Careful: Eggheads At Play

Monday evening, I tweeted something from a conversation I had with a new agent that afternoon. It dealt with two obvious (and easily controvertible) lies a player told to make himself look like a far greater prospect than he is. I debated over whether I should even waste a tweet on it, especially late at night. Finally, I pulled the trigger.

In the space of about 45 minutes, that tweet had generated 14 likes and 2 retweets. This told me two things: my followers are entirely too busy on Twitter late at night, and people in the business are disgusted with the false info, entitlement, smug attitudes and misplaced confidence displayed by too many draft hopefuls.

In the course of reviewing some of the responses, I tripped over a recent tweet by a person who’s pretty revered in the sports and entertainment law industry. Basically, the substance of his tweet was how draft prospects should have a layered, segmented structure of financial, tax and accounting advisors to handle their NFL careers. There was no ‘unless you’re just hoping to one day make the 90’ qualification. Just a summary statement about sports ethics and how things ought to be.

If you ask me, this is one of the reasons these young men have such a disastrously outsized view of their NFL prospects and the life they’ll lead.

There’s a cottage industry out there of people who love to pontificate about the business, but have no real-world experience with it. Most of the time, these are the people sitting in ivory towers and dismissing agents as fire-breathing dragons while touting players as snow-white angels. As with most things in life, these one-dimensional characterizations are useless, but because there is such a dearth of legitimate insight into the football business, they fill a void. It’s sad, really. Few can challenge them, so they go about saying whatever until people start buying it.

If you’re a young man who’ll (a) be drafted in the top 100 next April, you’re (b) going to be described often as a first-rounder throughout the spring. And if you’re not so mentioned, you can forget the idea that you need to build a team of professionals to handle your every business move going forward. Keep in mind that for every 100 players that are wanted by all 32 teams, there are 900 more who need to forget about money and focus on one thing only: making a damn 53.

To make that 53, find an agent who believes in you, will work hard for you, and will get you into an all-star game attended by scouts. Also, you don’t have to train at a gym with all the bells and whistles and jerseys on the wall, but you better go somewhere and bust your hump for 60 days. I mean, last-half-hour-of-Rocky style work, with someone who knows what they’re doing. And if that’s your school, who cares? Work.

I’ve had it up to here with people who say they know, but don’t know. They make the jobs a lot harder for people in the business — my friends, my clients, and the people I have real respect for. But more importantly, they encourage many young men to create an alternate universe on a foundation of impossible expectations. And that’s not a bit fair to anyone in the game.

An Early-Exit Process Primer

This week, there was a firestorm over something I wrote (and Darren Heitner tweeted)   regarding Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers, as well as my tweet Monday confirming that Texas’ D’Onta Foreman would enter the ’17 draft. The tone of the tweets coming back was, ‘oh no, these players have spoken to agents, now they’re gonna lose their eligibility!!’

I thought this warranted a blog post. There’s a huge disconnect between what fans understand about the agent process and what’s actually true. There’s an even bigger disconnect (Grand Canyon-esque) about what fans understand about the early-entry process and what’s true.

I’ve preached ad nauseam about the agent selection process and it’s perceived ‘illegality’ (here’s a tweet and here’s a two-minute podcast on the subject), so today let’s talk about players leaving early for the draft.

Here’s how the average fan perceives of the process for early entry.

  1. Promising player arrives at university focused on graduating in four years and pursuing degree of his choice. Also plays football on weekends.
  2. Conniving agent lures star player into thinking about money, convinces him to desert his teammates and enter NFL draft before every ounce of his eligibility is exhausted.
  3. Player declares early; coaches, administrators and teammates scream and shed tears of rejection and betrayal.

Admittedly, that’s a oversimplification, but the whole situation is rather complex. Here’s a much more realistic take on it.

