Looking Back at the Post-Draft Grades for the ’17 NFL Draft

As any casual observer of the NFL knows, the Saints had a historic NFL draft last year.

The additions of Ohio State DC Marshon Lattimore (1/11), Wisconsin OT Ryan Ramczyk (1/32), Utah FS Marcus Williams (2/42) and Tennessee OH Alvin Kamara  (3/67) vaulted New Orleans from a its three-year 7-9 sleepwalk to an 11-5 finish, an NFC South title, and an almost appearance in the NFC Championship game. The Saints’ performance on draft day earned them our first-ever award for having the Best Draft Class of 2017.

While hindsight is 20/20 and everyone acknowledges the Saints now, it’s far harder to know which teams did best immediately following the selections. Of course, that doesn’t stop every major media figure on the Web from trying. It’s interesting to look back on post-draft grades and watch writers balance their words, leave plenty of room for interpretation, and generally hand out marks that are hard to criticize.

Let’s take a look at the aftermath of the ’17 draft to see what the pundits thought of the Saints.

  • According to NFL.com, the Saints reached a little to take NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Kamara, “Not sure I love the future pick trade, though Kamara’s a very good player,” said draft expert Chad Kreuter at the time. He also wondered if the team should have looked to its defensive line at No. 32 instead of selecting Ramczyk, who became an integral part of the team’s o-line. “But should they have helped their defensive front instead?,” Kreuter wondered.
  • Dan Kadar at SB Nation gave New Orleans a solid ‘B.’ Though he “loved the picks of Lattimore, Williams, and Kamara,” he said he didn’t “see a lot of need in an offensive tackle for the Saints” in the first round, and added that “normally (he’s) not a fan of trading future picks,” as the team did to land Kamara.
  • Bleacher Report’s Doug Farrar gave nine teams an ‘A’ or ‘A-‘ last year, but not the Saints, who earned a middle-of-the-road ‘B.’ Though he applauded GM Sashi Brown and the Browns’ “new regime,” which is “doing things differently,” he dinged No. 11 overall selection Lattimore, who was “not an ideal press defender at this point in his career.”
  • CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco was also pretty blah on the Saints’ draft, mainly because he “didn’t love” the selection of Ramcyzk. “Is that really a major need?,” he asked.

This week, we tried to get a professional opinion on the teams that excelled in April, asking scouts which teams they felt did the best, especially after two weeks of preseason games. They came up with four teams and cited some players who already look like draft-day steals.

To find out which four made the cut, register for our Friday Wrap. It comes out in about three hours, and it’s absolutely free. It’s also read by thousands of professionals across the football world — scouts, media, coaches, trainers, wealth managers, marketers and others — and will keep you up on everything going on across the football business. We think you’ll find it to be a key weekly read, as so many people in the NFL and NCAA football community do. Register here.


What Does a Successful NFL Scouting Department Look Like?

I’m always approached by young people who hope to be NFL scouts, and they often ask, what’s the best way to be hired? It’s a tough question to ask because no two teams look exactly alike when it comes to scouting.

With that in mind, we decided to look at the 12 teams who qualified for the NFL playoffs last year in hopes of identifying the template for good scouting and evaluation. What is the common thread between the Patriots, Steelers, Jaguars, Chiefs, Titans and Bills in the AFC, plus the Eagles, Vikings, Rams, Saints, Panthers and Falcons in the NFC?

First off, we have to reduce the teams under the microscope to 11 as the Panthers neither publish their scouts and their assignments on their website or publish a media guide with that information. So we’ll take a look at the other teams.

GM stability: This is a really hard factor to measure. There were teams in the playoffs like the Patriots and Saints that, technically, have had the same GM in place for the last two decades. While New England’s Bill Belichick is in a class by himself and not your typical GM, New Orleans’ Mickey Loomis is not your traditional, in-charge-on-draft-day kind of GM, and the team’s fortunes didn’t really turn around until Assistant GM Jeff Ireland was hired. In fact, if there’s a trend, it’s away from the centralized decision-making as several of the GMs in the playoffs last year have either had their personnel power stripped or haven’t been around long enough to really be judged (Buffalo’s Brandon Beane and Kansas City’s Brett Veach have been on the job two years or less).

