Reviewing Some Top 2018 Mock Drafts with One Week to Go

As you know, last month, we took a look at seven reputable draft services — Tony Pauline of Draft Expert; Pro Football Focus’ Steve Palazzolo; NFL Draft Scout’s Dane Brugler; Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller; ESPN’s Todd McShay (this month’s mock is behind the pay wall); Chris Burke, then of Sports Illustrated, now of The Athletic (sorry, it’s behind the pay wall, though their rate is pretty affordable); and Charlie Campbell of Walter Football — and compared their mock drafts published in May 2017 with their updated mocks in March.

It wasn’t a straight apples-to-apples comparison, as some writers moved around and some services combined prognosticators’ picks into one mock, but we did the best we could. As you can imagine, there were plenty of changes over 10 months.

With one week to go until the ’18 draft (actually, less than a week), we thought we’d take one last look before things get real. Here’s what we found.

  • Last May, 11 players were listed in the first round by all seven services. This month, predictably, things have tightened: 20 players are now across-the-board first-rounders.
  • In the last month, the number of players rated as first-rounders by at least one service has dropped from 56 to 49.
  • Remarkably, five of the seven services see Georgia OB Roquan Smith as the No. 10 pick in the draft. The other two, The Athletic and Walter Football, have him as the 11th pick.
  •  After Smith, the three players with the greatest consensus in one place, all by virtue of four services, are USC QB Sam Darnold, the top pick in four mock drafts; Alabama WO Calvin Ridley, who goes No. 19; and UTEP OG Will Hernandez, who’s No. 30.
  • Florida State DC Tarvarus McFadden is Exhibit A of the fickle nature of the draft process. In May, he was rated as a first-rounder by all seven services, one of just 11 player so rated. This month, no one has him in the first round.
  • LSU DE Arden Key is Exhibit B. In May 2017, he was a first-rounder on all seven boards with an average selection at No. 6. As of this month, only one service, The Athletic, has him going in the top 32, and just barely (31).
  • Speaking of LSU, Derrius Guice was a first-rounder in the eyes of six services last May. Today, the running back is first round in the eyes of just two services, Draft Analyst (Tony Pauline) and NFL Draft Scout (Dane Brugler), and No. 32 for both.
  • Pauline was the only prognosticator to have Iowa IB Josey Jewell in his first round last May, and he stuck to his guns last month, but he’s removed him from the top 32 as of this month.

We’ll have more analysis in today’s Friday Wrap, which comes out this evening. If you’re into the draft — and I figure you are — you won’t want to miss our further breakdown of the services and who they like. As always, the Friday Wrap is free and is read by people across the industry, and you can register for it here.

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Changing Teams: SunTrust Duo Making Most of Move

