Dec. 28, 2018
Greetings! 

This email is directed at anyone in the pro and college football business. Already a client? Here's a review of the week. Not a client? We'd love to have you aboard.
The Week in Football: Dec. 22-28
With one week left in the regular season, the grades are almost in for all the top individual awards handed out for top NFL performances this year. However, there's only one award that will honor the work scouts, executives and evaluators did on draft weekend last spring.
 
Next week, Inside the League will send out ballots for the 2018 Best
Can Chicago's Roquan Smith help vault the Bears to the 2018 Best NFL Draft Class Award?
NFL Draft Award. Voting will be conducted in January and February before the winner is announced at the TEST Football Academy 2019 ITL Combine Seminar, our 10 th annual event, on Thursday, Feb. 28, at 7 p.m. at the Indiana Convention Center.
 
As you recall, the New Orleans Saints were the runaway winners of the inaugural award. Saints Assistant GM Jeff Ireland accepted the award at last year's seminar after New Orleans selected DC Marshon Lattimore (1/11), OT Ryan Ramczyk (1/32), FS Marcus Williams (2/42), OH Alvin Kamara (3/67) and OB Alex Anzalone (3/76) in the 2017 draft. The players' performances are a major reason the Saints are the No. 1 seed in the NFC and one of the leading contenders in the chase for Super Bowl LIII.
 
In addition, their selections likely led to the Saints' scouting department being raided last spring. Combine scout C.J. Leak landed the job of Assistant Pro Director with the Texans and National Scout Steve Malin was hired as Director of College Scouting in Cleveland, while two scouting assistants (Kansas City's Greg Castillo and Houston's Bailee Brown) got promotions elsewhere.
 
So who's up for the trophy this year? Here are the five finalists, in no order:
 
Bears: Though Khalil Mack gets all the press, OB Roquan Smith (1/8) quietly leads maybe the best defense in the league in tackles. Meanwhile, WO Anthony Miller (2/51) and OG James Daniels (2/39) have been solid contributors on offense.  
 
Broncos: Denver fell short of the playoffs this year, but the future is bright with DE Bradley Chubb (1/5) having been as-advertised this year (12 sacks). You could argue that the Broncos did their best work after the draft, however, signing UDFA OH Phillip Lindsay, who rushed for 1,037 yards this season. In addition, WO Courtland Sutton (2/40) looks like a future star.
 
Browns: Any conversation about Cleveland's draft class starts with the No. 1 pick, Baker Mayfield, who's helped bring the team from national punchline to playoff contender. His backfield mate, OH Nick Chubb (2/35), needs just 28 yards against the Ravens Sunday to notch a 1,000-yard season. Meanwhile, DC Denzel Ward (1/4) is one of the top defensive rookies in the '18 draft and WO Antonio Callaway (4/105) looks like he has a promising future.
 
Colts: Left guard Quenton Nelson (1/6) has been one of the finest players in his class and looks like a cornerstone for the next decade.
Since Quenton Nelson's arrival, fortunes have improved in Indianapolis.
Meanwhile, the arrival of right tackle Braden Smith (2/37) helped Indy restock its offensive line significantly with just one draft. On defense, OB Darius Leonard (2/36) has been a true difference-maker.
 
Giants: New York had a lot of options at No. 2 and a lot of needs, but the team passed on the chance to take a QB and selected OH Saquon Barkley. It's hard to argue with the results as Barkley looks like a lock as Offensive Rookie of the Year. In addition, OG Will Hernandez (2/34) has played every snap and DE B.J. Hill (3/69) has been solid and a starter.
 
Who deserves the award for 2018? Is it the Browns for nailing the top pick and upgrading across their roster? Is it the Giants for landing a budding superstar? Is it the Colts for jump-starting a roster that is powering them to a playoff berth with a win this weekend? The Bears for getting a defensive playmaker as well as help on offense? Or the Broncos for big acquisitions at the top and bottom of the draft?
 
Next week, members of NFL personnel departments will have a chance to let their voices be heard. In the meantime, here's a look at what else we saw, heard, read and said in the business of football.
 
Signing a running back this draft class?: Here's a look at the percentages. Over the last four years, there have been at least 126 rushers signed by agents (interestingly, the number has declined steadily over the past four years, with 149 signed in 2015). The percentage drafted each year has been around 15-20 percent, with 16.7 percent taken last year and 19.4 percent in '17; totals were around 13 percent in '15 and '16 . They're also in the bottom half of all positions when it comes to tryout invites; typically, 25-30 percent of rushers at least get a three-day mini-camp call. So how does the percentage of running backs drafted stack up against other positions? Last year, the highest percentage of non-specialists drafted were offensive tackles at 20.7 percent. That's no fluke. In 2017, tackles tied for the lead with defensive ends with 22.9 percent drafted, and in '16, they were second overall at 19.5 percent. Meanwhile, the 2015 draft was an especially big one for tackles as they were drafted at a rate of 26.8 percent. No other position was drafted at a higher rate than 18 percent. What's more, 83 percent of all tackles signed in 2015 at least made it into camp via draft, UDFA or tryout. That's phenomenal. Get a better look at the numbers over the last four draft classes by clicking here.
 
