An Update on XFL Player Acquisition

We’re starting to get a lot of questions about the XFL player pool and how an agent (or anyone, for that matter) gets a client into the league player pool. XFL officials want to make sure agents and players are aware that its showcases are around the corner and that spots are filling up quickly, with some dates already at capacity.

Here are a few things XFL officials want to make sure are clear to players and their representatives.

  • The XFL will have a comprehensive player pool.
  • The league will announce its team-by-team personnel directors next month, though we’ve heard that timetable might be moved up so as not to miss out on any talented players from the ’22 draft class.
  • Though we don’t have any definitive info, it’s our understanding that players need not have participated in one of this summer’s engagement camps to be signed.
  • All players interested in demonstrating their skills in front of XFL personnel and coaches are asked to visit showcases.XFL.com or to email info@XFL.com.
  • The HBCU camp and the engagement camp in Hawaii are by invitation only because the league is trying to tightly control participants, limiting them to only those of Pacific Islander heritage for the event held in Honolulu and to players from historically black schools for the HBCU workout.
  • XFL head coaches and personnel directors will select players for the exclusive XFL draft pool based on the following criteria:
        1. XFL Showcase evaluations
        2. College/pro film evaluations
        3. XFL staff evaluations at NFL training camps. Invites to the draft pool will be sent to players in early June.

Only players invited to the draft pool will be eligible to be drafted. Visit Info@XFL.com and check out the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section for more information.

Another Chance to Grow: Mueller Scout Camp

Scouting (and specifically, getting jobs in scouting) is on the minds of many these days  with teams hiring and firing as part of the usual post-draft phase. I can’t count the number of members of NCAA personnel and recruiting departments who’ve reached out to me over the past 2-3 weeks, asking for tips on how to interview.

I try to respond to all of them, and do the best I can to give them good advice. However, there are those who have actually done the hiring that can do way better. One of those people is former NFL GM Randy Mueller, who’s spent time in the front offices in New Orleans, Miami, Seattle and San Diego in various roles (serving as GM of the Saints, Dolphins and Seahawks). These days, Randy writes a must-read blog on his personal web page, but next month, you don’t have to get your advise and counsel through via the Web.

Randy will host a two-day workshop in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, that will be the first-ever Mueller Scout Camp. Included in the event will be five individual sessions, including a resume review and a mock GM interview with Randy. Sessions will included pointers on film evaluation, the dynamics of team-building, how to gather character information on recruits and prospects, how to build a consensus without encouraging groupthink, building your board and more. 

“A couple of bigger-program head coaches asked me if I could coach up some of their people on the art of identifying and evaluating players,” Mueller said. “Everyone, coaches included, needs a refresher, so think of a coaching clinic, but this is an evaluator’s clinic. 

“People who do this for a living have got to be able to identify what most don’t see when looking for talent.”

Randy said his goal is to “give (attendees) some tools and a process to build fundamentals as an evaluator as they progress in the business.”

It’s a pretty exciting opportunity when you consider that he’s only taking 12 students. As someone who loves to see professionals invest in the next generation, I’m pretty enthusiastic about Randy’s camp, as well as the one I’ll be attending this weekend in Las Vegas, the 2022 Personnel/Recruiting Spring Clinic in Las Vegas. That one is being run by UNLV’s Gaizka Crowley and Colorado State’s Lucas Gauthier. Hope to see you there.

For more information on Mueller Scout Camp, including pricing, email Randy at info@muellerfootball.com. 

Turnover in NFL Front Offices, Why It Happens and What it Means

In the last two weeks, scouts with decades of experience in player evaluation have been sent packing by their respective teams. How is this so, you might ask? Don’t you want seasoned people helping you pick the players for your team?

I admit it’s hard to understand. Let me try to make sense of it.

