The Best Player Available Podcast: Highlights from Ep. 5 with Randy Mueller

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This week, we reached the halfway point of our series on the 2017 NFL Draft, the Best Player Available Podcast. In Episode 5, my guest was Randy Mueller, who was a senior personnel executive with the Chargers in 2017 and who also served at the executive level with four teams, including stints as GM of the Saints and Dolphins. Randy had some incredible insights not just on his experiences in 2017, but his philosophy on player evaluation and how the draft operates. Here are a few highlights.

On why he was, and still is, a believer in Bengals WO John Ross: “I was throwing out (any misgivings because of his speed). I have a, maybe it’s a soft spot, but I want guys that can run. That is very important to me, the guys that can take the top off of defenses. Hey, you’re talking to the guy who drafted Ted Ginn (No. 9 overall out of Ohio State in 2007) in Miami, right ? So I felt like a guy like John Ross, a guy like Ted Ginn, can change the way people defend you, even if you never throw them the ball.”

On the risks of drafting a one-year starter early: “A one-year body of work really isn’t enough . . . so I do think you have to go back and . . . if I had an analytics department in the Mueller household, I’d put (it) on doing just that. Studying all these one-year guys and bringing some numbers to me to see how that’s all worked out from an analytics standpoint, because I do think there’s something there.”

On the Chargers’ interest in taking a QB in 2017: “That topic of quarterbacks at that point got a lot of discussion from us on the personnel end. Especially those that had been there a while and kinda had seen where Philip (Rivers) had come from. Philip was starting to kinda near that plateau area at that point, so some of us on the personnel side would like to have seen us address that. It’s the one area where (then-head coach) Anthony Lynn, a new coach coming in, really kinda pushed back from. And to his credit, he didn’t want to see us spend a top pick on a quarterback when we had so many other needs to fill. I understood that.”

On the knocks on Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes: “I think the big things you had to overcome was the system, and the fact that they weren’t successful at Texas Tech. Those weren’t his fault, but the system . . . it was (head coach Kliff) Kingsbury at that time, and he didn’t win many games, and it was kinda known by NFL standards as a ‘recess offense,’ you know, you go out to recess and everybody’s going out for passes? That’s kinda what it was, so you kinda had to sort through that a little bit.”

This is just the start, and there are plenty more nuggets in the full podcast. Make sure to check it out, and while you’re at it, also listen to Episode 1 (former Titans exec Blake Beddingfield), Episode 2 (former 49ers scout Bob Morris), Episode 3 (former Bills GM Doug Whaley) and Episode 4 (former Raiders pro director Dane Vandernat), which are also gold.

The Best Player Available Podcast: Highlights from Ep. 4 with Dane Vandernat

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The fourth episode of the Best Player Available Podcast is out, and this week’s guest is former Raiders Director of Pro Personnel Dane Vandernat. Dane, who is now the Director of Scouting for the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, is not only well-spoken and has incredible insight into the draft, but he’s also honest and willing to discuss things that don’t necessarily make him look like a genius. It’s the kind of refreshing candor that I hoped to get from my friends when I launched this podcast, and so far, I’ve been really pleased.

Here are four (of the many) interesting points he made in this week’s podcast:

  • On the No. 2 pick, North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky, only starting one year: “That was one of the things that early in my career, our coaching staff really kinda drove home to me was, No. 1, we want multi-year starters at every position and every draft pick, but especially for quarterback. You want a minimum two-year starter, and it was really, obviously, (former USC QB) Mark Sanchez that kinda changed some peoples’ opinions, or it became, hey, is it possible a guy could be only a one-year starter if he’s sitting behind supremely talented people like . . . (former USC QB) Matt Leinart, you know, who obviously also sat behind (former USC QB) Carson Palmer? So, you know, can you have certain situations like that? Obviously, not everyone’s gonna be (former USC QB) Sam Darnold where you go in as a true freshman and you win the job for the next three-plus years. And then, obviously, as we all know, people don’t stay in college for four years anymore. Most people come out as juniors, a la (former Clemson QB) Deshaun Watson. It’s not uncommon these days to not have four-year starters, especially at quarterback, but, for me, I definitely want a multi-year starter for no other reason but I need enough games to go back and really get a great feel for the guy.”
  • On NFL scouts’ concerns about Alabama players: “Obviously, those guys at Alabama, they’re going full pads in the season. They run a physical program. Nick Saban’s coaching his tail off down there and you’re obviously seeing the results from it, but the one thing that’s consistent with Alabama players, or at least had been when I was in the league, was that a lot of their guys come out banged up. A lot of their guys are gonna show up at the combine and they’re gonna have labral repairs, they’re gonna have meniscus repairs just due to the physicality of these guys, obviously, even in practice, going up against the best of the best.”
  • On preferring big-school players over small-schoolers: “(Raiders GM) Reggie McKenzie came from the Ron Wolf lineage up there in Green Bay, and Ron Wolf absolutely did not like small-school football players. He preferred the power conferences and, obviously, the guys who were four- and five-star guys coming out of high school, and that practiced every day against that caliber, that echelon of player, then obviously played on Saturdays against the same type. There certainly is a bias there, but it didn’t really manifest itself so much with Reggie, at least it didn’t have the appearance of it. We never truly knocked a guy in 2017. We drafted Jylen Ware in the seventh round out of Alabama State, so some of the times we certainly weren’t shy about adding players that came from non-elite programs. Our second-round pick in 2017, Obi Melifonwu, came from UConn, which is certainly no college football powerhouse, as everyone knows. So it wasn’t intentional to stick to Power 5 programs.”
  • On how the Raiders stacked the running back board: “(Oklahoma’s) Samaje Perine, for instance, he didn’t really pan out that well in the NFL, but he was a guy that we had a little bit of love for, for instance. He was our fifth-highest rated running back that year, alongside D’Onte Foreman from Texas. For us, we did run a little bit more of a power scheme with our tailbacks, then we supplemented it with those Jalen Richards and D’Andre Washingtons who gave us a little bit more of a scatback/third down back-type skillset. . . we had it, (LSU’s) Leonard Fournette, (Stanford’s) Christian McCaffrey, (Tennessee’s) Alvin Kamara, then Foreman and Perine like I mentioned, and then (Florida State’s) Dalvin Cook, (South Florida’s) Marlon Mack and (BYU’s) Jamaal Williams.”

Next week’s guest is two-time NFL GM Randy Mueller, who was with the Chargers in 2017. It’s a lively and fun discussion, and it’s only a week away. For more on the business of football, make sure to sign up for the Friday Wrap, which comes out Fridays (duh).

The Best Player Available Podcast: Highlights from Episode 3 with Doug Whaley

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The top three quarterbacks selected in the 2017 NFL Draft are in the news for very different reasons these days.

Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes (No. 10 in 2017 out of Texas Tech) is seen as the model for all others, a young riser who could rewrite the NFL record books. Chicago’s Mitch Trubisky (No. 2 out of North Carolina) is at a crossroads, with his team furiously trying to find a passer this offseason and his future with the Bears in doubt. Houston’s Deshaun Watson (No. 12, from Clemson) is seen as one of the most gifted young quarterbacks in the game, but his days with the Texans may be numbered.

This week in the Best Player Available Podcast, I had the chance to talk to former Bills GM Doug Whaley, who held the No. 27 pick in that draft that year. He knew there was very little chance any of the three would slide to Buffalo, but he and his staff had done extensive work on all three. I knew I would be remiss if I didn’t ask how the Bills saw each of them. Here’s Doug’s comments on each of them.

