Now that the draft is over, there’s been a kind of return to reality for those of us who work in football. It’s given me a chance to have plenty of conversations about the direction many things will take in the wake of the national quarantines. Here are my thoughts, and the thoughts I’ve gotten back from others, on where several issues stand.
- Supplemental Draft: There’s been a lot of talk that the NFL may allow top NCAA players to enter the supplemental draft, but there are several problems with that. No. 1, traditionally, a player has to have a “change in status” before he’s allowed draft eligibility, and short of the NCAA cancelling the season, that’s not happening. What’s more, the NFL has always tried to forge a delicate balance with the NCAA, and if the league peeled off all of college football’s top players — just when all of college athletics needs football most — I could see teams shuttering their practices and offices to scouts entirely.
- Rookie camps: I addressed this in Tuesday’s Rep Rumblings report, but bottom line, California and New York look like two states that are a long way from reopening, and for different reasons, the Saints and Jets won’t be having rookie camps (at least, traditional ones). That means six teams can’t have rookie camps and two more won’t. I don’t see the Competition Committee allowing anything that goes counter to a level playing field.
- Name/Image/Likeness: There’s been a lot of discussion of the NIL issue as it moved farther along the course this week, and some are alarmed while others are celebratory. I almost see the changes as a benefit for the agent business because the one thing I hear from agents every day is that their clients expect them to pile up a mountain of marketing money as soon as they reach the NFL. By 2023, the Joe Burrows of the world — touchdown-scorers on major BCS programs — will make nice side money during their college days. The Mekhi Bectons and the Tristan Wirfs — super-talented players at non-sexy positions in non-sexy markets — will not. Maybe NFL players will have a better understanding of their relative marketability as a result of this.
- Agencies: The draft gave a business-as-usual veneer to the NFL last week. However, I’ve had several conversations with contract advisors over the last 2-3 weeks, and they all say the same thing: we’re about to find out who really has resources and who doesn’t. My read is that the quarantine is going to heavily exacerbate the gap between the haves and the have-nots, most of whom needed rookie camps and OTAs to help their clients make rosters.
- Combine prep facilities: I’ve seen two rather desperate Facebook posts this week from trainers who can’t reopen because their businesses have been deemed non-essential. I know agents hate to hear this, but most training facilities are run on rather narrow margins. I could see fewer combine prep facilities after all this is over. If fewer agencies are willing to pay for training next year, that could be a 1-2 punch.
- Scouting changes: Normally by now, several teams have turned over their scouting staffs, or at least made a few cosmetic changes. Not so this year. So far, we’ve only seen one change, with maybe 1-2 more on the way. I’ve heard some teams have instituted hiring freezes, while others are probably leery of the media chiding them for making cuts during such an uncertain time.
- NFL agent exam: At some point soon, we’re supposed to find out if the NFLPA will proceed with the agent exam, which is normally in July in Washington, D.C. This seems to be headed to some form of online testing. The NFLPA conducted a continuing education exam for veteran agents a couple years ago which was all online, so the template is already there. It would just mean the PA would have to move the attending pre-exam seminar online, as well.
We’ve got a long way to go before everything is worked out. Like everyone else, I’m hoping we’re not about to see seismic changes in college and NFL schedules, the agency landscape, scouting lineups and everything else associated with the football business.
As more issues crop up and there’s more clarity on some of these topics, we’ll address them. In the meantime, make sure you’re registered for our weekly newsletter, the Friday Wrap, to get a regular look at what’s going on in the business.