Director-level scouts and executives: How many of these teams are loaded with chiefs and less-needful of Indians? There’s no real consensus, but it seems that less is more. The Patriots, a team that’s got most of its power in a tight circle around Belichick, has just three director-level members of its scouting staff. So do the Titans, led by former Patriots executive Jon Robinson. The Bills, Vikings, Saints and Steelers each have four. On the other end of the spectrum are the Jaguars and Eagles with seven each.

Total scouts: Again, no team defines every evaluator the same way. However, when counting actual ‘scouts’ in the 11 front offices — not people who are managing and making decisions, but those who are doing base-level evaluation of players — the magic number seems to be 10. The Steelers, Rams, Titans, Jaguars and Bills all have 10 members of their staff who seem to be primarily scouts, while the Vikings have 11. On the other end of the spectrum, the NFC champion Eagles have six and the Chiefs have eight.

To get a fuller picture of how teams build their scouting departments, looking at the average and the median number of scouting interns, national scouts, regional scouts, pro scouts, area scouts and more, check out the numbers on our website, and better yet, check out our analysis of each of the NFL’s scouting departments in today’s Friday Wrap. It will be out later this evening, and it’s easy to register.

You’ll be reading the same info thousands of members of the pro and college football community read each week. Register here.

Here’s What the AAF Has Done Right

If you’re like me, and you follow the business of the game very closely, you have to be impressed with the direction the Alliance of American Football (AAF) is going. Though I’m probably the biggest pessimist in the world when it comes to alternative football leagues, it’s hard not to like what they’ve done so far.

Yes, they’ve been able to capitalize on the absence of NFL games as they’ve grabbed headlines the last 3-4 months’, and yes, they’re capitalizing on a curiosity among football fans that won’t really be sated until the AAF plays its first games. At the same time, there are several things they’ve done right.

Here are the top five things the league has done to give itself a fighting chance of sustainability.

Good timing: It’s unclear how early the organizers of the AAF knew about the XFL’s 2020 launch, which was officially announced in January of this year, but hinted at last fall. However, it’s impossible to overstate what an advantage the league got by jumping into the pool first. Not only have they populated their teams’ front offices with credible names and credible people, but they’ll be able to scoop up the remnants of the ’18 and maybe ’19 draft classes without competition.

TV deal: The league’s deal with CBS sounds shiny and impressive, but what it all boils down to, mainly, is the Arena Football League’s old deal, with a Game of the Week on the CBS Sports Network, plus two other games — the league’s debut game and its championship — on the big network. It’s not like major networks haven’t broadcast summer football before, and they’ve never really gained traction.  All of that said, a TV deal still equals legitimacy.

Good hires: Just about every former NFL executive with any relevance has been hired by the AAF. The same can be said for the AAF’s head coaches. Critics say there’s a reason these guys aren’t in the league anymore. Maybe so, but the bottom line is that these men know how to run teams and, maybe more importantly, have relationships with the agents and media who are a big part of a league’s success. This also gets them an audience with current NFL scouts and executives when they have questions about players.

Plentiful resources: The league’s organizers were smart enough to know they needed stacks of cash before they fired their first shot, so to speak. It looks like they were able to do that.

Building up front first: One scout who’s been hired by the AAF reached out to me a couple weeks ago for help aggregating the names of as many available offensive lineman as possible. Though he still hasn’t been hired in an official capacity, his soon-to-be boss is already sensitive to the scarcity of offensive linemen across the game, and is taking steps to find the best ones. That’s brilliant. Though fans fixate on the touchdown-scorers, none of it is possible if you don’t have the big guys up front. Check out the AAF’s Twitter feed and you’ll see that many of their signings include offensive and defensive linemen. Wise moves.

So the AAF has quite a few first downs under its belt and maybe even a few touchdowns. Does that mean that its alternative league rival, the XFL, is dead in the water? Not at all. Vince McMahon, Oliver Luck and the league’s organizers can still blunt the AAF’s momentum with a few simple steps.