  1. Player is recognized as talented early in his football playing days and begins to dream of NFL stardom. Coaches, teammates and family members encourage and empower this dream as it takes shape over a decade.
  2. Often, player realizes NFL playing career could lift himself and his family out of poverty or negative financial situation, and again, family encourages this. Often, family members ask how long until he’s in the league.
  3. At times, player will father a child out of wedlock. This heightens the financial pressure.
  4. Coaches, media, opposing teams, his own performance, etc., confirm player’s impression that he’s an elite talent and ready for the NFL. Player also realizes the mortality of his playing career.
  5. Often, his coaching structure and/or key players around him graduate and he realizes his chances of repeating his success are lessened going forward.
  6. Usually, the player has discussed his mindset entering his third year out of high school with coaches and family, and teams support and understand his thought process (often, I have scouts tell them that schools encourage them to evaluate certain juniors that have made it known they’re leaving).

Somewhere during this process, agents enter the picture. But this isn’t an evil thing, and not even necessarily a bad thing. At any rate, hopefully, the young man has a responsible and loving support system around him that can help in the vetting process, and hopefully he plays for a progressive school that educates him and doesn’t try to shutter him from the outside world. Also, hopefully the parents are educated and attentive enough to be helpful (which is one reason we started our Two-Minute Drill series). By all accounts, Peppers and Foreman have that.

At no point does simply talking to agents invalidate a player’s eligibility. It’s important to understand this.

It’s also important to look at these young men not as strictly Saturday’s warriors. We all want to live our dreams, and everyone at their schools — especially their coaches and teammates — understands that.

Paradigm Shift

About a week ago, I was having a conversation with a longtime friend who’s an up-and-coming contract advisor. Conversation turned to the new default 1.5-percent agent fee, and I asked if any prospects or their advisors were playing hardball so far, demanding that he drop his fee from three percent.

“Not so far,” he said. “Everyone’s paying three percent.”

That has since been echoed by other agents I’ve spoken to. I hope that continues. NFL agents, already billing at the lowest percentage of all the major sports, don’t need to get further whittled down by players who know they have all the leverage.

However, as I always tell my clients, having November discussions is easy. It’s the December discussions where agents and their prospective clients talk terms. Players are seeking the best training and pre-draft packages they can get, while agents are counting dollars and trying to decide where to spend them.

Of course, nothing happens in a vacuum in the football world, and the practical reduction in agent fees means fewer contract advisors will take the plunge and pay for a prospect’s training fees. They’ll be even less likely to send a late-round prospect to Florida, California, or some other sunny clime, as has traditionally happened. Naturally, this isn’t going to stop players from thinking that the right training will transform them from late-rounders into solid prospects, and in some cases, they may even be right. Therefore, I see the combine prep business moving in a different direction this January and February.

The challenge for agents isn’t paying for training, per se. It’s paying $6,000-$7,000 for training, food and supplements, plus another $5,000-$6,000 just for accommodations. Often, the player’s lodging costs more than his training. With more and more good trainers providing solid regimens, the mission is to find a combine prep facility near enough that a prospect can sleep in his own bed. The biggest job will be finding those facilities, evaluating the different facets of each program (when does it start? what kind of facility? who conducts training?) and, of course, weighing the costs of each.

With this new paradigm, we’re assembling a marketplace where agents and players can do their Black Friday shopping (and beyond) for combine prep. It’s our 2017 ITL Combine Prep Grid, a place where everyone in the business can sort out all the options in one place. Though we’ve only got four entries so far, they’re all solid, there are plenty of outside-the-box options, and there are many, many more on the way. We’re just getting started.

There are still a handful of titans in the combine prep business, and they won’t stop being titans. But now there’s a chance for a number of smaller training houses to work with players and make a little money while cutting costs (and risks) significantly for contract advisors. If I’m right about this new trend, it could be a rare win-win-win for trainers, agents and prospects.

How to Become an NFL QB (from an ex-NFL QB)

Today, I turn the blog over to Tim Jenkins. I met Tim sometime in the fall/winter before the 2013 NFL draft, when he was a QB prospect out of Division II Ft. Lewis College. As I recall, his parents found me on the Internet, and we got to be good friends in the run-up to the draft as I worked with them, advising them along the way and helping them sort out their options as a consultant in my ITL role.

