 10,000 miles from most fans’ interest, if you read this blog, it may be something that’s crossed your mind. Here’s a super-brief look at what’s going on so you can speak intelligently about it in your next sports management class.

  • The owners entered the last CBA negotiation in 2011 with really one goal: end the practice of handing out monumental signing bonuses to first-round picks. While we won’t go into how and why it happened, all agree that the owners got a decisive win. The new CBA basically developed a slotting system for all draft picks. Obviously, this reduced the value of a skilled negotiator when it came to rookie contracts.
  • Slowly, agents figured out that the real (only?) money in the agent business was in second deals, which weren’t similarly restricted. This was happening as combine trainers were becoming an established part of the pre-draft process. Slowly, an arms race started as bigger and more extensive training became a key carrot in the recruiting process.
  • Soon, training wasn’t enough. Agencies started handing out no-interest loans and lines of credit. They began writing per diem checks of hundreds of dollars per month; today, agents typically pay players projected in the first 100 picks about $5,000/month, January to April. Then there were marketing guarantees – cash advances paid against an agent’s ability to find a prospect endorsements, signing deals, apparel, etc. – and finally, signing bonuses, which are pretty much self-explanatory. Today, the total package a potential first-round pick gets from an agency can exceed $100,000 before draft day.
  • Depending on who you ask, either the NFLPA tried to regulate things but failed, or the NFLPA sided with the firms that could write the big checks and took a laissez-faire approach. In defense of the NFLPA, trying to referee the agent recruiting market, which is incredibly nuanced and operates in the shadows, is almost a hopeless case.
  • As big firms swallowed up the top prospects, rank-and-file agencies began to fight back. About a year ago, Denver-based agent Peter Schaffer of Authentic Athletix (he was one of the four contract advisors featured in the Esquire Network’s docu-series The Agent in 2015) began rallying all certified player reps (there are exactly 800 as of today). The idea was to develop broad industry standards. This all culminated in a meeting held in Indianapolis at the combine and hosted by Inside the League, TEST Football Academy and the XFL. You can watch the proceedings here.
  • The NFLPA’s reaction to Schaffer’s efforts could be described as schizophrenic. In its meetings with a select group of agents at the 2018 combine, union officials were ambivalent about agent issues (some even described officials as hostile). As Schaffer continued to grow support and took a high-road approach, union officials were much more accepting at the same meeting this year. The NFLPA even invited six agents to a Board of Player Reps meeting on Monday, April 11, at which they were allowed to state their case before 60 players interested in learning more about the issues.
  • This is where things get confusing. The six representative agents attended the meeting with the goal of explaining their value to the game, presenting ideas on how players could sustain themselves during a potential work stoppage, and above all establishing a spirit of collaboration. Unfortunately, that tone was lost as a handful of players took issue with their presentation. The upshot was that the NFLPA sent out a memo last Friday with a sharply negative feel, even taking a swipe at the six agents who took time out of their schedules – amidst pro days, no less – and traveled to the meetings on their own dime.
  • Furthering the contradictory messages from the NFLPA, this week the union asked agents to help them edit and improve a work stoppage guide that was disseminated to players in advance of the 2011 CBA negotiation.

Naturally, this is a very broad, very quick look at the issues as they’ve transpired over the last decade. A more exhaustive look would delve deeper into the haves and have-nots among agencies; the changing attitude of players toward their agents; how the NCAA’s dissolution of its enforcement powers has affected the playing field for agents; the leadership of the NFLPA and its strategy and goals for the next CBA; and dozens of other topics.

As always, we will continue to monitor the industry and hope that peace can be achieved so that America’s favorite game continues without interruption. Fingers crossed.

To learn more about what’s going on in the football business and what’s ahead for people who work in the game, register for the Friday Wrap. It’s the only comprehensive look at what’s going on in the business of the game on the college and pro level that comes out every week, and of course, it’s free.

 

 

 

 

2019 NFL Scouting Salaries: Our Survey Breakdown

This year, like last year, we sent a 13-question survey to active NFL scouts. We asked them several questions about their job, including pay, contracts, pension and other benefits. We also asked about which team they felt had the best draft last year, and we announced those results in Indianapolis.

We’ll break down the info we gathered on salaries, sorted by number of years in the league, in today’s Friday Wrap. Here’s a question-by-question look at the other info we gathered from scouts this year.