I’ve never met a financial advisor who didn’t say he chose to get into the game because he wanted to help players. Sure, the money’s nice, and being part of the NFL is a great way to escape the mundane nature of a ‘regular job,’ but most wealth managers I’ve found are genuine.
This certainly extends to Jeff Glusman and Austin Murphy. The Florida-based duo — Jeff is in Jupiter, Austin in Bal Harbour — recently moved to SunTrust from Merrill Lynch. I caught up with them recently to discuss their move and other matters related to their work and the game.
What prompted the move to SunTrust?
Austin: “It’s a company with over 100 years in existence and it’s publicly traded on the NYSE. That provides safety for our clients’ assets, and that’s important. But also, SunTrust’s specialty group in sports and entertainment has a 30-year record of success in catering to athletes, and we wanted to bring that to our clients during their career and into retirement.”
Most people that work with athletes want to get into the high-energy world of agents and athlete representation. Why did each of you choose finance?
Jeff: “My love for the markets started at an early age, from stock market competitions in high school to reading the Wall Street Journal and The Economist religiously to stay up to speed as I grew up. But the decision for me came with the (stock market) bubble in 2000 and losing my personal wealth to the point of not trusting others to do it for me going forward.  So I followed family advice and joined what was a great training program. Working with athletes makes it especially rewarding.”
Austin: “I’ve always had two major interests: working in sports and being able to make a difference in people’s lives. Wealth management allows me to accomplish both. My friends always say, ‘well, why didn’t you become an agent?’ My response is twofold. One, I’m not limited to just one sport as a financial advisor, so I can easily work with NFL, NBA, MLB and any other professional athletes. Two, as a financial advisor, when I get a client, it is for their whole life, not just their playing career.
There’s no shortage of financial advisors and wealth managers in the game. What separates you two from all the others? 
Jeff: “I’ve been blessed to be in wealth management for over 17 years, and I think my resume speaks for itself. What’s more, I have spoken at the Senior Bowl seven of the last 10 years as the financial literacy keynote speaker, and I have had countless professional athletes as clients, and none have gone broke or bankrupt with my guidance. What’s more, I’ve got a perfectly clean (Form) U4 through two of the worst financial crises in market history.”
Austin: “I’m 27, with experience working for a professional sports team (Austin was with the Miami Heat for the 2012-13 season) as well as having a law degree. Though I’m young, I think long-term, and I have the potential to work with my clients for a very long time. Also, I take pride in working for some of the most elite athletes in the world. That’s part of what makes my job special.”
I think a lot of people think of wealth management in athletics as resembling the show Ballers on HBO. Having seen the show, what are the most extravagant departures from real life that you see Dwayne Johnson do?
Jeff: “The biggest thing is, our relationships are not built on loaning players personal money or trips to Vegas or late nights at the club. In fact, it’s the opposite. They are built on trust created over time, during which there is a lot of stress and struggle.”
Austin: “Obviously, Ballers is made for TV, but there’s a lot viewers don’t see. The thing to realize is, there’s a tremendous amount of stress put on young athletes from an early age, not just from the point when they become professional, but from the time someone recognizes that they have a special talent and potential. Very often, their families exert a tremendous amount of pressure to reach that professional level.  Along with that pressure is the stress of always wondering who is talking to them and for what reason and if they are being exploited. We aren’t here to buy bottles and surf-and-turf dinners. We are hired to establish financial plans and educate our clients so that, with our guidance, they can maintain the ability to buy their own bottles and steak and lobster dinners.”
What are the top 3 tips you would give a rookie or veteran on managing their money?
Jeff: “Liquidity is key, so No. 1, have a good allocation to cash. And if the two emotions that rule the world are fear and greed, stay fearful and do not chase returns. Chase goals and a plan, and be accountable to yourself first.”
Austin:  “I would advise all athletes to stay up to speed with their respective league retirement plan, to have a basic will for their assets, and to consider the ‘what if’ factor with every financial decision. As a professional athlete you only get one chance to have this sudden wealth, and unlike the average American retiring and needing to make their money last for 20-30 years, athletes need to make it last for 60-70 years.”
For more information, reach out to Jeff here or email Austin at Austin dot Murphy at suntrust dot com.

Three Reasons It’s Bad to be a Scout During Pro Days

I remember one of my first pro days. It was at Texas A&M, probably sometime in the early 00s. This was during the Slocum era, before the school had built its luxurious athletic complex, and it was held in the weight room. Yes, they even ran 40s there, right between the benches and the squat racks.

The strength coach, while eyeing me the whole time and suspecting I was an agent, never threw me out. But then again, it was a pretty intimate affair — no crowds, no pushing to see the players, no cameras. It was me, about a half-dozen scouts, and 6-7 players. Those were the days. You could get some work done in relative peace.

Those days are gone. Even at the smallest schools and the coziest venues, it’s way different running a pro day in 2018. Here are a few things scouts have to deal with now that just a few years ago were unheard of.