Ultimately, Tim went undrafted but landed a tryout with the Rams and, despite coming in with no guarantees, he was one of the few to earn a contract. He was ultimately cut in training camp, and after a short cup of coffee in the CFL, he moved on to his next phase. Now, despite being just a few short years out of college, he’s a rising star on the QB training circuit and has 65 passers under his instruction.

His latest move is to launch a draft prep program. Specialists at the position have become overnight celebrities in recent seasons as such training has gained traction, and Tim is the next big name you’ll be seeing as a guru to the best prospects. I encourage you to check out his Website.

Obviously, the quarterback position is special, the toughest one to play in all of sports, in my opinion. Every year, about 50 rookie quarterbacks are drafted, signed post-draft, or brought in as tryout players, while hundreds of others are passed over. Here are a few tips from Tim on how to be one of those 50.


My Journey: In 2009 I was a 6-foot-1, 165-pound senior quarterback who had one year of varsity football under his belt. However, I had a high football IQ and could spin it slightly better than most, and I landed at Fort Lewis College, one of my three Division II offers. From there, I started four years (including my true freshman year), threw for 8,968 yards and set 18 school records. The kicker: I missed the back half of my senior season with a separated shoulder and we finished a whopping 0-10.

Despite the odds, I made the decision that I was going to make it to the NFL regardless of where I ranked on NFL Draft Scout’s Website or what advice I got, and that’s exactly what I did. I signed with the St. Louis Rams in 2013 after participating in their rookie minicamp on a tryout basis. Here are a few things I did that can help you make it to camp, or enhance your chances of getting drafted if you’re a passer.

  • Find an agent: After my sophomore year was when I decided I thought I could play professional football. That’s when I began to reach out to agents and share with them my highlight tape and stats. I was looking to build relationships. The rules are simple — you can build relationships but you can’t take anything. If you think you have the moral fiber to resist temptation, start this process as soon as possible because like in everything, the agency business gets painted with a broad brush because of the actions of a few. Build relationships that will come into play when you exhaust your eligibility.
  • Find a trainer: Here’s a mistake I made that you shouldn’t. Find a position-specific QB trainer who understands the NFL game. For example, at Jenkins Elite, we give agents or quarterbacks a list of our NFL curriculum, which includes 459 different concepts I learned in the NFL. Most college kids don’t understand the importance of these concepts until they get there. As everyone knows, if you’re learning basic stuff while you’re in the NFL, it’s too late.
  • Find an all-star game: This is where I got noticed. The Casino del Sol all-star game in Tucson, Ariz., which is no longer even around, was my saving grace. Pursue these games. Send emails and put calls in to the player director. Be aggressive. Now, will they invite you just because you called? Absolutely not, but when they are scrambling to find a QB because one dropped out or decided on another game, your name will be on that list, just like mine was! By the way, working with all-star games is something Neil and Inside the League do very well.
  • Know your class: Begin to understand the rest of the competition in your draft class. Identify areas you could improve on while also seeing areas you excel in and where you can separate yourself from the competition. Don’t get caught up reading articles from bloggers; stay focused on the feedback you get from scouts or your agent and keep pushing. The process seems like a long time, though the reality is that it’s a couple months that can shape the rest of your life.

I hope this piece can serve someone trying to help a small-school kid get noticed, or a small-school kid himself who is trying to get noticed. The NFL is often closer than people think. They just need to be willing to do all the little things that can help get them there, which sometimes, as I learned, was emailing people and getting told ‘no’ 99 times. The ‘yes’ you get on the hundredth email is why you do it!

 

Ask The Scouts: Did Oklahoma DT Walker Make the Right Decision?

You follow the game, so you already know that Oklahoma DT Charles Walker decided to leave the team this week to focus on his NFL future.

It’s a complicated issue. On one hand, he’s struggled with concussions throughout his time in Norman, and hadn’t played since Oct. 1. Obviously, another concussion might eliminate him from NFL draft boards entirely. On the other hand, there’s loyalty, heart and commitment to the game. How do you walk away from a team that could still wind its way into BCS Championship play?

