Ask the Scouts: Thoughts on the New NFL GMs

Last year around this time, we asked several friends in the industry about Joe Schoen, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Ryan Poles, who had just been installed as the new general managers of the Giants, Vikings and Bears, respectively. Here’s what it looked like.

It’s a new year, and there are new GMs in Nashville and Phoenix. We thought we’d ask around about them, as well. Here’s what they told us.

Monti Ossenfort, Cardinals (former Director of Player Personnel, Titans)

  • “Well-organized but will need to become his own man. Bided his time and climbed the ladder. Heavily influenced by (his time in New England); will be interesting to see what new systems and ideas he will put in place. Very hard worker who is organized, but who will need to put experienced guys around him he trusts to allow him to run the entire organization from a football operations standpoint.”
  • “Genuine individual, active listener and skilled leader!”
  • “Monti is a well-respected person and evaluator in the personnel community. Very good work ethic. Always a hard worker when I went to schools and was on the road with him. Very good in school skills, with knowledge of coaches and contacts at each school. Excellent people skills. Very low-key, not an attention-seeker, and just goes about this job. Will be a popular GM for scouts that want to work with him because of his management skills and sterling reputation.”
  • “Very high-character person that treats people the right way. Handles himself well. Doesn’t look for attention. Low ego. Very good leadership and people skills. Has come up the right way and didn’t skip any steps. Has been around consistent winners his entire career. Will take the foundation of the NE system and make it his own. I’d bet on him to succeed.”
  • “Monti is A-plus all-around. The person, the scout, the leader, tremendous in all facets. Outstanding ability to collaborate and take every angle into decision-making processes.”

Ran Carthon, Titans (former Director of Player Personnel, 49ers)

  • “Very sharp. Very organized. Outstanding evaluator whose voice has grown in that organization each year since his arrival. Got personality and does a great job mentoring young scouts for them. Niners have a deep bench but he will missed.”
  • “Excellent communicator. Really cares about relationships.”
  • “The job won’t be too big for him. He will be prepared. He knows how to treat people and will be a solid leader.”
  • “Ran has a well-roundedness about him that is unmatched. It goes without saying he has the knowledge/history of the game and has put in the work – that’s clear. But his authenticity and charisma are what make him who he is. He’s true to his roots and makes you feel like someone is always in your corner. . . I’ve never seen players interact with an executive like they do with him, either. Very natural.”

For more insider takes on the game, make sure you’re reading our weekly newsletter, the Friday Wrap. You can sign up for it here.

Highlights from Week 2 of the ’23 All-Star Season

This week, I’m in Orlando, Fla., for the second half of the 2023 Trillion Tropical Bowl. The first part of the week was dedicated to players fighting to win spots on the roster for later in the week, when teams arrived to evaluate prospects. It’s a new dimension added this year by Michael Quartey and his team.

Here are a few things that happened this week that caught my attention.

  • Per yesterday’s measurements, there are 16 players in Orlando with at least 10-inch hands. UNLV DT Tavis Malakius has the biggest mitts with at 10 7/8 inches. Hawaii WO Jordan Murray has 10 1/4-inch hands, biggest of all the non-linemen. Murray’s got 33-inch arms and a 80 1/2-inch wingspan, enormous for a receiver. Southeast Missouri St. WO Johnny King has quite a catch radius, as well, with 34 1/8-inch arms. Auburn DE Marcus Bragg has the longest arms on either roster at 36 inches.
  • This is not a comprehensive list, but I’ve seen multiple scouts here from the 49ers, Bucs, Bears, Colts, Falcons, Jaguars, Jets, Packers, Saints, Steelers and Texans. As always, the Trop is a popular destination with NFL teams.
  • There are 70 agencies (or advisors working on a less formal basis) representing the 139 players here. That number seems high. Many of the agencies that regularly send players to Orlando aren’t here this year. Not sure what that means, if anything, but it’s different.
  • Here’s something I thought was interesting. Former Ravens DT John Urschel has his doctorate in mathematics, and though his playing days are behind him, he’s found a way to stay around the game. He tutors draft prospects on the Wonderlic via Zoom for combine prep trainees at EXOS Arizona.
  • Like any game these days, the Tropical Bowl has had to deal with players who said they’d be here, but who pulled out quite late or just no-showed. We counted 16 players who weren’t around Thursday morning for meetings and measurements. Good for Boise St. DC Caleb Biggers, who showed up this morning in time for practice, and Florida St. TE Camren McDonald, who got an NFLPA Collegiate Bowl invite but decided to stay for practices before departing the day before the game to report to Los Angeles.
  • Do these no-shows have an impact on players’ draft standing? Maybe not if handled well, but there’s a right way and a wrong way to do things. I’ll never forget when I ran the 2008 Hula Bowl and I was approached mid-week by Jim Abrams, now the Senior Scout for the Dolphins but then in his time with the Bucs. Jim pointedly asked me if there were any players we’d had trouble with that week. Well, we had one lineman from a MAC school who started complaining on the first day and didn’t quit until he got on his plane home. Keep in mind he was on an all-expenses-paid trip to Hawaii. I mean, how bad could things be? I was happy to tell Jim about this friend. For more on this topic — one that strikes a nerve with me — check out today’s Friday Wrap, which comes out at 7:30 p.m. ET. You can register for it here.
  • I’m always approached about what it takes to become an agent. If you choose player representation, I’d keep in mind this expression from one established, successful, and maybe a little world-weary contract advisor who’s been a friend for a long time. When discussion today turned to when retirement might come, his response was maybe a little wry but accurate: “The only exit strategy is death.”

