How COVID-19 is affecting the 2021 NFL Draft

One thing that goes on in the spring that NFL fans don’t pay to much attention to is NFL scouts from the two NFL scouting services, BLETSO and National Football Scouting go on college campuses and doing what is called “junior days”.   “Junior Days” are where scouts will get the players height, weight, some schools will allow guys to run 40s and the scouts will grade the film of the players that will be Seniors in the fall and give them what is called a “Spring Grade”.   

Then around Memorial Day the two Scouting Services and all the NFL scouts that subscribed to either of those services will get together for a long weekend normally in Florida and read the spring reports and go over the “Spring Grades”.  These grades become the road map of the scouts in the summer and fall to evaluate the next class of NFL prospects for the following spring draft. 

Because of what is going on with the COVID-19 pandemic, many “juniors days” won’t happen so scouts won’t have information on those prospects leaving information need to make up “spring grades” unavailable. 

Talking with multiple scouts the “Spring Grades” for the 2021 NFL Draft will either just not happen or be delayed and it will affect how the NFL teams do their business this upcoming fall and leading into next years NFL Draft.  The reason why “Spring Grades” play such a big role is because of the two scouting services that the NFL uses, National Football Scouting (NFS) is the company that actually runs the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.  They take their “spring grades” as the starting point for the invites to the NFL Combine that following January. 

Even though “spring grades” are not made public and are suppose to remain proprietary the grades get out and agents, trainers, financial advisors, all-star games all try to get their hands on them to be able to make best decision on who to go after. 

Yes the COVID-19 pandemic is going to effect the 2020 NFL Draft with Pro Days, Top-30 Visits and work-outs canceled but is already effecting the 2021 Draft as well.

True, there is much bigger problems with the COVID-19 pandemic but just something else that it is impacting. 

Why NFL “Spring Grades” are Important to NFL Prospects

When NFL scouts from the two scouting services BLETSO and National Football Scouting (NFS) go into a school to do their junior evaluation in February/March they are looking to grade the NFL draft prospects for the next year’s draft but also to eliminate players as guys who can’t play in the NFL.  Scouts give draftable grades, undrafted free-agent grades and “reject” grades (Not a prospect at this time). The scouts give those players “reject” grades so scout in the fall don’t have to spend time on players who are deemed not NFL players.

The scouting services grade over 13,000 senior college football players each year at all levels of football and normally there are around 600 with draft able or free-agent grades.  True do players with “reject” grades get draft? Yes but it is few and far between.

BLETSO and National have their spring meeting to go over grades around Labor Day time in May to be able to help set the scouts schedule for training camps visits in the summer.  Prospects are not told what their spring grade is by the two scouting services, but normally in the summer the grades get out and agents, financial advisors, media members and all-star games get their hands on them.

What goes into a spring grade:

  1. Junior Film
  2. Height/Weight/Speed – The scouts either get that information when on campus when the measure and weigh the prospect as well as get hand size and arm length. Some school will allow the prospects to run the 40 for the scouts but that is very few and mainly smaller schools. Some schools don’t allow scouts to do height/weight so the scout will just have to estimate the prospect height/weight/40 time.
  3. Background – Scouts will try to get information on prospect past both off the field and medical.

Spring grades are important for a number of reasons:

1. It is a road map for NFL scouts in the fall to where they should spend their most time.

2. National Football Scouting (NFS) runs the NFL Combine so if a player has a good spring grade he is more likely to get invited then if he doesn’t.

3. All-Star games try to get their hands on these grades and use them when they start to invite players to their games.

True as a Senior what you do on the field is most import to your final NFL draft grade, but it doesn’t hurt to start with a good spring grade going into your Senior season.

When Should a College Football Coach Hire an Agent?

Justin VanFulpen with client Davenport Head Coach Sparky McEwen

The simple answer is whenever he wants to or feels he needs to.  A coach can negotiate his own contract and he can do all the other things that an agent helps with.  College Football coaches are busy and we all have 24 hours in a day so the question comes does having an agent free up some time?  Does the agent bring other value to the coach? Is having an additional set of eyes and ears as well as network valuable to the coach?  In terms of other service the agent provides as well as just being a confidential sounding board can be a valuable asset to the coach.

If I would hire someone to cut my lawn, it is not the fact that I can’t do it, it is the fact I would rather do something else with my time. This is the same principle here, a coach can know the market place in terms of salaries, contracts, opening, and more but it might be helpful to have someone else there to do some of the work as well.

Also with College Football became even more of a big business on all levels it could be good to have someone to be your voice or even play the “bad cop” role with administration or whoever is in charge of the contracts.  But also there is much more that coaches use their agent for then just getting a deal done and a contract negotiated.