Families: I was watching a sitcom last week, and the opening scene involves a man going to meet a potential investor in a big, fancy office, and he has his kid with him (he couldn’t find a babysitter). It was done for a laugh on television, yet every pro day you go to today involves extended families showing up, and yes, that often involves little kids. At the very least, a young man’s parents are there, and at the bigger schools, they’re allowed to bring about anyone they want, within reason. But that’s even true at the smaller schools these days.

I was at Prairie View A&M last week, and crowded into a big room waiting for the players to work out were several men that looked like players’ dads to me (which is to be expected) but also moms, brothers and sisters, and yes, girlfriends and kids. That not only makes scouts’ jobs harder, but also the pro liaison on staff at the school who now has dozens of people he has to manage. Here’s another thing: many of the parents come dressed up, wearing long dresses and ties. Others will show up wearing themed shirts. I don’t mean to minimize the event, and I respect that this is a big day and they want to look their best, but geez, that has no impact on a scout. Having generations of families there just tends to slow things down.

Media: As recently as 10 years ago, most people in the media didn’t know what a pro day was, or at least, acted like they didn’t. These days, a scout has to often weave his way through writers and dodge cameras simply to get heights, weights and times. What also cracks me up is how so often reporters try to ask scouts about specific players and their draft chances. Come on, man. This is proprietary information. You think a lowly area scout will risk his job to give you a few comments for your story? I totally recognize that members of the media have a job to do, but it’s asking a lot to expect scouts to give up morsels during a pro day so a writer has something to toss onto Twitter. I asked one scout last week at Texas A&M if he’d be at Texas the following day. His response? He was headed to another state entirely, presumably by air, but I wouldn’t rule out his driving it. The point is, most scouts have a plane to catch afterward or another pro day to drive to. They just want to get their jobs done and move on.

Greater and greater numbers: Again, I think that it wasn’t long ago (maybe a decade) when players realized that playing in the NFL was for the privileged few. The seniors got workouts, and there might be a handful of players from smaller schools that worked out, but these kids were highly decorated, all-conference types. Now, the drill is that if a kid isn’t signed by an agent, he calls around until he finds one. There are always agents willing to sign a small-school kid, hoping they get lucky, as long as there are no costs involved. The kid then expects the agent to call around and try to get him into a pro day. Sometimes, a big school relents, though most of the time, these kids are just not NFL material. I’ve seen the looks on the faces of scouts that show up at some of these workouts, hoping to see a half-dozen kids, but seeing 10-15, and knowing that their 90 minutes of work just turned into three hours, and they’re hoping to get home before 9 p.m. that night. Fat chance.

 

Ask The Scouts: Does Lamar Jackson Risk Falling Out of the First Round?

There’s no question Louisville QB Lamar Jackson is an exciting player with a spectacular blend of athleticism and play-making ability. On the other hand, in the wake of his decision not to run the 40 at his pro day Thursday — coming on the heels of skipping it at the combine — there are other questions.

Just how fast is Jackson? And also, how advanced is he regarding reading defenses, making decisions and directing a modern NFL defense? There are reports suggesting he’s been hard to reach and evasive with NFL teams.

But is all of this just media hype? Will any of it have any real impact on his draft standing? We asked several scouts and this is what they had to say.

  • “Last I heard he had just ‘risen’ into the first round, so I find it interesting that we are already talking about him potentially ‘dropping out.’ I think his grade should mostly be what it was on December 1. The area scouts should know best.”
  • “He’s probably not running a 40 because he doesn’t want to run fast and people think he’s a WR automatically. But he also probably hasn’t prepared for everything else.”
  • “(He won’t slip in the draft) due to 40. (i) can’t imagine any team questions his speed or (athletic ability). He’s too dynamic, (and) some team will take him in (the) 1st. (Tim) Tebow and (Johnny) Manziel went in (the) 1st.”
  • “Definitely think all of those things have and will affect his draft status. Should’ve had a legitimate QB guy and organized workout. Should communicate better with teams…he and his mom. And Lamar should never make apologies for his speed and athleticism. Adds to the ‘wow factor’ that is Lamar.”
  • “His build and style of play make him a long ways from being a sure thing at QB. There (have) not been 4 QBs drafted in the first round since 2012. Last time 5 QBs in first round was ‘99. I think he will be drafted first as a QB, but first-round QB?”

