Ask the Scout: Six Things with Raleigh McKenzie (ex-Raiders)

Last night, we completed our Fourth Quarter series by spending an hour-plus with Raleigh McKenzie. Not only is Raleigh a good friend, he was a key part of the pro days we set up last spring for members of the ’20 draft class. Oh, by the way, he played 16 NFL seasons and won two Super Bowls in addition to spending six seasons as an area scout with the Raiders.

Here are six things I learned during Raleigh’s session last night.

  • Raleigh was pretty forthright that if his brother hadn’t become a GM with the Raiders, there’s a good chance he never would have been an NFL scout. I thought that was admirable and transparent of him. Also of interest — he said if he’d had his choice, he probably would have preferred to be a coach. I think a lot of scouts might say that, especially in view of the disparity in salaries between the jobs. 
  • As a former offensive linemen, I had lots of questions about the position. Here’s one thing that struck me: When discussing Texans OT Laremy Tunsil, he said Tunsil was aggressive but not always physical. That was a distinction I’ve never heard before. When I asked him about it, Raleigh said Tunsil always came off the ball and got after his opponent while at Ole Miss, but he was more of a finesse player than a mauler. Raleigh liked his athleticism, especially as a pass blocker, but felt he’d have to improve his strength in the running game. I thought that was an interesting insight.
  • When asked what advice he could give aspiring scouts, it was that they must trust their eyes. That’s something that’s come up often during our four-week series. It’s clear that scouts wrestle with groupthink, and don’t always win. As in other professions, it’s often safer to go with the crowd, but it’s not always right.
  • When asked why players bust, Raleigh gave two reasons: an inability to measure a player’s ability vs. NFL competition — i.e., he couldn’t make the necessary adjustments to play vs. the pros — and the inability for his drafting team to use him right. 
  • Though he couldn’t remember exactly who the Raiders’ top 10 prospects were in 2016, Raleigh distinctly remembers how much the team liked Florida State’s Jalen Ramsey. That’s been a real theme as we’ve reviewed 2016 with multiple scouts. Ramsey was a supreme prospect who’s turned out to be a great pro. The team also felt North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz had more tools and upside, Cal’s Jared Goff was a more complete, more ready game for the NFL, and had they chose between the two, they would have taken Goff.
  • He said the Raiders took Michigan State’s Connor Cook as the No. 100 pick in the draft — 35 picks before Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott — because coaches felt Cook was a better fit in Oakland’s offense. The Raiders also felt Prescott was lacking in accuracy. 

It was a fabulous four weeks, as you already know if you were among those who joined us. If you didn’t, it’s not too late to study up and learn from some great former scouts and executives. Click here for the four videos plus the transcripts from our first three sessions with Danton Barto (former Rams area scout), Doug Whaley (former Bills GM) and Ahmad Russell (former Colts scout). Just $35. And don’t forget to register for our Friday Wrap here.

 

Ask the NFL Scout: Six Things From Ahmad Russell (ex-Colts)

Thursday night, we had the third in our four-part Zoom series with former NFL scouts and executives. Our guest was former Colts area scout Ahmad Russell, who also spent several years with the Eagles.

Here are a few things I learned from his nearly 90-minute session.

