A Quick Look at the 2019 NFL Combine Class

You follow the game, so you know that Thursday the NFL announced the names of the 338 players invited to the combine later this month. As always, there were a few surprises and a some big-name snubs, plus a few interesting trends that we observed.

Here are five thoughts on the combine list from a football business point of view.

  • The agency with the most clients at Indianapolis? It’s Irvine, Calif.-based Athletes First with 25. Coming in second are two firms with 24 each: Nashville-based CAA and New York City-based Sportstars. Philadelphia-based Octagon Football and Los Angeles-based Wasserman Sports each tied for third with 15 each. For what it’s worth, there are two players (Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray and Washington State’s James Williams) for whom we have no agent listed, so these totals aren’t written in stone.
  • One thing not widely known about the combine is that the number of players at each position changes with each class. For example, it’s mildly surprising that this year, only 17 quarterbacks were invited (and we’re still not certain Murray will play football). Last season, 19 quarterbacks were invited.  In 2017, only 15 came to Indianapolis, while there were 19 passers in 2016 and just 15 in 2015.
  • Here’s a handful of players that were the next ones on the list for invites (it will be interesting to see how many of them are drafted before those who did get invites): Auburn OB Darrell Williams, Cincinnati DT Cortez Broughton, Maryland IB Tre Watson, Ohio WO Sefuan White and Nevada OB Malik Reed.
  • In all 936 seniors were part of the voting process before they were whittled down to around 250 for the first wave of invites. Some made the cut as part of the second wave.
  • Of the 936 players submitted to voters, 251 received no votes from any of the 32 teams and another 123 got just one. What’s more, 529 players got five votes or less. That seems to indicate that there’s pretty wide acceptance of which players are draftable, though opinions may vary on what order and which ones are at the top vs. the bottom.

We take a longer look at the combine list as compared to previous classes (plus other things we found interesting) in today’s Friday Wrap. As you know, it’s completely free and read by about 5,000 people from all walks of the football business. Here’s last week’s edition.

If you’re interested enough in “the game behind the game” to read our blog, you’ll find our weekly newsletter interesting, as well. Sign up for it here.

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Safe and Getting Safer: Goodell’s Green Shield Strengthening

The following column is courtesy of NFL Draft Bible’s Ric Serritella, who has previously written on tech issues for Succeed in Football and also is a contributor to NFL Draft Scout

When it comes to sponsorships and generating new revenue streams, the NFL reigns supreme. Despite its controversies (CTE, anthem protests, blown calls that affect Super Bowl participants and more) the league continues to produce ‘must-see TV’ up to four nights weekly.

Consider this: the four highest-rated TV programs in 2018 were Super Bowl LII, the Super Bowl LII post-game, the NFC Championship and NFC divisional round playoff game.

For more, let’s rewind to the year 2010. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell addressed ownership during league meetings in Orlando, with the declaration that the NFL plans to earn $25 billion per year in revenue by the year 2027.

That’s correct. $25 billion. A ‘b,’ not an ‘m.’

At the time, it seemed like a lofty goal and a long way off, as the entire league had just taken in $8.35 billion in revenue that year. The plan was to generate an additional billion dollars in revenue each year, and as we approach the end of the 2018 season, it now appears that the league might get there even sooner than expected. While official numbers have yet to be released for 2018, revenue is expected to be nearly double that figure from eight years ago, according to this chart.

One big reason for the spike in revenue is the Thursday Night television package rights. In 2016, the NFL increased its TV deal with CBS and NBC to $450M, up from the $300M package sold in 2014. Last January, it was announced that FOX will pay $3 billion over the next five years for the new deal. That is quite a significant increase in a short period time. It’s also roughly $21M in revenue for each NFL owner every year, just from TNF alone.

When the next round of TV packages are put up for bids, negotiations could mirror a scene from the Wild West. New players such as Twitter, Facebook, Amazon and others will be chomping at the bit to secure NFL television licensing rights.

Another factor in the NFL’s rising revenue stream is in this latest report by IEG Research, which states that total sponsorship spending on the NFL and its 32 teams rose 5.1% to $1.39 billion in the 2018-2019 season. A big reason for the spike in sponsorship revenue is the league’s changing attitude toward gambling and fantasy sites. The NFL recently struck a deal with Caesars Entertainment to become the league’s first-ever official casino partner. The deal is reportedly worth $30 million per year. According to IEG’s findings, additional growth was also driven by a spate of new league-wide sponsorships including Intuit, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and Sleep Number.