  • There was a time when old coaches in the fourth quarter of their respective careers became NFL scouts for a number of reasons: they primarily scouted regions where they’d worked; NFL teams had healthy pension programs; and it gave them a chance to get away from the weekly grind of trying to win on Saturday. In many cases, these scouts weren’t career-minded. They were looking to wind down their careers but weren’t on a GM path. A big percentage of younger people who came into the industry had connections to owners and others in the business; there has always been a lot of nepotism in the NFL.  However, there was not a substantial number of young up-and-comers because teams were mostly hiring scouts based on their experience.
  • During this time, team ownership was dominated by the Maras, Rooneys, Wilsons and others who saw teams (at least partially) as part of a city’s profile and heritage rather than as an investment. Obviously, given the financial strength of the league and its teams, this attracted a new class of owners who were attracted to the game, but also were attracted to what teams would add to their respective portfolios. Think Dallas’ Jerry Jones when he first entered the league, or more recently, David Tepper in Carolina. As those new owners have gained power, they are less constrained by the traditions of the game. They have been willing to expand the size of scouting departments — in the last 30 years, most teams have gone from 5-10 scouts/advisors to an average of 20 — and, slowly, improve pay. At the same time, however, most are dumping pensions and other long-term investments in scouts. This has led to a tendency to make shorter-term commitments to scouts and evaluators.
  • These new owners are also open to new ways of doing things, and have themselves often used technology and analytics-driven methods to accomplish business success. They are therefore prone to wanting to apply those ideas to football. Sometimes this translates, sometimes it doesn’t. However, it lends itself to the idea that intelligence can be gathered without the human element. This is exacerbated by the distinctly “human” aspect of scouting. Football evaluation has never been solely about what happens between the lines; injuries, personalities, the money involved in the game and other factors greatly impact a player’s NFL success. New-guard owners are also more prone to looking at their teams as a form of entertainment more so than a sport. A sport imparts values and a culture, whereas forms of entertainment are eminently disposable and agnostic.
  • While all of this was happening, fantasy football was taking off across the sports landscape, giving rank-and-file fans a taste of team-building. Simultaneously, colleges were rolling out sport management programs to capitalize on this, promising undergrads a chance to live their dreams of working in pro sports. This led to a swell of candidates looking to break into the industry. Anyone on Twitter can sift through and find hundreds, if not thousands, of aspiring scouts and evaluators. Just check their bios.

Bottom line, you have a business model where success is hard to measure, with people at the top of the pyramid lacking experience in hiring, and thousands of young professionals — many of them very talented — aiming to get in. Simultaneously, owners and executives are under relentless pressure from the media and social media on how to do things. It makes for a difficult path to getting hired. Good luck.

A Few Things to Remember During ‘Scout Jobs Season’

If you follow me on Twitter, and you’re new, welcome! I’m glad you’re here. 

Anyway, you might have started following ITL due to the scouting news we’ve posted over the past week, and there’s more where that came from. At the same time, there are a few things you need to know that might make the next few weeks a little smoother, especially if your favorite team pops up in one of my tweets.

Changes announced this week have been in the works for weeks, maybe months: I bumped into one of the scouts released this week last fall, at a college football game. He told me then he would probably be out right after the draft. It had nothing to do with his performance, by the way. It was something else entirely, which brings me to my next point.

Scout terminations, more often than not, are related to relationships, not performance: Partly because scouting is so subjective, it’s very hard to measure a scout’s effectiveness. That leads to scouts and executives being hired and fired primarily due to their relationships with the GM or others in leadership positions. 

Scouts usually work on two-year contracts: That’s why, sometimes, a new GM will come in and not make many (or any) changes. If all or most of his scouts have a year left on their deals, they might as well spend the year and see who’s good and not so good, then release them with no further obligations. 

It takes a while for a scouting department to come together: Scouting departments are a little like an offensive line. They take a little while to mesh, especially if they are working for a first-time GM. This time next year, you might be really, really excited about the players your favorite team has picked. On the other hand, maybe you won’t. If you aren’t, be patient. Things will probably improve. 