We’ll go over a few moves the XFL would be smart to make in today’s Friday Wrap. We’re also conducting a survey on the cover design of our new book, and we’ll have a wrap-up of the week in football — on the business side — in today’s edition. Here’s a look at last week’s Wrap. Want to sign up for the Wrap? It’s free, and thousands of football professionals read it each week. It comes out tonight around 7:30 p.m. ET. Register here.

Ask the Agents: What Will You Charge AAF Signees?

One of the interesting paradoxes of the agent business is that often the contract advisors with the least amount of clients are the ones expending the most effort. While the work of being an agent involves negotiating contracts and marketing deals, arranging training and facilitating NFL contacts before the draft, it’s different for lesser prospects.

In those cases, the agent spends endless hours virtually begging NFL teams to consider the player, sending countless emails, making videos, and cold-calling. It’s not ‘agent work’ in the traditional sense, but it’s work, no doubt about it.

With that in mind, we asked several contract advisors how they’ll handle fees for players that sign AAF, not NFL, deals. While the contracts are less, they’re comparable to NFL practice squad pay, which is something, at least.

Here’s what we got back when we asked several agents: “What are you going to charge your AAF signees, if anything?”

  • “Well, I’m going to treat this like I do my CFL clients. A one-time fee per contract, meaning, I’m not in their pockets each year. The flat fee will be like $1,000. An agent will still have to do transactional things as it relates to the player (i.e., spending time getting the contract, dealing with appeals/grievances, etc.), so that fee will be per contract, and not double-dipping or triple-dipping each year and plus you’re not being petty with the money. Have to look at bigger picture of getting your client to the NFL.”
  • “Not more than 4%. Salaries are not that bad, but nowhere near what NFL pays rookies. I think 4% would be fair.”
  • “Not sure, but probably whatever we agreed to on the NFL SRA.”
  • “Probably nothing, as I don’t have an agreement for that. Just tell them to pay my expenses back. Might have them sign an addendum, though, for the league.”
  • “Nothing.”
  • “To be honest I haven’t thought about it yet.  I have addendums that state that if they play in any professional league worldwide, that I get my expenses back.  So that is the minimum. Maybe 3% or our expenses, whichever is greater. These are guys I have had to work extremely hard for. Not just throughout the draft process, but also keeping them from jumping ship, because I truly believe in them and know they will have some opportunity if they stay motivated.”
  • “Was just thinking about that today. I think something between $1,000 to $2,000. Three percent of $70,000 is $2,100. I mean, if a player made $70,000 in the NFL, (that’s) basically 2.5 games in the NFL you would charge them.”
  • “Three percent.”

We got several more responses which show that contract advisors are really wrestling with this question. We’ve included them in the Friday Wrap, which comes out this evening (7:30 p.m. EDT/6:30 p.m. CDT). Here’s last week’s edition. It’s free, and thousands of football professionals (and aspiring football professionals) read it each week, and you should, too. Register for it here.

The 2018 NFLPA Agent Exam in Washington, D.C.: The Post-Mortem

With Agent Week 2018 now in the books, we spent time over the last week trying to get a sense of the exam itself, as well as how we did preparing this year’s agent class.

To answer the second question, this year, we commissioned a survey. Interestingly, only about half of our respondents (we got fewer the 20 responses) were attorneys. Most (about two-thirds) were confirmed to take the exam at least a month before the test date. We were really pleased with what we heard:

  • Based on our survey, almost 80 percent found our daily newsletter series recounting success stories from the most recent agent class and providing test tips “encouraging and insightful,” while the remaining 20 percent called it “a key part of my exam prep.”
  • We did pretty well on the test questions, too. More than half (54 percent) said “on balance, they were helpful and mostly similar to the actual test questions,” while another 30 percent said “they were definitely helpful and quite similar to the actual test questions.” Only one respondent said, “I wish they had been more similar to the questions on the actual exam.”
  • Our study guide probably got the best grade, however. Ninety-two percent said it was “very helpful; I’m glad I had it.” All in all, based on a scale of 1-5 with five being best, we got a ‘4’ from 54 percent and a ‘5’ from the rest.

