Declaring Early for the NFL Draft – What to Know

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.  Remember 80% of an NFL grade is made up on film.

1. In the past NFL Scouts weren’t allowed to scout underclassmen, but the rule has changed allowing the school to give scouts a list of 5 possible players that could declare that they were allowed to get info on. 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.

2. Underclassmen aren’t allowed at post season all-star games. 7 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. The 2018 NFL Draft included 106 underclassmen who entered the draft early, 69 players were drafted, leaving 37 who went undrafted (35% not drafted) The 2017 NFL Draft included 95 underclassmen who entered the draft early, 67 underclassmen were drafted, leaving 28 (30%) not drafted. The 2016 NFL Draft 30 of 96 underclassmen were not chosen (31%).

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.  Just because someone (agent, family member, teammate, etc.) is telling you that you as a prospect should declare early make sure you get all the facts.

How do College Football All-Star Game Invites work?

By Justin VanFulpen

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 to give them an idea of who as a whole the NFL likes as seniors when they speak with scouts.  One of the big reasons that spring grades as so important when it comes to all-star games and 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 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.

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.

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.

Do NFL Players/Prospects need an NFL agent?

A lot of talk about this subject came on when Seattle Seahawks Offensive Tackle Russell Okung wrote the article “Betting on Myself” for the website The Players’ Tribune before the start of NFL training camps kicked off this summer.  In the article Okung talks about how he will be going into free-agency without an NFL Contract Advisor (Agent) and the reason he is doing that.  Okung was drafted with the 6th overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks.

In this past NFL Draft we saw that there were three players that where drafted without an agent.  OT Ereck Flowers out of Miami (FL) who was the 9th overall pick by the New York Giants. CB Alex Carter out of Stanford who the 80th overall pick by the Detroit Lions. Carter father is former NFL CB Tom Carter who was a first round pick and now works for the NFLPA.  TE Gerald Christian who was the last pick in the draft by the Arizona Cardinals, but since the draft has hired an NFL agent.  So can you get drafted without an agent – ABOSLUTELY! But if you don’t have an agent you are the one marketing yourself to the NFL teams and negotiating your NFL contract since only the player or a certified NFLPA contact advisor can do.

One thing of the first things to do when talking with an “agent” is ask them if they are NFLPA certified if not you are dealing with what is called a “runner” and someone who can’t negotiated an NFL contact on your behalf.

Here are a few advantages of hiring an NFL Agent:

  1. Marketing your film and skills to all 32 NFL teams: There is time and effort an NFL team is more willing to give their true opinion of a player to a 3rd party rather than the player themselves.
  2. Protection: Let say you get injured in a practice or a game you want to have someone there to protect your best interest against the team, with second opinion as well as injury settlements or grievances.  Remember the NFL is a business when it is all said and done.
  3. Sound board: An NFL agent should know the NFL landscape and be able to give an educated opinion on all 32 teams and how you would fit in the draft or free-agency with a particular team.  As well as being able to give guidance and advice on other business and life matters.
  4. Contract Negotiations: An NFL would rather negotiated with someone other than the player and an agent job is to get the best deal for the player but yet the agent doesn’t play for the team so things that a team can and will say to an agent they most likely won’t say to a player.

True a player can save money by not hiring an agent, but one thing that a player needs to know is that their agent fee is tax deductible.   So having an NFL agent is an advantage but as a player you need to find the right one for the long term.  There are many agents out there and a lot of them only selling point to a player is the imitated cash value (money, training, etc.) that they can provide so you as a player need to understand the true value of hiring an NFL Contact advisor.