Just a few weeks ago in the Friday Wrap, we discussed the potential changes in an uncertain recruiting landscape dramatically affected by coronavirus. Just two weeks later, we are already getting answers to the questions we asked in our July 24 edition. Let’s look at the changes, make a few new points and ask a few more questions.

  • These opt-outs are a test: No matter how you feel about the merits of their decisions, players who are opting out are an experiment. Will they preserve their draft status despite not playing? When we asked active NFL scouts a few weeks back in this space, the number most came up was about 20 players who can pull this off (here are the players we’d guess can do it). We already know that top players skip the Senior Bowl by the bushel, and in recent seasons, players like Christian McCaffrey and Leonard Fournette have skipped their teams’ bowl games without a draft penalty. Will the next generation skip their last year of eligibility without effect? We’ll know in about 10 months.
  • This is another blow to the agent middle class: Based on our conversations with people in the business, the players who’ve opted out already (and the ones we’ve heard are strongly considering it) will receive full stipends through the draft. Normally, you’re looking at anywhere from $5,000-$10,000/month for four months, depending on the player and the agency. That adds $30,000-$40,000 to the pre-draft tab before you figure in training (about $20,000 conservatively, including food, residence and rental car). Agencies used to get that back in fees over the life of the first contract, but in the days of the one-percent deal (or zero) and slotted salaries post-2011 CBA, it’s all on getting to the second deal and charging three percent. There are no guarantees. It’s been a tough landscape for middle-class firms for a while now. This year — coming off a year when fewer UDFAs were signed and there were no tryout players — could be a real death blow to those who make unwise financial decisions.
  • Some combine prep facilities, as well as agencies, won’t make it to 2022: Today, the success of a combine prep facility is predicated on four things: geographical location (you pretty much better be in the Sun Belt); ability to find reasonably priced lodging (incredibly hard on short-term leases, especially in splashy settings like Miami, Phoenix and Los Angeles); what you do the other nine months of the year; and your ability to recruit and win over the top prospects, obviously. Many solid combine prep facilities have been forced to close down during the lockdowns, and that takes a huge toll when you have thin margins (and yes, most of these facilities have thin margins, despite beliefs to the contrary). The lion’s share of the players who’ll train from now until the draft will go to the top facilities, so the smaller sites won’t benefit from that. It’s going to be another tough year.

In today’s Friday Wrap, we’ll talk about what’s ahead for the scouting profession, based on hiring practices this summer. Give it a look this evening. If you still need to register, click here.