From a category perspective, beer companies were the biggest NFL investors, spending 4.3 times more than any other category. Autos and telecoms spent 4.0 times more, while soft drink and technology companies spent 2.9 times as much on football than any other sports category.

The most invested brands were Ticketmaster, which has sponsorships with 100% of NFL Properties. Next up is Budweiser/Bud Light at 88% of the league; Gatorade works with 79% of teams, Microsoft 73%, and Bose 70%. With the NFL increasing its presence globally into new markets such as Mexico and Japan, while expanding the slate of games scheduled in London for 2019 to five and increasing the number of regular-season games abroad, the continued spike of revenue could be even greater in years to come.

While it’s easy for the media to paint Goodell as a villain and question why he remains the commissioner, remember, he’s a hero to the 32 owners who hired him.

Follow Ric on Twitter @NFLDraftBible or on his personal account, @RicSerritella.

Creating a Better Business Climate for Agents and Players

As you know if you read this blog regularly, it’s a highly volatile time to be an NFLPA-licensed contract advisor. Agents are being squeezed by players with an increasingly long list of expectations and a poor understanding of what they do. At the same time, there’s more and more pressure from the union for top players to go without representation. Meanwhile, more and more players are being lured with fee cuts and mounting enticements (high-end training, signing bonuses, marketing guarantees, per diems and the like).

Denver-based Peter Schaffer is among those trying to fight back. He’s arranged a meeting of all contract advisors in Indianapolis during the NFL Combine (Thursday, Feb. 28) to allow everyone to gather and clear the air, perhaps uniting behind a handful of actions designed to unify the agent community and create a more level playing field. As supporters of NFL player representatives, we are playing a supporting role in efforts to ease turmoil in the business.

Here are a few measures that I’ve heard might have support from agents in my discussions with them over the past 2-3 weeks. The last four are recommendations Schaffer has made.

  • A representative who will speak (and fight) for contract advisors: One agent I spoke to said there’s a need for someone who’s not NFLPA-certified to go to bat for the rights of contract advisors. The problem is that only NFLPA-licensed reps are allowed into seminars presented by the Players Association. It’s also anybody’s guess whether or not the PA would even listen to such a representative.
  • A published list of the fee schedule for every standard representation agreement (SRA) signed in a draft class: This would be a bold move, and one supported by some agents I’ve spoken to over the last two weeks. Others oppose it, some vehemently. One way or another, this would show conclusively who’s holding the line on fees and who’s just paying lip service. In any case, it would be a true long shot for the NFLPA to do this.
  • A seat at the table for the next CBA negotiation as well as NFLPA Executive Committee and Player Rep meetings: This seems like the longest shot of all. Obviously, there are some highly skilled negotiators among the ranks of NFL agents, but this might be seen as an indictment of DeMaurice Smith’s ability to strike a deal. What’s more, in the past, the PA has operated with limited transparency.
  • Crafting new language that defaults to a 1.5-percent fee on all SRAs: When this was introduced in August 2016, it set the agent community ablaze. I think the Players Association saw it as a way to give draft prospects more freedom, but I think its tangible effect has been to devalue the role of contract advisors. I believe that setting the default rate back to three points would signal a respect toward agents by the NFLPA. It wouldn’t be easy, but I could see the NFLPA ditching this measure and returning to three percent, especially since it’s not binding (agents don’t have to charge at all if they so choose).
  • Ending the continuing education exam: I could see the PA ending this, as well. There are better ways to ensure that all contract advisors are up to speed than by simply coming after them with a pass-or-else exam. On the other hand, though this exam was met by fire and fury at the 2018 NFLPA Seminar in Indianapolis, only 17 agents wound up losing their certification.
  • Capping the amount of bonuses that can be recovered in case of termination: Schaffer has recommended that no more than $50,000 can be recovered by an agency that gets fired. We regularly hear of six-figure signing bonuses provided to top prospect as a means of getting the signature. This seems fair, though there’s been resistance.

This is a quick overview of what agents could ask for. We’ll find out in just over a month if there’s a consensus behind any of these, and if the NFLPA will even listen. In the meantime, for a deeper look at the business of football (college and pro), we recommend you sign up for our weekly Friday Wrap.

