One of the questions I always get from my newer agent clients is, “I’ve been talking to Player X” — sometimes they actually say Player X, because they want to keep the identity confidential — “but he wants training, and I don’t know if he’s worth it or not. Should I sign him? What do the scouts tell you?”

Before I go any further, let me mention that I addressed this question in a somewhat different way in August. The difference is that last time, it was aimed more at players trying to determine if they had NFL promise.

First of all, let’s address the scouts part. Scouts are notoriously cryptic about players that are outside the top 100 projected picks. Actually, in my experience, most scouts give you one of two responses when you ask them about a player (especially before January). If the player is expected to go anywhere in the first three rounds, the response is usually, “He’s a good player. He could be an early pick.” Note that the agent doesn’t make any real predictions, because so much could happen at the combine/pro day. On the other hand, if the player is expected to go anywhere after the 100th pick, it’s usually, “He’s a late-rounder, probably, or a camp guy.” They don’t get a lot more specific than that, and I understand, because there’s so much that could happen between January and May.

For this reason, I’ve devised three very quick, very cursory guidelines on guessing if a player has a legitimate chance to go to camp (and maybe even get drafted in the latter rounds):

  1. Was the player highly productive, accomplished and decorated in college?: Even players from small schools will pique the interest of scouts if they’ve been on numerous all-conference teams and started for several seasons. Often, an agent will ask me about a kid that only started infrequently or was hurt almost his whole career. Those players get drafted late sometimes, but it’s not worth the risk.
  2. Is the player at least 6-feet tall?: Used to, receivers, running backs, linebackers and defensive backs could get away with being 5-8 or 5-9. Really, the only players still in play on draft day that can get away with that today are running backs. What’s more, a player who’s tall and skinny can’t be ruled out automatically, either. Many training facilities can put 10-15 pounds of muscle on a slender player in 6-8 weeks. One note: obviously, offensive linemen and defensive linemen usually need to be well over 6-0.
  3. Does the player have obvious speed?: This one is a lot harder to judge, and very often, even NFL scouts don’t have a reliable 40 time on a player. Great example: Arkansas QB Matt Jones entered his senior season in 2004 seen as a very raw passer with some athleticism, but probably a 4.8-4.9 speed guy. For whatever reason, he didn’t time on ‘junior day’ for the Hogs, and his speed was estimated. Then he goes to the combine and runs a sub-4.4 40 (4.37) at 242 pounds, and suddenly, he’s the toast of the 2005 draft class. He never transitioned smoothly to receiver in the NFL, but the point is, speed excites scouts. If a prospect runs well at his pro day, at the very least, he generates excitement among NFL teams.

Obviously, this is a rather superficial look at determining a prospect’s value on draft day, but it’s a start. More on shaking out the draft process tomorrow.

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