Already, there’s been plenty of speculation that this kind of decision would make him too hot to handle for NFL teams, especially if head coach Bob Stoops decides to bury him with NFL teams. But rather than speculating, I took the question to several of my friends in scouting. The responses were pretty diverse.

  • “Dumb decision. Nobody’s touching a guy with concussion issues. He’s off draft boards most likely.”
  • “Do not really know the story very well. Sounds like it is not going to help (him) and more teams will be concerned now.”
  • “I don’t think it affects him really at the next level. It’ll rub teammates the wrong way, but also will alert teams for the severity of the concussions. So maybe it did hurt a little bit, but if he’s truly special and it’s an isolated incident, I don’t think it’ll drop him much. NFL teams keep good players for far worst issues.”
  • “His number of concussions coupled with games missed is the concern! He has medical issues. He was not playing because of concussions so it would not be in Stoops’ best interest to (criticize him to scouts).”
  • “Never good to leave the team completely to focus on individual endeavors while the season’s still going on (unheard of – the first and most important rule of football is never quit). Not that doing what’s best for him isn’t going to work out in the long run . . . but how can you quit the team if you’re able-bodied enough to train for NFL prep (run/lift)? Makes him look out of touch with the team dynamic and self-centered even if his brains are legitimately scrambled and he needs to take off. Media will probably side with him and give him a pass because it involves concussions and stirs up new topics for them to report on.”

The consensus (if there is a consensus) seems to be that the concussions are a bigger issue than his midseason exit from the team. It makes sense. At the end of the day, talent, not attitude, is all that really matters.

Don’t believe it? Almost exactly a year ago, a top player made comments that could be construed as negative and divisive. We even did a blog post about him, and in it, some scouts dismissed his talk, while others were concerned. He went on to be the No. 4 pick in the draft. Today, that player, Cowboys OH Ezekiel Elliott, is the toast of the NFL, maybe the hottest running back in the game.

 

Introducing the ITL Sleeper Report

This week, with the season past its halfway point and seniors building a case for continuing their careers on the next level, we introduced the ITL Sleeper Report. We’ll use our weekly report to check in on players that play often-unsexy positions, usually at less-than-exciting schools. These are not players that will be first-rounders, but players that could nonetheless spend several years in the league as unsung workers that help create a team’s foundation without drawing headlines.

Our two evaluators, Danny Shimon and Todd Therrien, were recommended to us by Dan Hatman of The Scouting Academy, a service that trains the next generation of NFL scouts. We asked Danny and Todd to find players who weren’t featured on any Websites and to offer insights that were theirs alone. In other words, they are giving their opinions on one player each without a lifeline — these are their evaluations, solely. Unlike so many ‘Internet scouts,’ they’re sticking their necks out for players they believe in, without a net. We published their reports Thursday, and will continue to bring them to our clients each Thursday this month, and perhaps beyond. We’ll also bring select reports to Succeed in Football.

Without further ado, here’s their work for this week:

Brown, Blair (Ohio)
Position LB (4-3 Will/3-4 IB)
Ht/Wt 6010/240
Class RS Sr

Strong Points – Brown is a fast-flow LB who shoots gaps and fills with speed and power. Plays with great lateral quickness and awareness, and can read reach-blocks of the OL to cut off the outside zone. Brown diagnoses the run game and reads pulling guards in power and counter schemes exceptionally. Brown’s downhill, physical demeanor makes him above-average at meeting the pulling blocker in the hole at the line of scrimmage. Brown is physical and violent when it comes to ripping underneath blocks at the POA, making it difficult for offensive linemen to sink to his level and stay engaged. Brown is a high-risk player on the field, often shooting gaps recklessly, resulting in him playing out of position with disregard to his assignment. He plays with great situational and conceptual awareness, spilling blocks out to where his help is in run support.