On Patrick Mahomes: “Now let’s think about it. Name one other quarterback that comes out of that Air Raid system that has had success. When you look at him, did he put his team on his back and carry them to a highly successful season? I think he won eight games the last year. We won’t even talk about the coach that had Kyler Murray, Mahomes and Baker Mayfield and never won over eight games. So, you had the system, the lack of really good success, the lack of the ability to put the team on his back and carry them to a successful season . . . and then, he had some gunslinger in him, and could that translate to the NFL? So there were some dings on him. Now, everybody says . . . I talked to Jim Monos (years later), who was our Director of Player Personnel at the time, ‘we passed on Michael Jordan.’ Absolutely. But that does not give credit enough to the plan Kansas City had for him. Do I think Mahomes could be as good as he is today (in another system)? Yes. Do I think it could have happened as quickly in another situation? That’s the million dollar question. If he goes somewhere else, does he develop as quickly as he did in Kansas City? I think a lot of people are not crediting Kansas City’s plan for him and giving more credit to Mahomes as a player. And I’m not knocking his talent and his skill at all. Let me make that clear. He was a talented, skilled player. But he went to an unbelievable situation to accelerate his maturation as a quarterback. . . If you look at it, look at Andy Reid’s offense, and how it has changed since Mahomes took over. Not the same offense he had with Donovan McNabb. Not the same offense he had with Alex Smith. So there’s that part of it — ‘sit behind Alex and learn how to be a pro first.’ And there’s not other quarterback that . . . you can debate (Smith’s) skill level, but his preparation and his attacking the profession as a quarterback . . . Alex Smith, (there could be) no better mentor. He got that piece. Then you have a head coach and an offensive staff that say, ‘let’s stop making this quarterback fit to what we want to do? Why don’t we fit our scheme to what he can do best? All of that plays into it, so you have to tip your cap to Andy Reid and the plan they had.”

On Mitch Trubisky: “Where we really struggled was that, if he was gonna be that high of a pick, and he only started one year, it wasn’t like he was sitting behind a first-round pick, so why wasn’t he able to elevate his game to take over that starting position earlier in his career? So that was a red flag. And then, when you sat down with him . . .  he (didn’t) have that boisterous ‘it factor’ that when you’re around those QBs that are ultimate leaders, guys that raise everybody else around them to another level, where they look him and like, I have to be on point because I know he’s on point. That didn’t come through. Those were the two major things. All the stuff on the field, we said, ‘OK, he’s got something to work with. He does have an upside.’ But you have to look at the total resume, and there were some very big question marks that in our thought processes didn’t warrant (being picked) as high as he got picked. We had him probably in the second round. That’s what we thought. As a second-round pick, we would have loved him. . . But I can’t trash the Bears. Ryan Pace is still employed and I’m not (laughs).”

On Deshaun Watson: “The biggest struggle we had with Deshaun Watson, and if you look at his stats, he had 17 picks his last year, but what was more alarming than the number of picks, was the number of picks in the red zone. That’s where we struggled with him a lot, and you can throw picks, but throwing picks in red zone are momentum -changers, game-changers. Those are . . . possibly 14-point swings that can happen. If you throw a pick and they score, that’s a possible seven that you had, plus the seven that they made, so those 14-point swings . . . those are sometimes tough to overcome. That’s why we struggled with him. And we had him at the bottom of the first/top of the second. But that was the biggest knock that we had on him. (His championship-level experience) is why we had him at the bottom of the first/early second. We obviously had him over Trubisky, but (the red zone interceptions) was that red flag. . . Can he overcome those? Those are those things that, in our opinion, you start trying too hard to make that play, and that’s that double-edged sword. . . How do you curb it where it stops the bad plays but you keep it for the good plays? That was tricky. So that was one of those things that we were concerned about.”

Doug is exceptionally well-spoken and has interesting things to say about the profession of scouting as well as what he thought about several players in the draft that year, including Leonard Fournette, Marshon Lattimore, Myles Garrett and several others. If you’ve already tuned in to former Titans executive Blake Beddingfield (Episode 1) and former 49ers scout Bob Morris (Episode 2), you know these are incredible opportunities to look behind the curtain. I hope you’ll tune in.

The Best Player Available Podcast: What I Learned from Episode 2 with Bob Morris

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As you may know, we debuted our second of 10 episodes of the Best Player Available Podcast Tuesday. This week’s edition featured former 49ers area scout Bob Morris, who talked about why the NFL failure of Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel might have cost Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes a few draft slots; why he loved LSU’s Jamal Adams but had issues with Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers; and why Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett was “an easy 8.0” and a “don’t think twice” slam dunk at No. 1 overall.

Here are a few things I found interesting from this week’s podcast.