The question I have gotten in the past is “what is the downside” and the answer is there really isn’t one, you as the coach empower the agent to negotiate or inquire about a job or other service so a reputable agent really could only increase your value, add more time back to you or enhance what you are already doing.  Another thing I have heard is “I don’t want an agent to ruin the reputation that I have built so far in my career” and to that I say at the end of the day you are the boss the agent works for you so you guys should have communicated on how you as the coach want things done and it if it doesn’t work out that is when you terminate the relationship.

College Football is a 24 hour, 365 day of the year job not only with coaching, but then their is recruiting, camps, fund raising, team events,etc. Having someone else in your corner not only can give you back some of your valuable time, but can only help you in the long run.

7 Things an Agent can help a Coach with

When it comes to the business of coaching there is a lot more then just X’s and O’s and having someone on your team that can provide assistant in many different ways can be invaluable. Here are just 7 different things an agent can help their coaching client with.

Social Media Consulting:  An agent can review coach’s social media accounts to make sure they are presenting the best image possible and if they aren’t on a social media platform help them get on it and use it to its best ability possible.

Interview Preparation: An agent can help get coaches prepared for their job interview from everything such as sample interview questions to reviewing their overall plan.

Media & Public Relations:  An agent can help coaches utilize the media and public relations as the ability to get their message out there and help increase their visibility and showcase their skills.

Career Counsel: An agent can be a sounding board with proven-expertise to assist coaches in their all aspects of their career.

Marketing:  An agent can help our coaches identifying potential outside income opportunities that may be available to them, such as public appearances, paid media opportunities, golf outings and more.

Job Placement Support: An agent can work to put their coach in the best position to obtain their desired position through anticipating openings, gathering information, and strategizing in all areas of the search process.

Contract Negotiation: An agent can focus on maximizing their coaches earning potential and professional protection, while the coach can just focus on being the best coach he can be.

Task of an NFL Agent pre-Draft

All-Games: Even before an agent signing a prospect he/she is most likely contacting the director of the all-star games but especially after a client has signed with an agent are they contacting the directors to see if they can get their client in a game. With the All-Star games being the last time football is practice or played it is the last time the NFL scouts will have a chance to evaluate the prospect in person, and as we always see players rise and sliding because of all-star game practice and game performances.

Film: Agents should be contacting scouts and coaches to sell and promote their clients best game film against their best level of competition that they played. With the game films agents can sell to scouts and coaches how their prospect fits into the team’s schemes and how they would be an upgrade to their roster. Agents know that NFL Scouts have access to all the film via the NFL Distribution Center so a scout can pull up any game wherever he is at. Agents need to be selling the film to the NFL scouts and then coaches when they get involved in the process.

NFL Scouts:  Scouts make their own judgement and are paid to give their opinion on a prospects ability to play in the NFL.  Agents are contacting scouts to give them information about their prospect and sell their prospects ability to play football.

Promotion of Prospect: An agent is looking to use the media as a form of getting their prospects story out there also to make sure other teams know that there is more than just one team interested in the prospect. Also an agent is looking to see what deals that they can make in with different companies to make their prospect additional money off the field.  Some agent or agency might outsource these two jobs.  Two of the first things off the field in terms of marketing is a trading card deal and a shoe deal, but these deals will be different based on how high the player is projected to be drafted as well as what position that he plays.

Knowledge of the NFL Landscape:  Each prospect is in competition with every player in their position as well as the current players at their position in the NFL, so an agent needs to have a working knowledge base to properly advise their client. They need to know what they of offense and defense scheme a team runs.  It would be embarrassing if an agent was promoting a 3-4 defense end (5 tech) to a team that runs a 4-3 defense. Also if a prospect is not drafted where he is advising his client to sign is a big deal as if this prospect is just a “camp body” or has an actually shot at making the 53-man roster. What is the agent using to make a determination, what they are offer as a signing bonus or what the team currently has on their roster at their client position and the scheme the team runs? So knowledge of the NFL is an important thing.

These are just some of the tasks that an agent performs per draft there are many additional ones after the draft is over.

How do College Football All-Star Game Invites work?

The question always comes up from coaches, players, parents, agents, etc. – How does a player get invited to play in a game?   I had an opportunity to be in charge of the personnel for all-star games and like all the other people in the all-star game business we are looking for the best player that will have an opportunity to get drafted.  All-Star Games are talking to NFL scouts to see who they want to see in an all-star game, also they are hearing from agents, coaches who are recommending players both early and late in the invite process.

All-Star games are also looking at the spring grades from BLETSO and National Football Scouting (NFS) to give them an idea of who the prospects that the NFL likes. Then they will see what players have played well in there senior year. All-Star games will speak with scouts to get their opinion on who they would like to see or who they think is worthy of being invited to the game.  