 

Notes from the All-Star Trail: January 2019

The best time of the year for me, professionally, is definitely January. It’s the time when I get to go on the road and hit four of the five major all-star games (College Gridiron Showcase, Tropical Bowl, Shrine Game and Senior Bowl) and really get out into the football world. It allows me to not only meet new people, but to have lengthy, more insightful, more detailed conversations with the people I know and trust in the game. It always give me new things to think about.

Here are a few nuggets from the road so far this year.

  • I spoke to a financial advisor this week who’s a longtime friend, and we talked about the times when it’s hardest to do his job. He said it’s normally as hard or harder to deal with parents than the players themselves. He discussed one time when he caught a parent writing checks to herself and signing her son’s name to them, and another time when a parent declared she was “tired of this piecemeal (stuff)” when she was unsatisfied with the amount of money being doled out to her. The worst thing is, when such incidents occur, the player is trapped. “It’s my mother,” he says. “What can I do?”
  • The departure of Gen. James Mattis as Secretary of Defense might be bad for the country, but it may be good for any players at service academies that aspire to play in the NFL. I learned from talking to an agent who regularly represents players at Army, Navy and Air Force that Mattis was a hard-liner when it came to players going right to the pros. That could change when a new Secretary of Defense is named, though it would be surprising if there’s a new policy in time for the 2019 NFL draft.
  • I was approached by a scout this week who actually thanked me for listing his exit from a previous team a couple years ago on my Twitter account. He told me it actually helped him find another opportunity. It’s never easy to bring the news of changes in scouting departments to cyberspace, but it’s pretty rewarding when it helps open another door.
  • Incidentally, I learned of two scouts who, after being relieved of their duties by one team, continued right on scouting. One of them found a new team to scout for and did just that, providing his reports and opinions for free for a full year. Another scout went back out on the road and stopped in with selected schools as if he never left. Eventually, both found new jobs. It’s just another reminder of (a) the passion of people in the industry and (b) the pure, unadulterated will you have to show to remain in it.
  • If there’s one concern that unites all agencies, it’s the rising cost of doing business. Two of the bigger agencies in the business, both of them based in Southern California (Rep1 Sports and Athletes First) have actually brought their training in-house, developing their own combine prep academies. However, there’s a new one on the scene this year. Capital Sports Advisors, a multi-agency firm that has advisors spread across the country, is sending its clients to South Florida to work one on one with some of the bigger names in the business. They include former Bears and Miami (Fla.) head coach Dave Wannstedt; former NFL linebacker Bryan Cox; former Steelers and Vikings offensive coordinator Ray Sherman; and former Bears, Browns and Packers defensive coordinator Bob Slowik. I personally spoke to one of their clients in the ’19 draft class who specifically cited CSA Academy as the reason he signed with the firm. It’s an innovative idea and one that might quickly gain traction.
  • If there’s one shortage in the NFL, it’s not at quarterback. It’s offensive linemen, and specifically tackles. I’ve been chewing on ideas on how to use the resources available today — elite training facilities, legitimate alternative leagues, and loads of tall, athletic players not quite good enough to play in the NBA — to turn players that would be on the street into NFL prospects. This week, I took a few more baby steps toward making that happen. I’ll keep you posted in this space as we progress.

That’s not my only wild idea. In today’s Friday Wrap, we’ll be introducing a modest proposal that might turn the all-star game model on its head (and make it a lot more interesting for all involved). You can register for the Friday Wrap here, and check out last week’s edition here.

2019 CGS Scouting Workshop: A Recap

If you weren’t among the crowd at the second annual 2019 College Gridiron Showcase Scouting Workshop Presented by Inside the League, I’m really sorry you. It was a chance to not only meet a real-live NFL evaluator — Cowboys Assistant Director of College Scouting Chris Hall — but it was a chance to truly learn about the business.

When I asked Chris to speak at our event, I hoped for two things: he’d say “yes,” and he’d give us a half-hour. However, when he agreed to come, I never dreamed he’d far exceed 30 minutes. In fact, Chris went almost two hours in discussing his path from intern in the team’s scouting department to key member of the team’s braintrust almost 30 years later.

If you weren’t there (or even if you were), you can review his impressive discussion, in its entirety, here. If you don’t want to wade through it all, here are a few points Chris made that really resonated with me.