 

 

2023 All-Star Season: Notes from Week 1

Week One of all-star play for the 2023 draft class is in the books with the College Gridiron Showcase wrapped and the Hula Bowl set for this weekend. Here are a few things of note that have happened, or that I’ve heard, so far.

  • You like long arms on offensive linemen? Then you’ll love South Florida OT Demontrey Jacobs, who turned in 37-inch arms as a member of the CGS Desperadoes roster this week. That’s a full inch-and-a-half longer than any other player in Fort Worth. Special notice also goes to East Carolina WO Isaiah Winstead, who had 33.25-inch arms as a pass-catcher. That’s longer arms than six of the Wranglers offensive linemen. Meanwhile, Illinois St. DT Jason Lewan had the biggest hands at 11.5 inches. The only other player in Fort Worth with an 11-inch hand span was Jacobs

    Legendary IFL coach (and would-be train wreck veteran) Les Moss and me, the idiot who managed to get hit by a locomotive in ’85.

    (11 inches exactly).
  • One of the fun things about all-star season is seeing old friends, but this year was special for me as I got to shake hands with the reigning Indoor Football League Coach of the Year, Les Moss of the IFL’s Northern Arizona Wranglers. Les is more than just a legendary coach in the indoor game, but he was also in the car behind me when, in 1985, my car (a tiny MGB) was hit by a fast-moving coal train in Poca, W.Va. One day I’ll tell the story of that day in this space.
  • I also want to say what a pleasure it was working with the member of the 2023 CGSU class. Mike Rittelman and I had the honor of leading 16 aspiring NFL scouts who came to Fort Worth and worked extremely hard over a three-day period. The 16 were Brandon Ashe, Mark Austad, Garrett Ballard, Mike Bey, Davarus Branigan, Gus Christensen, Daniel Docal, John Grout, Dondrell Harris, Michael Joiner, Jordan Kalfon, Joe Luke, Brandon Morris, David Senko, Cardell Rawlings and Brandon Tamres. This group was very tight-knit and worked as a team, just as a football group should. Look for them in NFL front offices some day.
  • I also want to thank all the scouts who spoke to our CGSU class, sharing their experiences and providing tips on how to break into the game. Among scouts who spoke to our group were Dom Green (Jets), Eloy Ledesma (Lions), Tom McConnaughey (Jaguars), Bob Morris (USFL’s Gamblers) and Rodrik David (formerly of the Falcons). All of them were very giving of their time and did so without any compensation.
  • Kudos also go out to the 13 players who arrived in Fort Worth as part of the Small School Showcase (the Marshals) and fought their way onto the Desperadoes roster after impressing scouts. They were Lincoln DE Arnold Mbembe, Westminster OB Brayden Thimons, La.-Monroe DT Caleb Thomas, Arkansas Tech OH Devontae Dean, Texas A&M-Commerce OB Demetrius Walker, Texas A&M-Commerce DE Celestin Haba, Nevada DE Phillip Huff, Sam Houston St. OT Jordan Boatman, Delta St. OT Nicolas Melsop, SE Oklahoma St. DC Ja’Lon Freeman, Utah Tech FS Darrius Nash, Sam Houston St. WO Cody Chrest and Carson-Newman WO Braxton Westfield.
  • I also learned of a new Panthers scouting intern Kaleb Leach, who earned his way to Carolina by developing an overseas scouting service called Europe’s Elite. All week, we preached to the CGSU class that sometimes the road to fulfilling your passion is one that’s less traveled. Going your own way after identifying an underserved market is a great way to succeed in football.