  • Scouts come from all kinds of places, but Ahmad’s story is unique. After he didn’t get any satisfactory job offers out of college and didn’t get any camp offers (he played at Colgate), he opted to to go Japan and teach. That was in August of 2001, but his 9/11 experience is another story. While in Japan, he began playing fantasy basketball, which piqued his interest in scouting and evaluation. So he went online and scanned every scout and executive bio in the NFL, noticing that several got their master’s from the UMass sport management program, so he applied (from Japan). Once he got accepted, he heavily mined the UMass network until, upon completion of his master’s, he got three NFL offers. He chose the Eagles, partially because of their success and partially because of their proximity.
  • Ahmad has several insights about the GMs and future GMs he worked with (including Howie Roseman, Chris Ballard, Jason Licht and Ryan Grigson). His insights were too many to detail here, but one thing stuck out in my mind. Ahmad said he befriended the Eagles GM during Roseman’s days as the team counsel, so when Roseman began to have a larger profile on the evaluation side, Ahmad already had a relationship with him. That was beneficial for a number of reasons. I respect Ahmad for having time for Roseman before he was part of his chain of command. Never forget: it’s a relationship business.
  • We’ve been discussing the 2016 draft each week, and it’s been really illuminating. For example, say what you will about how teams value triangle numbers vs. film, but Ahmad was the latest scout to cite speed in explaining why Ohio State WO Michael Thomas fell to the second round. He likewise pointed to speed in why Baylor WO Corey Coleman was the first receiver off the board. As you know, Coleman is no longer in the league. Speed is sexy, and scouts are human. That’s all there is to it.
  • Cowboys QB Dak Prescott is known as a high-character player and a leader of men, but Ahmad may deserve some of the credit. He told the story of when he interviewed Prescott at the Senior Bowl and confronted him about several off-field issues that surfaced during the evaluation phase. Ahmad even said he called Prescott a “thug” in the interview session. To Prescott’s credit, he took the hard conversation to heart, and the results have been clear.
  • Ahmad is the first scout to cop to his team trying to move up to take Ole Miss OT Laremy Tunsil during his famous slide. He said he recalls trying to strike a deal with the Saints, who picked 12. When the teams couldn’t strike a deal, the Dolphins moved up to 13 by trading with the Eagles.
  • Due to his domestic assault charges, the Colts had taken West Alabama WO Tyreek Hill completely off their board. He was a no-draft for Indy.

Next week, we conclude our series with former Raiders scout Raleigh McKenzie. It’s gonna be a blast. Want in? Click here. We’ve recorded all four of our sessions (ex-Rams scout Danton Barto in Week 1 and former Bills GM Doug Whaley in Week 2). If you’d like the first three videos and a chance to sit in next week, click here.

For more on the business of football, make sure to register for the Friday Wrap.

Ask the NFL GM: Eight Things I Learned from Doug Whaley’s Zoom Session

Last week in this space, we discussed ITL’s Fourth Quarter series in which we bring in a former scout or NFL executive as our Zoom guest. Last week, it was former Rams area scout Danton Barto, who was excellent. Tonight, it was former Bills GM Doug Whaley, who was also outstanding.

Here are eight things I found interesting in Doug’s session.

  • Doug graduated from Pitt and immediately took a job in the investment business as a trader in New York, but after getting an offer to intern for the Steelers, he passed it up immediately and returned to Pittsburgh. That’s the kind of passion you have to have to succeed in football — the willingness to pass up a job that could be incredibly lucrative to chase an opportunity that could be lucrative, but that comes with no guarantees.
  • When Doug interviews a scout for a job, he doesn’t want to know about the scout’s successes. He wants to hear about the prospects the scout missed on, because everybody misses. It’s learning and figuring out why you missed that shows that you have a passion for the business and an interest in getting better.
  • When I asked Doug what he would do differently in his next GM job, he said, and I’m paraphrasing, that he’ll sacrifice talent for fit. He said that in Buffalo, he only wanted the very best player he could find, but he said that it’s better to take the best player that makes sense in your system and locker room.
  • Doug is a strong believer in mentors, and he has two: legendary Steelers scout Bill Nunn and former NFL executive Charles Bailey, who’s been with the Steelers, Saints and Jaguars as well as the XFL. Doug, in turn, has three mentees.
  • We’ve been asking scouts about their experiences and insights into the 2016 NFL Draft, and Doug was asked if allegations that Ole Miss OT Laremy Tunsil had received improper payments hurt the team’s evaluation of him. Doug said that, due partially to the NCAA’s antiquated rules, he wouldn’t necessarily fault Tunsil for such payments. What would hurt him, instead, is if, years later, Tunsil divulged it to the media. That would be a red flag.
  • Why isn’t Derrick Henry a Bill? Doug said they knew he would be a power back who’s not given to making people miss. They observed that while he’s a big guy from the waist up, Buffalo’s braintrust didn’t think he was thick enough through the legs to be effective on the NFL level, or at least, to have lasting success.
  • What about Tyreek Hill? The Bills had extensive communication with people around the West Alabama program, and had taken him completely off the board due to the domestic abuse charges that have since come to light. Doug said it was a particularly sensitive area for the team given that the team’s co-owner, Kim Pegula, is a woman.
  • Given the chance, would the Bills have taken North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz or Cal’s Jared Goff? Doug said that Wentz was one of their top 10 players rated in the draft, but Goff was not. Why? They didn’t think his arm and relative lack of size and frame would play well in Buffalo winds and weather.