A good QB can really cover for a struggling scouting staff (and a bad one can mask a good scouting staff): Going back the last 10 years, the Patriots didn’t pick in the first round four seasons (2013, 2016, 2017 and 2020), and none of their six picks have gone to the Pro Bowl (according to Wikipedia). It’s been a bit of a rough patch, but because their QBs have been Brady and Jones, they’ve remained a pretty successful franchise. Bottom line, your team’s scouts are probably not as bad (or as good) as you think they are. 

At the end of the day, getting to understand why some teams draft well and others don’t takes time. If you’d rather learn more, I recommend my book, Scout Speak, which is loaded with war stories, insights and weighty quotes from dozens of scouts, active and former. It’s a quick read and, I think, a fun one, too. It’s also under $13. Check it out. If you’re not a big reader, it’s also available on Audible.

Still not sold? Register for our newsletter, the Friday Wrap. It’s free, and chock full of information on scouts, agents and the business of football. I think you’ll like it.

 

 

A Look at the Saints’ Draft: Ex-Titans Exec Blake Beddingfield

This week, with the NFL Draft starting tonight, I thought it would be fun to ask three of my friends who used to run teams’ drafts to tell me how they’d approach the draft for one specific team. I asked them to look at the Saints, who are in an interesting position with plenty of needs and decent draft capital. After we led off the week with former Jets Director of College Scouting Jeff Bauer Tuesday, we continued with former Giants and Bears executive Greg Gabriel Wednesday. We wrap the week with former Titans executive Blake Beddingfield.

 

The Saints are straddling the fence between rebuilding and going for it. The question is, does their lack of a top-level QB in today’s game dictate that they go into 2022 with guns blazing, or do they play more conservatively? 

Clearly, in a division with the ageless Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers but a new head coach, as well as the rebuilding Falcons and Panthers, New Orleans’ braintrust has decided the time is (still) now. That means GM Mickey Loomis and Assistant GM Jeff Ireland will be looking to build with new talent and hope their selectees are all fast learners. 

Key losses include left tackle Terron Armstead (Dolphins) and safeties Marcus Williams (Ravens) and Malcolm Jenkins (retirement). To compensate, the club signed safeties Marcus Maye from the Jets and Daniel Sorensen from the Chiefs, along with backup QB Andy Dalton from the Bears. The Saints also get WO Michael Thomas and QB Jameis Winston (whom they re-signed) back from injury. The returns of Thomas and Winston are almost like adding free agents given the amount of time each missed in ’21. The club also returns 80% of its offensive line.

The Saints have spent a lot of draft capital on their offensive and defensive line since 2017, acquiring three first-round and one second-round offensive lineman as well as two first-round defensive ends to go with perennial pro bowler Cameron Jordan.  

The Saints picks tonight include two picks in the first round (16 and 19), a second-rounder (49), a third (98), a fourth (120), a fifth (161) and a sixth (194). These selections give the team the ability to acquire quality players at need positions with four picks in the top 100. 

Now, let’s talk about team needs. The Saints have a big hole at left tackle, but also need a wide receiver to compliment Thomas and protect the team in case of another injury by the once ultra-productive veteran. Other positions of need are quarterback, tight end and defensive tackle.

In the first round I expect the Saints to go after a left tackle and wide receiver if the right players are there at each position. The top three offensive tackles — Alabama’s Evan Neal, Mississippi State’s Charles Cross and NC State’s Ikem Ekwonu — would be ideal, and would each be immediate starters, but would require a trade given that none will still be around at 16. That leaves Northern Iowa’s Trevor Penning. Penning is better-suited long-term on the right side, but that position is already taken by pro bowler Ryan Ramczyk. Penning would be an upgrade over what they currently have on the roster at left tackle, but he is not the same prospect as Neal, Cross and Ekwonu. At the same time, there have been whispers in the past that Ramczyk could slot in on the left side when Armstead’s days in New Orleans came to an end. One way or another, Penning makes a lot of sense at 16.

