The one question I get the most often from new agents is, how do I get to know and build trust with scouts? How do I get to a point where a scout will give me honest feedback on a player I’m recruiting, and perhaps even recommend sleepers? If I could answer this question, I’d probably not be handing it out on a blog.
It’s a Catch-22 situation that all goes back to the ‘quid pro quo’ nature of the business. As an agent, until you have clients that interest scouts, they don’t particularly want to know you. Once you do have clients of some worth, they will be more interested, but in direct proportion to the ability of your client. In other words, the big firms get the big players, and therefore have the deep and long-lasting relationship with NFL power brokers that ensure their continued success.
So how do you get around this? We’re trying different ways of doing that. Last year, we helped five agencies contract with former NFL scouts, and while we won’t have results for about a month-and-a-half, all the agents I’ve spoken to about the program were especially satisfied. In December, we referred interested agents to a former NFL scouting executive who gave them a professional, insightful report on any player they wanted to know about, and it was very reasonably priced. We’re working on some other options for agents as they recruit the 2018 class and I think they’ll be helpful, too. But the bottom line is that, unless you’re connected to a top prospect or you’re a former NFL scout yourself, you’re going to have to figure out the players that have the best chance on your own during your first go-round. We offer several ways to find those players, but there’s no avoiding a sense of risk. The key is managing that risk and not letting it choke you.
If you’re in that big group with no ties to scouts or executives, here’s the good news: often, scouts don’t know the answers, either. Even though they’re out on the road, checking their sources and watching film, they get things wrong all the time. I have several stories from personal experience running all-star games and trying to build a roster that scouts had signed off on that prove this. You might find players that you think can play, and you may be right.
Now, here’s the bad news: it doesn’t matter what you think. Obviously, their opinions are the ones that matter. There’s a good deal of groupthink when it comes to scouting and evaluation, and you might find a player that checks all the boxes, but for some reason just doesn’t ring the chimes with many (or any) teams. In this case, you will have to decide if you want to trust yourself, or if you want to find someone you might not like as much, but that NFL teams seem to prefer.
It’s a conundrum, a truly difficult situation. But if you’re going to pursue NFLPA certification, you need to be prepared for it.
Next week, we’ll talk about the draft and a new agent’s odds of hearing his client’s name called during the seven rounds of picks. See you then.