We’ll discuss what’s ahead during the all-star phase of the pre-draft period in today’s Friday Wrap. Register for it here.

What Kind of Package Does It Take To Sign a 2023 Draft Prospect?

A question I get quite often is, what does it take, in 2023, to land a draft pick? What kind of package cinches a signing?

Even though I have conversations with agents at every level every day this time of year, it’s a really hard question to ask. But I’m going to try to answer it here. First, let’s define the factors that influence the price.

  • Start with the player’s draft ranking. Obviously, this is super, super, super subjective, especially this early. Still, players and agents make educated guesses on this in December and January every year, and it’s an important part of the formula. I think the major dividing lines are the first five picks in the draft, the first 100 picks, and the next 50 or so. I would say the first five picks are in one tier, the next 95 (end of Day 2) are in another tier, and the players drafted by about the end of Round 4 are in the final tier. After that, it’s really hard to predict who gets all the modern accoutrements (monthly per diem, signing bonus, costly training, fee cut, etc.). But I think these three tiers are pretty much set in stone. Obviously, it’s also important to recognize that there’s a big difference between the top and bottom of each tier. The sixth pick in the draft gets a much bigger package than the last pick in the third round.
  • Next, does the player play offense or defense? That’s a key distinction. Offensive players get more than defensive players, generally.
  • Next, if he plays offense, is he a QB, running back or wide receiver? If you score touchdowns, you get a premium, if for no other reason than your marketing appeal.
  • What kind of program did the player come from? Obviously, a player from a top-five program sees himself differently from one from an FCS program. It doesn’t matter if the big-school player is a backup and the small-schooler is a solid regular. There’s a different level of entitlement. Also — bigger programs can offer bigger NIL packages. I’ve heard that, lately, smaller schools are hurriedly sending out money requests to boosters, trying to match the big offers being tendered to players entering the portal. By the way, it’s probably too late for those smaller schools.
  • How was the player rated coming out of high school? Once one of the high school ranking services places a four- or five-star label on a player, in his mind, the player never sees himself as less than that.
  • What kind of agency is trying to sign the player? Bigger firms with more clients and an established reputation will have to pay less, obviously.

So how do you price things? Let’s start from the bottom.

Early Day 3 picks (bottom of the third tier) are getting $3,000/per month and up, probably topping out around $10,000/month, January through April. They might get a signing bonus of around an extra month. Obviously, all training costs are covered, as well, adding another $20,000 to $30,000 to the price tag.

In the second tier, the floor for monthly per diem is probably $7,000 per month, with some kind of five-figure signing bonus. That signing bonus could come in the form of a marketing guarantee, which usually makes the number a good bit better. I would think most first-rounders are getting six-figure marketing guarantees, with at least a portion of that coming in cash upon signing the SRA. Also, first-rounders typically don’t pay more than one percent on their rookie contract. Typically, second-rounders pay two percent, and the rest pay three — if they get a sizable package. Agents who don’t offer all the financial bells and whistles normally have to cut their fees as a lure.

For the the top five picks, the top tier, you’re looking at seven-figure packages, especially for quarterbacks. I’ve heard of a million dollars as a signing bonus, usually structured as a marketing guarantee, plus a five-figure monthly per diem that could be as high as $50,000 per month. Also, the players rated in the top five are almost always paying no more than one point on their contract. Many are paying less than that. Some are paying zero.

Keep in mind that as recently as 20 years ago — not really that long ago — agencies didn’t even pay for training. Those days, of course, are long gone. These days (especially as schools offer hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep a player on campus), it’s anything goes. We may be way off on our numbers, but based on the conversations I’ve had, we’re in the ballpark.

CGS 2023: A Look at the First Major All-Star Game

This week, I hope you’ll allow me to brag a little on my friends Craig Redd and Jose Jefferson and the event they founded that enters its ninth year next month, the College Gridiron Showcase in Fort Worth, Texas. It’s different from your normal all-star game, and since I always get questions about it, I thought I’d use this space to explain how it’s different.

