July 17, 2020

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: July 11-17
Today in our weekly blog, Succeed in Football, we asked several scouts and a handful of agents this question: if there's no fall season, how many players could safely opt out of a spring 2020 season without damaging their respective draft statuses? 
Incidentally, we asked the same question to the Twitterverse earlier today, and about half of everyone surveyed agreed with our informal scouting and agent consensus that  only 10-20 prospects are safe to skip the 2020 season. It's a topic that  Ben Standig -  winner of the ITL Mock Draft Award for the 2019 NFL selection meeting - discussed in  a must-read story this week.
Fair enough. So who are the ones who'd be safe? Here's a best-guess look at the 20-odd players we see as having the least to lose if they were to skip 2020 play.
Clemson's Trevor Lawrence: Is anyone ever guaranteed to be the No. 1 pick? No. Just ask the No. 5 pick this spring, new Dolphins QB  Tua Tagovailoa. Still, the Tiger has been seen as a future No. 1
Ohio State QB Justin Fields is one player who's probably a top-five talent whether he plays this fall or not.
overall almost from the first time he set foot on Frank Howard Field at Death Valley.  
Oregon OT Penei Sewell; Ohio State QB Justin Fields; LSU WO Jamarr Chase; and Miami (FL) DE Gregory Rousseau: These are the players generally believed to round out the top five in  our most recent scan of May mock drafts, and though they could easily move up and down, it's highly unlikely they'd fall all the way out of the top 32. 
Alabama OT  Alex Leatherwood, OB  Dylan Moses, WO  Devonta Smith; DC  Patrick Surtain II and WO  Jaylen Waddle; Ohio State DC  Shaun Wade; and Oklahoma OG  Creed Humphrey: These players have put down plenty of high-quality tape against significant opponents and are generally accepted as top players at their positions. They'd be safe bets to stay there. 
Penn St. OB  Micah Parsons and TE  Pat Friermuth; Texas OT  Sam Cosmi; Purdue WO  Rondale Moore; and LSU DT  Tyler Shelvin: These players might be just a smidge below the previous group, but like them, they all came from major programs and sit atop, or near the top, of their positional rankings. 
Stanford OT  Walker  Little; Clemson WO  Justyn  Ross; and Tennessee OT  Trey  Smith: These players are mostly proven, but have significant health issues that could drop them out of the first round, especially with no new tape to bolster their respective cases. Ross, in particular,  might even be done with football and is already out for 2020. On the other hand, given the position they play, Little and Smith would each get the benefit of the doubt as top-32 talents if they opted out.
Wake Forest DE  Carlos Basham; Florida St. DT  Marvin Wilson; and North Dakota St. QB  Trey Lance: Scouts we spoke to are split on these three. We were urged to include Basham by one scout but didn't get a consensus on him from others despite playing at an impact position. One scout had Wilson as a third-rounder. Meanwhile, Lance would be taking a risk given he comes from the non-FBS ranks, and scouts we spoke to still had questions. Consider these three squarely on the first-round bubble if they were to skip the season.
Is this an exhaustive list? Of course not. It's also worth noting - as we often do in this space - that the last three No. 1 picks were nowhere near being rated in the first round entering their final college seasons. If there's no fall season, we expect hundreds of players to decline spring ball to pursue draft prep and all the normal trappings of the run-up to April. It's our opinion, however, that only 20 players, tops, really should. When it comes to proving yourself to NFL scouts, there's no substitute for what happens between the lines.
Hopefully it's all moot. We're crossing our fingers and saying our prayers. In the meantime, here's a look at what else we saw, heard, read and said in the world of college and pro football this week.
The grades are in: We were curious about how people felt about the first-ever  ITL Agent Week, so we put together a quick survey. The overwhelming majority (95%, all but one respondent) gave the week an 'A.'  More than half (55%) said they participated because they "needed good answers to hard questions." Almost 60 percent said it was "probably worth more than I paid." About three-quarters (73%) said getting a transcription of the notes afterward was a "tremendous added value." About two-thirds (63%) said the length of the week was "just about right," and about the same number said the same about the length of each night (about an hour, plus questions and answers for another 15-20 minutes). An overwhelming majority (86%) said the week was "every bit as informative as I'd hoped," and if there was one more speaker, the participants said they'd prefer "an experienced cap guy" by a nose over "an experienced scout on the pro side" (32%-27%). About 70 percent said they'd be open to another week of speakers, but respondents were evenly divided between "yes, with similar format, price and length" and "yes, with similar format and price, but different topics and speakers." And for the big question - which speaker did they like the best? - former Titans Director of College Scouting  Blake Beddingfield took top prize, but it was no landslide as "hard to pick one" was mere percentage points behind him. We're getting ready for an uncertain college football season and, very likely, a signing cycle like none we've ever seen before, so if you're wishing you'd taken advantage of Agent Week, stay tuned. We're working on Agent Week 2 later this summer, so stay tuned. Don't miss out!