One of the big reasons that spring grades are so important is they are the starting point when it comes to all-star games and the NFL combine. National Football Scouting runs the NFL Combine so knowing and inviting who they had graded higher in the spring the more likely the prospect will be invited to the NFL Combine.

Since the life blood of an all-star game is sponsorship and most sponsors are looking to get close to NFL players or be able to say that they are involved with NFL prospects without having to spend the top dollars to be an official NFL sponsor.

But what I always tell people asking that question that communication is key with the personnel directors of the game or their staff.  Sometimes players will miss out on an opportunity to play in an all-star game because they don’t get back with an all-star game to let them know they are interested in playing in the game because they are waiting to get an invite to a “bigger” game.

Communicate with all the all-star games (Senior BowlEast West ShrineNFLPA, etc) and it doesn’t hurt to reach out to them via social media, email, phone, etc to get in front of them if you are not on their radar or even if you are it will strength your chance for an invite.

Since the Senior Bowl is by the far the number one all-star game they have the lead when it comes to what prospects go where.  If a player gets invited to the Senior Bowl most of the time they are pulling out of whatever all-star game they are in and going to that game.  Since that is the case and invites are kept close to the vest it causes all the other all-star games to continuously change their roster.

All-Star games start sending out invites in mid to late October and each game does it different as far as inviting players.  Some email the player directly the invite to their game, other games will send the invite to the school and have the coaches give the invite to the player.

My advice to players is accept the invite when you get it and get it back to the game if then you get invited to a “bigger” game,  just communicate with the game you had already accepted and just let them know in a timely manner so they can invite someone else.

NFL Draft: Mid-Season Scouting

In the College Football season and the NFL Draft process we are coming up on the midway point.  NFL Scouts have been to training camp to look at the prospects that had spring grades from National or BLETSO and they have watched film on prospects from the first couple of weeks, seen players live both in practice and games and will keep doing that as we get to the end of the season.  If you are a college football player what is going on now is the following:

If you were not graded in the spring as a draftable or free-agent prospect by the two scouting services (BLETSO & National) you need to dominate or keep dominating so you can get on the scouts radar because scouts aren’t looking to add guys they are looking to eliminate them as a prospect for their team.

All-Star Games (Senior Bowl, East West Shrine, NFLPA) – Their first round of invites will go out this month. Some coaches keep them and don’t give them to their players until later in the season but if you didn’t get an invite yet you still can but that tells you what they NFL thinks of you right now. Meaning they don’t see you as a draftable prospect at this time.

Scouting – Right now the area scout from all 32 teams has been to your school or seen you on film. They aren’t the decision maker for their team if they are going to draft you or sign you their job in the gather information and have an opinion for their boss the General Manager or Director of College Scouting.  But if they don’t think you can play at the next level less likely that any of the higher up will do any work on your film.

Scheme Fit – Teams are looking for players that fit the scheme that they are running on offense and defense so you could be a good player but if you don’t fit the scheme or have the size that they are looking for in that scheme you most likely will be eliminated for their draft board.

Background Checks – Scouts are looking to find out all the information they can for anyone that knows you from the strength coaches to people on campus to see if there is any trouble in your pass or if you are a good person.

Coaches – If the NFL thinks there is an NFL prospect at the school it has talked to at least one of the coaches on the staff and most likely the head coach to see if the coach or coaches would recommend their player or just their overall thoughts on the player.

The season is not over the process is still going but it is closer to the end then the beginning.

2020 NFL Rookie Dollars & Cents

2019 NFL Draft Analysis – Average Guaranteed Dollars by Round
1st Round – $16,939,370
2nd Round – $3,786853
3rd Round – $946,211
4th Round – $692,925
5th Round – $301,369
6th Round – $161,745
7th Round – $88,795

(These numbers include base salary, signing, roster and option bonuses that are guaranteed)

Undrafted Free Agents
$5,000 (Average Signing Bonus)

2020 Rookie Minimum Salary: $610,000
So weekly pay if on 53 man roster: $35,882

2020 Practice Squad Weekly Pay: $8,400 ($142,800 if on all 17 weeks)
Players that are drafted sign 4 year contracts
Players that are not drafted sign 3 year contracts

So an undrafted contact done in 2020 would be 3 years with no signing bonus with be 3 years $2,285,000 (nothing guaranteed)

Base Salaries:
2020: $610,000
2021: $660,000
2022: $705,000

Training Camp/Pre-Season Pay: $1,150.00

Off-Season Pay (OTA’s/Mini Camp): $235 per workout – 3 to 4 per week depending

Post Season Pay:
Division Winner: $33,000
Wild Card: $30,000

Division Playoff $33,000

Conference Championship: $59,000

Super Bowl Winner: $130,000
Super Bowl Loser: $65,000

Performance Based Pool:  If a player plays one down in a regular season game he is eligible. This is a lump sum of money paid out after the season based on each player playtime percentage.