Roster cuts, sports agents & getting players on NFL teams

By Evan Brennan

As football season returns, hundreds of collegiate players begin to think about 2013 and the NFL Draft. They are not the only ones, as the hundreds of NFLPA Certified Contract Advisors (agents) also look to find both easily-identifiable talent and hidden gems among the college ranks.

The “Big” question

For many of the clients-to-be, the question to their prospective agents becomes: “Can you, and how are going to get me on a team?” This question is especially important for players who know or should know that if they are to play in the NFL, their entry will be from the very unsure paths of a late round pick or an undrafted free agent. To put this into perspective, NFL training camps start out with 90 players on the roster and teams need to get down to 53 by the start of the season. Nearly 1200 players will be cut, with late rounders and undrafted free agents making up the majority of that chunk.

Can you handle the truth?

With those kinds of odds facing all but a little over 150 collegiate players, how does an agent ethically answer the question of getting a player on a team? The answer is a tough one, and it is in this author’s experience and estimate that few do it correctly. For a player that is an estimated late rounder or free agent, there are actually very few cases where the selection of an agent strictly in and of itself will have a significant (multiple round) impact on where a client goes. There are cases (a handful a year) where a player goes much higher than anticipated, but these are even more rarely the direct result of the agent himself. Some agents have even claimed that where a player goes is 90% or more dictated by what a player has achieved on film for scouts, or to a lesser extent, what kind of numbers he achieves at his pro day. None of the aforementioned are things that an agent has direct control over.

The sales pitch

For an agent selling himself to a client, being so honest as to mention this is not generally high on the charts. As the agent is often trying to distinguish himself from other would-be suitors and his strong desire to convey what unique benefits he can give to a potential client that others cannot is often overriding. Some agents may claim connections to coaches and scouts and others in positions of power, as well as exotic promotional techniques to entice and convince client signees of their prowess. And while these may slightly increase exposure and awareness for a client, the bottom line remains that NFL front offices are in the business of winning and putting the best product on the field. Their objective, no matter their relations with agents, are that the best players will make it regardless.

The real answer

None of this is to say that these agent’s methods should not be tried or utilized, or that an agent should not do everything in his power, no matter how inconsequential it may end up, to work as hard as possible for his clients. No, to the contrary. And for truthfulness sake there are some very, very small instances where these efforts and connections can have an effect, albeit generally not significant. But does a player wish to bank solely on these items as the principal reasons for getting into a “business marriage” with an agent? Rather, a player should not be swayed by these methods in and of themselves, and perhaps their best value to a client is the demonstration that an agent is willing to work hard for the player and has obvious experience in what he’s doing.

While honesty in the business rarely wins out initially, clients can save themselves a lot of grief and business problems knowing that as rookies, agents can be a huge help in guiding a client in a variety of different ways. But that with very, very few exceptions, meriting a place on a team or getting even a shot at one will depend on their film, measureables, character, and intangibles, and not who their agent is or claims to know.

Follow Evan Brennan on Twitter @brennansports

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