ITL College Week: Having received good grades for ITL Agent Week, we're ready to help a different strata of the business: members of the college recruiting and personnel community. It's something we discussed this week in  a special edition of the College Football Recruiting and Personnel Newsletter. We'll start on Monday, as we'll welcome former Tampa Bay GM  Mark Dominik. He'll discuss how to build a scouting staff, what he looks for in scouting hires, and how to continue growing and preparing for the job of NFL scout. Tuesday, former Titans Director of College Scouting  Blake Beddingfield will reprise his role as speaker for a different audience. He'll discuss the finer points of evaluation on a position-by-position basis. What does he look for in a QB, an edge rusher, or a left tackle? He'll break down modern evaluation, sparing no details. We'll wrap the week Wednesday when former Rams GM  Billy Devaney takes over. The former Rams GM will talk about how to build a team, how to evaluate your own team, what he looks for in interviews of potential scouting hires, and much more. The format will be the same as our usual Zoom sessions. We'll start at 8 p.m. ET with a presentation of about an hour, followed by Q&A for a half-hour or so. Our goal is to help every aspiring scout learn about how to shorten the process of earning an interview and doing and saying the right things as they grow into a different kind of NFL prospect.  Cost is $75 for the week, and we're expecting 20-30 participants who'll be soaking up all the advice and insights they can. If you aim to be a scout someday, we hope you can join us.  Let us help you get better.
Monsters of the MEAC: This week, we learned that there won't be football in several conferences this fall.  One of them is one of the better leagues in FCS football, the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC). That means it's open season on the best players in the league, and fortunately, we're ready to help. Next week, we'll have three reports from the ITL Scouting Department on the best players in the 2021 draft and beyond out of the conference. What's more, there's more than just UDFA talent available, so you'll want to catch all three of our reports, which start Monday and continue until Wednesday. 
Rep Rumblings: This week, we had four reports. We kicked everything off  on Monday with a look at what top training facilities are doing to prepare for a fall without football, and what that might mean for the pre-draft landscape. We also looked at an agent chance for a former No. 1 overall pick and had an initial look at  front office changes in Washington and what they mean.  On Tuesday, we looked at several Lone State State agent days and how Zoom has brought changes, good and bad. We also had signing buzz.  Wednesday, we had a discouraging look at an agents-only Zoom call this week, plus we looked at agent whispers surrounding two hot quarterbacks in the 2021 draft class and other notes. Finally,  on Thursday, with the news that FCS football may be in jeopardy this year, we looked at several players that might worth a closer look. We also had the latest word on when and where we might see the 2020 NFLPA exam and more. It was another busy week, with more ahead. Check out all our reports from 2020  here.
Catching up with . . . Bruce Plummer: You don't always see an evaluator who finds players for two professional leagues plus a major NFL developmental operation, but Bruce Plummer has work with the NFL (a decade with the Falcons), CFL (four years with two franchises) and NFL Regional Combines on his resume. More importantly, however, Bruce canvassed the Southeast this spring for
Former Falcons scout Bruce Plummer (right) put in plenty of work taking draft prospects through pro days this spring.
the ITL Scouting Department, helping time and measure draft prospects who would not otherwise have had a chance at a pro day. This week, we caught up with Bruce. 
Where are you living now?:  "I currently live in Slidell, La., and I am a middle school physical education teacher at my former high school in Bogalusa. I also coach football and baseball.
Do you miss the job?:  "Yes. Besides the travel, I miss interacting with different coaches, trainers and other personnel on school visits. I really enjoyed small-school football games because the atmosphere, fans and food were great."
Do you keep in touch with any of your former colleagues? : "Former scout Jerry Hardaway and I speak about once a week. He also attends the free football camp I host annually."
What do you do to follow the game these days?:  "My daughter is a freshman manager at Mississippi State this year, so I will attend lots of Mississippi State games. Since I am a Mississippi State alum, I (go) to maybe 1-2 games a year."
Are there any players you love to watch?  "Any time (former Falcons cornerback) Brent Grimes was on the TV I was tuned in."
Next week: Yes, we'll be busy presenting our first-ever  ITL College Week and bringing three NFL insiders to Zoom to interface with the recruiting and personnel community, but there's a lot more to do. This week, we made plenty of progress on our next book,  Scout Speak, and we've only a few edits to go. We're hoping we're still on track for an end-of-July release. Fingers crossed. On the scouting and personnel front, we'll have five more editions from the ITL Scouting Department in our  2021+ Team Scouting Reports series this week -  Notre Dame, Ohio, Ohio State, Oklahoma and  Oklahoma State. We'll also have three reports on the top players in the MEAC this week so you're completely up to date on who needs to be on your radar. Incidentally, our department is ready to go if you need a report on a player from any level of college football; just let us know. We're also updating our practice tests for the NFLPA exam, and with rumors that we might soon see a date and location on the schedule, interest is growing. We're trying to get them done for you. In the meantime, if you don't have the study guide yet,  it's updated and ready to go. It's also that time for our  Agents by Total Clients list and our  Agent Changes, and we'll try to have both of them next week. Between all those reports, we'll try to fit in our normal allotment of  Rep Rumblings, or at least, as many as we can. We'll also have another post on our weekly blog,  Succeed in Football, and we'll be keeping up with all the front office changes in our  Scouting Changes Grid. Remember: we're taking another week off from the  ITL Rising Contract Advisors Newsletter, but we'll be back with it next week. OK, that covers it. Get some rest and get ready for the coming rush. It's going to be a fascinating next few weeks with some big decisions being made. Make sure you're keeping up with everything  along with us.

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
Inside the League

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