  • Trades remembered and forgotten: In his 29 years, Chris has worked with Jimmy Johnson, Barry Switzer and Bill Parcells, and has seen the depths as well as Super Bowl victories. He was also on the team for the Herschel Walker deal, which was historic. He pointed out, however, that the Steve Walsh trade was almost as much of a bounty, while the Cowboys also struck out on trades, citing the Stan Smagala trade. I think his point was that no one bats 1.000 when it comes to wheeling and dealing.
  • College coaches used to make the best scouts: In the old days, you hired ex-coaches to scout for you because they knew the players and the schools. Today, it’s less important because film has become so much more available and the Internet makes the country so much smaller.
  • Everyone considers quitting: Chris came very close to leaving the Cowboys to pursue a masters in advertising at SMU. He made it clear that everyone has their time of disappointment and burnout. A fortuitous staff change inspired Chris to stay. For you, it might be different. The key is to figure out how to press on.
  • It’s a game of space now: It’s important to keep up with the changes dictated by the game. Though Dallas is seen as a power-running team, its scouts have focused on speed and athleticism on defense to match up with modern trends on offense.
  • Don’t miss kids in your backyard: Chris said the Cowboys really focus on Texas schools because the team takes pride in the state and doesn’t want to be beaten by local players.
  • Write thank you notes: During the portion of his discussion aimed at aspiring scouts, he said it’s incredibly important to thank people in the business by writing actual thank you notes (yes, pen and paper). Chris is the second person I’ve heard say that exactly. As you build your network, don’t forget to do this.
  • Draft pundits can tell you what the league thinks about a player: I’ve never thought about it this way, but Chris said he believes the bigger names in the media (McShay, Kiper, Mayock) talk to enough people to give a general summation of who’s hot and who’s not.
  • Character is subjective: You have to know the position group on your team before you know if a player will fit in, and before you know if you should draft him. That’s also a theme in Michael Holley’s book, War Room, which I highly recommend.

If you weren’t there, there’s always next year, and we hope to see you then.

In the meantime, if you want to learn more about the College Gridiron Showcase or the business of pro and college football in general, make sure you register for the Friday Wrap. It comes out this evening, and it’s must-read info for thousands of people  in the game. You can register for it here. Here’s last week’s edition.

 

 

The ITL Scouting Dept. Looks at a Few Early-Entry NFL Draft Prospects

At Inside the League, we work with people across the football spectrum and provide a number of services. One of them is providing reports written by former NFL scouts to agents, parents, wealth managers, schools and others interested in finding out what professionals really think about draft prospects.

This year, we used Blake Beddingfield (Titans), Ryan Hollern (Bills, Saints), Matt Jansen (Texans, Ravens), Bob Morris (Browns, 49ers) and Josh Washburn (Titans) to write our reports. Now that college football is all but over and dozens of underclassmen are declaring for the draft by the day, we wanted to take a look at which players are making good decisions and which ones maybe aren’t.

Here are eight players that have already thrown their hat in the ’19 ring, or who are expected to, and what they might expect in late April, based on what our scouts saw.

  • Clifton Duck, DC, Appalachian St.: Writing about him before the season, our scout wrote that he’s a “late-round draft choice or PFA if he decides to enter the draft” after 2018. 
  • Joe Giles-Harris, OB, Duke: A solid player who should be a blue-collar NFL player who contributes in sub packages and on special teams. “Lots to like but I don’t see a high ceiling athletically, which caps his draft value,” our report reads. He has third-round possibilities but probably figures more in the fifth round.
  • Trysten Hill, DT, Central Florida: Though we see him as a fifth-rounder, there is something strange going on here. “This kid started 26 games prior to the 2018 season, but is a non-starter and rotational player now?,” asked our scout. “Possibly correlates with new staff, but he clearly is better than starters and the players he rotates with. (Teams) must know the reason” before they draft him.
  • Elijah Holyfield, OH, Georgia: Holyfield has submitted his name to the draft review board, but he’s not likely to get good news. “I view him as more of a two-down back, with upside in the inside run game whether zone or gap scheme, but not a three-down RB,” wrote our scout. “I wouldn’t recommend him leaving early.” If he does, he’s probably a fifth-rounder.
  • Josh Jacobs, OH, Alabama: Jacobs doesn’t get the big headlines because he’s part of a job-share in the ‘Bama backfield, so maybe he blossoms into something special on the next level. On the other hand, our scout wrote “I view him as well-rounded and a really good all-three-down depth player and serviceable starter, but not an elite-type player.” He’s probably a fourth-rounder.
  • Dax Raymond, TE, Utah St.: This is another player who’s mostly unknown, but who could win fans over the next four months. “Needs to get stronger, and needs work on some lower-body strength to help with contested balls,” wrote our scout, but “I like his upside.” Fourth round maybe, fifth round probably.
  • Saivion Smith, DC, Alabama: If he chooses to come out — we’re hearing that Smith’s leaning toward staying — he could be a second-rounder. “Will be a backup and special teams player in Year 1, but can be a starter in Year 2,” our scout wrote.
  • Preston Williams, WO, Colorado St.: Our scout wrote that he sees him “as a solid possession-type WR with size/length who can operate in the slot” and who is reminiscent of former Saints great Marques Colston. We see him as a third- or fourth-rounder.

