I’m working on a big story for ITL clients next week that will go into minute detail on the undrafted free agent signing process. That’s about the last truly unexposed part of this business, in my opinion, and for the people I work with (as well as the true NFL junkies out there) it’s need-to-know information.
Anyway, before Monday, I will have interviewed five former NFL scouts. So far, I’ve spoken to two of them at length, and it confirms a couple things I’ve always suspected, but didn’t know for sure. Here are three common denominators I’ve noticed about the scouting process as it pertains to scouts and agents:
- All scouts are scared to death of the unknown: I remember once asking an NFL GM (the one I discussed earlier this week) if teams pay any attention to the draft guides and the websites. He said yes, but only to a point. He said that all they cared about was making absolutely sure there wasn’t a name on any of the sites that the scouts hadn’t heard of. To some degree, player evaluation is a massive process of elimination. You want to make absolutely sure there’s not a guy out there that you haven’t at least decided can’t play.
- NFL teams are always looking for big guys. Always. This is from Jeff Bauer, who until December was Director of College Scouting for the Jets: “Usually offensive tackles are the toughest players to find. If there’s one position, offensive tackles can demand more (from their post-draft signing bonuses) than anybody else because everybody needs tackles for camp. But if (the agent for) a receiver is messing around with a signing bonus, (he) better be careful because there’s one just like (his client) out there.”
- Agents, like their clients, struggle with reality as it gets closer to the draft. The following comes from Jon Kingdon, until 2013 the Director of College Scouting for the Raiders: “You start calling the agents a week or two prior to the draft. We would have someone call the agent for everyone we had ranked in the sixth and seventh round and ‘FA – YES’ grades. He would express our interest in the player, getting as much information as he could from the agent. He would confirm the phone numbers for the player and the agent and would then tell the agent that if the player does not get drafted, we would be interested in signing him as a free agent. Often the agent would be shocked that we would raise the possibility that his player might not get drafted, and they would tell us how much money they had invested in the player, and that they were sure his player was going in the first three rounds. More often than not, their player would go undrafted.”