Want more feedback from NFL scouts? We’ve got plenty of it. In fact, some of the responses we got from our friends in the business was as nuanced and lengthy as any question we’ve posed in the past.

You can read what we heard from people across the league in today’s Friday Wrap. As you know, it’s free, and it’s read by people across the NFL (agents, scouts and executives, financial advisors, trainers, the works) every week, and if you care about the game inside the game, you should, too. Sign up here. You won’t be sorry.

A Brief History of Recent Startup Football Leagues

As I write this, there are three new football leagues that will be operational in 2020 in addition to the NFL. They are the Pacific Pro Football League, scheduled to kick off in the summer of ’19; the XFL, which is back for another run in 2020 after a one-year run in 2001; and the Alliance of American Football, which was announced today and which will kick off in 2019.

When these new leagues are announced, it always makes me reminisce about the endless number of launches and attempted launches just since ITL came into existence in Fall 2002. It’s amazing how regularly they arrive and depart, almost like a train schedule. They include:

AAFL (2007-2008): This league hired several big-name former college administrators (including former Navy and Missouri AD Jack Lengyel of We Are Marshall fame) and even got as far as holding a draft in 2007. However, when the economy cratered in ’08, so did plans for the league.

UFL (2009-12): This is probably the most successful recent attempt at an alternative league. It employed multiple former and current NFL executives and scouts and even players. The league eventually ran out of money, with its commissioner resigning in 2012 after it was reported he funneled cash to Miami Hurricanes for his sports agency during his tenure.

New USFL (2012-13): A continuation of the last league with a lengthy TV deal and a decent following was planned for launch in the spring of 2014. However, plans collapsed when its founder, Jamie Cuadra, was found guilty of embezzling $1 million to launch the league. Incidentally, jurisprudence and criminal prosecutions have been a running theme in alternative football leagues.

FXFL (2014-15): The FXFL hung around for two seasons under the leadership of Brian Woods, who had previously run the (now-defunct) Medal of Honor Bowl in Charleston, S.C. The league got a lot of media exposure but was eventually felled by a lack of a TV deal and other factors. Woods learned from it enough to launch The Spring League, which kicks off its second season in a matter of days (March 28).

MLFB (2014-17): This league took more of a business-like approach as the league brought in several ex-NFL players (former NFL WO Wes Chandler was its President) and even agents to run the league, then went to great pains to come across as an investor-driven property that would be listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The league’s website is even still active, but a planned April 2017 kickoff never happened.

North American Football League (2015-16): I remember Chris White approaching me at the 2015 Senior Bowl with an elaborate plan for simultaneously developing a new football league and an online streaming service that would rival ESPN and carry NAFL games as its linchpin (here’s the post I wrote about the league at the time). The next time I saw Chris’ face it was in this story a year later after they’d been charged with scamming investors.

There are others that I’ve either forgotten or that never made it to my web browser, I’m sure. The Spring League of American Football was scheduled to kick off in 2018, but never launched. Here’s a Fall 2016 story about it. And this list doesn’t even include the aforementioned Spring League as well as Your Call Football, which isn’t a league as much as it’s a live simulation of Madden Football. It kicks off in May.

So why do they all fail? There are four reasons I can think of. No. 1, everyone wants to play real-life fantasy football and put together teams. It’s the ticket and sponsorship sales that usually bog them down. No. 2, without a bona fide TV deal, selling the sponsorships that are so critical to success is nearly impossible. Maybe some day streaming will rival TV as a sponsorship vehicle, but we’re not there yet. No. 3, there’s more football on TV than ever now, and I’m not sure there’s an interest in more of it played by (a) inferior players with (b) no built-in audience. And finally, No. 4, the NFL already has the best minor league of any of the major sports and it doesn’t have to spend a penny on it.