With regard to the test itself, we were interested to see how closely the exam mirrored what was taught in the day-and-a-half seminar leading up to the test, and whether or not the exam was as challenging as it has been the last three years since the players association really put the hammer down. One test-taker said “there were a few things on the exam that were not covered, but I think that is because they change topics slightly year to year. One thing I noticed is almost every exam question was covered at some point during the conference so it’s really important to pay attention during the conference.”

That jibes with what we’ve heard for years from those taking the exam. NFLPA officials are not without a heart, and they give those who pay attention during the seminar a clear advantage. Of course, not everyone takes advantage, and it shows up in the final minutes before the test begins. “Like you predicted, there were several people in the lobby seemingly reviewing materials for the first time and highlighting!,” said one of our clients. “All I could do was chuckle!” 

At the same time, there was some dissonance between what was presented and what showed up on the test. There was also one test-taker who said the seminar was a bit rushed and confusing on Friday morning. “They were presenting the info and some presenters were correcting each other, so I didn’t know who to believe,” he said. “Also, they ran over time, so they rushed info and cut short some material. On top of that they sent out stuff for us to study weeks ago just to tell us at the meeting that some things were different.”

As always, it wasn’t a perfect two days in Washington, D.C., but if you studied, took advantage of the NFLPA’s guidance at the seminar (even if it was rushed at times), and used our materials, I think there’s good news waiting in about a month.

Listening to the 2018 NFL Agent Class

At this point, almost 300 people are in Washington, D.C., to take the 2018 NFLPA Exam. For the first time, we’ll be asking them to take a quick survey designed to (a) learn a little more about them and (b) learn a little more about us.

As you know, we offer a study guide, a 40-question practice exam, and a second 40-question practice exam.

Here are the questions we’ll ask them to answer:

  1. Are you an attorney or legal professional?
  • Yes
  • No

2. When were you confirmed to take the exam by the NFLPA?

  • Eight weeks or more before the test date.
  • Four to eight weeks before the test date
  • Two to four weeks before the test date
  • Less than two weeks before the test date

3. What ITL exam prep materials did you have access to?

  • Inside the League’s basic service
  • ITL Study Guide
  • Exam 1
  • Exam 2

4. What best describes your feelings about the ITL Rising Contract Advisors Newsletter series?

  • More of a nuisance than a help
  • Neither a negative or a positive
  • Encouraging and insightful
  • A key part of my exam prep

5. Presuming you had access to ITL Practice Exam 1 or 2, how would you characterize the questions?

  • I wish they had been more similar to the questions on the actual exam
  • On balance, they were helpful and mostly similar to the actual test questions
  • They were definitely helpful and quite similar to the actual test questions
  • I did not have access to the practice exams.

6. Presuming you had access to the ITL Study Guide, how would you characterize it?

  • Probably not as helpful as I expected it to be
  • Better having it than not having it
  • Very helpful; I’m glad I had it
  • I did not have access to the ITL Study Guide

7. On a scale of 1-5, how satisfied were you with ITL’s exam prep materials?

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

8. Presuming you used ITL’s exam prep materials, how did you hear about us?

  • From fellow test-takers in Washington, DC
  • Google search
  • Twitter
  • Referral from friend or co-worker
  • Other

Want To Be An NFL Agent? Start With These 3 Test Questions

So you want to be an NFL agent? Step 1 is passing the NFLPA agent exam, which will be held Friday in Washington, D.C. Here are three questions taken off our two practice exams that are very similar to the ones test-takers will see in two days.

Practice Exam 1 – Question #27

A player rushes for 950 yards in 2017, the final year of his rookie contract. While negotiating a new deal for the player, the agent includes additional compensation in the form of a $50,000.00 incentive for a 1,000-yard season total rushing performance. How does this affect the player’s salary cap number for the following season?

  • It will not affect the cap; performance bonuses do not count against the cap.
  • The incentive is Likely to be Earned and will count $50,000.00 against the cap in 2018.
  • The incentive is Likely to be Earned and can be prorated, for cap purposes, over the years remaining on the contract
  • The incentive is Not Likely to be Earned and will only count against the cap in the year after earning the performance bonus.

Answer: Not Likely to Be Earned. Once a player achieves a performance bonus (in this case 1,000 yds rushing) in the previous year, it changes from NLTBE to LTBE.