On the other hand, the Saints could package their third-round selection (No. 98) with their first first-rounder (No. 16) to move up and secure one of the top three left tackles. This still leaves them with the 19th pick, along with their second-rounder. Keep in mind that drafting offensive linemen with premium picks is part of the Saints’ DNA. In the past decade, they’ve taken Stanford OG Andrus Peat (No. 13 in 2015), Michigan OG Cesar Ruiz (No. 24 in 2020) and Ramczyk (No. 32 in 2017) in the first round along with Texas A&M OC Erik McCoy (No. 48 in 2019) in the second round.  

The wide receiver position is strong in the first round this year, and multiple players could be options when the Saints are on the clock at 19.  Ohio States wideouts Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave would add speed and immediate help to go along with the team’s current receivers, including Marquez Callaway, Tre’Quan Smith and Thomas. Alabama’s Jameson Williams is another speedster and vertical threat option, but will not be able to help the team until midway through his rookie season after tearing his ACL in January. That might remove Williams from consideration; I would think the Saints are looking for an immediate contributor in 2022 and not someone that will be at his best in 2023. Arkansas’ Treylon Burks is another possibility. He’s a big physical, versatile player that gives the Saints a better version of what they had in Ty Montgomery, but he’s not the pure burner the team needs to round out their receiver corps. Southern Cal’s Drake London is another big, athletic receiver that should be playing his best football in the NFL, though 19 figures to be a little early for him.    

On the other hand, it all starts under center in today’s game. It’s possible the team rolls the dice at 19, or in the second round, to take a quarterback to sit and learn behind Winston. Ole Miss’ Matt Corral is an athletic QB with a quick release, toughness, leadership, and the ability to be a very productive NFL quarterback. Corral could even compete with Winston this season or eventually take over the position in 2023. Liberty’s Malik Willis, who likely won’t make it to 16, is a boom-or-bust prospect that needs a year in the NFL before he can be pushed into starting role. Similarly, Pitt’s Kenny Pickett is solid but not the kind of prospect that you expect to step in and star from the beginning. Overall, the quarterbacks in this draft are solid players, but this crop lacks elite, franchise signal-callers.  

Bottom line, the Saints have many options with their first two selections but also have enough quality players on their current roster to not only enhance the 2022 roster but also prepare for the future at quarterback and left tackle and start to get younger at wide receiver. While the team has needs at tight end and defensive tackle, they’ll have to wait until later to address them. I believe this draft sets the Saints up very well with the ability to acquire need positions but also get the quality starters that they seek.

A Look at the Saints’ Draft: Ex-Giants/Bears Exec Greg Gabriel

This week, with the NFL Draft starting Thursday night, I thought it would be fun to ask three of my friends who used to run teams’ drafts to tell me how they’d approach the draft for one specific team. I asked them to look at the Saints, who are in an interesting position with plenty of needs and decent draft capital. After we led off the week with former Jets Director of College Scouting Jeff Bauer Tuesday, we continue with former Giants and Bears executive Greg Gabriel.

Before we even begin to look at what the Saints do, let’s look at the draft as a whole. I have been involved in the NFL Draft as a scout, scouting director, consultant or media member going back 40 years to 1982. I can honestly say that this is one of the most unique drafts I have ever seen. Why unique? Because there is no consensus anywhere in the draft, from the first pick on down.

We could go through every position and probably none of the 32 clubs would agree on even the order of the top five players in each group. I talk to people in the league daily and this is the one thing that stands out. Though it’s impossible, it would be fun to get the 32 NFL clubs to give us their top 32 players in order. I guarantee there would be about 42-45 different names, and it would be hilarious seeing the difference in how players are rated. That’s what makes the evaluation business so unique. We also have to look at the fact that each club has a different view as to what they look for at each position. 

In my estimation, the Saints need to come away with a tackle, wide receiver and quarterback with their first three picks.