Like anyone who works in football, I’m hopeful that all three leagues succeed. More opportunities just means more chances for people to live their dreams, both players and people who aspire to work on the business side of the game. But I’m not optimistic, I’m sorry to say.

Grading the Graders: Comparing May ’17 and March ’18 mocks

Every spring, the NFL draft captures the attention of football fans virtually from bowl season through April. One reason for the draft’s popularity is the mock draft, which gives everyone a snapshot of the biggest impact-makers of the new crop. Mock drafts were practically made for the Web, and indeed, many draft gurus have made quite a name due to the popularity of their mocks.

But how accurate are they, really? Sure, they’re fun to look at and argue over, but without accountability, what’s the point? Which of the draft experts seem to be the most accurate? It’s a question we’ve asked for ages, but not until last spring did we start to take steps toward measuring it.

In May, we logged the picks for each of seven of the biggest names in Draft Twitter. Then we perused their most recent drafts (most were published the first week of March). They are Tony Pauline of Draft Expert (the most recent we could find was from early February, pre-combine); Pro Football Focus’ Steve Palazzolo; NFL Draft Scout’s Dane Brugler; Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller; ESPN’s Todd McShay; Chris Burke, then of Sports Illustrated, now of The Athletic (sorry, it’s behind the pay wall, though their rate is pretty affordable; and Charlie Campbell of Walter Football.

We break down our finds in today’s Friday Wrap (shameless plug; you can register for it here, and it’s free). But first, here are a few tidbits.

  • Only 56 players showed up across the seven mocks this month, which is a pretty small number when you think about it. Of the 56, 15 show up in all seven mocks.
  • A total of 38 players received at least one first-round mention in March, but none this month. It’s more evidence of the pack mentality of Draft Twitter.
  • Here’s even more damning evidence of Draft Twitter groupthink: there were five players that were no-shows in May’s mocks, but showed up in every one of March’s mocks. They are Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield, Iowa DC Josh Jackson, Georgia OB Roquan Smith, UTSA DE Marcus Davenport and Virginia Tech OB Tremaine Edmunds. Two other players, Boise St. IB Leighton Vander Esch and Alabama OB Rashaan Evans, make six of the seven mocks this month, but made none of them last May.
  • Mayfield is, on average, the No. 9 pick, and none of the experts has him later than 15, yet he wasn’t good enough for any of them last spring.
  • Of the 38, seven were juniors (Clemson DE Clelin Ferrell, Clemson OT Mitch Hyatt, Ohio St. DT Dre’Mont Jones, USC DC Iman Marshall, USC IB Cameron Smith, Auburn QB Jarrett Stidham and Clemson DT Christian Wilkins) who wound up skipping the draft.
  • Three others — Missouri DE Marcell Frazier, North Carolina SS Donnie Miles and Oklahoma DC Jordan Thomas — are draft-eligible, but were combine snubs. Chris Burke (then at SI, now at The Athletic) had Thomas at 25; Walter Football liked Frazier at 29; and Tony Pauline had Miles as the last pick in the first round.

We’ve got a lot more — who did the mocks like in March most vs. who they like best now; which experts really went out on a limb, then and now; which conferences, teams and the like dominate; and plenty more. I hope you’ll join us there. Everyone else from across the industry reads it, and I hope you will, too.

Talking Taxes (and Football) with Tim Johnson of JLK Rosenberger

It’s tax time, and though taxes aren’t especially sexy, they’re absolutely important, especially to people in the football business and the players that rely on them. With major changes approved by Congress, it’s important to have someone who knows the tax code inside and out. With that in mind, I decided to turn today’s post over to Tim Johnson of the Irvine, Calif., office of JLK Rosenberger. Not only is Tim my CPA, but he was a lineman at Cal Lutheran during his college days. He has dozens of active NFL players as his clients, plus he knows a little about the game himself.

So how was the end of the year with all of the new tax law changes for you?