Weak Points –Brown’s lack of size results in him getting swallowed up in blocks of long-armed offensive linemen. His “run first” demeanor has shown to get him in trouble, biting on play-action pass concepts, and getting caught not dropping to his zone.  Brown plays poor in man coverage, and is far too stiff when playing in open space. Brown possesses a strength in timing up pressures very well, hitting them on the run and baits offensive linemen out of position when blitzing. He consistently rakes and rips at the ball when he’s cleaning up ballcarriers, forcing a lot of fumbles. Brown has a nose for the football, and is an above-average tackler both inside the box and in open space, consistently wrapping up runners and finishing tackles. Brown could be a liability in the passing game, which does not pair well with under-sized, two-down linebackers. Although Brown was a consistent contributor to the Ohio Bobcats for four years, starting all games for his final two years, he has not played against top-tier competition consistently.

Summation: Overall, Brown is an athletic, sideline-to-sideline run-stopper, who better helps the pass defense by rushing the QB with blitzes, inside or off the edge.

Todd Therrien’s Projection: Late-rounder/undrafted free agent

Spencer, Joseph (Illinois)
Position OC/OG
Ht/Wt 6020/300/5.3e
Class RS Sr
Strong Points – Three-year starter, team captain and an Academic All-Big Ten member twice. Leader along the offensive line, able to call out protections, and identify blitzers. Quick out of his stance able to move his feet and play with good balance. Gets his hands inside the defensive lineman’s chest and can stay in front of his defender. Demonstrates good awareness, able to release primary assignment and help with oncoming rusher. Will chip block then release to get out to defenses second level. Average run blocker who can seal off a defender and create a lane for runner to go through. Competitive player who will finish his blocks once he has his man on the ground – they do not get up. Has position versatility as he can play both center or guard positions.
Weak Points – Possesses limited lateral agility and strength. Can get over powered, and out leveraged at the point of contact. Was asked to retreat block and “catch” defenders rather than explode into them, so on tape we never see him roll his hips and demonstrate his strength. Has limited flexibility and shows some lower body stiffness.
Summation –  Spencer is a cerebral, competitive, interior lineman who has three-years of starting experience, in a power five conference, and offers position flexibility as he can play both center and guard along the offensive line. He is assignment sound and aware. Spencer wins with good snap-and-step quickness to get his hands quickly on the defenders and steer them. Spencer is an average athlete who lacks lateral quickness, and lower body flexibility. His inability to anchor at the point of attack will allow defenders to overpower him and collapse the pocket. He is unable to sustain his blocks for an extended period, and will allow penetrators to pierce his edges quickly.

Danny Shimon’s Projection: Late-rounder/undrafted free agent

Dissecting Darius: Thoughts on the Intersection of Entertainment and NFL Representation

About a year ago, I was having a conversation with Jay Courie, an NFL agent and partner at one of the bigger law firms in the Southeast, McAngus, Goudelock & Courie. Along the way, he mentioned that he needed someone to partner with, someone who had youth and energy but also someone who had enjoyed success and knew the agent business. I get this kind of request at times.

So I thought about it, and when I bumped into him at the Senior Bowl, I told him I had just the guy. When I finally got Jay together with Kyle Strongin of 1 Degree Management, Jay had already met him and knew him. I could see in his eye that my choice had reaffirmed what Jay was already thinking.

That’s why it wasn’t a big surprise to me when I heard Monday that Jay had brought Kyle in as Vice President of MGC Sports, with country music star Darius Rucker a part of the deal, as well. While I’m not, in any way, taking credit for putting this merger together, I can definitely say I know both Jay and Kyle well, they’ve both been ITL clients for a long time, and I knew Jay was leaning toward a merger of some sorts. The only mild surprise was that Kyle, whom I’ve tried to recommend to inquiring agencies for some time now, was willing to move. He’d always told me in the past that he was happily independent.

While adding a big star to a sports agency is decidedly not a new idea, here are a few thoughts on this move.