Offensive tackle

The Saints are in a good situation with two picks in the middle of the first (Nos. 16 and 19) and a pick in the middle of the second round (No. 49). In my opinion, after losing OT Terron Armstead in free agency, they have to select a left tackle early, i.e., either at 16 or 19. The first round-caliber offensive tackles are very good, led by Alabama’s Evan Neal and NC State’s Ikem Ekwonu. The others well worth being selected in the first round are Mississippi State’s Charles Cross, Northern Iowa’s Trevor Penning and Central Michigan’s Bernhard Raimann. Neal, Ekwonu and Cross will all be gone by the time the Saints pick at 16, but there is a chance Penning could still be there. If it was me, and Penning was available, it wouldn’t take me long to get the card turned in. Of course, it’s no sure thing Penning is available and the Saints may want to trade up a few slots to assure themselves of getting him. That scenario would be discussed in pre-draft meetings this week.

Wide receiver

If Penning is gone, 16 may be a bit too high for Raimann, but 19 would be ideal. If that’s the case, what do the Saints do at 16? Well, wide receiver is also a need. The Saints have a great receiver in oft-injured Michael Thomas and a solid compliment in Tre’Quan Smith. What they don’t have is a receiver who can take the top off the defense, and this draft has several receivers who can do that. Many should be available at 16.

One of the top names is Alabama’s Jameson Williams, who is the “burner”-type receiver the Saints need. The problem with Williams is he’s coming off ACL surgery and probably won’t be ready to play until midseason at best. Do the Saints pull the trigger on Williams, knowing he will miss time? That is a decision that only GM Mickey Loomis can make. Luckily for the Saints, there are other speed receivers in this draft that could be there in the middle of the first round. They include two from Ohio State in Chris Olave, who is a 4.38 guy, and teammate Garrett Wilson, who has similar speed. The other speed receiver who could be available at that point of the draft is Penn State’s Jahan Dotson, a 4.43 guy. Any of these three would upgrade the Saints’ receiver corps dramatically.

Quarterback

The quarterback position is also a question mark. With future hall of fame Drew Brees retired, Jameis Winston is the heir apparent, but is Jameis really the guy? The Saints signed former Bear, Cowboy and Bengal Andy Dalton during free agency, but at this point of his career, Dalton is an ideal backup, not a starter. 

The quarterback class in 2022 is not ideal. There are some good players, but no prospects like last year, when five quarterbacks were drafted in the top 15 picks. This year, like at every other position, there is no consensus No. 1 QB. Some may say the best quarterback prospect is Liberty’s Malik Willis, while others may say it’s Pitt’s Kenny Pickett and others Ole Miss’s Matt Corral or Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder. When there is no consensus, it’s hard to know who’s right. We won’t know the answer for several years, but each GM selecting a QB hopes that he got the right one, obviously.

While it may be risky for the Saints to select a QB in the opening round, it’s not out of the question. As I write this, the chances are very good that only one QB will be selected before the Saints pick at 16. The big question is, how highly rated are the top QBs in the eyes of Assistant GM Jeff Ireland and his staff? Is there one worthy of being selected in the middle of the first round?

If the Saints do in fact select a quarterback, and, say, an offensive tackle with their other first round pick, they could easily get a very good speed receiver in the second round. Burners like Cincinnati’s Alec Pierce, Western Michigan’s Skyy Moore, Memphis’ Calvin Austin and South Alabama’s Jalen Tolbert may still be available come pick No. 49.

One thing is certain: regardless of what direction the Saints decided to go, it will make for drama and a fun viewing Thursday and Friday night. 

A Look at the Saints’ Draft: Ex-Jets Exec Jeff Bauer

This week, with the NFL Draft starting Thursday night, I thought it would be fun to ask three of my friends who used to run teams’ drafts to tell me how they’d approach the draft for one specific team. I asked them to look at the Saints, who are in an interesting position with plenty of needs and decent draft capital. We lead off the week with former Jets Director of College Scouting Jeff Bauer.