“Well, it was interesting, to say the least.  We had to keep up with the multiple proposals, counter-proposals, and then the final law.  Then, and even more important, figure out what it all meant for our player clients since there were some use-it-or-lose-it-type items, so it was a hectic year-end for sure. Christmas is always a fun time of the year for a tax guy as the phone and laptop are never too far away.”

With tax day about a month away, what are players currently concerned about that is different from the past?

“They are aware of the tax law changes, but most do not know how it will impact them quite yet.  So, we are talking more about those changes impacting 2018 and forward whereas, historically, it was always talking about last year’s taxes. Now, we are still talking about 2017 and trying to get every deduction out there, but we are educating our guys, their advisors, and their families about the changes so they know how they can plan and be prepared.”

What are some of the major changes that will benefit players?

“We do have more favorable tax rates. You hear about that in the news. The top marginal federal tax bracket is dropping by 2.6% (down to 37%) and that top rate impacts taxable income over $500,000. So, the tax rate structure is generally favorable. Additionally, the dreaded Alternative Minimum Tax, or AMT, is now changed to where it will impact very few people.  It is not eliminated, but it might as well be, for most.  Often players may not have even known what the impact of AMT was, but if you were in a non-bonus year making annual minimum and played in a high-tax state like California, New Jersey, New York, Minnesota or Maryland, you very possibly were impacted.”

We know this is not all good news. So what’s the catch?

“Yeah, it is not all rosy.  The two biggest downsides I see impacting players are the limitations on state and local taxes and the elimination of player-type expenses.  State and local taxes including property taxes are limited to only $10,000 per year, which guys who work in a taxable state will hit no problem, and those who own a home will also hit that limit pretty quickly for the most part. So we are highly limited in the taxes we have been able to deduct.  Additionally, player-type expenses such as agent fees associated with on-the-field contracts, union dues, training expenses, therapy, gear purchases, player fines and the like, as well as investment management fees, are no longer deductible.”

So, agent fees are no longer deductible.  Is that as big of a deal as it sounds?

“Yes, it is a big deal. It’s tempered a bit when you dig into the numbers due to agent fees and other player-type expenses not being deductible for AMT and the overall phase-out of itemized deductions. Still, for the most part, it is a big deal. I think it will impact not only the player’s taxes but also eventually how agents are charging for their services.”

“What else are you looking at strategy-wise?

“So many of our players are charitably minded, whether that is a church or another charity.  One of my favored strategies for the right guy is donation of appreciated stock using a “ditch and stack” strategy.  Essentially, we “stack” controllable expenses, now mainly charitable contributions, in one year and we “ditch,” or forego them, in the other year. This allows us to take a larger itemized deduction in one year and then the standard deduction in the other.”

Is it too late to start working with you for 2017 taxes?  How does someone contact you?

“Not too late at al. Now is actually when we get really running on 2017 taxes, but the earlier, the better. Folks can email me at tjohnson@jlkrllp.com or just follow me on Twitter @CPA4Athletes.”

 

Three Scouting Takeaways from our 9th Annual Seminar

As you know, this week, we at Inside the League, in conjunction with The Scouting Network, brought together people across the football industry for our the 9th annual Capital Preservation Partners ITL Combine Seminar Presented by SureSports. It was a special night for a lot of reasons and it was exciting to have coverage from some fine folks at The Advocate and Times-Picayune as well as the Saints media team.

However, we weren’t finished after New Orleans Assistant GM Jeff Ireland accepted the award for the NFL’s Best Draft Class in 2017. Our three-man panel of former NFL scouts, including James Kirkland (Browns, Titans, Falcons, Bears), Bob Morris (49ers, Browns) and Matt Manocherian (Saints, Browns) also had interesting stories, insights and other observations that they offered over the hour-plus remaining in the program.

As always, we’ll have complete video of our seminar on YouTube within a couple weeks. Here are three memorable moments to look for when we debut it.

