2018 NFL Draft process starts with “Junior Days” and Spring Grades

By Justin VanFulpen

Right now we are getting close to the 2017 NFL Draft but NFL scouts around the country are getting ready to start their work on the 2018 NFL Draft on college campus in what is called “Junior Days”.

What are “Junior Days”? Well there are two scouting organizations that NFL teams subscribe to called BLESTO and National (National Football Scouting) each of these organizations is made up of scouts from different teams, and all except the New England Patriots “subscribe” to one of these services.

Normally the college coach who is the pro liaison sets up the junior day in which the draft-eligible players for the next year take part in a workout much like a Pro Day just for these scouts. These junior days are normally scheduled during spring practice.

Scouts do measurable, the player’s height, weight, hand size and reach, some school will allow their players to run the 40 but others won’t. The scouts will also have the players take the Wonderlic test which is a standardized test which is used to assess the aptitude of prospective employees for learning and problem-solving.

The scouts also view film for the player’s junior year as well as background information and injury history. From there, only a single report is filed and shared with the other teams as part of the group, and then there is a meeting where the reports are shared with the member clubs sometime in late May.

Once those reports are filled that is when people in the football business try to get their hands on those reports or just the grades. Even though all information from National Football Scouting and BLESTO are proprietary, agents, financial advisors, trainers, all-star game organizers, media members, and NFL draft gurus all try to get their hands on what is referred to as the “spring grades.”

Once anyone gets their hands on these grades they will start contacting the players letting them know what their “spring grade” is.

These grades are not set in stone and they sure change thru out the season but they are for sure a great starting point. The grade that either of these services gives a player the May before he plays senior season doesn’t have a huge effect on where the player is drafted a full year later but does have a good bearing if the player will get invited to the NFL Scouting Combine which is run by National and has input by BLESTO on who gets invited.

Springs grades are important starting point for people in football business and the prospects.

Declaring early for NFL Draft – Is it worth the risk?

By Justin VanFulpen

This time of the year in college football, the mock drafts start coming out and people start talking about what players will declare early.  But just because some on the internet is saying that this player should declare early or someone close to the player telling him that he should leave school early might not know all the facts.

  1. NFL Scouts aren’t allowed to scout underclassmen. True this rule will change next year with the new agreement with the AFCA and NFL takes effect.  Scouts do look at the guys that they know for sure will be coming out early, but their main focus is the senior prospects.  The underclassmen that aren’t general accepted as a 1st round pick there is rarely any work done on them during the season.
  1. Underclassmen aren’t allowed at post season all-star games. 5 years ago with the NFLPA started the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl they were going to challenge the NFL rule and did allow one underclassmen in the game.  That caused the NFL teams not to send a single scout to that all-star game.  Because of that the NFLPA has only allowed seniors in their all-star game for then on.  As we saw in the 2013 NFL Draft All-Star games are a big part of the process where OT Eric Fisher, Central Michigan went from a late first rounder all the way up to the number one overall pick because of his play at the Senior Bowl.
  1. NFL Combine – First official time NFL scouts can talk to underclassmen. Just because a prospect has declared early doesn’t automatically get him an invite to the NFL combine. So if a prospect is not invited then really the first time a scout get to talk with a prospect is at his school Pro Day.
  1. NFL Draft Advisory Board – The board is composed of general managers and personnel directors from a number of NFL teams, along with the directors of the NFL’s two scouting combines, BLESTO and National. A prospect can ask for their assessment on where he is projected to get drafted.  The board will return their assessment of the prospect with three possible grades – first round, second round, or neither, which means that the board advises the player to stay in school. The school can get a hold of the NFL Draft Advisory Board or the prospect can contact the NFL Player Personnel Department directly.
  1. Last year there was a record of 107 underclassmen declaring early for the NFL Draft of that 30 players didn’t get drafted. Which was a little over 28% of the players that declared didn’t get drafted that was the same percentage in 2015 and in 2014 it was all the way up to 39.2% of the players that declared didn’t get drafted.

Every prospects situation is different when thinking about declaring early for the NFL Draft but each prospect should get as much information as possible in regards to leaving school early for the NFL Draft.

Impact of Social Media and NFL Draft Prospects

By Justin VanFulpen

In the past few years social media has exploded and more and more corporate America is reviewing candidates for jobs social media profiles and making hiring decisions based on what they find on someone’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. This has now made its way to the NFL Draft process and it is something some NFL teams are taking to a scientific measurable level.