  • There were six cornerbacks that went in the first 33 picks that year, but did they go how Bob would have picked them? Not exactly. He ranked Ohio State’s Marshon Lattimore as his top cornerback, followed by LSU’s Tre’Davious White (“I like corners with good instincts. . . he’s an exceptional player and a player I loved to watch play”). Alabama’s Marlon Humphrey was No. 3 (he had him in the second round), followed by USC’s Adoree Jackson (“more athlete than corner”) and Ohio State’s Gareon Conley. Florida’s Quincy Wilson (No. 46, Colts) was his sixth corner. For the record, the draft order was Lattimore (No. 11, New Orleans), Humphrey (No. 16, Ravens), Jackson (No. 18, Titans), Conley (No. 24, Raiders), White (No. 27, Bills) and Washington’s Kevin King (No. 33, Packers).
  • I learned plenty just hearing Bob talk about how he evaluates cornerbacks and safeties. Though he still continues himself coach first, scout second, and values a player’s on-field production over what he does on his pro day, I thought this quote was particularly interesting: “No. 1, as a scout, you need to grade (a defensive back) on how he plays and his traits, regardless of scheme. That’s the first thing you have to do. You got to get the scheme out of it. As a coach, that’s hard for me at times. The corners playing at Alabama, they’re coached really well, you know they play in the scheme really well, so are some physical traits hidden at times? Haha Clinton-Dix, we aren’t talking about safeties, but he was a guy that played so efficiently as a safety at Alabama (that) it hid a very adequate skill-set, and he really was an OK safety in the NFL. You’ve gotta look at the traits. You’ve gotta look at the way they move.”
  • Another point that Bob made was that interception totals and big plays are not coincidental, but a part of a player’s DNA.: “That’s really important to me as I look at guys is their ball production. There’s a reason a guy has a bunch of interceptions, and there’s a reason he doesn’t. A three-year starter with one interception, there’s a reason. A guy that gets seven interceptions as a one-year starter, that’s good. That’s a playmaker. I had a secondary coach tell me a long time ago that he can’t teach playmaking. He can teach a guy to tackle. He can’t teach playmaking. That’s something that’s inherent in the player. Now, you can coach them up to get them into position to make the play, but eventually, he’s gotta see it and he’s gotta believe in himself to go make that play.”

If you don’t listen to my conversation with Bob, as well as the first episode of the series with Blake Beddingfield, you’re really missing out. I encourage you to check them out.

2021 NFL Agent Exam: Using Our Exam Prep

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Wow! It’s March already. If you’re registered to take the NFL agent exam this summer, you’re probably eager to start digging into preparation for the exam (especially if you’ve been registered since last year).

We have a lot of people who check in on our exam prep materials but don’t know for sure how they should use them. Let’s go through them, and I’ll provide a few tips on each.

ITL Study Guide: This is the best exam prep resource on the market, bar none. We’ve been offering it for close to a decade, and it’s rare when a client doesn’t provide rave (and unsolicited) reviews. Once you have this, it cuts the CBA down from a gargantuan document to a more manageable size. However, the most important benefit is that the study guide focuses on the relevant topics and cuts out all the fluff. After you buy it and we verify payment, we email it to you, usually within an hour of purchase. I think it’s smart to spend at least a month on it and really absorb all the key concepts. “Exam was easy thanks to the resources available on ITL – study guide laid everything out perfectly,” said one recent client.

Practice exams 1 and 2: These are pretty self-explanatory. We offer two 40-question, multiple-choice exams. Once you complete the 40 questions, the answer key (with explanations of how we arrived at each answer) are at the end. You can take the tests as many times as you want, and I encourage all our clients to do that. The questions are very similar in format, tone and context to what you’ll see in July. So much so, in fact, that test-takers often say the questions were exact to what they saw on the exam (that’s awfully kind, but not true). Once you buy Exam 1 ($175 for non-ITL clients, $125 for clients), you can buy Exam 2 ($75/$50), though I don’t recommend buying them at the same time. In my opinion, buy the study guide, get the information down, buy Exam 1, ace it, then get Exam 2. “Appreciate the practice questions, wasn’t sure what to expect when I paid for the service blind, but I was impressed,” said one client. Said another: “The practice test is great, and I am glad I discovered you guys.”

Inside the League: This is the mother ship. If you subscribe to ITL ($29.95/mo), you’ll save a little money on the practice exams. But more than that, you’ll learn about the business of the game, and maybe more importantly, the (off-field) players in the game. You’ve got to know the big agencies, the scouts and executives who are on the rise vs. falling, the trends in the game, the kinds of players who are getting signed and succeeding in the game, etc. If you are as interested in the game off the field as you are on the field — and if your aim is to be an agent, you should be — check us out.