Meat and potatoes: Morris told a story from the 2007 draft when he was on staff with Kirkland and the Browns were holding the third pick and unsure of what to do. They considered Oklahoma OH Adrian Peterson, while another local product, Notre Dame QB Brady Quinn, was also on the board. Either would have given the team a splashy playmaker, but Morris credited Kirkland for taking a strong stand for Wisconsin OT Joe Thomas, what’s known is “getting up on the table” in scouting parlance. Morris said Kirkland was a strong advocate for getting a solid, every-day player that would deliver Sunday after Sunday, a “meat and potatoes” player, Kirkland said. He was right. Though the Browns have struggled mightily over the past decade, it wasn’t because of Thomas, who has been arguably the finest offensive tackle of his generation.

Take a picture: Manocherian, who also knocked it out of the park as our keynote speaker last year, mentioned his desire, during his area scout days, to take a picture of the team’s draft board pre-combine every year. As a player who evaluated players on the field, he said it was always a revelation to see how drastically the team’s board changed after workout totals were added. Is that a good thing? Is it really more a reflection of how the media and a desire to cover one’s posterior influences team decision-making? I think you could make that argument. It was interesting candor and the kind of thing I find fascinating.

Making money: One of the more provocative questions of the evening, posed by moderator Shawn Zobel of Zobel Sports Consulting, was how much money each of the scouts made in his last year with a team. I was a bit surprised to find out Kirkland, in his final season in Cleveland (he left in the spring of 2016) as an area scout, made about $130,000. Morris, in his final season with the 49ers (he left in the winter of 2017), said he made about the same. That’s a little north of what I expected, though I’d love to see an hourly breakdown. With the time area scouts put in, it might look more like minimum wage. Manocherian, in his final season in Cleveland (he left in May 2014), said he made $60,000 in his last year, which is reasonable given he was much younger in the game at the time.

Of course, these are merely highlights of what we heard here on Wednesday. In a couple weeks, we’ll have the entire program online, so stay tuned.

 

The 9th annual Capital Preservation Partners ITL Combine Seminar Presented by Sure Sports

I’m pretty excited about our ninth annual seminar. I’m excited about our partners; I’m excited about our program; and I’m excited about seeing so many friends and clients. I’m also excited about the new venture we’ll be introducing next week, The Scouting Network.

I wanted to use this space to provide a quick look at the agenda for Wednesday (7 p.m., Room 126 of the Indiana Convention Center in downtown Indianapolis).

  • 6 p.m.: We’ll start with networking for an hour before we officially kick things off. We’ve expanded the invitation list a bit this year from previous years, and we’ve already got more confirmed attendees with five days to go than we had last year.
  • 7 p.m.: The winner of the top 2017 Draft Class Award will be announced, and a representative from that team will accept the award, provide a few thoughts on the team’s selections and process, and answer a couple of questions from the audience. Want to know which team won, and who’ll be representing the team? We’ll be announcing that this evening in our Friday Wrap. You can register for it here. It’s free.
  • 7:15 p.m.: Our title sponsor, Leo Gjoni of Capital Preservation Partners, will welcome the audience and introduce himself and his service.
  • 7:20 p.m.: Shawn Zobel of Zobel Sport Consulting will introduce our new venture, The Scouting Network. Shawn and I hope to make the Network the place for people in the football scouting and evaluation business — college personnel directors, all-star game organizers, and NFL scouts and former scouts — to learn more about the profession, make and renew acquaintances, and otherwise solidify their respective places in the game. Shawn will lead The Scouting Network in addition to his other projects.
  • 7:30 p.m.: I’ll return to the podium to recognize some of our guests, then I’ll introduce our panel of former NFL scouts.
  • 7:35 p.m.: The members of our panel will each lead things off with a brief summary of their respective careers in football and how they got started. Then they’ll field questions from our audience on the business, where it’s going, and other related topics. Our panel will include Matt Boockemeier, who’s worked with the Vikings, Packers and Saints as well as in the UFL and CFL; James Kirkland, who’s the Director of Player Personnel at Illinois after an NFL evaluation career that included work with the Browns, Titans, Falcons and BearsMatt Manocherian, who was with the Browns and Saints and who now serves as the Director of Football Development for Sports Info Solutions; and Bob Morris, who’s worked with the 49ers and Browns and coached at the college level for more than two decades. Shawn will moderate.
  • 8:45 p.m.: Shawn will deliver brief closing remarks. We hope to wrap things up by 9 p.m. at the latest.