Next week, we’ll host former Colts scout Ahmad Russell, and I can hardly wait. We’ve got room for a few more people to listen in, so if you’re interested, hit me up here. Just $9. DMs are open. Hope you can make it.

Want more details? Check out the Friday Wrap which comes out tomorrow evening. You can register for it here.

Ask the NFL Scout: Seven Things with Danton Barto

Last night, my longtime friend Danton Barto joined more than 50 people on a Zoom call to talk football. We spent more than an hour talking about his experiences in scouting while with the Rams; what makes a good evaluator; what to do (and not do) to get a job in the NFL; the times he was right and wrong on players; and plenty more. We also discussed his recollections of the 2016 NFL Draft, a most unique one, to be sure.

Here are seven things I learned in just the first 20 minutes.

  • Danton grew up with Taylor Morton, Senior Personnel Advisor with the Rams. Morton was instrumental in getting Danton a scouting job with the Rams.
  • Danton was hired because the Rams needed a linebacker and, as a former college linebacker (at Memphis), Morton and Rams GM Les Snead trusted his ability to evaluate them. 
  • Danton estimated he used to write reports on 400 players per year in his five-state mid-South region, and “you better know ’em” if one the team’s officials asked his opinion of them.
  • He admits that he’s seen people get a chance in scouting based on reports they’ve written, sometimes with limited formal football experience. “I’ve seen guys get opportunities because they sent in reports, and they were very good,” he said.
  • Persistence is important in getting a job, but don’t be irritating. Danton said he remembers a scouting hopeful who became a thorn in the side of members of the Rams staff. His lack of judgement wound up costing him a chance with the team.
  • The Rams actually had an analytics system that judged scouts on their reports; I’m not aware if they still do this, but if they do, it’s definitely unique. By the way, Danton came out pretty well on their grading system. 
  • I guess it’s no surprise, but the failure of first-round pick Greg Robinson, a tackle out of Auburn who was the second pick in the 2014 draft, led to a lot of soul-searching among the Rams evaluators. I got the sense that Robinson’s struggles made the Rams insecure about moving up to take Ole Miss’ Laremy Tunsil when he slid in the ’16 draft. Of course, they didn’t have a lot of ammo left after trading up to get the No. 1 pick from the Titans.

Danton talked for about an hour and 20 minutes. Want to hear the next hour? Let me know here. DMs open. 

We’ll talk more about Danton’s Zoom session in the Friday Wrap, which comes out this evening (7:30 p.m. EDT). Don’t get it? Register here.

NFL Scouts: Looking at Evaluators’ Varied Backgrounds

Each year for most of the last decade, we’ve spent the fall months looking at each of the 32 scouting departments at Inside the League. We call it our Know Your Scouts series. Given that not all teams publicize their hiring and firing, our review always turns up changes we didn’t know about.

What’s more, however, we take a snapshot of every team’s scouts and executives, looking at their length of service with the team, how long they’ve been in scouting, etc. We also include a note about each one’s entry into scouting, relationship to others in the department, or anything else of interest. For people seeking to break into the industry, I think this is invaluable information because it provides context for how others have made it to the NFL.

So far, we’ve profiled 10 teams. Already, we’ve passed along some interesting tidbits on the scouts who evaluate talent and how they got their jobs.