Zooms: Last year, with the whole world sequestered in their living rooms, we began bringing members of the NFL business community to online settings, mostly at the $25-$30/per night price point. We had current and former scouts, current and former agents, cap experts, etc. It was a lot of fun and very informative. Our first Zoom session of 2021 will be next week with Mike Sullivan, who not only has negotiated the contract of the top pick in the draft twice, and not only worked as Denver’s Director of Football Administration from 2012-20, but also won the Eugene E. Parker Award for Lifetime Service to the agent industry (read more here).

Exam prep class: At last year’s combine, we had our first-ever in-person class for test-takers. It was in Indianapolis during the combine, and led by a current player representative with a history of representing first-rounders. There’s no combine this year but the class isn’t going away. We’ll have more details in the coming weeks. 

Still have questions? Maybe signing up for our free Friday Wrap would help. It’s a weekly look at the football business, and widely read across the industry. You can register for it here.

2021 ITL Seminar: Discussing the NFL Scouting Business

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The 12th annual Hound Talint Inside the League Seminar presented by Magnolia Capital Partners is just a few hours away, and I’m super-excited about this year’s event, for a number of reasons. One reason, of course, is that I’m glad we’re even having it given the challenges (no combine, etc.). Two, I’m really excited about our award-winners this year. But the third reason is, I’m excited about my address to wrap things up tonight. Here are a few thoughts on what you’ll see and hear tonight on the NFL Draft Bible on Sports Illustrated Twitch channel.

If you tune in (8 p.m. ET, https://www.twitch.tv/nfldraftbible), and you’re interested in the scouting industry, I think you’ll see and hear information that you won’t find anywhere else. People always ask me what NFL scouts make, and I used to wonder that myself. Well, tonight, after my closing remarks, you won’t wonder any longer. About a quarter of the active NFL scouting community (and growing) responds to our survey annually, and we’re starting to get a good idea of what pay looks like. It’s an honor to provide this service to the NFL evaluation family. We look at each segment of scouting, based on four tiers (0-5 years, 6-10 years, 11-15 and 16+). If you’re an NFL scout and you wonder if you’re making what your brethren make, you’ll wonder no more after tonight. What’s more, if you have questions about the information I’ll be presenting, ask me. One of the exciting aspects of Twitch is that you can send questions as we go, so it will be fully interactive, and I encourage you to let me know if you need more information while we’re under way.

We’ll also hand out awards. As you know, for the fourth year, we’ve commissioned active NFL scouts to vote on which team did best on draft day last spring, and we’ll hand the Best Draft Award for 2020 to the personnel director of that winning team. That will be fun, and it’s gratifying to offer that “job well done” to a team executive each year, because they rarely get any positive feedback when things go right. We’ve also got the Eugene E. Parker Award for lifetime achievement in the agent industry, and the C.O. Brocato Award for service to the scouting industry. Once again, these awards will go to the overshadowed stars of the game. Maybe the coolest aspect of things is that Eugene Parker’s son, an established NFL agent in his own right, will present the award, while Becky Brocato, C.O.’s daughter, will hand out the prize that has her father’s name on it. Quite an honor for me.

It’s disappointing that we won’t all be able to gather together in the Indiana Convention Center to do this, like we normally do. On the other hand, it’s exciting that we will be able to bring the seminar, the honors, and the information to a much wider audience, as it happens, courtesy of Ric Serritella and his team at NFL Draft Bible, as well as our two great sponsors, Hound Talint and Barry Ozer of Magnolia Capital Partners

Make sure to join us here. If you’re interested in the football industry, you won’t want to miss this. See you tonight.

 

2021 ITL Seminar: Three Reasons You Should Join Us

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The 12th annual ITL Seminar will be held Wednesday, Feb. 24, at 8 p.m. ET. This year, as you know, there’s no NFL Combine, so we’re going online. I hope you can join us! Here are three reasons you should tune in.

