Today, a few notes on Ray Farmer’s presentation at our seventh annual seminar in Indianapolis last month. It’s a continuation of Monday’s post. Today’s post covers the second half of this video.
- One thing that rarely gets mentioned is the fine line new agents must walk as they establish relationships with NFL personnel. Stay in their lanes and they risk never making the contacts they need. Push a prospect too hard and risk destroying any credibility if the prospect turns out to be a dud.
- When he ran Kansas City’s pro department, Ray classified every player into four categories: on the 53; one of the 46 that travels with the team and is squarely on the roster; ‘bubble plus,’ or guys who are just outside the 46; and the rest, the 3-4 players (maybe one on the ‘bubble plus’ list) that are constantly in danger of being upgraded. Everyone else who crosses his desk (street free agent, recently released player, etc.) was considered LS (long shot) or claim (as in, if he’s cut, he’s worth claiming).
- Of the ‘LS’ and ‘claim’ list, the two subdivisions are ‘practice squad plus’ and ‘workout.’ These are the only players that might rate a look, that might actually get worked out. Everyone else doesn’t even get a rating. The only way out of the ‘everyone else’ group is if you play in another league and generate more tape, which makes a player more interesting.
- At around the 28-minute mark, Ray talks about a player the Browns signed off the Cleveland Gladiators’ roster last season named Brandon Stephens. Here’s his story. Two interesting points Ray makes are that Stephens had his game film on his phone, so after a chance meeting with Ray, he could hand Ray his phone for a quick verification of skills. The other point is that Stephens had talent, but he got sunk when he pulled his hamstring. It’s just one more reminder that health is as important as skill level when it comes to making it in the NFL.
- Ray effectively says that if your client is 25, and he’s never played in the NFL, it’s time for him to start looking for another job. The learning curve is just too steep. That seems to be a rather hard and fast rule, and it’s one reason why ex-baseball players that start their careers late have such poor NFL careers.
- You can’t change what a player did on tape for four years. “That’s what he is,” Ray said. There’s nothing you can do to jump-start his prospects, plain and simple.
- Thousands of dollars are invested in interview prep for top prospects every year, but it all comes down to, ‘can I trust you?’ Ray says a player needs to get it all out in the open right off the bat. Ray’s example: “Hi, I’m Ray Farmer, and I killed three people on the way to this interview, but I just wanted you to know so we could get it out of the way.” That line got a lot of laughs, but it’s true.
- One of the questions I always get is, how do I build relationships with scouts? Ray says it’s all about people skills, and he illustrated this by his conduct at our seminar. Ray sat in the crowd before the program started and was never approached. Later, he walked outside, where several people were, and still no one approached him. Sure, people were intimidated, but you have to get past this if you really want to make friends with important people. I have the same struggles — it’s hard to risk messing up a relationship before it starts. But it’s a risk worth taking.
- Ray closes this segment by emphasizing the importance of building a relationship with your client, and truly knowing him. The difficulty is that schools spend four years doing everything they can to prevent agents from building relationships with their players (and often expressing very little interest in getting to know the agents themselves). The time agents get to spend building that relationship is usually after the hire, at which point it’s January or February and almost too late to make a change. It’s the paradox of the agent world.
We’ll have more later this week as we wrap up Ray’s presentation.