  • I’d say only a third of the scouts and executives we’ve featured so far have NFL playing experience, and that’s down quite a bit from 10 years ago, when we started. The idea that today’s evaluator needs to be an ex-NFL players — or even played the game at all — is definitely changing.
  • Three current or former members of the Chiefs scouting staff (Assistant Director of Player Personnel Ryan Poles, Area Scout Trey Koziol and former NFS scout Rob Francois) played together at Boston College.
  • Current Chiefs NFS scout Cassidy Kaminski really took the road less traveled to Kansas City, serving as a personnel assistant with the Shrine Bowl while simultaneously writing for Ourlad’s, a draft service, from 2015-18. He even worked for an Australian team in 2016.
  • I’d estimate that 20-30 percent of each scouting staff has members who are directly related to someone in the organization. There’s no denying that family is a major consideration when staffing departments.
  • Maybe it’s because of analytics’ rise, but there are a handful of scouts who either played baseball at some level or worked for a Major League Baseball team before crossing over. For example, Bears National Scout Chris Prescott got started working in minor league baseball, while Broncos pro personnel director A.J. Durso played in college and Browns V.P. of Player Personnel Glenn Cook was even drafted by the Cubs. 
  • It’s interesting how many scouts worked for MLB or NBA teams in some role, while others worked for NFL agencies or were agents themselves. It’s just a reminder that relationships are key to breaking in, and you can find those relationships anywhere.
  • There are numerous examples of scouts who started out publishing their own scouting insights. They include Brian Fisher (Bills) as well as Kaminski.
  • Scouts with two teams worked in different capacities for Inside the League before being hired by NFL teams.

If you aspire to be an NFL scout someday, I encourage you to see for yourself where scouts came from by checking out our Know Your Scouts series. I guarantee you’ll gain valuable insights.

Also, make sure you check out today’s Friday Wrap, in which we discuss the backgrounds of today’s general managers. It’s valuable information if you’re interested in climbing the NFL evaluation mountain. You can register for it here

A Few More Ideas on How to Be an NFL Scout

Tuesday night, a longtime friend, Matt Boockmeier, joined me as we hosted a dozen aspiring NFL scouts on a Zoom call (check it out here). The participants had different backgrounds. Some have college recruiting and personnel jobs; some are from the analytics world; some are mainly putting their takes out on social media. Ultimately, they all have one goal, and that is to become NFL evaluators.

Matt and I tried to dispense our wisdom on how to get a shot, and our main push coalesced around a few main points. However, upon reflection, there are a few more I wish I’d made during the nearly 90-minute session. I decided to share them here.

  • Twitter is your instrument. Use it wisely: I can’t tell you how many people I’ve muted whose takes on the 2021 draft class I’d love to be reading regularly. I don’t know if I’ll even vote in a month — it would be the first time I haven’t voted since I was legally able to — but one thing I don’t need is a bunch of condescending Twitter takes, no matter what side you’re on. Still not convinced? Well, believe this: unless your last name is Kraft, Jones, Rooney, etc., how much someone likes you is gonna be a big part of whether or not you get a chance to work in the NFL. The first step in hiring ANYONE these days is reviewing their social media accounts. There’s no reason in the world why you should cut your already-slim chances in half just so you can indulge selfish urges and get a fleeting dopamine shot.
  • Look for the win-win: This is a corollary to one of the principles we discussed last night, which is, be willing to volunteer and give your work away, at least for a while.  Having professional rivals makes you better, no doubt, but if you can figure out a way to find detente with your competition, do so. Last night, I spoke to about a dozen aspiring scouts. More than half of them have banded together to assemble a manuscript that they are submitting to NFL teams later this year. I think that’s a fabulous idea, especially given that they share a common background. They all get to be part of something that will be incomparably better due to the shared workload, and now they all get to go out and sell themselves on the strength of a more polished, comprehensive work. If you make this a theme of your work life, you’ll find you give and get more good vibes.
  • Look for alternate paths: Like everyone on the call last night, I once wanted to be a scout. However, ultimately, I realized my real goal was to work in football. You may find you hit a continual brick wall in trying to work in the league, but you might find another path. If you do, run, don’t walk, down that road. You might have found a different way in, and you better get through it before the door closes.

