This time of year, I do a lot of traveling to all-star games, and I try to make every practice. After all, that’s the beauty of all-star games. The workouts are the show, and they’re open to everyone, so why not go? But this creates a predicament. I’m often asked who looked good, and I have to say, ‘I don’t know.’ I know that sounds ridiculous, but there are several reasons for this.
No. 1, I guess I’m not really good at it. In the early days of ITL in the ‘00s, I used to take a hand-held cassette recorder, show up a half hour before practice, and studiously watch every play. Afterwards, I would retreat to my hotel room and spend hours transcribing the tape. At the end of the month, I would publish my winners and losers from the all-star slate. Almost always, they wouldn’t match up with the ‘winners’ (or losers) the national media types had picked out. You can argue about why that was – I distinctly remember in ’04 or ’05 when ESPN’s top draft guru published a glowing report on a player who had no-showed the week (it was promptly taken down; unfortunately this was pre-screen shot) – but the bottom line is that it was embarrassing when the players I had liked were nowhere to be found on the various websites. I recall one year when Louisville DT Amobi Okoye earned plaudits from various media sources for his Senior Bowl work, and it even vaulted him to the top 10 in the following draft. But I didn’t see it, which earned me some friendly jabs from his agent, a longtime friend. It’s odd, though, because I remember the performances of Oregon St. WO Chad Johnson (2001) and North Carolina DT Ryan Sims (2003), two players widely regarded as having had superb Senior Bowls that paid off on draft day. Those guys both killed it in Mobile, and I saw that with my own eyes. But apparently, other times, I’ve missed out.
No. 2, picking winners and losers is the best way to lose relationships. If you’re in any business for two decades, you make a lot of friends. In my case, most of my friends are also clients. So it behooves me to avoid providing a lot of controversial opinions, ones that I might add could be wrong. Criticizing an agent’s client is a lot like criticizing his kids, and it goes over just about as well. I can think of two contract advisors, right off the top of my head, that are not ITL clients because of things I said about their players on the site once upon a time.
No. 3, all-star workouts are where the league comes out to network and socialize. Just today, I’ve had two aspiring football professionals reach out to me about when I would be at practices this week and next. The whole week it’s been tough managing conversations with people and renewing acquaintances while also seeing friends coming my way to say hi, and trying to balance multiple conversations while simultaneously fielding texts and emails. It’s a very delicate thing. I want to give people my time and attention, and they deserve it. It’s just hard.
No. 4, it’s weird, but I’ve observed that often even scouts don’t watch the practices with their full, undivided attention. Many sit in the stands (you could always count on Texans GM Charley Casserly to be planted in the stands during his time in Houston, and I’ve noticed that normally his protégé, Jets GM Mike Maccagnan, does the same), but many roam the edges of the field with the agents, financial planners, marketing pros, parents, fans and other general hangers-on. I often wonder what their assignments are; are they there to watch specific players, or positions, or to just gather off-field information? No two teams do it the same way, so I can’t fault them for how they spend their time, but it just doesn’t seem like what’s happening on the field is as critical and urgent as some of the ‘stock reports’ make it seem. Hey, maybe I’m wrong.
Anyway, this is why you won’t get reports on who’s hot and who’s not though I’m at virtually every all-star game this time of year. I hope that doesn’t disappoint you.