  • As of Jan. 1, 2019, how many years have you been a scout, not counting any years spent as a scouting assistant or intern?: We got a pretty homogeneous mixture this year, with 28 percent of respondents having five years or less and 34 percent with 11 or more. The 6-10 and 11-14 groups split the remainder evenly. Last year, almost 90 percent of our respondents came from the three upper-tier groups, with just 11.6 percent from the 0-5 group.
  • How long is your current contract?: This question might get struck next year. Last year, about 74 percent of respondents had two-year deals, while this year, 72 percent do. Last year, the bulk of scouts without two-year deals were on one-year contracts. This year, responses were split evenly between one year and three years, which I found unusual.
  • Have you ever served in a director-level NFL role (Director of College, Director of Pro, DPP, AGM/GM)?: As last year, the overwhelming majority of respondents had no director-level experience (81 percent both years).
  • Pension?: This offered a bit of good news, as the percentage of scouts with a pension actually ticked up slightly (58 percent over 56 percent last year). The perception across the industry is that pensions are disappearing, and that still may be true. As we continue with the survey, time will tell if this is really a trend.
  • 401(k) match: The results here are really too diverse to read. We offered nine options on our survey, with no real consensus. The two biggest percentages are in basic match and five percent or less match (about 22 percent each). Last year, match up to a fixed (and not designated in our survey) match led the way with about 28 percent. The bad news: last year, only two percent of respondents had no match at all; this year, it’s more than 12 percent.
  • Per diem: These numbers basically didn’t move. About 70 percent of the industry gets between $50-$60 per day.
  • Car allowance: Not many scouts are driving around in company cars, with less than 10 percent checking that box each of the last two years. The majority of scouts seem to be getting $600-$700 (31 percent this year) or $700-plus (28 percent this year). Those numbers are similar to last year.
  • Receipts/miles for gas: About two-thirds of scouts must turn in their receipts for reimbursement; those results are basically unchanged from last year. Among those that get paid per mile, the going rate is 41 cents per mile or higher for about 30 percent of respondents.
  • Buy Super Bowl tickets?: These numbers didn’t change in any meaningful way. More than half (53 percent both years) don’t get a chance to buy. Of those that do, about 30 percent (both years) get to buy two, and a little less than 10 percent get to buy four. I’ve heard that some teams in military towns donate tickets to bases, which cuts back on the number available to scouts.
  • Playoff share: Both years, about a third of respondents said playoff share is up to the owner’s discretion, while about another third get a 25 percent share. Last year, about a quarter got a half share, while this year that number fell to about 15 percent. 
  • Does your current contract make any provisions for a possible lockout?: Not good news here. Last year, only about a quarter of respondents reported provisions for a reduction in pay due to a lockout. This year, that percentage is up to almost half. Clearly, owners see storm clouds looming.

For a closer look at what scouts take home in actual pay, check out the Friday Wrap. It comes out at 7:30 p.m. EST, and you can register for it here.

 

Building a Network

At Inside the League, we encourage people that want to work in the football business to get their knowledge from volunteering, building relationships and soaking up football any way you can. On the other hand, we don’t encourage trying to get it from a classroom. You have to go where football people go, shake as many hands as you can, and even pass out business cards to anyone that will take them.

Of course, you have to start by going where football people go, and the NFL Combine in Indianapolis is obviously one of those places. Here’s a look at some of the people you could have met if you were at the XFL Hospitality Room (Suite 125 of the Indiana Convention Center) last week (and oh, by the way, we had free sandwiches, too):

  • Craig Redd: Craig is the co-founder of the College Gridiron Showcase, a game I serve as a partner. I’ve spoken in the past about the high regard I have for everyone associated with the game, and that goes especially for Craig and his co-founder, Jose Jefferson. But the most important thing to know is that all-star games are always looking for volunteers, and we can even offer college credit for the work done there. If you were in Indy last week, he’s a key contact you could make. Craig is incredibly friendly and accessible, and always looking for good workers.
  • Doug Whaley: You might think that the Senior V.P. of Football Operations for the XFL, a former NFL GM (Buffalo), would be far too busy for ordinary people. After all, he’s building a new league from scratch. However, I’ve known Doug for about a year, and he’s always treated me as an equal. Doug is the kind of person who sees everyone as having something to offer. If you’re looking to get into scouting, you should know that XFL teams won’t have a full scouting department, and will follow more of a college football model. That means if you aspire to be a scout someday, here’s your shot at volunteering in evaluation. You could have gotten started on that if you were at our suite last week.
  • Kevin Dunn: Kevin owns TEST Football Academy in New Jersey, and besides being the sponsor of our suite and a longtime friend, he’s a perfect example of a guy who built a sports practice from the ground up. Most everyone I know who’s got a combine prep facility in the north is struggling, but Kevin isn’t. Not only did he approach me months ago about sponsoring our suite, but he’s also got stacks of sponsors and a full gym. That’s a real accomplishment in a business as difficult to navigate as football is these days.
  • Ric Serritella: Not only is Ric connected in the football world; not only is he a noted NFL Draft expert; and not only is he incredibly talented when it comes to video production, but he’s incredibly friendly. And like Craig, Doug and Kevin, he’s not too big to talk to people just getting started out in the business.