When your team finishes No. 32 (dead last) in passing, 30th in third-down conversions, 28th in total yards per game and 28th in average yards per rush (3.9), it’s no secret where your focus should be. Fortunately for the Saints, they are in position to get some much-needed help.

With the Nos. 16 and 19 picks in the opening round, along with No. 49 (the 17th pick in the second round), they’ve got some ammo. I believe that with those three picks, they’d love to get three players from four positions: quarterback, wide receiver, offensive tackle and tight end (though maybe not in that order).

The Saints will be tempted to draft a QB at 16 or 19, but I don’t see the value there. Willis is the only QB that I feel warrants a top-half-of-first-round grade, Pitt’s Kenny Pickett, Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder, Ole Miss’ Matt Corral and North Carolina’s Sam Howell all should be there, but I feel any of them would be a big stretch that early. Our rule for the top half of the first round was that any pick would have to be an immediate starter who could develop into a highly productive NFL player. All those QBs have concerns, in my eyes, except for Willis, and even Willis has some questions.

So what should the Saints do at 16 and 19? The best value very well could be at tackle and wide receiver, two positions of need for the Saints. I see no way that Alabama’s Evan Neal or NC State’s Ikem Ekwonu make it to 16, and I would be shocked to see Mississippi State’s Charles Cross make it there, but if he does, it would be a great get. The other tackle I think the Saints would love at 16 would be Northern Iowa’s Trevor Penning, a dominant, nasty guy at the Senior Bowl. If the Saints can walk away with either of these tackles at 16, that’s a major success.

With the other pick, the Saints could find good value at receiver. Alabama’s Jameson Williams was my top guy at that position prior to his ACL injury. While that’s a serious injury, today’s doctors do marvelous jobs with knees today. He might be restricted early, but to get this talent in the late teens is a no-brainer. If the team goes in a different direction, Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson, USC’s Drake London, Arkansas’ Treylon Burks and Ohio State’s Chris Olave all have value in that area. I also like Georgia’s George Pickens, maybe more than others. He’s physical and strong with great length, and has all the tools, but was a victim of a run-first offense and a limited quarterback while in Athens.

With the Saints’ second-round pick, the team could look at quarterback if any of those listed early fall to that spot. However, another player to watch would be Colorado State’s Trey McBride, who is, in my mind, the top tight end in the draft. Given that New Orleans would walk away with a top offensive tackle, a top-flight wide receiver and a three-down tight end, that would change the team’s offense immediately.

Wednesday: Former Giants and Bears executive Greg Gabriel

In Memoriam: Former Falcons scout Bob Harrison

For the last several weeks, we’d been attempting to reach former Falcons scout Bob Harrison, but had been politely brushed off due to his failing health. We’d hoped to feature him in our Catching Up series on former scouts that we include in our weekly newsletter, the Friday Wrap. Then, on Saturday, we learned that he’d succumbed to his health struggles. We passed along the news later that morning. 

Since we never got to know Bob, we wanted to memorialize himself this week by reaching out to a few of his former colleagues in the scouting and coaching community. This is what they told us.

  • “He was a serious guy, hard worker and great evaluator. You knew where he stood on his players and there pro potential. Always had conviction for his evaluations, not a fence rider.” — former Falcons scout Mike Hagen
  • “As a gridiron coach and NFL scout, Bob took verse of John 15:16 and ran with it in our beloved profession. The verse is a working transformation to be active. Bob was like this: ‘A good gardener will do what it takes to help a vine bear fruit.’ May he rest in peace.“ — former Cardinals scout Jerry Hardaway

  • “He was always a personable guy, was well-read and on top of the game.”  — former NFL running back and assistant coach Johnny Roland

  • “Bob was a great guy and his experiences as a coach really carried over and made him an outstanding evaluator. He was a pleasure to work with and a hard worker that really enjoyed his profession. A true pro who had passion and a great respect for the game of football.” — former NFL executive Ron Hill 

