What College Football All-Star Game Directors look for when inviting NFL Draft prospects to All-Star Games

Justin VanFulpen at the Texas vs. the Nation All-Star game in Allen, Texas

By Justin VanFulpen

First and for most College Football All-Star games are a business, they need sponsors to help take care of the expenses to bring in the NFL Draft prospects.  These sponsors want their brands to be associated with the NFL without having to pay the top dollars to be an official sponsor of the NFL or a competitor of their already has that category locked up with the NFL.  So to get true NFL prospects is a must to be able to help keep sponsors coming back year after year.  That is a major selling point to sponsors is how many draft pick you had or how many players you have in the NFL that played in your game.

When the spring grades come out from BLETSO and National not only are the agents and financial advisors try to get their hands on them but so are the people that run the all-star games.  All-star game directors of player personal want to see if the players NFL spring grade matches up to what they think of the NFL prospect.

When I was in that position in charge of personal we built our boards like we were an NFL team.  We wanted to make sure we could get the best prospect in our game as possible.  Any game not named the Senior Bowl knows it has to more work on elevation because since the Senior Bowl is far and away the number one College Football All-Star game.  If a player is going to play in an all-star game and get an invite from the Senior Bowl he is accepting that invite.

Here are things that Player Personal Directors look for when inviting prospect to College Football All-Star Games:

1. Is he a true NFL prospect: Does he have the ability to play on Sundays and is not just a good college football player?  What are scouts saying about him, will they want to see more of him in a college football all-star game setting?  What grade do you have on the prospect ? As a director can you defend the selection to NFL scouts if they ask.

2. Does he have NFL measurables: If there is a tie between two or more prospect for a game roster spot, directors will go for the bigger, longer player.

3. Where the player from: Since the game is a business it doesn’t hurt to have a few local or regional prospects to help with media coverage and ticket sales.

4. What agents are recruiting the prospect: What kind of relationship does the agent have with the games personal director? Is the agent truly trying to help the prospect or just help him if he signing the prospect? Is the agent using one all-star game invite to help the prospect get a “better” invite?

5. Is the college coach calling for the prospect: Will his college head coach or position coach pick up the phone or send you an email recommending him to the game? We would always have his happen and it did factor into our decision making process.

At the end of the day the College Football All-Star game process is a big part in which a prospect can raise his draft stock so as a director of player personal you want to make sure you get the best possible prospects into your game.

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.

Marketing Money for NFL Players

By Justin VanFulpen

When it comes to off the field marketing dollars for NFL prospects or players there isn’t a lot of money or opportunities compared with the amount of players or prospects.  In terms of marketing the dollars and opportunities go to the skill players (Quarterbacks, Running Backs and Wide Receivers) and some top level defensive players.

NFL Players Inc., the licensing and marketing arm of the NFLPA has done a nice job getting group licensing deals done that involve all current active NFL players.  They work with companies like EA Sports the does the popular Madden Football Video game and many other companies.

There are some more standard marketing deals that get done:

  1. Shoe and Apparel – Nike, Under Armour (Both companies licensed by Players Inc.)
  2. Trading Cards – Panini, Topps (Both companies licensed by Players Inc.)

But then there can also be some more creative deals to make dollars like getting paid to “Tweet” working with a company called Opendorse that is licensed by Players Inc. and the value of your “tweet” depends on how many Twitter followers you have.

Our a player can make additional money by having their own online t-shirt store with another licensed Players Inc. company 500 Level.

But be careful not to be fooled about how much money NFL players make off the field, it might not be as much as you think.  According to Opendorse Top 100 Highest-Paid Athlete Endorsers of 2016, which used Forbes World’s Highest Paid Athletes as their resource – here are the top 15 paid NFL players in terms of endorsement earnings.

  1. QB Peyton Manning – $15,000,000
  2. QB Drew Brees – $12,000,000
  3. QB Cam Newton – $12,000,000
  4. QB Russell Wilson – $10,000,000
  5. QB Tom Brady – $8,000,000
  6. QB Eli Manning – $8,000,000
  7. WR Demaryius Thomas – $1,200,000
  8. WR Julio Jones – $1,200,000
  9. LB Luke Kuechly – $1,000,000
  10. WR Dez Bryant – $500,000
  11. WR AJ Green – $500,000
  12. QB Joe Flacco – $500,000
  13. QB Philip Rivers – $500,000
  14. QB Sam Bradford – $300,000
  15. TE Zach Ertz – $200,000

So just know that just because a player is in the NFL doesn’t mean that he is making a ton of money off the field in endorsements.  Yes there are ways to be creative and find different avenues for off the field dollars but the main part of a players income will come from his contract with his team.

NFL Draft: College Scouts vs. Pro Scouts

By Justin VanFulpen

As we push towards the start of the all-star game season (Senior Bowl, East – West Shrine Game, etc) as an NFL Draft prospects you will start to get interview by what are called “College Scouts” from NFL teams.  These guys’ jobs are to gather information both football and personal related, evaluate your play and write up scouting reports that can be reviewed by their team’s coaches and front office.

“Pro Scouts” on the other hand evaluate current players in the NFL, as well as players in the CFL, AFL and other leagues.  Before pre-season rosters get cut down to a team’s 53 man roster these scouts are evaluating each player on the other 31 roster so if that player get released they have a “pro scouting report” on that player.

Each NFL teams has much more College Scouts then Pro Scouts on their staff.  In the past when a player get released I have heard them saying well this scouts from a certain team really like me before the draft.  After the draft is over college scouts have little to no impact on what an NFL teams does in training camp or in the season, because once the draft is over their cycle looking at next year’s draft prospects starts.