We’ll talk about scouting and lots more in our Friday Wrap, which comes out (surprise) on Friday. If scouting intrigues you, you’ll dig it. Register for it here. Also, make sure to check out Up Close in Personnel, the awesome podcast hosted by my friend Alex Brown, the Director of Football Recruiting at Rice University. I guested on the show this week, and it comes out Saturday.

Ask the Scout: Quotes and Observations from Tuesday’s Zoom Call

If you are a fan of the draft, the business of football and or NFL scouting, and you weren’t one of the 70-odd people on the guest list for Tuesday’s Zoom call with former Titans executive Blake Beddingfield and ex-49ers scout Bob Morris, I’m so sorry. You missed an unforgettable night, as so many of the participants tweeted immediately after it.

Here are a few quotes and observations from the call.

  • Morris on a surprising interview he had: “We had (one of the top-rated wide receivers) off of our board. . . This is one of those stories about what you find out at combine and stuff. I was interviewing (this receiver) at the Senior Bowl, along with another scout, and we’re just sitting there in the ballroom and he just mentions that, yeah, he likes to go home and smoke pot with his buddies on weekends. And we didn’t ask him, we didn’t say anything. People at (his school) told you that he never tested positive. So he just kind of off-the-cuff said that, and plus, I knew his head coach real well at (his school) and he didn’t have a lot of good things to say about him, either. He was a guy that had all the production, and you watch the tape and you could put together a really good highlight tape, but just as a guy on our team, we didn’t want (him) on our team. . .  Being that it was (that school), it (happened) pretty frequently, so it wasn’t surprising at all. That was just the culture around them at the time.”
  • Neither Blake or Bob said their teams had any interest in Saints QB Taysom Hill, who looks like he’ll be New Orleans’ starter next year.
  • Which player was rated as the top player not the board for the Titans? Florida State DC Jalen Ramsey. For the 49ers? Same player.
  • The Titans got back a first-round grade for Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott from their area scout, but had no interest in him with Marcus Mariota already in the fold. As you know, Prescott slid to the fourth round.
  • The Titans already had DeMarco Murray at running back when they drafted Alabama’s Derrick Henry in the second round. Blake, who really liked Henry, spent three hours “standing on the table” for Henry until he won GM Jon Robinson over.

There’s WAY more in the 82 minutes Blake and Bob spent with us. If you purchased my latest book, Scout Speak, and you tweet about it, let me know (@InsideTheLeague) and I’ll send you the link.

2016 NFL Draft: Breaking It Down with Blake Next Tuesday

If this isn’t your first time reading my blog, you already know I recently wrote a book about the NFL scouting business called Scout Speak. However, you may not know what we’ve got going on a week from today for everyone who’s bought a copy and tweeted about it (more on that later).

Tuesday night at 8 p.m. EST, my friend Blake Beddingfield, former Director of College Scouting for the Titans, will join me and everyone who tweets a picture of their copy of Scout Speak and includes the hashtag #ScoutSpeak before Monday on a Zoom call. It takes five years to properly judge a draft class, right? Well, on Tuesday, we’ll talk about the 2016 draft, one in which Blake (and the Titans) figured prominently.

Let’s set the scene. The team was coming off a 3-13 record in QB Marcus Mariota’s first season as a starter and had elevated Mike Mularkey from interim to full-time head coach. The team was lacking in playmakers on offense and wanted to go to more of a power offense. Meanwhile, on defense, the pass rush was solid with Brian Orakpo and Jurrell Casey but looking for talent in the secondary.

Here’s a rundown of the questions Blake will address.