There is no “game,” per se. Instead, game organizers have multiple events for participants at all strata of the game. All of our events “work” because NFL scouts are on site for the full schedule, so participants get seen more than they would at your typical one-off event. Here’s a quick rundown.

  • Pro Free agent event: This workout is aimed at “street” free agents from previous draft classes. This event is usually held the Friday that CGS week kicks off.
  • Specialists Showcase: This is held closer to the end of the week, and is aimed at draft-eligible kickers, punters and long-snappers.
  • Small College Showcase: This runs Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and once it’s completed, NFL scouts vote to determine which players advance to the main rosters, the Wranglers and Desperadoes.
  • Two full rosters of all-stars: The Wranglers and Desperadoes work out as part of our more traditional format. The difference is that because we don’t have a game, we don’t have coaches cramming in a playbook or running through endless special teams drills that show little about a player’s abilities. Everything we do at the CGS is geared toward allowing players to show what they have.

All of this is why the CGS has a well-earned positive reputation among NFL teams. There are other facets to the showcase that make it stand out from other evaluation events.

For example, 2023 will be the second year of CGS University (CGSU), a program designed to help aspiring scouts get practical experience with NFL scouts and executives. Much of this comes from CGSU members’ activities on interview day, the nine-hour period we set aside to allow scouts to interview as many players that they’d like. Participants also spend the week hearing from scouts on how they got into the business and what they look for in scouting hires. I really feel there’s no other opportunity like it. 

It makes for a satisfying and professionally run five days for everyone involved, from the players to the scouts to CGS officials and others. However, this year, we have two new items we’re especially proud of.

One is the interview-only invite. This allows players who cannot participate due to injuries to come to Fort Worth and take part in the weekend’s sit-downs with NFL scouts. Obviously, we can’t mandate that an NFL team interview a player. However, we can make players available if they take part in this program. Interviews and background checks are such an underrated part of the draft process, and often their value is misunderstood by agent and prospect alike. This program allows players to get to know NFL teams before crucial pre-combine meetings when scouts and executives do a lot of their sorting out of the draft class. Cost is $250 and players are responsible for their own travel. For more information, contact Craig at info@cgsallstar.com.

Also this year, there’s one more enticement: Agent Live 360 will host a mixer for NFLPA-licensed contract advisors on Monday, Jan. 9, from 5-6 p.m. at Chef’s Table Bar in the Sheraton. This will be a great chance not only to meet a former NFL scout (Rodrik David, formerly of the Falcons) and to learn about a really incredible product like AL360, but also to do a little networking with other members of the football business community.

At the end of the day, the CGS offers opportunities for almost anyone trying to make his way in football. I look forward to getting started along with my friends in Fort Worth in six days. If you’re in town, I hope you can stop by.

 

 

2022 Next Wave Zoom: A Few Scouting Takeaways

Tuesday night, we had our annual Zoom session aimed at aspiring NFL scouts. It’s become a kind of end-of-the-year tradition. Last year, we had director-level scouts from the 49ers, Chargers and Vikings. This year, we had Brandon Yeargan (Raiders), Tyler Lyon (Chargers) and Rick Spielman, who until recently was the GM in Minnesota.

Here are a few of the highlights from last night.

On marriage/relationships: None of the three put off serious romantic relationships, though they all discussed the value of preparing their now-spouses for the rigors of life in pro football. Brandon and Tyler both met their future spouses in college, then nursed the relationships along for several years (most of a decade for Tyler; Brandon maintained a long-distance relationship for three years while with the Patriots).

On professional relationships: Rick is still on good terms with the Vikings, who let him go in January. In fact, things are still so close that team representatives were the first to reach out when Rick’s South Florida home was hit by a hurricane earlier this year. Head coach Kevin O’Connell has even spent time picking his brain. Spielman was fired by Nick Saban in his Dolphin days, but today, he works as a consultant for the Crimson Tide football team. 

On paying dues: Though Tyler was a highly recruited quarterback at Arizona, and his father was a longtime high school football coach, he worked hard to develop his own contacts in the industry, even writing for small online draft publications while attending law school. Brandon played at a small North Carolina college, Davidson, but made his way to Chapel Hill, where he was an intern, then a grad assistant, for the Tarheels. He worked for little or no pay there for several years, then did the same for the Patriots before finally making area scout. Rick build the athletic program from the ground up at a small college in Columbus, Ohio, when he got his big break with BLESTO.