If you weren’t in Indy this year, make plans to be there next year. If you read this blog, and you’re serious about working in the business, you need to get serious about being where opportunities are.

Want to learn even more? Don’t forget to register for our weekly newsletter, the Friday Wrap. You can do that here.

Our First Seminar for Coaches of Agents: Three Takeaways

So yesterday was our first-ever seminar solely for agents of NCAA and NFL coaches, the Franklin Capital Strategies Coaches Agent Seminar presented by Texas Interventional Orthopedics.

Actually, it really wasn’t a seminar; it was a limited-participation morning with our three panelists, Joe Schad of the Palm Beach Post (formerly ESPN); Doug Whaley, Sr. V.P. of Football Operations for the XFL (and formerly with the Steelers and Bills); and perhaps the top name in the coach search firm business, who preferred to remain anonymous.

Here are a few takeaways:

  • While there’s a lot of energy associated with representing players, the real interest is in working with coaches. The problem is, no one has nailed down the business model. Joe told the story of one assistant coach who dangles the prospect of 10 percent of his first-year salary to any agent who can get him a job as head coach of a specific team. In this way, he sends droves of hungry agents out to work for him without locking himself into an agent who may or may not always burn the midnight oil.
  • Doug said the key to getting a job in today’s world is knowing the trends. One thing he said was that in the old days, trends trickled down from the NFL. That’s not true today. College football is undergoing a renaissance, and the most imaginative offenses are not in New Orleans or Kansas City but in Oklahoma and Texas Tech (hence Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury). Therefore, to get a job in the NFL with a progressive team, it’s advantageous to have an association with one of the hotter programs in the NCAA, even if you’re on the personnel side.
  • Also from Doug: When he was with the Bills, he and his staff conducted a review of all coaches in the NFL just in case the team needed to fill a vacancy on the fly. We hear a lot about breaking down the draft, and even scouting active NFL players, but who knew teams actively scouted and evaluated coaches.
  • What’s the first thing an agent negotiates for a coach? His salary, of course. However, once the salary is set, it’s time for the benefits. Country club memberships. Private jet hours. A car for the coach’s wife. Luxury box access. You might think that a coach getting paid millions of dollars wouldn’t worry about these things, but that’s not the point. The point is, a good agent sets it up so that they don’t have to. If you want to rep coaches, you better be prepared to do the same.

Still curious about what was said and heard at our first-ever seminar for agents of coaches? We got you. Reach out to our title sponsor, Paul Franklin of Franklin Capital Strategies, by any of these methods.

Path to VKTRY: New Insoles Give Bounce to Competition, Off-Field Opportunities

If there’s one thing I always hear from agents, it’s that their clients regularly ask them for off-the-field marketing opportunities — endorsements, paid social media posts, signing shows, etc.
Well, if you’re a contract advisor in that situation, I’d like to introduce Inside the League’s newest partner, VKTRY Performance Insoles. Hey, athletes preparing for the combine and their respective pro days, take heed: VKTRY is the only performance insole on the market and has been proven to reduce injuries and increase explosiveness.
VKTRY Performance Insoles (VKs) are made from aerospace-grade carbon fiber, weigh less than one ounce, and fit comfortably in all athletic footwear. VKs are custom-made for each athlete and are available in five different levels of flexibility to optimize comfort, performance and protection for the athlete.
VKTRY worked closely with the football programs at N.C. State, Texas A&M, Duke and Northern Illinois to gather research data on injuries with or without wearing VKs. These schools reported team injury statistics to VKTRY following the 2017 season. Teams experienced 41% less foot/toe injures using VKs and 22% less lower-leg injuries. More than 170 professional and NCAA teams are currently using VKTRY, including LSU, Texas A&M, Auburn and TCU on the college level and the Saints, Eagles and Titans in the NFL.
Along with the hundreds and hundreds of individual elite athletes wearing them, there were more than 50 invitees to the 2018 NFL Combine wore VKs, and this year, there are 20 projected first-rounders wearing VKs during combine prep. While everyone seems to be offering helmets, mouthpieces, shoes, pads and accessories of every stripe, VKTRY is the only one that I know of offering insoles. And the best part is, they can improve performance whether it’s on the field or at a school’s pro day. 
On the other hand, maybe here’s the best part: VKTRY is looking to sponsor 10-15 NFL player camps or events this offseason and summer. I can vouch for Doug Oomen, Director of Elite Teams at VKTRY. I’ve known Doug for at least 10 years and he’s as connected in the football world as about anyone I know, and that only happens when you pay your dues, prove yourself reliable and don’t burn bridges. And Doug’s not about to start now.
If you represent an NFL starter (any position) and you’d like to discuss opportunities with Doug, reach out to him at 312-933-7529 or doug.oomen@vktrygear.com. 