  • The draft had franchise QBs at the top two picks and an impact defensive end at No. 3, plus several big stars sprinkled throughout Round 1. Who were the top five players on the Titans’ board, regardless of position?
  • The 2016 draft was a big one for passers. Given that you were in Year 2 with Marcus Mariota, how did you size up the quarterbacks that year?
  • No one who watched the draft will forget 12 teams passing on Ole Miss OT Laremy Tunsil after an embarrassing video of him surfaced immediately before the draft. How could one quick video have resulted in so many teams passing up the best left tackle in the draft? Did the Titans really have Michigan State’s Jack Conklin, whom they drafted at 8, higher than Tunsil? How could the fear of facing an uncomfortable press conference have scared so many teams off the No. 1 blindside protector in the draft? Is there something teams knew that fans and the media didn’t.
  • The Titans selected Clemson OB Kevin Dodd with the first pick of the second round. He had one sack in his two NFL seasons. What went wrong?
  • Tennessee drafted Alabama OH Derrick Henry midway through the second round when the popular narrative was that running backs were mostly interchangeable. What prompted you to ignore the narrative and take him? How close did you come to taking him higher? Lower?
  • There were several great safeties in the 2016 draft (Florida’s Keanu Neal, Maryland’s Sean Davis and Ohio State’s Vonn Bell among them), but you might have gotten the best one in Middle Tennessee’s Kevin Byard at 64. Was he your No. 1 safety?
  • One of the most exciting players in the game, Saints QB Taysom Hill, went undrafted. What was “the book” on Hill that resulted in Kevin Hogan, Brandon Doughty and Jeff Driskel getting drafted but not Hill?
  • What was “the book” on Ohio State’s Michael Thomas that prompted five wide receivers — most of whom are now out of the league — to be drafted before the Saints selected him in the second round?
  • Who is the player you nearly took, but didn’t, and regret the most?
  • Did you have any “now it can be told” interviews or experiences during pro days or Top 30 visits that spring?

I can’t wait till Tuesday. It’s gonna be a blast! If you haven’t already, make sure you pick up your copy of Scout Speak and tweet a picture of it with the #ScoutSpeak hashtag (like this one) by Sunday night. I want you on this Zoom call. Hope to see you soon!

Ask the Scout: Highlights from our Zoom Call with former NFL Exec Will Lewis

This week, dozens of NFL agents and a handful of people taking the exam this summer (hopefully) joined me on a Zoom call with Will Lewis, who is the former Director of Pro Scouting for the Chiefs. Will has a wealth of experience, having played in the league as well as serving on both the college and pro side with the Packers and Seahawks.

Most recently, Will was the Assistant Director of Personnel with Houston’s XFL franchise. The Roughnecks were regarded as the league’s finest team before operations were suspended this spring. He even spent time as the GM of the Memphis Express in the Alliance of American Football, and is the father of third-year NFL  cornerback Ryan Lewis, who’s with the Giants after stints with the Bills and Dolphins.

Will talked extensively about how a pro director decides who’s getting the call when injuries strike. It’s an especially poignant topic given the difficulties associated with the quarantines and the reactions to the virus. Here are a few of his best insights.

On agents calling too much: “Sometimes, maybe you think, ‘I think I’ve worn (the pro director) out,’ but I think that’s part of the deal. Sometimes I don’t want to talk to (an agent), I’ve heard from him twice this week, but in reality, (I have) to hear from (him). Now you have a chance to set the record straight. That personal touch, the phone call, is big. Some guys aren’t comfortable with the phone call, but you have the option of emailing the pro director every week, and saying, ‘these are my practice squad-eligible guys, these are my street guys, these are my guys on other teams that have potential for trade.’ You’re just updating anybody you want to update.”

On how to develop a relationship with an NFL executive: “I’d say the main thing, and it’s probably not length of time, it’s number of interactions. For me, it was easy talking to certain agents when the packages they were selling me were not what I was looking for, but it was exactly what they said it was. If you brought in a guy and it didn’t pan out, and he was not what the team thought he was, and you’ve presented him to the GM/HC as someone else, it doesn’t bode well for you.”