Want a few more looks at juniors as evaluated by former NFL scouts? We’ve got forecasts for seven more players — Iowa St. WO Hakeem Butler, Stanford OG Nate Herbig, Duke QB Daniel Jones, Mississippi TE Dawson Knox, Oregon WO Dillon Mitchell, Alabama TE Irv Smith Jr. and Vanderbilt DC Joejuan Williams — in our Friday Wrap (here’s last week’s). Thousands of people across the football business read it every week. You should, too! Register here.

 

A Further Look Inside the Draft Numbers for Three Positions

This week, we thought it would be timely to post some facts about the 2018 NFL Draft class on Twitter. We looked at three positions: QB, RB and DE. The number of players drafted, signed post-draft, invited to try out, and that actually made a roster were apparently eye-opening to many people. In all, the three Tweets earned 87 likes and 33 retweets.

We were mildly surprised by the reaction. I think there’s still a perception that, for most players who come out of FBS football, there’s a happy ending, or at least a brief place in the league. This definitely isn’t so, and it’s important for players to understand that. Seemingly every day in December, I am contacted by a well-meaning player or parent who is seeking help hiring an agent despite not starting regularly for his college team.

Here are a few more numbers, trends and totals for players in the last three draft classes in their pursuit of NFL playing careers. If you are a player in the ’19 draft class, or know someone who is, please take heed.

  • Quarterbacks: Draft-eligible passers get a lot of hype around draft time, though you typically only hear about the top 12-15 quarterbacks in any draft class. However, the average number per draft class signed by agents over the last four years is about 80 (78.75). The bad news is that the majority don’t even make it into camps (about two-thirds each in ’17 and ’18 were passed over) and the overwhelming majority don’t make a 53 or practice squad (20 percent in 2018, 25.6 percent in 2017).
  • Wide receivers: Every year, there are more receivers signed by agents than any other class (305 in 2018 and a whopping 313 in 2016). However, they have the longest odds of making a roster as, last year, 44.9 percent didn’t get so much as a tryout offer. And that’s no fluke. Except for the ’17 draft, when only 32.9 percent were snubbed by teams, about 45 percent of all wide receivers in each of the ’18, ’16 and ’15 draft classes never got so far as a tryout. More bad news: only about 11 percent of each wide receiver class is actually drafted (9.6 percent in 2016!). By comparison, last year, 23 percent of offensive tackles — about one in four — were drafted.
  • Cornerbacks: Corners are the second-most popular players to sign by agents, and why not? They play an impact position and they are plentiful. Still, they are far from a lock to get any attention on draft weekend, probably because their draft status is so heavily dependent on 40 time. Last year, 227 cornerbacks were signed by agents, but only about 40 percent were either drafted or signed as UDFAs and only about a quarter (27.8 percent) actually made a 53 or practice squad.

Interested in diving further into the numbers? You can start by registering for our Friday Wrap. This week, we’ll have more scoop on who gets drafted and where the scarcity lies in the draft most seasons. You can register for it here, and you can check out last week’s edition here.

Of course, if you’re a real information junkie — and if you aspire to work in the football world, you should be — click here to check out every position over the last four years and how each has done in the draft. Spoiler alert: you’ll have to subscribe to the site, but if you do, you won’t be disappointed.

An ‘Invincible’ Prospect Among Those on ’19 CGS Roster

In the summer of 2006, the world was introduced to Vince Papale when the movie Invincible told the story of his improbable transition from 30-year-old bartender to wide receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles. Twelve years later, the country finally gets to see the sequel. But this sequel isn’t a movie, and it opens only to limited audiences in two weeks.