  • “I worked with Bob for 10 years when I first got into scouting. I could always remember him saying, ‘believe what you see while looking at players and alway stay organized.’ Bob was a great guy and a super scout.” — former Falcons scout Bruce Plummer

  • “I worked with Bob Harrison with the Falcons for 12 years. Bob loved the game of football and was really fun to work with. We became really close and loved to rib each other and joke around. I really miss those days with Bob! — Rams executive Taylor Morton

You can read more about Bob in his obituary here and in this story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. If scouting and evaluation interest you, consider registering for our weekly newsletter, the Friday Wrap, here.

Excitement Growing for 2nd Annual Personnel/Recruiting Spring Clinic

At Inside the League, we are always talking to people interested in the evaluation trade. We find there are few things in football that inspire passion so much as scouting and identifying talent. Problem is, it’s easy for aspiring NFL evaluators to lock themselves in front of a screen, watching film and spouting wisdom on social media, but never making the connections that are essential in climbing the ladder.

That’s why we’re pretty bullish on the work that Lucas Gauthier, Director of Player Personnel at Colorado State, and Gaiza Crowley, DPP at UNLV, have done to bring together the second annual Personnel and Recruiting Spring Clinic, which will be held Friday and Saturday, May 20-21, at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. Friday’s activities will include a social at a local bar and restaurant, followed by a full day of discussions and presentations Saturday. Best of all, the event is totally free. Register here.

“I think the biggest thing is, it’s an event unlike any other for personnel and recruiting people,” Crowley said. “There’s (the) AFCA (Convention) that’s more on the coaching side, but there really isn’t anything that personnel and recruiting people can go to, to network and learn from each other, and that’s their sole focus.”

For that reason, Crowley and Gauthier have done everything possible to remove all roadblocks.

“There’s no cost and no registration fee,” Crowley said. “Just get to Las Vegas. It’s a one-night event, and we’ve got a room block that people are registering for.

Crowley said he hopes the event can become a tradition and a way for people in the community to not just learn, but to climb the ladder.

“We’re trying to get as many together as we can to build the community like the coaching community has, which eventually will lead to more jobs and more opportunities in this industry,” he said. “As of right now, we have Power 5 and Group of 5 schools registered and FCS, too. We have about 15 FBS schools committed right now, including Iowa; Virginia Tech; Wisconsin; Utah; Florida Atlantic; UNLV, of course; Army; Colorado State; Hawaii, and others, so there’s a good mix.”

If you go, don’t plan to hang out with old friends and drink beer (or at least, not only that). This is a chance to make new relationships, learn and interact in a professional way.

“The basic setup is, we want the event to be as interactive as possible,” Crowley said. “We want everyone to get involved, so we will have multiple roundtable discussions that will allow people to sit with directors and assistant directors and talk about different challenges in the industry. When people register, they can submit topics.

“Some of the things we’ll be talking about will be transfer portal management, staff structuring, the big topics. There will be three roundtable discussions where you can sit and talk with different people, and the panel discussions are leaned more toward pro development. One is Mike Villagrana, the Senior Director of Player Personnel at Virginia Tech, and another is Butler Benton, the Executive Director of Recruiting and Player Personnel at Arkansas. They’ll be more focused on professional development, interviewing, jobs, and getting an opportunity for young people to have conversations with people that they might not normally have had.

There will be a chance to hear from NFL types, as well.

“Last year, we had Jack Gilmore, the scouting coordinator for the Raiders, and we’re reaching out to more NFL teams and scouts to get more of an NFL presence, as well,” he said. “We’ll have a guest speaker, somebody from the NFL. Jack did a great job last year breaking down the evaluation process.”

Though it’s all about learning, there will be time for fun, too, in an environment where everyone can feel camaraderie.

“The social Friday night allows everyone to get into town, and after that, there’s that comfort level,” he said “You will have done your intros and can hit the ground running.