On developing your evaluation skills: All three said the best qualities in scouting assistant hires had nothing to do with an eye for talent. Instead, it’s about treating every menial task as if it’s crucial to the performance of the team. Tyler even said he’d be more interested in hiring someone with no evaluation skills but a great attitude over someone with a stack of reports and hopes of making GM in 2-3 years.

If you’re an aspiring scout, we hope you can make it next year (we don’t record these sessions to encourage transparency and candor). It’s part of our special annual rate for prospective NFL evaluators. Let us know if you’d like more details. We also encourage you to sign up for our weekly newsletter, which you can do here.

2023 All-Star Season: Seven Fun Facts

We’re about three weeks away from the first all-star game of the 2023 NFL Draft season, the College Gridiron Showcase in Fort Worth, Texas. It’s a critical time of year if you follow the draft. We thought we’d discuss a few points of interest with each of the games that you may not have known.

  • For the first time at least since ITL launched in 2002, the NFL will not send team staffs to the Senior Bowl to coach. Instead, they’ll send those staffs to the East-West Shrine Bowl in Las Vegas. The teams are not yet determined, and will be the two who pick highest in the ’23 draft and that have intact coaching staffs (i.e., they didn’t fire their head coach).
  • Of the top six games (Senior Bowl, Shrine Bowl, NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, Hula Bowl, College Gridiron Showcase and Tropical Bowl), two are led by former NFL scouts. Jim Nagy, who runs the Senior Bowl, spent almost two decades with the Redskins, Chiefs, Patriots and Seahawks. Dane Vandernat, who leads the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, spent almost 10 years with the Raiders.
  • Meanwhile, two former NFL agents founded all-star games. CGS co-founder Craig Redd was NFLPA-certified from 1999-2015, while Tropical Bowl founder Michael Quartey got certified in 2007 and spend three years representing players.
  • There have been at least two all-star games in Florida since 2016, when the Tropical Bowl launched in Miami alongside the Shrine Game, which was in St. Petersburg, Fla. The Shrine Bowl has since moved west to Las Vegas, but the Hula Bowl has settled in Orlando.
  • Between its Small-School Showcase, specialists workout and two full rosters (Wranglers and Desperadoes), the CGS hosts about 320 draft-eligible players across its five-day schedule. That’s only about 30-40 fewer  than is invited to the NFL Combine each year.
  • The Senior Bowl, CGS and Tropical Bowl are the only three games played continuously since 2019, with the Shrine Bowl, NFLPA Bowl and Hula Bowl suspending play for Covid in 2021.
  • It’s not just football luminaries that show up at all-star games. In 2016, with Charlie Weis coaching the Shrine Game, his friend, Jon Bon Jovi, showed up for game week and hung around the lobby of the Tradewinds Island Resort, the host hotel.

All-star season is a great time to build your network and make key contacts. Travel always has costs, but if you’re smart and you book in advance, you can hit a lot of these stops without breaking the bank. I hope to see you out on the trail.

Make sure you’re reading our newsletter, the Friday Wrap, for more tips on scouting, all-star games, coaching hiring (and firing), player representation, NIL and everything else associated with the business of the game. Register here.

 

 

ITL Rookie Agent Session V: Combine Prep

Wednesday night, we hosted our fifth Zoom session for the 2022 NFL Agent Class. I spent the first hour discussing the vagaries of training: what to ask for, how to avoid costly add-ons, what you can expect from your client during his training period, and plenty more.

However, rather than just telling you about it, I decided to provide it at no cost here. Pass code is @N+GZD1g.

Here’s a look at our outline from Wednesday:

COMBINE PREP vs. PRO DAY PREP

  • Combine prep is for combine invitees, starts first Monday of January
  • Pro Day Prep is for non-combine invitees, typically starts mid- to late January
  • Your first job when you sign a client is to find out when his pro day is
  • If he doesn’t know, we have a record of pro day dates for most schools going back five years
  • You may have to start your client for pro day training same time as combine prep
  • Every trainer should have combine prep/pro day rep options
  • Pro day prep should be cheaper, offer fewer bells and whistles

