A question I get quite often is, what does it take, in 2023, to land a draft pick? What kind of package cinches a signing?

Even though I have conversations with agents at every level every day this time of year, it’s a really hard question to ask. But I’m going to try to answer it here. First, let’s define the factors that influence the price.

  • Start with the player’s draft ranking. Obviously, this is super, super, super subjective, especially this early. Still, players and agents make educated guesses on this in December and January every year, and it’s an important part of the formula. I think the major dividing lines are the first five picks in the draft, the first 100 picks, and the next 50 or so. I would say the first five picks are in one tier, the next 95 (end of Day 2) are in another tier, and the players drafted by about the end of Round 4 are in the final tier. After that, it’s really hard to predict who gets all the modern accoutrements (monthly per diem, signing bonus, costly training, fee cut, etc.). But I think these three tiers are pretty much set in stone. Obviously, it’s also important to recognize that there’s a big difference between the top and bottom of each tier. The sixth pick in the draft gets a much bigger package than the last pick in the third round.
  • Next, does the player play offense or defense? That’s a key distinction. Offensive players get more than defensive players, generally.
  • Next, if he plays offense, is he a QB, running back or wide receiver? If you score touchdowns, you get a premium, if for no other reason than your marketing appeal.
  • What kind of program did the player come from? Obviously, a player from a top-five program sees himself differently from one from an FCS program. It doesn’t matter if the big-school player is a backup and the small-schooler is a solid regular. There’s a different level of entitlement. Also — bigger programs can offer bigger NIL packages. I’ve heard that, lately, smaller schools are hurriedly sending out money requests to boosters, trying to match the big offers being tendered to players entering the portal. By the way, it’s probably too late for those smaller schools.
  • How was the player rated coming out of high school? Once one of the high school ranking services places a four- or five-star label on a player, in his mind, the player never sees himself as less than that.
  • What kind of agency is trying to sign the player? Bigger firms with more clients and an established reputation will have to pay less, obviously.

So how do you price things? Let’s start from the bottom.

Early Day 3 picks (bottom of the third tier) are getting $3,000/per month and up, probably topping out around $10,000/month, January through April. They might get a signing bonus of around an extra month. Obviously, all training costs are covered, as well, adding another $20,000 to $30,000 to the price tag.

In the second tier, the floor for monthly per diem is probably $7,000 per month, with some kind of five-figure signing bonus. That signing bonus could come in the form of a marketing guarantee, which usually makes the number a good bit better. I would think most first-rounders are getting six-figure marketing guarantees, with at least a portion of that coming in cash upon signing the SRA. Also, first-rounders typically don’t pay more than one percent on their rookie contract. Typically, second-rounders pay two percent, and the rest pay three — if they get a sizable package. Agents who don’t offer all the financial bells and whistles normally have to cut their fees as a lure.

For the the top five picks, the top tier, you’re looking at seven-figure packages, especially for quarterbacks. I’ve heard of a million dollars as a signing bonus, usually structured as a marketing guarantee, plus a five-figure monthly per diem that could be as high as $50,000 per month. Also, the players rated in the top five are almost always paying no more than one point on their contract. Many are paying less than that. Some are paying zero.

Keep in mind that as recently as 20 years ago — not really that long ago — agencies didn’t even pay for training. Those days, of course, are long gone. These days (especially as schools offer hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep a player on campus), it’s anything goes. We may be way off on our numbers, but based on the conversations I’ve had, we’re in the ballpark.