As a prospect you need to know that when/if you gets released that your agent (you if you are representing yourself) need to contact the teams Pro Scout to get a work out or get signed.

Task of an NFL Agent pre-Draft

nfl-agent-role1By Justin VanFulpen

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.

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.  Also each prospects ability to make money off the field will be different based on how high they are projected to be drafted as well as what position that they play.

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.

Breakdown of what NFL Draft Grades are made up of

NFLDraftGrade

Film – Your level of competition and how you played against the best level of competition you faced that year.  Each teams will view around 3 full games of your current season. This also includes if you played in an all-star game.

Athletic Numbers – Height, Weight, Speed

Injury History/Off Field/Football IQ –  Any major injuries, anything major off the field, love of the game, film study

Medical and Character part of NFL Prospect draft grade

By Justin VanFulpen

Player’s NFL Draft grade is much more then what a player does on the field or how fast he runs at the NFL Combine. Two of things most over looked when fans are watching the NFL draft and wondering why a certain player hasn’t been picked is medical and character. We saw this play out in the 2015 NFL Draft.

RB Jay Ajayi of Boise State had a 2nd round grade on him by most people as a football player but had to wait to be drafted until the 5th round by the Miami Dolphins because of a concern about his knee which he tore his ACL back in 2011 but hadn’t missed a game since coming back from the injury. There were reports that he flunked some physicals and that there is bone-on-bone according to some of the doctors, and people question how long he will last in the NFL. GM’s and personal people with the NFL club look to their team doctors to make final say on if a prospect can be keep on the draft board or taken off based on the medical information. We have seen what he has done this season that he has been one of the more productive running backs in the NFL.

On the flip side there were some character concerns involving drugs that cost a few NFL prospects including Randy Gregory, Nebraska who most thought was a top 10 NFL Draft prospect who had a failed drug test at the NFL combine and also reports that teams were concerned that he wasn’t as mature as they would like. Gregory was drafted in the 2nd round 60th overall by the Dallas Cowboys.  Some NFL clubs will take a player off their team draft board completely because of character concerns. Gregory was suspended for the first four games of the 2016 season due to violating the league’s drug policy. A few months later, Gregory failed a second drug test, and received an additional 10-game suspension.

With medical issues there is not much a player can do to alleviate the concerns of a NFL team. But the character grade the NFL teams give a NFL prospect that is something that a prospect can have an influence on, true everyone makes mistakes but some mistakes cost players more than others.

What goes into a prospects NFL grade? Well here is a quick list of what makes up a NFL grade on a prospect.

1. Film – Mostly from prospect final year in college
2. Athleticism – Each team has certain things they are looking at from the testing numbers (Height, Weight, 40, Vertical, etc.)
3. Medical
4. Character
5. Football IQ – This would include personality testing as well as ability to process information (Wonderlic)
6. Scheme Fit – Each team is looking at a prospect based on how they fit what their offense or defense likes to do. (Example 3-4 vs. 4-3 defense, how does the Defensive linemen fit their scheme)

 

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.

The NFL Draft is not made up just from the Power 5 Conferences

By Justin VanFulpen

A lot of people believe that the NFL Draft is made up of the Power 5 college football conferences (ACC, Big 10, Big 12, SEC & Pac-12) in college football but that is not totally the case.  If we take a look at the past 5 NFL Draft we see that there are a good amount of draft picks that come from other levels of college football.

2016 NFL Draft (253 picks):

57 Draft picks Non-Power 5 (22.5%)

20 of those 57 Non-FBS

Philadelphia Eagles QB Carson Wentz, North Dakota State -1st round 2nd overall was earliest Non-Power 5 and Non-FBS pick.

2015 NFL Draft (256 picks):

56 Draft picks Non-Power 5 (21.8%)

20 of those 56 Non-FBS

Baltimore Ravens WR Breshad Perriman, UCF – 1st round 26th overall pick was the earliest Non-Power 5 pick.

San Francisco 49ers S Jaquiski Tartt, Samford – 2nd round 46th overall pick was the earliest Non-FBS pick.

2014 NFL Draft (256 picks):

84 Draft picks Non-Power 5 (32.8%)

24 of those 84 Non-FBS

Jacksonville Jaguars QB Blake Bortles, UCF – 1st round 3 pick overall was the earliest Non-Power 5 pick.

New England Patriots QB Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois – 2nd round 62nd overall was the earliest Non-FBS pick.

2013 NFL Draft (254 picks):

88 Draft picks Non-Power 5 (34.6%)

29 of those 88 Non-FBS

Kansas City Chiefs OT Eric Fisher, Central Michigan – 1st round 1st overall pick was the earliest Non-Power 5 pick.

Atlanta Falcons CB Robert Alford, Southeastern Louisiana – 2nd round 60th overall was the earliest Non-FBS pick.

2012 NFL Draft (253 picks):

69 Draft picks Non-Power 5 (27.2%)

22 of those 69 Non-FBS

Kansas City Chiefs DT Dontari Poe, Memphis – 1st round 11th overall pick was the earliest Non-Power 5 pick.

St. Louis Rams WR Brian Quick, Appalachian State – – 2nd round 33rd overall was the earliest Non-FBS pick.   (In 2012 Appalachian State was non FBS – they have moved to the FBS now)

So in the past 5 NFL Draft we see there was at least 1 first round pick from a Non-5 Power conference and in 2013 the first overall pick came from a Non-5 Power conference.  In the past 4 NFL draft ever year there has been a 2nd round pick that was from a Non-FBS school.

So just remember if you are in a Power 5 conference there are other guys looking to get drafted just as high as you are and if you are not in a Power 5 conference it doesn’t matter if you can play football the NFL will find you.