COST OF TRAINING

  • Usually $500 to $1000 per week
  • Most training terms are eight weeks; most trainers allow trainees to return post-pro day free
  • All-star week money is not usually refunded
  • Most trainers offer all-inclusive packages but not automatically
  • Residence is where costs have gone sky-high, especially in southern markets (can exceed training cost); if your client will train from home or stay at school, that’s a big win
  • Food is also not included, though this is not usually super expensive (food costs usually go M-F, sometimes M-S, but not Sunday)
  • There are other massages, cold treatments, and extra services that are often a la carte; important to make sure the trainer knows you must authorize them
  • Typically, a trainer will ask for half up front and half upon completion
  • At times, trainers will look to make deals based on where the player goes in the draft (risers cost extra)

TRAINING AND YOUR CLIENT

  • If you’re not around to monitor, your client may take days off; trainers don’t often hold players accountable
  • There is lots of down time; make sure your client is prepared for that (weekends, most gyms don’t train)
  • He may see others leaving on weekends, etc.; he may ask for tickets to fly home, etc.
  • Also, players will compare their “deals” with their agents, so be ready for your client to come around asking for extras

SCHOOL vs. TRAINING FACILITY

  • Only in last decade have Day 3/UDFA prospects felt like they could dictate training
  • You will have to steer your client to affordable training
  • Most players want to train somewhere other than their school (distractions, etc.)
  • If you DO convince your client to train at school, plan on making at least some financial consideration

WHAT IF YOU CAN’T AFFORD TRAINING?

  • Consider some kind of stipend – give the player a small amount with his option on how to spend it
  • This tends to keep the player happy and may pay dividends later

POSITION-SPECIFIC TRAINING

  • Combine training typically addresses speed and strength
  • Many trainers are now offering position-specific training, as well (very hot right now)
  • This is an additional cost; make sure you know costs before beginning
  • Especially helpful before your client attends an all-star game.

THE TRAINING RIDER

  • This is probably the most important point of this session
  • You must protect yourself if you’re going to cover training
  • The training rider is not part of the SRA; you must submit it separately
  • Most training riders are proprietary
  • A standard rider mandates that the player must pay back his training fees if he fires the agent before signing an NFL contract.
  • This must be submitted to the NFLPA with the SRA.

Make sure to get more details on the industry — including player representation — in our weekly newsletter, which comes out this evening. You can register for it here.

Ask the Scouts: Can an NFL Team Draft to Minimize Injuries?

As a Saints fan, it’s been frustrating to see many of the team’s better players miss game after game. The narrative has developed that these injuries are simply bad luck, an unpredictable but expected aspect of a violent game. One Saints beat writer has even been dismissive towards fans’ frustrations with players like WO Michael Thomas, who has played only a handful of games over the last three seasons despite what seem like minimal injuries.

Is the “bad luck” narrative true? Or is there a way to predict which teams, and which players, will be particularly beset by injuries that lead to missed games?

Here’s my take on it, especially as it pertains to the Saints. Under Assistant GM Jeff Ireland, who has revitalized the team since his arrival in 2015, the team has drafted players with exceptional athleticism. When crafted and developed, such a player  can win matchups and be a disruptor on defense or a playmaker on offense. On the other hand, athletes as football players tend to be more greyhound than bulldog. When things aren’t just right, they lack the will to grind. That could be why, year after year, the team gets high marks for talent but has trouble keeping its players on the field. Even though they have changed doctors and even hired sports science professionals aiming at improving player health, injuries have stacked up this season.

Furthermore, I think that if you have bulldogs in each positional room, you’re more likely that they’ll put pressure on their peers to answer the bell on game day despite the nicks accrued during the season. I know personally that players have deferred to their agents before deciding if they’d play through injuries.

Of course, this is just my theory. Am I off base? I turned to several friends in the business to get their opinions.