Delaware WO Vinny Papale, who racked up 36 catches for 618 yards (17.2 ypc) and six touchdowns for the Blue Hens (7-5) this season, will begin his campaign for a slot in the 2019 NFL Draft in Fort Worth next month. While he won’t be drafted ahead of Arizona State’s N’Keal Harry or Mississippi’s A.J. Brown, a good week in the Metroplex could help him climb into the Day 3 conversation or at least establish him as a priority free agent (PFA).

The ITL Scouting Department gave him a PFA grade. Our scouts touted his hands and ability to “snatch it and . . . catch outside his frame and extend for the grab.” They also called him a “good short to intermediate route runner.” On the other hand, his size, length and leaping ability are only “adequate,” according to our evaluators, though they liked his instincts and “ability to get the job done without top-level traits.” In other words, it sounds like he’s a chip off the ol’ block.

Papale is just one of more than 150 players that will attempt to be a crowd-pleaser and build an audience with NFL teams. Here are a few others worth watching with popcorn and Sno-Caps at the ready.

  • Grant Kraemer, QB, Drake: Ryan Hollern of the ITL Scouting Department (now with the AAF’s Salt Lake City franchise) liked Kraemer’s size, touch and release (“gets it out quick”) in an evaluation turned in early this season.
  • Kameron Lewis, WO, St. Francis (PA): Hollern likes Lewis as a possible late-rounder, citing his “frame, well-proportioned and athletic build” and “long arms.” He also liked Lewis’ “ball skills and playmaking ability.”
  • Chad Hovasse, WO, Adams St.: A scout we talked to said Hovasse has the tools to play in the league, though he’s still got plenty of development ahead. He’s a big receiver (6-1/215) who dominated Division II.

We’ve got 18 more names of top players in this year’s CGS, and we’ll be listing them in today’s Friday Wrap (register for it here). The list includes four quarterbacks, four running backs, nine wide receivers and more. In all, we’ll have about 170 players hitting, throwing, rushing, interviewing and whatever else NFL teams want to see from Jan. 5-9.

And don’t forget — if you are interested in scouting and evaluation, we’ll also have Cowboys Assistant Director of College Scouting Chris Hall and others speaking at the CGS Scouting Workshop Presented by Inside the League. We hope to see you there.

 

Ask the Scouts: Where Does Kyler Murray Go in the NFL Draft?

Last weekend, Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray won the Heisman Trophy. It’s the latest highlight of an incredible season by the first-round pick of the Oakland A’s and former Aggie. Few, if any, people expected Murray to take over so seamlessly from the the top overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield.

Of course, his success doesn’t matter in NFL circles, right? Having inked a deal with a $4.66 million signing bonus shortly after the MLB Draft this summer, he’s signed, sealed and delivered to play on the diamond, not the gridiron — at least until recently. This week, his baseball agent, Scott Boras, has softened his tone. Maybe, just maybe, he’ll be drafted this spring.

Then again, we’re talking about a one-year wonder who, at 5-9, is 2-3 inches shorter than the “short” quarterbacks who are having success in the NFL these days. He also comes from a college-style spread without a lot of the intricacies of the pro game, behind a superhuman offensive line, and he plays in a conference that’s famed for its lack of defense.

Still — he’s exciting, he’s incredibly athletic, and he’s been wildly productive. So let’s presume baseball was off the table, however that might occur, and he was part of this spring’s draft. Where does he get drafted? We asked several NFL scouts, and the answers surprised us. Here’s a sampling.

  • “He’s an exceptional talent. I normally would never vouch for a 5’9 QB, but he’s possibly the best athlete I saw all fall, and he’s extremely accurate as a thrower. Despite his size, I didn’t see any tips at the LOS, and he can change arm angles. I have no reservations about his arm. I don’t think the risk is his size. It may be his durability; he hasn’t been hurt, but he’s playing behind probably the best OL in college football against a bad conference of defenses, so I just worry about him taking hits from NFL players on a more regular basis. Also, he has only one real year of production. I think if he comes out, he goes in the last half of the first round. He’s that talented. And I know you said he isn’t gonna be in the NFL Draft, don’t be so sure. I know he has the deal with the A’s, but football is his first love and I’d be shocked personally if he at least doesn’t give it a try. His passion is to be an NFL QB.”
  • “(He’s) really 5090. That’s short short. No way you can take him high. Flutie last 5090 QB? Just guessing. Remember a short Georgia Tech a decade or so ago. Joe Hamilton. Worst thing they could allow is for him to get measured. Wonder if any MLB scouts have his height?
  • “He’s gonna hold all the cards. He can wait. Not sure what the baseball rules are. If I were him, I’d go to the combine and get a better sense of where (I’m) gonna go before I decided. But he’s fast, he’s exciting and he can throw on the run.”

