This summer, we at Inside the League have focused greatly on bringing leading industry voices to online platforms in order to interface with active NFL scouts, agents and executives. We’ve found it to be the best way to connect people in the era of social distancing.

At the same time, there’s nothing like sitting across the table from someone, and we’ve done a little breaking of bread with our friends in the industry, as well. Between Zoom sessions and power lunches, we’ve learned quite a bit about the industry. Here are a few lessons learned this summer, especially as they relate to character evaluation in the draft process.

  • If the pro liaison loves a kid, maybe you shouldn’t: The pro liaison tends to be the guy who tells scouts the party line. Normally, he’s the one who’s going to give you the info a head coach would almost say in a press conference setting. In other words, just the facts, presented with a smile and maybe a positive spin. The players whose attitudes are best are the ones who’ll be bragged on in meetings with pro liaisons. To get the unedited version on a player, a scout typically has to speak to a coach on staff that he knows, or the strength coach. Strength coaches are typically less political.
  • A kid without a father in the home has to be judged differently from one who doesn’t: A young man who grew up with a father in the home is more likely to understand that a coach screaming at him still loves him. Maybe his father ripped him for not taking out the garbage or for mowing but not edging — he knows his father is still gonna be there at dinnertime asking him about his day, making sure he’s got what he needs, hugging him at bedtime, etc. A young man without a father in the home is more likely to see a coach berating him as someone seeking a confrontation. He’ll either tune out or, in other cases, answer with his fists.
  • Houston, Atlanta and Miami are the party cities: You better know what you have with a kid who is drafted by the Falcons, Dolphins and, yes, Texans. These are perceived as the cities where you can really get yourself in trouble with women, alcohol and drugs, or all three. Give a kid money and a lot of free time, and he’s liable to get over his skis, quickly. Or at least that’s the reputation.
  • There’s a lot of nuance to a young man’s background aside from his legal history: The example I was given was of a kid who was raised in Mississippi, a state with a low-performing educational system. If he came out of Oxford, he’s more likely to have a stable upbringing and less trouble with schooling and structure. If he is from Jackson, it depends on whether he was in private school or public school. Public school kids saw things that kids in private schools didn’t. The geographical regions of the state are also very telling. This is true of several states, but Mississippi is one place where the hometown can be very indicative of what kind of kid he is.
  • Failing a drug test means different things at different schools: For example, at LSU, after your first failure you are given certain terms, and if you meet those, you are given a clean state. In other words, you are back at zero. After failure No. 2, you are given a chance to go to rehab, and if you take that option (which is voluntary), you are treated differently from someone who doesn’t. Because schools like LSU and Texas have traditionally been very patient with those who have a problem with marijuana, kids who are kicked out for their drug problems are valued very differently from those schools who might have a zero tolerance policy.

If we’ve just whet your appetite, we encourage you to register for our Friday Wrap, in which we discuss all manner of industry-related topics each week. This week, we’ll focus on the Zoom sessions with industry professionals that we’ve already hosted as well as what’s to come later this summer. Here’s a peek at last week’s edition.