Going into my 25th draft as an agent I’ve learned a lot about the draft process. Here are three things that players, draft experts and agents won’t admit.
1) The Draftees are more nervous than they are letting on: Eventually, my previous draft class confesses how nervous they were going in to their draft. They would go into draft weekend calmly saying things like, “I just want an opportunity” and “whatever happens, happens”. However, deep down they are scared to death that they may be “that guy” getting passed up with every pick and the TV experts are pointing it out all the way down. They quietly worry that they may not even be picked at all. And some are scared to death of the unknown because it’s the first time in their lives that they don’t have control over their careers.
Imagine what it would be like at the tender age of 22, being told to you on National TV that you have to move across country by yourself to go beat out some all-pro player you admired on TV for years in a strange new land. The players won't let on but they are scared and nervous.
2) What the Mock drafts won’t tell you and what the draft experts don’t know: Outside of the first 32 picks, mock drafts can’t be trusted because they don’t tell the full story about a player. The facts are that as talented as most kids are, about 40 to 50% of them can’t handle the mental, social, economic and/or the emotional responsibilities that come with being a successful professional athlete.
Being an NFL player can be overwhelming for most. Time and money can become the enemy of an undisciplined young man. The ego can cause irreparable damage to one’s self and the bottom line is that some hidden character flaw could be the demon that makes it all just too much to manage.
Scouts failed to catch the negative intangibles in Ryan Leaf.
50 to 60% of all players still come from a broken home of some sort and lack the social skills to handle every aspect of the off-field part of the game. When scouts spend quality time with players in interviews, at the all-star games, the Combine and when they get the real scope from the college coaches, they start to sense, which players can handle it all and which cannot. During the draft, we will see players who were obnoxiously hyped for months by the draft experts’ slide down the board because of some poor intangibles package they know nothing about. On the flip side, some names will surprise when picked, like my client, LB Pat Angerer, did last year when selected by the Colts in the 2nd round. Character, maturity, and work ethic are not talked about enough by the draft pundits. For those who know and played with Pat, it was no surprise he was picked above his projection round. Unfortunately for fans and owners, scouts don’t always catch the intangible flaws that can turn a great talent into a bust.
3) Agents have very little effect on the outcome of the draft: When most agents are pitching seniors on their representation skills and services, some promise that they will get the player drafted higher than anyone can. Trust me, this pitch is still happening and unfortunately it still works because naive players want to believe it. Now as an industry, we do invest into making sure our clients have all the tools they need to succeed. However, when you see agents on the phone during the draft (which ESPN loves showing) we aren’t manipulating the process. We may be pretending to do so but we simply don’t wield that type of power. There are some cases where an agent is controlling a few potential top ten picks and can influence the outcome of those top slots by playing teams against each other and by floating intel (both true and false) about the interest level in a player by certain teams.
As you tune in to the draft, remember that you are getting football’s version of American Idol. Also remember that these young men worked their whole life for this event and to have their names called as early as possible. No matter what happens to them, keep in mind they are all just scared kids are heart.
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