We got nine more responses from our friends in the business, and it’s pretty fascinating stuff. For the most part, we’re seeing a change in how scouts see the game, in my opinion. I think it’s fair to say that the rigid constraints of the QB prototype are changing, if not breaking down altogether.

You can read everything scouts told us about Murray’s chances in the draft, and where they think he would/will go, in today’s Friday Wrap (here’s last week’s edition). If you’ve always thought about registering, but never did, now’s the time. We promise. Today’s edition will have plenty of scouting scoop about Murray, but also the usual rundown of what happened in football biz last week from an insider’s perspective. Register here.

Does Character REALLY Matter in the NFL Draft?

The issue of character is one that’s often cited in NFL Draft circles, though no one can exactly put his finger on how, exactly, it impacts a prospect’s draft status.

Most often, when a player slides several rounds when none of the pundits expected it, a commentator will shrug his shoulders and mention “character concerns.” Other times, we hear of “off-the-field concerns” about players, but often don’t have a real smoking gun on why that is.

But here’s what we do know: teams care about more than just what they see on the field. Teams conduct interviews at all-star games, at the combine, and sometimes even after pro day workouts because they want to get to know a player before they decide on drafting him. Knowing how to interview and what to say is an important part of the pre-draft process. That’s why I’m excited about Blake Beddingfield and Jerry Angelo, the two men who will conduct interview prep for ITL clients for the 2019 NFL Draft class. Jerry will handle clients in the Southeast (primarily Florida) and Blake will cover the mid-South.

We’ve been offering interview prep for about five years now, mainly because we know it’s important and we want to provide an affordable service. In the past, we’ve had Jeff Ireland (now with the Saints), Ray Farmer (Rams), Phil Emery (Falcons) and other former scouts work with players. Why is it important? Because “many kids have been dumped after interviews,” Beddingfield said. “Couldn’t grasp their own offense or defense. Lied during interview. Didn’t (admit) felonies, etc.  One kid . . . came in the room wanting T-shirt’s for some (people) outside.”

There are other services that provide interview prep, but we approach it in a different way. The goals are twofold: we teach players how to present themselves in the best way, i.e., sell their own best qualities, and never lie or be dishonest.

“Here’s the biggest thing, and here’s what I’ve evolved to with these interviews: I customize it,” Angelo said. “If I’m doing a one-on-one session, I customize it to the player. First, I go back to his high school years and delve into his family background. If he’s got a solid family background, I bring that out and make that something he’s gotta get out to the teams. Some teams gloss over families, and some get into it. (If it’s a positive,) that’s gotta get out thee. It’s very important to his stability, a foundational stability that all teams can relate to.

“Then I take his football career, starting his junior/senior year in high school, and look at what he accomplished. Was he a captain? Did he play dual sports. I call this his bio. I make him write these things down as we go through it. Im interviewing him in the first 15 minutes ascertaining his facts. Then I go through his career, playing time, durability, accolades he might have achieved, anything I think is important that I know will resonate with teams. That’s where my expertise and experience come in, because I know what teams will glean in interviews. We need to be specific about who we are. What makes (the player) different and drawing that out from the player.

“Then I say, here’s our package. It’s five to six bullet points we need to get out in this interview. They may ask the questions, they control the questions, but (the player) controls the answers. You have to get those answers out.”

Jerry also explains the three things that teams are really looking for in any interview; how to present any “baggage” as a strength; how teams will specifically try to bait a player through interview questions, and how to avoid taking the bait; and how teams use interviews to break ties among players.

Incidentally, if you have a client who doesn’t get an invitation to the combine, don’t rule out interview prep.

“With the 30 visits that teams get, how many kids get drafted that didn’t go to combine? He’s gonna be one of those 30 visits,” Angelo said. “No team is drafting a player without giving him a physical first. When he goes on that 30 visit, he’s going to be interviewed. You want him to do it right and know what to do there.”

Learn more about interview prep, combine prep, scouting and evaluation, and pretty much everything else associated with the game by signing up for our weekly newsletter, the Friday Wrap. Here’s last week’s edition. And if you’re ready to sign up (it’s free, of course), click here. I hope you’ll join us.