“We have people not associated with teams that are just interested in coming, and we have college general managers and college directors who’ve already RSVP’d, as well. . .  We had about 60 last year from 17 schools, which is a good number for a first-time deal, and we have a little more juice this year, and the vendors will foot the bill for most of it. As long as you can come to Vegas, everything else is taken care of. We are really excited about it.”

Ask Blake: Analyzing This Week’s Big Trade Between the Eagles and Saints

While I normally use this space to discuss the issues related to player representation and evaluation, occasionally, I like to turn it over to friends well-qualified to discuss various issues. Today, former Titans team executive Blake Beddingfield analyzes this week’s big deal between New Orleans and Philadelphia.

The trade between the Philadelphia Eagles and New Orleans Saints three weeks before the draft says a lot about each team. I love these trades because they show two teams and front offices that are confident in their respective team-building approaches and how they individually view this draft and how they can upgrade their teams.

First, the trade: the Saints received the Nos. 16 and 19 picks in the first round and the No. 194 pick in the 6th round of the 2022 draft. The Eagles received the No. 18 pick in the first round, along with the 101st pick in the 3rd round and 237th pick in the 7th round. Also, they were able to acquire New Orleans’ first-round pick in 2023 and their second-rounder in 2024. Let’s look at how the trade benefits each team.

SAINTS

The Saints part of the trade allows them to take two different avenues with those first two selections. First, the Saints now have the ammunition to trade up into the top 10 of the first round and take the young quarterback that can be a long-term replacement for future hall of famer Drew Brees. The Saints struggled down the stretch in 2021 after a serviceable Jameis Winston was lost for the season due to injury.   

Based on the offseason trades of Russell Wilson, Matt Ryan, Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson, along with a big new contract for Aaron Rodgers, NFL teams have realized they can’t win the Super Bowl without a top quarterback. To wit: Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes and Matthew Stafford have won the last three Super Bowls. 

Most personnel people (including myself) do not see a quarterback in the 2022 draft worth the draft capital it would take to trade into the top 10. That is why I question the Saints acquiring the extra picks to move up to select a QB. Could they sit at pick 16 and get their future signal-caller while also having an extra selection to upgrade their roster? It’s possible. 

The second road the Saints can take is to use those first-rounders to acquire youth and upgrade a roster that has gotten older while replacing some long-term starters that left in free agency. Cameron Jordan, a Pro Bowl regular at defensive end, will be 33 this season. Wide receiver Michael Thomas is 29 and has back-to-back, injury-riddled seasons. Also, linebacker Demario Davis, another standout defensive player, is 33. With two first-rounders, the team could replace the left tackle they lost in free agency, Terron Armstead, and add a wide receiver or pass rusher. The 2022 draft has enough left tackles, wide receivers and pass rushers to give the team the confidence they could shore up two of those three positions with the 16th and 19th selections. This would allow Winston to continue to quarterback the team, add youth and also position the team for a future run in a division that doesn’t have a clear long-term leader presuming Brady doesn’t play for another decade.   

I feel the Saints are looking for sustainability, and replacing Armstead and adding another playmaker is the way to go. My guess is that the Saints are not looking to package the picks to take a rookie quarterback who may or may not be a franchise player.

Now the Eagles.

EAGLES

The Eagles side of the trade is obvious. The Eagles continue to acquire future draft choices to sustain roster-building and youth, because of the current draft capital they have. Trades with the Colts (they acquired a 2022 first-rounder for Carson Wentz) and the Dolphins (also giving them a 2022 first-rounder), they still have plenty of ammo in the ’22 draft with two first-rounders, one second, two third-rounders and a total of 10 selections. 

Eagles GM Howie Roseman has done a very good job of acquiring these current and future selections. Philly can upgrade its pass rush and offensive line and add another playmaker on offense with its first three selections.

Very rarely is a trade on paper good for both teams, but in this case I believe both teams benefit from the early draft-day trade.