Looking at the 2019 NFL Draft Mocks: A Few Observations

As we roll toward the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine — now less than two weeks away! —  we thought it was time to take a look at what the biggest voices in #DraftTwitter are saying about the first round, which is a little more than two months away.

It’s the third time we’ve checked out draft experts’ picks heading into the 2019 selection meeting. Our first look was published in our Friday Wrap in July, followed by an update just before Thanksgiving, also posted in our weekly Friday Wrap. Here’s a look at the complete composite grid from July (sorry, it’s a pay link), and here’s the grid from November.

As usual, we surveyed seven major draft experts, all of them (except one) posted in the first or second week of February: Tony Pauline at Draft Analyst (Feb. 4); Pro Football Focus (we used their most recent mock, written Feb. 5 by Mike Renner, though normally we use Steve Palazzolo’s work); Dane Brugler at The Athletic (Feb. 5); Mike Miller at Bleacher Report (Feb. 4); ESPN’s Todd McShay (Feb. 7); Sports Illustrated (normally we use Albert Breer, though their most recent work was published Jan. 29 by Kalyn Kahler); and Walter Football (Feb. 13).

Obviously, surveying Draft Twitter doesn’t give you specific answers about who’s going where, but it’s an interesting look not only at the top players as the media sees them rising and falling, but it’s also fascinating to look at the various experts and see who’s most accurate and which ones are willing to go farthest out on a limb.

Anyway, based on our grid, a few thoughts.

  • It’s interesting how little the field of possible first-rounders has shrunk since November, while at the same time seeing a number of players dropped and picked up simultaneously.
  • For example, at least one of the seven services rated 55 players as first-rounders in November, while today, it’s just 52 players. On the other hand, 15 players who got first-round acclaim last fall — Stanford WO J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Wisconsin OC Tyler Bladasz, Auburn DT Derrick Brown, Notre Dame IB Te’Von Coney, Alabama DE Raekwon Davis, Auburn DC Jamel Dean, Alabama DC Trevon Diggs, West Virginia QB Will Grier, Oregon QB Justin Herbert, Oregon OB Jalen Jelks, Buffalo WO Anthony Johnson, Missouri TE Albert Okwuegbunam, Texas A&M TE Jace Sternberger, Georgia OB D’Andre Walker and Michigan DE Chase Winovich — no longer show up in any of the seven mocks. Of course, Bladasz, Brown, Davis, Diggs, Herbert and Okwuegbunam all stayed in school, but apparently the needle is pointing down for the other seven.
  • Among the 12 players they claim now look like first-rounders are Delaware DC Nasir Adderley, West Virginia OT Yodny Cajuste, Washington St. OT Andre Dillard, Louisiana Tech DE Jaylon Ferguson, Iowa TE T.J. Hockenson, Alabama OH Josh Jacobs, Mississippi WO D.K. Metcalf, Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray, South Carolina WO Deebo Samuel, Vanderbilt DC Joejuan Williams, Miami (FL) DT Gerald Willis and Old Dominion DE Oshane Ximines.
  • There’s not a lot of variation on the first-round quarterbacks. All seven services see Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins as a first-rounder and the first QB off the board, and all agree that Murray is a first-rounder, though Sports Illustrated sees him going at No. 27 and Matt Miller at Bleacher Report has him going highest (No. 7). Only ESPN’s Todd McShay sees neither Duke’s Daniel Jones or Missouri’s Drew Lock as a first-rounder.

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