This is your chance to hear from football business leaders: There was a time when we brought in people from around the industry to talk about the football business. Among our list of previous speakers includes former Bears GM Phil Emery and former Browns GM Ray Farmer; we’ve also had panels with ex-scouts; analytics seminars; and we were even honored to host the contract advisor conference led by Peter Schaffer of Authentic Athletix in 2019. This year, I’ll give closing remarks based on pay and hiring practices based on what I’m seeing this year. So many people want to get into scouting; my goal is to give them tips and a look at where the industry is headed.

If you want to work in the business, you need to know what’s going on: We’ve had people like Saints AGM Jeff Ireland, Colts GM Chris Ballard and 49ers GM John Lynch on hand to accept awards the last three years, along with Bears scout Jeff Shiver and Arizona State Director of Athletics Ray Anderson, just to name a few. People are always asking me how they can separate themselves from the pack when they are job-seeking. Well, one way is to celebrate with the people who are being honored. If you attended our seminars the last three years — or really, the last 11 years — you had multiple opportunities to meet and congratulate the leaders in the game. Sending an executive a congratulatory text, email or tweet when their team wins a game is easy. Lauding him when he wins an industry award provides far more resonance.

We’ll have you out in an hour: Normally, when we’re in person, the goal is to keep everyone no more than an hour and a half. Of course, during a normal year, we also offer an open bar and plenty of chances to network, so people are more eager to hang around. With none of those attractions this year, we’re going to make it short and sweet. The idea is to bring you an hour of education and information, then let you get back to your life. 

We’ll be talking more about our program, and about the industry in general, in today’s Friday Wrap, that comes out this evening. You can register for it here.

I hope you can join us next week. As with everything since the virus changed our lives, this year’s seminar will be a little different. Still, I”m hoping we can preserve the spirit of things and honor some of the unsung heroes of the industry. See you Wednesday.

2021 NFL Agent Class: Some Things to Know

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Friday is the last day you can apply to take the 2021 NFLPA agent exam, so I’m starting to hear from more and more aspiring contract advisors. After so many impactful developments over the past year, I thought now was a good time to make a few points on the industry.

  • Don’t take anything for granted: I’ve been doing this long enough to know that most people come into the industry believing they’ve already got a commitment from an NFL talent, and that signing their first client will be easy. All I have to say is, make sure you have a Plan B. That player you helped raise, or coached in youth football, or who has been relying on you for the past several years . . . well, as he gets closer to realizing a lifelong dream, he may become less willing to put his goals in the hands of a novice. Don’t take that personally. Just be prepared for it.
  • Making relationships will be harder than ever: Under perfect, pre-Covid conditions, connecting with a young player was difficult. Now that players and their parents (and maybe even you) are less inclined to meet one on one, the personal link that is vital to winning a player’s trust is ever more elusive. That doesn’t even factor in something else that’s more important than ever, which is . . . .
  • Players just expect a “package” these days: Last week, a longtime agent friend texted me about a recently signed client — one who is barely on the fringes of even being an NFL prospect — who sent him a late-night text asking if he was supposed to get money simply for signing with his firm. NFL Draft coverage, locker-room talk and friends and family often create outsized expectations for players. Congratulations! You get to unwind and reset those expectations if you expect to sign a player who (a) has NFL ability and (b) doesn’t drive you crazy before the last weekend of April, 2022.
  • You can’t do this on the cheap: Actually, I guess that’s not true if your goal is simply to achieve NFLPA certification. Shoot, there are a lot of players who really only want the status that comes from signing with an agent so they can splash it all over their social media and brag to their friends. However, if you’ve gone to the trouble to spend $2,500 you can’t get back to take a test that you’ll probably fail (55 percent of test-takers do every year), you probably want to succeed. You’re going to need to set a budget and stick to it, and that starts with knowing what’s smart and what’s not.
  • Knowledge is power: The most common mistake I see from young agents is thinking they know more than they do. I don’t care if you’ve got a degree from an established sport management program, and I don’t care if you were captain of the football team in high school. There are relationships, opportunities and potential signees you will miss out on unless you approach this business humbly. And if you don’t, you’ll find it humbles you anyway despite your best efforts. 