NFL teams are creating a “social media profile” on NFL draft prospects as well as their regular football profile that included football skills on film, medical and character. This social media profile is looking to see what the prospects are tweeting about, what they are posting, etc. Things that they are looking for is how much does the prospect post something about football? Are there posts about drugs, weapons, or alcohol? Does the prospect post things degrading women? Some NFL teams will use pie graphs to show the percentage of things that the prospect posts about.

How far are NFL teams going back to research? Well one NFL team that I talked to said that they looked all the way back at a tweet QB Jameis Winston had tweeted in high school. Yes, high school.

“Our job now as scouts is not just see if the guy can play but every aspect of his life and that now includes his social media and what he post, as what his post is most likely what is important to him as a person. We are now taking it to a level of measuring that.” said one NFL scout.

As we saw play out this past April draft with former Ole Miss and current Miami Dolphins OT Laremy Tunsil social media was hacked and a video and screen shot of texts were posted.  Tunsil’s fall from the draft’s projected No. 3 pick to No. 13 cost him at least $10 million in guaranteed signing bonuses.  True Tunsil’s social media profiles we hacked by what was believed someone who Tunsil had given access to his profiles in the past.

With this social media analytics and data what NFL teams are trying to find out is, one does the prospect love football and two is he a good guy and can we trust him. Everyone need to know what they post on social media could be viewed differently by different people. True what someone post on social media doesn’t give the full picture but it is a tool that NFL teams are trying to use to make better personal decisions.

Social media can be used for positives things like building one’s brand, marketing, engaging with fans, supporting causes and much more but it can have a negative effect as well and once something is posted it can’t be taken back even if deleted because with the notoriety someone will screen shot it and it will live on.

NFL Draft: “All-Star Games” and why they matter

By Justin VanFulpen

One of the biggest things in the pre-draft process is the different all-star games.  I have had the opportunity to be involved with 6 College Football all-star games.  Five Texas games and as well as the Player All-Star Classic in 2012, mainly working with the player personnel but also having other duties.

This past February at the NFL Combine, former NFL GM Ray Farmer said about All-Star Games.

“I put more stock in that then combine stuff, the reason I do that, it’s ball… All-Star Games matter because it is good on good.”  

College football all-star games are about giving players an opportunity to show their skills in front of NFL scouts. In this environment where player come from all levels of competition the NFL scouts are evaluating not only the one-on-one and team practices but how fast can a player pick the offense or defense that is being installed since everything is done within that game week.

Small school prospects that get into one of the major all-star games have a great ability to help themselves in the draft process because it shows scouts that the level of competition is not too high for them since that will be one of the biggest questions mark for that prospect to answer.

We saw this past year at the Senior Bowl QB Carson Wentz from North Dakota State who end up as the number two pick overall by the Philadelphia Eagles raise his draft stock from his week of practice at the Senior Bowl.

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 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.  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.

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 other will send the invite to the school and have the coaches give it to the players.

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.

2016 NFL Draft: Testing Averages per Position

By Justin VanFulpen

With the 2016 NFL Draft in the books here is a look at the average height, weight, 40, Vertical Jump, Short shuttle, and 3 cone drill by position of players that were drafted.

QBs: 6037 226 – 4.84 (40) – 30.9’’ (Vertical) – 4.31 (20 yard shuttle) – 7.15 (3-Cone)
Fastest 40 – 4.78 (Hackenburg & Hogan)
Highest Vertical – 36’’ (Lynch & Jones)
Fastest Short Shuttle – 4.15 (Wentz)
3 Cone – 6.86 (Wentz)

RBs: 5112 214 – 4.49 (40) – 35.2’’ (Vertical) – 4.28 (20 yard shuttle) – 7.04 (3-Cone)
Fastest 40 – 4.31 (Drake)
Highest Vertical – 41.5’’ (Lasco)
Fastest Short Shuttle – 4.20 (Taylor & DeAndre Washington)
3 Cone – 6.83 (Smallwood)

FBs: 6008 233 – 4.73 (40) – 35.3’’ (Vertical) – 4.25 (20 yard shuttle) – 7.20 (3-Cone)
Fastest 40 – 4.60 (Vitale)
Highest Vertical – 38.5’’ (Vitale)
Fastest Short Shuttle – 4.12 (Vitale)
3 Cone – 7.12 (Vitale)

WRs: 6004 199 – 4.48 (40) – 35.2’’ (Vertical) – 4.24 (20 yard shuttle) – 6.92 (3-Cone)
Fastest 40 – 4.29 (Hill)
Highest Vertical – 41’’ (Doctson & Shepard)
Fastest Short Shuttle – 4.06 (Hill)
3 Cone – 6.53 (Hill)