Practice Exam 1 – Question #34

Player E signs a UDFA contract in 2016. In preseason 2016, he is injured and placed on injured reserve for the entire season. In preseason 2017, he is again injured and placed on injured reserve for the entire season. In 2018, he has rushed for 728 yards through the first six games of the season. If it is now one minute after the sixth game in 2018. When may the team give an extension to Player E?

  • Immediately
  • After the completion of eighth game in 2018
  • After the completion of the last game in 2018
  • After the Super Bowl for the 2018 season

Answer: Immediately. Per the CBA, an undrafted rookie can renegotiate his rookie contract anytime after the end of his 2nd season.

Practice Exam 2 – Question #10

A player with a full split is injured in the first regular-season game. The team cuts the player and the player files an injury grievance.  The player settles with the team for 5 weeks of pay at the down split amount. The player gets:

  1. An accrued season, but not a credited season, for benefits
  2. A credited season for benefits, but not an accrued season
  3. Neither a credited season for benefits nor an accrued season
  4. Both an accrued season and a credited season for benefits

Answer: Both an accrued season and a credited season for benefits. This player was paid for 6 games.  For a credited season for benefits, games on IR count, so once this player got 3 games, he got a credited season for benefits.  For an accrued season, games on IR count — so once this player got 6 games (1+5), he got an accrued season.

If you’re reading this from a D.C. hotel room, it’s not too late to find out just where you stand before things get interesting Friday afternoon. We can activate you for our practice exams as soon as you register — no mailing — and our study guide is must-have content for breaking down the CBA (and will be emailed to you immediately). We’re here and ready to help. Give us a try.

Tips from 2018 NFLPA Test-Takers

One of the keys to success in any venture is listening to those who’ve gone on before you. With that in mind, every year, we interview ITL clients coming off their respective rookie years in the business. We ask them several questions, but one is always the same: ‘What was your take on the NFLPA exam?’

Since we’re about 24 hours from the next agent class touching down in Washington, D.C., and about 72 from the exam, I thought I’d provide an overview of what this year’s rookie class said about the test. I should note that every agent we interviewed is not only a member of ITL, but also has at least one player on an NFL roster in their first year. Only about one in four rookie agents do that every year, so they’re in impressive company.

Respect the test: I would say this is the main reason some pass and some don’t. Most people hear “open book,” “multiple choice” and “graded on a curve” and laugh it off. Maybe that was good enough before 2016, but especially since the test was made harder, it’s not true anymore. Mobile, Ala.-based Alexa Stabler said she saw people who came to D.C. underestimating the test. “I don’t think that’s wise,” she said.

Pay attention: A number of our clients said it’s important to keep up and take notes during the pre-test seminar at the Ritz. New Jersey-based Matt Stankiewicz said “they will often tell you exactly what you need to know.

At your fingertips: It’s one thing to take materials into an open-book exam. It’s something else entirely to have those materials digested and annotated so that you know where to go when you need info. Houston-based Artigua White said that was the key to passing the exam.

Manage your time wisely: The NFLPA exam includes ‘fact pattern’ questions that require you to read every detail, then sort out exactly what’s relevant and what’s not. That takes time. “It wasn’t a problem, but managing the time and the math . . . they kinda crunch your time based on the math equations,” said Southern California-based Chris Chapman.

In all, we interviewed 15 first-year agents for our newsletter series this year. You can access them all here. Not all, but most of them, used our study guide and/or our practice exam to make the CBA a little more manageable and give them a chance to see questions very similar to what would be on the test. All our exam prep materials — study guide and both exams — are laid out and explained here, with links to all of them.

There’s still time to pick up our resources! Our practice exams are both online, and our study guide is in PDF form and will be emailed as soon as payment is approved. What’s more, we’re on 24-hour call for our clients though Friday at noon. Bottom line, we’re here and we want to help. If you’re getting ready for the exam, please give us a chance. We can help!




It’s Agent Week 2018

In the early days of Inside the League, July was pretty much a black hole. As we were focused on agents already in the business, we had a pretty big blind spot towards those trying to get in.