Rep Rumblings: With Christmas on Tuesday, we had an abbreviated week. Tuesday, we looked at several tight ends and where we've heard they're headed. We also had the latest buzz on two top prospects in the '19 draft, Oklahoma's Cody Ford and Mississippi State's Montez Sweat. Wednesday, we had a tip on a top junior expected to enter the draft, head coach-agent buzz and an interesting rumor regarding a school looking to give its draft prospects a boost. Thursday, we looked at the situation that confronts Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray and what he might choose to do if he pursues an NFL career. We also looked at another QB facing a decision (Duke's Daniel Jones) and had other recruiting buzz. Get a look at all our reports this year by clicking here.
 
Succeed in Football: Before you sign another player - especially if he's a quarterback, wide receiver or cornerback - please read this week's post in Succeed in Football. This week, after an incredible reception to a tweet on the scarcity of quarterback openings in the NFL, we decided to look at the 2018 NFL Draft Class by the Numbers, a feature we posted in May. There are several stories-behind-the-stories when it comes to the members of a draft class and which ones get drafted, signed or tried out. Check out today's blog post here.
 
The ITL Scouting Department: It's been an incredibly busy week for our scouting staff, and it's no surprise. In just the last 24 hours, we've taken 10 orders for reports on possible draftees in 2019 and we expect several more over the next 2-3 days. It's not too late to get a professionally written look at the player you're considering signing before you make a training decision, but it's not too early, either. Remember - we have the film for almost any prospect and we can turn around a report in three days or less for $100 plus tax ($108.25). On the other hand, if you have five players and just want a round projection, we can do that, too, for the same price ($108.25 including tax). You won't find a better deal, or a more reliable report, outside of the NFL. Give us a chance to make your spring a lot smoother and make sure your dollars are wisely spent by emailing us. And oh, by the way: we've got more than 200 reports on members of the '19 draft class in our library, and they're available for purchase at $50 or three for $100 (plus tax, of course). Interested? Here's a list of who we have.
 
Travel itinerary: We've gotten several questions about where we'll be during the all-star game cycle. This year, Team ITL will be in Fort Worth for the CGS from Friday, Jan. 4, through Wednesday, Jan. 9. Next, we'll land in Daytona Beach, Fla., for the Tropical Bowl on Thursday, Jan. 10, and we'll stick around through Saturday, Jan. 12. On Sunday, we'll shove off for the Shrine Game, and we'll be in St. Petersburg through Jan. 16. After that, we'll return to Houston, do a little laundry, kiss the wife and kids and head out to Mobile on Sunday, Jan. 20, through Wednesday, Jan. 23 (tentatively; we might extend our stay to Thursday). We look forward to seeing many of you out on the trail!
 
Next week: It's pretty simple. This time of year is one of the busiest times of year for us at Inside the League, and we'll be working the phones and scanning the Web to stock our Signings Grid, update our All-Star Grid, and of course pump up our Rep Rumblings. With 18 bowl games still to play as or this writing, there are hundreds of big-time players that will finish their respective careers in the next week, and we'll see our list of player-agent relationships at least double and maybe triple from the 160-odd players on our board in the next 7-10 days. We'll also wrap up Trainers Month by celebrating four more members of Team ITL: Chicago-based EFT Sports Performance, South Florida-based Fit Speed and IMG Academy (respectively), and Atlanta-based Chip Smith Performance Systems. For new agents, we'll have four more editions of the ITL Rising Contract Advisors Newsletter focusing on 'Plan B' recruiting, the 'Beg' Letter, translating what players tell you, and how to close a client. It's our last week of newsletters before we take January off to focus on our all-star travels. We'll also have another post related to trends, topics or hiring practices in college and pro football in our weekly blog, Succeed in Football. In addition, we're just a week away from the 2019 CGS Scouting Workshop Presented by Inside the League, and we're really excited about what Cowboys Assistant Director of College Scouting Chris Hall and Sports Info Solutions' Matt Manocherian will present in Fort Worth next weekend ( it's still not too late to register). We're also hard at work on improving our Practice Baseball Agent Exam and we're hoping to kick off the 2019 ITL Financial Advisor Newsletter in the first full week of 2019. Also, don't forget about our book if you or your son is hoping to play in the NFL. Millions of dollars worth of decisions on marketing deals, per diems, signing bonuses, training packages and otherwise will be made in the next seven days, and we'll also see dozens of hirings and firings on both the NFL and college levels. It's too important a time of year to miss out on any of the action or its ramifications. Please join us. Happy New Year!

Inside The League is the consulting service for the football industry. We work with the contract advisors for about two-thirds of active NFL players as well as the combine trainers, financial planners, scouts, coaches and other pro league organizers that make up the game. Cost is $29.95/month, and you can cancel at any time. To register, click here. Also check out our new free blog, Succeed in Football. Copyright Neil Stratton and ITL 2015.

Sincerely, Neil Stratton
President
Inside the League

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2018 Rep Rumblings
2018 Draft by Pick
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