We’re really excited and feel it’s going to be a fun and informative night for anyone in the football business. We’ve opened it up to all members of ITL as well as other members of the football community on the college and pro side.

Though it’s invitation-only, we have limited spots available for people interested in the business. Want in? We’re all about helping people get a leg up on a career in the business. Email us here and we’ll try to work you in.

Taking a Look at Who’s Signing Whom in the ’18 Draft Class

For the most part, the end of January marks the end of the signing period for any draft class. At that point, all-star games are over, combine prep for most players is a month old, and with a few exceptions — in this year’s case, Louisville QB Lamar Jackson and Alabama PT J.K. Scott — everyone going to the combine has representation.

That’s why the list of players signed to SRAs through the end of January provides an interesting snapshot of the draft class as seen by agents and the industry at large. Though the number of signees should still swell by at least 50 percent over the next couple months, and though there are still signed players out there that haven’t popped on the NFLPA’s master list, for the most part, the players that will be signed have been signed.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the draft class so far.

  • We counted 27 contract advisors this year with at least 10 signees in the ’18 draft class. They are Evan Brennan (29); Tyrone Barnes (27); James Krenis (25); Harold Lewis and Jimmy Sexton (tied at 18); James ‘Bus’ Cook (14); Derrick Fox and Andrew ‘Buddy’ Baker (each with 13); Ed Bailey (12) and Joel Segal (12 each); Jordan Byrd, Carter Chow, Rachel Dahlen, Craig Domann, Brian Levy, Brian Mackler, Justin Vititoe, Ed Wasielewski, Cameron Weiss and Don Yee, all with 11; and seven agents with 10 each: Patrick Collins, Pat Dye Jr., Todd France, Matthew Glose, David Rich, Justin VanFulpen and Robert Walker.
  • While every year a subset of the new agent class takes Year 1 off, hoping to get an early jump on the coming class, two of the names on the above list are rookie agents. Both Atascadero, Calif.-based Dahlen of Brand Sports Management and Buffalo, N.Y.-based Glose of Priority Athletes took a ‘damn the torpedoes’ approach as new contract advisors and signed a healthy-sized class.
  • Brennan and Krenis came out of nowhere to zoom to the top three through January. At the same time last year, each had six clients, while Barnes, last year’s leader, had 20.
  • Krenis is especially of note given his willingness to go over, around and through to sign a player. We counted seven different SRA arrangements for Krenis, including signing two clients by himself. He shares the SRA with Brennan on 23 of his 25 signees.
  • Rockville, Md.-based Scott Bergman had 14 last year through the end of January, and has been a regular leader in the client count over the past 3-4 years. This year, however, he has one signee as of the end of January.

It’s important to understand that simply signing a player doesn’t represent victory, and one could even argue that big classes are a significant negative. Very often, agents signing multiple players are simply trying to increase their odds of finding one who can make a roster. They often find that sizable draft classes are an albatross after the draft when totaling training costs and handling endless phone calls from undrafted and unsigned players asking, ‘what are you hearing?’

Still, taking inventory of SRAs signed, and who’s signing them, is one way to see how agents work, recruit and risk in the modern game.

For more on the 2018 signing class as well as everything else associated with the inside of the game, make sure to sign up for the Friday Wrap. It’s free, and read by nearly 100 members of the NFL scouting community each week, as well as dozens of agents and wealth managers who are wired into the game.