We rectified that in 2012 when we introduced our first practice exam. At the time, it was a 40-question, multiple choice proposition that grew to 52 questions last year. Since then, we’ve added a study guide and, this year, a second practice exam. Now both exercises offer 40 questions that are as close to what test-takers will see as you’ll find on the Internet.

Still it wouldn’t matter if we weren’t helping agents get results and hearing positive feedback. So far, we’re pretty encouraged about our latest service. Here are a few (unsolicited) comments on our materials:

  • “Your service is super helpful.”
  • “Wanted to thank you again for the prep material. I got through the latest test (Exam 2) in about 40 minutes time and scored 38/40. Obviously, I will use my whole time allotment for the regular exam, but I am having to look up very few things now. I’m feeling very confident about next week and ready to attack it.”
  • “Thank you for all the work you put into your content and with the review guide/practice exams. It for sure helped give me a better structure to memorize what I need to and go over what I still needed to work on.”
  • “I am really finding the site and exam prep materials to be useful.”
  • “Did you all turn up the Heat (extra hot🔥🔥🔥) in Exam 2 on purpose?  It was abnormally hard. I missed around 10 on my first run through.”
  • “These (practice exams) have been a life saver.”
  • “Thank you! I received it and  I’m already feeling better. I appreciate this resource!”

We’re not publishing this to toot our own horn. Instead, the idea is to let those people know more about what we do and how our clients feel about it. Believe it or not, dozens of people just found out from the NFLPA they are approved for the exam, and we want those people to know we’re here.

We’ll be doing more this week to get prospective agents ready for Friday. More tomorrow.

Advice for New NFL Agents: Shane Costa

We’re about a week and change away from the 2018 NFLPA Exam for new agents in Washington, D.C. For the past month, we’ve been talking to some of the fastest-rising young agents in the business for a fresh take on what new contract advisors can do to achieve success.

Today we talk to Shane Costa of Buffalo, NY-based Pillar Sports. Shane comes from the team side, having worked for the Bills from a young age before pursuing his law license and moving back into the game. Like the other agents I’ve spoken to in this space over the past four weeks, Casey Muir and Greg ‘Tripp’ Linton, I could see Shane as a future GM, or as a mega-agent some day.

Here are Shane’s thoughts on what steps a young player rep can do to achieve lasting success.

  • “First thing I would say is, become an expert. It’s not enough to just have a passing knowledge of the CBA and the relevant rules and bylaws to pass the exam, but you really have to become an expert at it. Read the CBA, take notes, try to become an expert even before you have clients. You want to study it and become more knowledgeable to increase your chances of success. The more you know, the more you’re gonna be prepared to educate your player, and that’s gonna be apparent when you talk to players. If you don’t come from a football background, you really need to get a full grasp of the intricacies of the CBA. You’ll be better able to communicate that knowledge to your client so you can sign him. I’d also recommend you sign up for Inside the League. It’s so valuable when it comes to learning about the league and understanding the profession. It’s crucial to use that service.
  • “Second, communicating and setting expectations is critical to keeping and retaining your clients. In this job, you have to be an excellent communicator, not just with the client and his parents, but with teams, scouts, executives and media when necessary. You have to be able to understand and effectively communicate what you’re trying to extract or to provide. You’ve got to know when to talk to scouts and what you can ask, and that allows you to understand where your player fits. Once you understand that, you have to be able to create reasonable expectations. As an agent, you always want to be honest with hour client with where they stand with teams. You have to understand what teams think about your client, and that’s not always an easy thing to say when recruiting, but it’s so important. You can tell potential clients, ‘if you have a plan and do XYZ, there’s a good chance you get drafted.’ It allows you to build a plan with a player and also have him get his expectations straight. If you always communicate with teams effectively and with players effectively and set their expectations, you’ll have a much better grasp and understanding and relationship with your client.”
  • “My last point, and I think this is really important, is to balance your emotions. When you start out, you’re gonna have a lot of setbacks and good things happen, but in your first year, you’ll probably have more setbacks and rejection and players cut than players achieving success. You work so hard for them and become so attached to their outcome that it’s hard not to feel that. Don’t get too high or too low. Just be ready with a plan, and don’t get down on yourself, and at the same time, when you have success, enjoy it briefly but understand that there’s more work to be done.”