On the ebbs and flows of roster replacement: “First 2-3 weeks of the season, teams lose players, and it always seems like there’s a run on one position, and then you go from one DB hurt to three others hurt. For the most part, you try to encourage guys, whether street free agent or whether they’re in camp with you, to make sure they’re ready to go. Lot of things will happen and there will be big changes. And then a lull during the second or third week in October, then closer to Week 10, they happen again, partly because it’s been a long season, and some guys are fatigued and get hurt because of that. Then the other time to tell guys is toward the end of the season when teams start signing futures deals.”

If you’re an agent, or if you plan to be someday, I highly recommend you listen to Will’s full 90 minutes with us. Just register here and we’ll send the link. Will had lots of insights and thoughts on the game that you just don’t get in the general media.

For more on the business of the game and where it’s headed, make sure to register for the Friday Wrap, which comes out Friday afternoon at 7:30 p.m. EST every week.

 

2021 NFL Draft: What’s the Market Package for a Player Opting Out?

I’m getting a lot of questions about how much to spend on players who choose to opt out of the 2020 fall football season. Rather than answer every question individually, I thought I’d break it all out in a blog post.

Understand that these are best guesses based on what I’ve heard of the packages so far. These numbers are liable to move as more and more opt out and the market comes to balance.

First half of first round (1-20): Based on what scouts have told me, these are the players that probably can safely opt out. That means their market probably doesn’t slide much.

  • Estimated stipend/marketing guarantee and per diem: Depending on how close they are to No. 1, you’re looking at $7,000-$8,000 per month through the draft and a marketing guarantee that’s in the $150,000-$300,000 range.
  • Also: Training of player’s choice (probably about $30,000 all in, maybe $10,000 higher if he starts training now), rental car, housing, etc.

Late first to early second (21-50): These are the names you’re seeing populate multiple mock drafts in the 15-32 range. Some of these players will slide, but they seem safe to fall no farther than the end of Day 2.

  • Estimated stipend/marketing guarantee and per diem: I’ve heard of some hefty marketing guarantees for players in this range already, but it’s risky. I’d say you’re safest in the $50,000-$30,000 range. As far as stipend, probably around $5,000/month through the draft should get it done.
  • Also: Same as above on training and other amenities.

Late second to end of third: This is a tricky area, because players will think they can opt out and maybe slide into first-round territory, when really they’re in danger of sliding into Day 3. If you’re an agent, that’s not an easy message to convey.

  • Estimated stipend/marketing guarantee and per diem: You’re in trouble if you overpay on per diem for eight months here. My guess is you want to stay in the same range that you would have paid for four months ($20,000-$25,000), but spread it over eight. You probably want to stay south of $4,000/month here. Marketing guarantee would have to be no more than $10,000-$15,000, depending on how high you have to go on the per diem. You’ll get that back on the trading card deal anyway, presuming he doesn’t have a marketing guy.
  • Also: Same as above on training and other amenities, but maybe you can get away with a slightly smaller package for a player at a non-sexy position (interior o-line, inside linebacker, maybe safety). But probably not.

Bubble Day 3/ to end of fifth round: This is where you’re hoping you can show the player a nice training package and that’s enough. Stipends have to be in the $1,500/month area, no more than $2,000/month through the draft. These are the players that are really in danger of falling out of the draft if they’re not playing.

  • Estimated stipend/marketing guarantee and per diem: You have to have a Day 3 mindset for these players. Stipend/MG has to be $10,000 or less. Per diem can’t be over $1,500/month thru draft or you’re really gambling.
  • Also: This is where you push your trainer who’ll make you a deal, or maybe who is really aching to train a guy who could go Day 2. If you’re lucky, you stash the kid at a trainer who’s not in the Sun Belt, which also saves you money. The problem is that it’s gonna be hard to talk him out of the blue-chip training facilities, and if you have to go $30,000 to train him, you gotta make cuts elsewhere. This is where the middle-class agencies are hitting the rocks these days.

I wouldn’t recommend signing anyone rated below third round who’s opting out. Anyone below here is more likely to fall out of the draft than to “fall upward.” It’s out of sight, out of mind in the NFL.

We’ll discuss this more in this week’s Friday Wrap. You can register for it here.