We can definitely help with the last point. It starts with our agent exam prep materials — our study guide and practice exams A and B — but it doesn’t end there. Our daily emails, which start in November and go all the way through the draft, have become must-read material for rookie agents who subscribe. We also have former NFL scouts who can write a report to tell you if a prospect can actually play (for just $100); we have a book on the NFL draft process and a book on the NFL scouting profession that are reasonably priced and focused on the information you need to know; and a weekly email that encapsulates the industry every Friday (you can register for it here). 

We hope to work for (and with) you. Best of luck on the exam, whether or not we cross paths in the next five months. 

 

Stafford Travels South: Who Won the Lions-Rams Trade?

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What’s the Profile of This Offseason’s GM Hires?

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If there’s one question I always get from young people who love the game, it’s, “how do I become a scout?” Most often, they want to get into scouting because their ultimate goal is to be a GM. Shoot, I can relate. That was once my ambition, as well. 

With that in mind, I decided to look at the men hired this cycle. There’s no better gauge of what NFL teams are looking for than to look at who they hired. Five years ago, we took a detailed look at who was getting hired at the position, and found that teams sought people less than 50; with Patriots experience; and who had been around, but not necessarily a very long time.  

So what’s the profile of this season’s GM hires? Let’s take an alphabetical look at them.

Trent Baalke, Jaguars 

  • Age: 56
  • First NFL experience: 1998, Jets pro scout
  • Prior GM experience: 49ers, 2011-2016
  • Background: Baalke’s rise to the job in San Francisco, followed by his assumption of  the role in Jacksonville, has been pretty traditional. He’s got some pro experience with the Jets when he started out, but he’s mostly held a series of college scouting jobs since.

Nick Caserio, Texans

  • Age: 45
  • First NFL experience: 2001, Patriots personnel assistant
  • Prior GM experience: None
  • Background: Caserio is unique because he’s so well-rounded. Between being hired in New England in 2001 and taking over as Director of Player Personnel in 2008, he was an entry-level scout, an entry-level coach and an area scout for one year each. Then he was pro director for three seasons before jumping all the way to DPP, where he’d been for 13 seasons.

Scott Fitterer, Panthers

  • Age: 47
  • First NFL experience: 1998, Giants part-time scout
  • Prior GM experience: None
  • Background: Like Baalke, Fitterer followed an exclusively college scouting path as he climbed the ladder. Obviously, he’s had pro experience in his more recent senior roles in Seattle, but the lion’s share of his career has been on the college side. 

Terry Fontenot, Falcons

  • Age: 40
  • First NFL experience: 2003, Saints marketing intern
  • Prior GM experience: None
  • Background: Fontenot is unusual because he’s been exclusively on the pro side during his climb. Naturally, no scout does only college or pro, but he’s been decidedly more pointed toward pro scouting. He’s not unprecedented, though, as Bears GM Ryan Pace and former Lions GM Bob Quinn are two similar examples of pro-oriented hires.

Brad Holmes, Lions

  • Age: 41
  • First NFL experience: 2003, Rams public relations intern
  • Prior GM experience: None
  • Background: This is a hire I’m excited about, because Holmes is a scout’s scout. He’s done plenty of ‘road warrior’ work, all on the college side, moving from scouting assistant to combine scout to area, then national, scout. That’s the route most people perceive as the road to the GM chair, though it’s less and less likely to be true.

Martin Mayhew, Washington

  • Age: 55
  • First NFL experience: 1999, Redskins personnel intern
  • Prior GM experience: Lions, 2008-2015
  • Background: Mayhew has seen all sides of the game, having played in the NFL, served with the XFL in its first iteration, served as a cap guy, and worked for three organizations, gathering plenty of personnel experience with a team (49ers) that went to the Super Bowl last year. 

George Paton, Broncos 

  • Age: 50
  • First NFL experience: 1997, Bears scouting intern
  • Prior GM experience: None
  • Background: Paton, like Fontenot, has spent the majority of his career on the pro side. On the other hand, he’s spent more than a decade in a DPP role, so he’s gotten plenty of time on the college side, as well. That’s one reason he was seen as one of the most prepared candidates on the market. 

Conclusion: I like it when people who’ve paid their dues are rewarded, and we’ve seen that during this hiring cycle. We’ve also seen a refreshing respect for age; though Holmes and Fontenot are barely out of their 30s, the idea that no one past 45 gets hired is dead, at least for now. Here’s hoping all seven enjoy successful runs.