At this point, while draft prospects and their agents are furiously preparing for next week’s combine or March’s pro days, there are about 300 people who are readying for the NFLPA exam this summer. Many of them will use our practice exam to increase their odds of success, which is a good thing, because the exam is extremely challenging.

Of course, knowing the CBA is just part of the job, and I constantly hear from aspiring agents who don’t seem to have a good handle on what’s ahead in non-CBA matters. With that in mind, my next five blog posts will seek to rectify this. These blog posts are a supplement to the newsletter series all our subscribers receive as part of an ITL subscription. The four topics we’ll cover are as follows:

  • The Modern Draft Prospect
  • Quid Pro Quo
  • The ‘Knowing Scouts’ Dilemma
  • The Draft and Your Odds

Without further ado, let’s talk about the modern draft prospect.

I think most budding agents have a romanticized view of young players that borders on fan-like. They see them as young and hungry, with an all-or-nothing attitude about training, working out, and otherwise learning their craft. They see them as respectful of the process and everyone helping them along. They expect players to be cordial and respectful to their agents and advisors, and above all else, grateful, taking nothing for granted. Similarly, they see the player and his parents as supportive but never presumptuous, and mainly only speaking when spoken to; they expect parents and family members to have a healthy sense of boundaries, and to be adult-like and reasonable in their expectations.

I think it’s fair to say this kind of player exists, and some of them even have a reasonable chance to play in the NFL. However, I think they’re pretty rare, and maybe even getting rarer.

The stories I hear most often from my clients are that the average player starts out with a rather heightened sense of what’s ahead, and his chances of NFL success. Most expect to be treated like NFL players from the get-go (car rentals, deluxe apartments, monthly allowances and training extras), and this is completely removed from their actual draft chances. The twist is that often, a player starts out very humble and less than entitled, but grows in his sense of appointment as the draft nears. Sadly, stories about parents are very similar. In many cases, they resemble a parent whose son chose an unsatisfactory spouse. They’re constantly meddling in the agent-plate relationship and even threatening them. There are ways around this kind of player — finding players you can enjoy representing is part of what we do at ITL — but far too often, this is the case.

There are only about a hundred reasons agent-player relationships take this shape. There’s the annual pre-draft hype-fest that makes every draft prospect either a future superstar or an under-the-radar sleeper. There’s social media, where former teammates paint an exaggerated picture of combine training glory and NFL interest. There are college coaches and athletic officials that spend four years painting unrealistic expectations of a player’s pro chances. There’s also the expected ‘loyalty to the program’ that means avoiding any real investigation and study of the NFL draft process. Factor in the family and friends that have been living vicariously through these young men for 20 years, and it becomes a perfect storm. And there you are, the agent, at the end of that wind tunnel.

Again, all players are not like this. In addition, the tactful agent has to figure out how to navigate these challenges. After all, we’ve got dozens of success stories we can cite. The point is, if you’re taking the exam (or hope to one day), be prepared for this.

More next week.