- Ray called agents ‘professional ambulance chasers,’ but in a good way. “If a kid takes a bad hit in practice, you should know. If a kid rolls his ankle, you should know.” It’s true. Ray relates a story about a player who suffered a minor injury during the early part of practice, and after a writer Tweeted it, Ray immediately got a call.
- In Ray’s two seasons with the Browns, they had 161 players on their draft board (total!) the first year and 168 the second year. From these lists, they drafted their players and signed their underrated free agents. That’s from a list that started of about 2800 players, he said. That’s about right for all teams. Obviously, that 150-170 players varies per team, but only by about 100 players. So out of that 2800 players to start with, there’s only around 300 players that all NFL teams saw as draftable. Now, think about every player you’ll read about on your favorite Twitter account or draft site as having a legit chance of being drafted. Five hundred players? 600? 800? That’s the disconnect between media perception and what the league really sees. There’s a big difference.
- Of course, the powers that be in the league don’t care. They want to see the event hyped up as much as possible. But the people doing evaluation aren’t looking at nearly as many players as you might be lead to believe.
- Ray asks a key question of players on the bubble: “Can he run 4.5 and cover on kickoffs? Because if he can’t, he can’t play.” That’s a great question for an agent to ask himself when he’s looking for sleepers that can make a team despite going undrafted.
- Ray reminded the crowd to understand what a team does before trying to pitch its scouts on a player’s ability. He even said he’s insulted when an agent calls him with a player that’s obviously a bad fit. This is so important.
- The idea that ‘coaches coach and scouts scout’ is an old-school mentality, according to Ray. The new-school idea is that everything is collaborative. Of course, at the end of the day, someone makes the final call, but I think teams try to sell all decisions as team decisions to mitigate the damage and criticism if things go wrong.
- Ray encourages agents to tell their clients to be humble, “even if they’re not humble.” That’s because scouts will take a player who’s full of himself as a challenge, even if he’s just confident, not cocky.
- The Browns gave scouts two years to prove themselves. Ray had planned on evaluating his scouts this year, but he got let go before he had a chance to complete their evaluation. This differs from most teams, which, I’ve heard, give their scouts three years.
- What’s true of scouts is true of players: no one wants to develop anyone anymore. They want someone who’s ready right out of the chute. “No one wants anything but instant coffee anymore,” Ray said.
- The way to get an undrafted free agent signed for the most money possible is to start planning for him to go undrafted in the fifth round. Rather than waiting and hoping, the good agent starts politicking with teams after the fourth round and trying to find his best situation. The time for negotiating is not after the draft, but during the draft. This is a key distinction. After the draft, take whatever is offered to you, Ray recommends, because if you don’t, it’s on to the next one.
- Also, Ray advises, “don’t take the money.” In other words, don’t hunt for the $10,000 UDFA bonus to make yourself look good. Hunt for the team that gives your client the best chance to make a 53 and earn $435,000 as an active NFL player. This takes a little extra work on your part, but it’s critical. The big bonus is meaningless if your client is on the street in September.
- Ray said that, for a lot of teams, evaluation is over once the combine starts. The combine is no more than confirmation. I guess that’s true of pro days, as well. Though you hear about sleepers and whatever that suddenly shoot up the board in late February and March, those players didn’t move with teams, just with media folks. The NFL already knew about them, for the most part.
- Ray was asked about analytics, and he illustrated its value this way. He asked, if you knew that only players that caught at least 75 percent of catchable balls would be successful in the NFL, would that be valuable information? Sure it is, most would answer. OK, but what’s a catchable ball? At some point, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. At the end of the day, really every number is subjective, or almost every one.
We’ll finish up with our dissection of Ray’s presentation next week.