  • In 2016, the Kardashian century, celebrity matters. Having a big name on your team is an edge in recruiting, especially in a business that is as poorly understood as football representation, and especially when the people you’re recruiting are young men with big egos.
  • Courie has made significant inroads at Clemson, and has major ties with the school. But if I know him at all, I know he likes to win. I don’t think he’s happy getting the second-line kids at Clemson. He wants the DeShaun Watsons of the world.
  • On the other hand, Rucker, a black country star, is a perfect fit for MGC Sports, which consistently recruits white offensive linemen as well as the speedy black skills position players that have taken Clemson to the next level.
  • Outside of Clemson, MGC really hasn’t been relevant. In fact, I wonder if Jay even consistently recruits non-Tigers. But that’s where Kyle, who finished a close second to super-power CAA on Laremy Tunsil last year, comes in. Jay is an accomplished lawyer, likable and professional, but Kyle, who spent time with the 49ers scouting department as well as in the Ole Miss and University of Tennessee recruiting offices, gives the firm a credible NFL background. Kyle has significant relationships in scouting, and having those insights gives you a tremendous edge when you’re trying to sort out the stars from the overhyped pretenders. Meanwhile, Jay has a legal practice to run, and now he doesn’t have to split his time as mercilessly.
  • The next 60 days will be very telling for MGC. Clemson has a number of top players that will be part of the ’17 draft, and the firm has now gone from a solid contender that operates beneath the radar to a firm that others will be recruiting against. The Carolinas are very contentious, with several solid firms, big and small, battling for talent.
  • In an industry where the NFLPA makes things harder virtually every day, sorting out costs and distilling a profit won’t be easy. But if MGC can land a Watson, a Williams or another comparable talent, it might be the jolt needed to propel it into ‘big agency’ status.

In the end, this is just one more indication that the sports agency business is becoming an arms race, with margins and business decisions perhaps running second to the chase for bigger and flashier names. Increasingly, to stay relevant, bigger firms are going to have to decide if they’re ready to partner up with big personalities, and in so doing, figure out how to make it all work on the profit/loss sheet.

 

A Couple of NFL Draft Sleepers, Courtesy of a Friend and Expert

One thing we rarely, if ever, do in this space is spotlight ‘rising’ or ‘falling’ players, or really talk about draft prospects at all. The main reason for this is because I don’t have time to do it, and most of the people I know who genuinely put in the time evaluating and learning about players — people whose opinions I trust — are people I respect, and I don’t want them to give me something free.

Today, however, we’re stepping out of our normal comfort zone to offer up two late-season sleepers. Of course, this isn’t my opinion, but the opinion of Eric Galko of Optimum Scouting. While the number of ‘Internet scouts’ could fill several stadiums, only a handful of them have proven their ability enough to have (a) stood the test of time and (b) actually created a market for themselves. Eric has done both, having evaluated players for several years and creating quite an audience for himself, and also by evaluating for pay, whether his customers are NFL agents; CFL and indoor football teams; or any of a number of all-star games whose rosters he’s built over the years. Eric is currently working with a couple of games, the first-year HBCU Spirit of America Bowl and the Dream Bowl, which will be played over Martin Luther King Weekend. Due in no small part to Eric, the Dream Bowl has gone from a game mostly ignored by scouts to one that welcomed representatives from six teams last year and that’s expected to host 20 teams this year.

Here are two players Eric feels could surprise next year in the NFL:

Darrell Daniels, TE, Washington (6032, 235, 4.46v, 35 2/8 arm, 10 2/8 hands): While it’s a strong tight end class (one of the best in recent history) and he hasn’t been an overly productive member of the Washington passing attack (13 catches on the year), Daniels has high-level athleticism, seam-stretching speed and flashes of natural finishing ability away from his frame. A bit of a ‘tweener, he looks the part of a less physical, less NFL-ready blocking version of Falcons TE Austin Hooper (3/81, Stanford, 2016), except with potential sub-4.5 speed. Offers an ideal body type all around.
Josh Thornton, CB, Southern Utah (5106, 178, 4.35v, 30 5/8, 9 4/8 hands):  The holdover from the three-draft pick Southern Utah class a year ago, Thornton is arguably a better prospect than Titans DC LeShaun Sims (5/157, 2016) was a year ago, playing with better hip turn and lateral range against underneath and in-breaking routes. He struggles a bit at the catch-point against bigger receivers, and can be over-powered for more reasons than just his size. But he should test really well, and meets the arm/hand thresholds.
If you’re just a fan that follows the draft as well as the business of the game, make sure you’re checking out Eric on Twitter. On the other hand, if you’re an agent trying to make sure you don’t spend $10,000-plus training a player that doesn’t have NFL chops, I’d advise you to reach out to Eric (ericg@optimumscouting.com). For pennies on the dollar, you’ll have a much better handle on where you should be spending your money. I highly recommend him.

 

 

Ask the Scouts: What’s Better for Evaluation, All-Star Games or Combine?

If you listen to our Two-Minute Drill series of mini-podcasts, you know that this week we compared the value of the NFL combine vs. all-star games as a tool for evaluation. Our take was pretty much that if you’re a player in the top 100-150, the combine is better because scouts already have a rather firm impression of your playing ability, but for lower-rated players, the chance to show your ability in pads is better than a fast 40 time or a series of well-run drills.

Of course, it’s one thing for me to feel this way, but I wanted to get feedback from my friends in the game. The response was interesting and diverse, maybe as diverse as any question I’ve posed to my friends in the business in the two years I’ve run this blog. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised; former Browns GM Ray Farmer told the audience at the ITL Seminar that he prefers all-star games over the combine, simply because it’s actual football, not ‘guys that are ready to be underwear models right now,’ as he said last year.

Anyway, here’s the question I asked:

“As a general rule, do you get more out of the combine or an all-star game? Which is more valuable as an evaluation tool? I realize the scale of the combine is far greater, but in terms of how helpful, what’s better? 2-3 practices in pads with 100 guys you might not have all seen, or 350 guys doing tests in shorts, plus medicals and interviews, all in one place?”

Here’s what I got back from four friends in the business.

  • “More out of the combine because those are real players. All-star games are the free agents, even (one of the more established games) is getting horrible.”
  • “Depends. Always good to see small-school players compete against the bigger-school guys. Both places are great for access/ interviews. Combine wins for medical. As far as evaluating goes, both are probably overrated.”
  • “If you’re asking strictly for evaluation purposes I’d say all-star games.”
  • “All-star (games) for football evaluation. Overall importance is the combine because of medical.”

NFL Supply and Demand

When it comes to the NFL draft, most coverage focuses on the potential superstars slated for selection in the first couple rounds. But taking a broader view of things, which positions seem to be most in demand? Which players, by position, are NFL teams most focused on?

We’ll break it into three groups, based on the percentage of players that sign with agents and how many actually make it into NFL camps (as draftees, UDFAs or tryout players). For more details — total number of players drafted, signed as UDFAs, made it to tryout camps, percentages of each, all by positions — click here.

Most in demand: If you’re an offensive lineman, your chances of wearing an NFL helmet, at least for a day, are pretty good. Centers were the second-most in-demand position, as 71.7 percent of them made it to camp as a draftee, undrafted free agent or camp tryout. When it comes to tackles, 63.6 percent made it to camp, while 64.9 percent of tight ends made it. Defensive ends (62.4 percent) were also popular. Who was most popular? Quarterbacks, which made it to camps at a 72.2 percent rate.

Somewhere in the middle: For positions like running back (52 percent), fullback (52 percent), wide receiver (52 percent), guard (58 percent), kicker (55), cornerback (54), defensive tackle (58) and inside linebacker (50), your odds are somewhere around 50-50.

Least in demand: Though safeties are far more valuable than they used to in the days of the slot receiver and the hybrid LB/S, they’re still least in demand. Free safeties made it to camp at a rate of 45.3, while strong safeties at 44.3. Punters were similar bottom-feeders, as only 44.4 percent of those that signed with agents actually made it to camp.