TEs: 6045 252 – 4.75 (40) – 32.9’’ (Vertical) – 4.27 (20 yard shuttle) – 7.00 (3-Cone)
Fastest 40 – 4.64 (Adams)
Highest Vertical – 40’’ (DeValve)
Fastest Short Shuttle – 4.15 (DeValve)
3 Cone – 6.88 (Adams)

OTs: 6055 310 – 5.17 (40) – 28.2’’ (Vertical) – 4.73 (20 yard shuttle) – 7.90 (3-Cone)
Fastest 40 – 4.94 (Spriggs)
Highest Vertical – 32.5’’ (Ifedi)
Fastest Short Shuttle – 4.44 (Spriggs)
3 Cone – 7.63 (Conklin)

OGs: 6043 304 – 5.19 (40) – 27.3’’ (Vertical) – 4.72 (20 yard shuttle) – 7.72 (3-Cone)
Fastest 40 – 4.95 (Thuney)
Highest Vertical – 33’’ (McGovern)
Fastest Short Shuttle – 4.54 (Thuney)
3 Cone – 7.32 (Whitehair)

Cs: 6037 301 – 5.19 (40) – 27.5’’ (Vertical) – 4.64 (20 yard shuttle) – 7.54 (3-Cone)
Fastest 40 – 5.13 (Glasgow)
Highest Vertical – 30’’ (Kelly)
Fastest Short Shuttle – 4.52 (Seumalo)
3 Cone – 7.40 (Seumalo)

DEs: 6044 273 – 4.83 (40) – 32.7’’ (Vertical) – 4.37 (20 yard shuttle) – 7.29 (3-Cone)
Fastest 40 – 4.59 (Tapper)
Highest Vertical – 37.5’’ (Holmes)
Fastest Short Shuttle – 4.00 (McCalister)
3 Cone – 6.89 (Bosa)

DTs: 6028 304 – 5.07 (40) – 28.5’’ (Vertical) – 4.65 (20 yard shuttle) – 7.29 (3-Cone)
Fastest 40 – 4.69 (Ridgeway)
Highest Vertical – 35’’ (Nkemdiche)
Fastest Short Shuttle – 4.50 (Day)
3 Cone – 7.25 (Onyemata)

OLBs: 6020 241 – 4.66 (40) – 34.1’’ (Vertical) – 4.36 (20 yard shuttle) – 7.18 (3-Cone)
Fastest 40 – 4.42 (Weatherly)
Highest Vertical – 41’’ (Nicolas)
Fastest Short Shuttle – 4.20 (Lee & Correa)
3 Cone – 6.65 (James)

ILBs: 6010 240 – 4.72 (40) – 32.4’’ (Vertical) – 4.33 (20 yard shuttle) – 7.08 (3-Cone)
Fastest 40 – 4.57 (Walker)
Highest Vertical – 37.5’’ (Walker)
Fastest Short Shuttle – 4.00 (Vigil)
3 Cone – 6.73 (Vigil)

CBs: 5114 194 – 4.47 (40) – 35.8’’ (Vertical) – 4.21 (20 yard shuttle) – 7.00 (3-Cone)
Fastest 40 – 4.33 (Brown)
Highest Vertical – 41.5’’ (Ramsey & Reed)
Fastest Short Shuttle – 3.98 (Hargreaves)
3 Cone – 6.60 (Caldwell)

Ss: 6004 204 – 4.56 (40) – 36.1’’ (Vertical) – 4.21 (20 yard shuttle) –  (3-Cone)
Fastest 40 – 4.42 (Grugier-Hill)
Highest Vertical – 40.5’’ (Nicolas)
Fastest Short Shuttle – 4.20 (Frazier & Fejedelem)
3 Cone – 6.58 (Simmons)

2016 NFL Draft: NFL Scouting Combine Results

By Justin VanFulpen

In the football business one of the closely guarded secrets before the official list is released is who is getting invited to the NFL Combine.  The NFL Combine is run by National Scouting and has become a televised event by the NFL Network.  For more information about how the NFL Combine invites work you can check out my article from a year ago: NFL Draft: NFL Combine just part of the process.

Now that the 2016 NFL Draft is in the books we can look at the results.  This year there were 332 players invited to the NFL Combine and their where 37 players that were drafted that did NOT go to the NFL Combine.  Break down as far as rounds go:

3rd round – 1 player
4th round – 2 players
5th round – 5 players
6th round – 17 players
7th round – 12 players

So 116 players that were invited to this year’s NFL Combine were not drafted.  So the percentage of players that were drafted that were invited to the NFL Combine was 65%, so it is far from a guarantee if you are invited that you will get selected in the NFL Draft.  Last year it was 66.7% of the players that were at the NFL Combine where drafted.