  • Former Bills GM Doug Whaley, who’s now running the entire personnel side for XFL 3.0, said that, most definitely, a team could draft for health and toughness. “I think you can if you bring in players with the majority of the following qualities: Are they junk yard dogs? Is failure not an option? Do they hate to lose more than like to win? Are they dedicated to their craft on, and more importantly off, the field?”
  • Three-time NFL GM Randy Mueller said he thinks “you can develop toughness, but more from a mental standpoint, not physical toughness.”  He’s more philosophical about injuries: “I just think you have to plan on guys getting hurt — every year. It’s not ‘if’ but ‘when.'”
  • Former Bengals executive Jim Lippincott seems to lean more toward my thinking. “One of the true secrets of scouting is predicting the future,” he texted. “When we study players, we most certainly are aware of how many games a player plays in college..(the most important ability is dependability). . . You can put together a draft class and sign free agents with their availability history foremost in your mind. However, money makes players act differently, and who knows who is counseling the player on how to handle injury!!!”
  • Former Bears GM Jerry Angelo is similar to Lippincott in his thinking. “You want every player that you have in your locker room there because they love the game as demonstrated through their work ethic and competitive nature,” Jerry wrote. “They hold each other accountable with a ‘Team First’ attitude. That’s the culture all coaches and organizations want and strive to build. Saying that, each year teams need to fill holes, upgrade their roster and try to accumulate as much talent as they can to compete favorably each season. In doing so, they may compromise certain intangibles, that are integral tenets to winning. The line is so fine, you don’t know when you’ve crossed it. How much risk are you willing to take is the litmus test for every team.”
  • Former Titans executive Blake Beddingfield initially disagreed with my premise “Not sure I can answer that,” he texted. “Even players with a history of playing every game get hurt. I have seen players with bodies and frames that make you say durability, but they are always hurt. (Then,) players like (former Titans OH) Chris Johnson . . . looked frail (but) never got hurt.” After discussing this with him, however, he seemed to agree that some players are just tougher than others, citing Rams DT Aaron Donald’s durability despite his violent playing style, as well as former Oilers offensive lineman Bruce Matthews and his brother, former Browns linebacker Clay Matthews, who played almost four decades between them despite playing tough positions physically. 

The draft, by its very nature, is a very inexact science. Still, I believe tough teams are built on draft day by working to put hardy, tough players at key places in the locker room. They create positive peer pressure, especially as the season wears on and the temptation to take games off gets greater.

Am I crazy? Perhaps. Make sure you’re keeping up with people who are a lot smarter than I am by reading our weekly newsletter, the Friday Wrap. Register for it here.

 

Want To Be An NFL Agent? Some Thanksgiving Advice

Wednesday, an old friend in the business reached out about the son of a friend who’s getting into player representation. “Since the area of NIL and being a player agent is out of my comfort zone, I knew you could provide a link or two for third party guidance,” he wrote. “I don’t want to put you on the spot, but I know you are the best in this area.”

I didn’t have any ready links to send him, and I felt a little bad about that. But since it’s Thanksgiving, I thought I’d give back a little. Having worked with and watched agents make mistakes for more than two decades, here are the three biggest mistakes agents commonly make.

“The contacts I have are enough to make me successful.” I’d say about a third of every agent class enters the business with no contacts. It happens, but it’s rare. Most new agents have an ex-roommate, a friend, a family member or someone else at a key school or NFL team, and that person has promised to help him. i’d even say that more than half have been told by a draft-eligible player, “if you get certified, I’ll sign with you.” It rarely happens, though. The truth is, you have to commit to making a slew of contacts AFTER you get certified, or you’re dead in the water. You have no chance otherwise.

“Negotiating is the most important part of my job.” This is the big takeaway that most sport management programs drill into their students for four years (and maybe two more if the student is dumb enough to pursue a master’s). The truth is, since the 2011 CBA was approved, a rookie deal is cut and dried. Unless you have a player signed as an undrafted free agent, negotiation is not really something a young agent has to have in his bag. It will be a long time before you’re sitting across the table from an NFL executive, angrily haggling over dollars and deals.

“I can do this without spending much money.” I have a wealth manager who is like the Michael Jordan of investment. He is highly accomplished in his field. About 10 years ago, he became part of the ITL family. I kinda rolled my eyes, thinking this was a flight of fancy for a man who’s successful but bored. His first year was pretty much right out of the “how to be an NFL financial advisor” annual. With my guidance, he dutifully attended the top all-star games, handed out his literature to the players, and bought dinners for friendly but usually lightly regarded agents. After a couple years of doing that, he had zero clients. However, he stuck with it, and like anyone who’s smart and pays his dues, he has built a decent practice. But that took 10 years and who knows how much money, not to mention time? He was willing to make the commitment, but even then, it wasn’t easy.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, and if you’re part of the ITL family, that is especially true. If you aren’t, and you want to be, I’m eager to start working with you. Don’t want to commit yet? At least sign up for our newsletter.

Have a great day with your family, and enjoy the games.