This week, three major football-playing FBS conferences announced that they won't play this fall. Meanwhile, while other conferences will move forward, they'll greatly restrict access to NFL teams while also reducing their schedules to eliminate non-conference play.
What's more, no one knows if the NFL Combine will go on as scheduled and the all-star cycle could be very different from how it was in January. Bottom line, scouts will have to work in unique ways that lend themselves to less one-on-one time and more group settings. That tends to reduce transparency and hamper attempts to get the truth about players.
This week, we decided to take a look at the teams that might be best-equipped to deal with the next 4-5 months as routinely as possible. We tracked three categories: total years in scouting for every member of the college scouting department (not including the GM); total number of years in scouting for the 10 most-experienced members of the college staff, again, not including the GM; and total years in scouting for area/college scouts, i.e., the people who are normally gathering the kind of background and character information you don't get on pro day. We felt these three categories would give the best baseline measure of a scouting department's connections, and by extension, its ability to get the answers scouts need to get in the fall.
We've presented our totals in the graphic to the right. Which teams came out on top?
Total college experience: The Lions have a big department of tenured scouts, so it's no surprised they led the way with 268 total years of scouting, by our count. The runner-up is Pittsburgh, which usually drafts well due to its cohesive staff measuring 237 years in all.
Top ten most experienced scouts: Once again, the Lions (240) and Steelers (230) were the top two teams. We counted three teams (Panthers, Bengals and Patriots) who didn't have enough scouts to qualify.
Total area/college scout experience: Which teams had the most experienced road warriors? This is where the shakeup occurs. Due in part to their number of scouts as well as their evaluators' experience, the Vikings were runaway winners with 128 years in the biz. Next up was Buffalo, which claims 103 years of experience for its area scouts. They were the only two teams whose scouts have more than 100 aggregated seasons in the NFL.
Check out the grid for yourself to find out who fits where in the spectrum. As always, sorting and counting isn't easy given that no two scouting departments do things exactly the same. Still, we wanted to take a shot at figuring out who's made the biggest investment in senior scouts, and we hope we've hit our target.
Here's a look at what else we saw, heard, read and said in the business of college and pro football this week.
Catching up with . . . John Guy: John Guy spent 26 years coaching college football before ever getting into scouting. However, he made his mark quickly during 12 years with the Browns and Bills, rising as high as V.P. of Pro Personnel for the Bills until 2010. Since then, he's stayed around the game, dispensing his wisdom in pre-draft training. We caught up with him this week.
- Where are you living and what are you doing now?: "I'm kind of like a consultant with Vanguard Sports Group, and I do not just help Vanguard, but people hire me, and I work with rookie players. I do the interview process, whatever they want. If they want me to work with the LBs, WRs, DBs in drills, I do that, but pretty much I work with the education of rookies and trying to help them sustain themselves."
- Do you miss the job? What do you miss most?: "I guess the grind of it. I miss the grind. I was pretty much a 5:30-6 in the morning guy, leave at 9 at night, then get my workout in, too. Just the grind of it. When you get into the management side of it, it's mostly sit down in the office with a video machine of some sort in the dark, so you miss that. That's the grind part of it, the actual work of it. The camaraderie -- if I went to the combine, I went to do what I gotta do. I was not a guy that was gonna drink all kinds of drinks and talk. That's not me. But I really like to watch talent."
- Do you keep in touch with any of your former colleagues? "Yeah, quite a few, on all levels. Yesterday, I talked to Rip Scherer, who works with the Chargers. I talk to Ray Sherman, a lot of guys that I worked with. The guys that worked with me are at different teams now. I check on them to see how they're doing, what's changing in the league."
- Do you go to any live games (HS/college/pro)?: "I do some of all of them. Usually I'll go to a couple of Bucs games, go to training camp. I know the head coach there and a bunch of guys on staff. I'll go and watch the Dolphins this year if it opens up. I went to their training camp against the Bucs. Usually, that's one of the things I do because I do know some guys in personnel business and I may visit with a guy."
- Are there any players you love to watch and/or feel close to due to your work in the game?: "I like to watch Von Miller. I like to watch all the pass rushers. I learned to work with some guys that were really knowledgeable and I worked with some coaches, and I got a good feel for it. I like watching Von Miller, Cameron Jordan, who's a hell of a guy, has fun playing; Aaron Donald; Yannick Ngakoue, a lot of the top pass rushers, Khalil Mack. I like being around those guys and watching them."
The new agent dilemma (and how to solve it): Today, an email came in that broke down the universal issue for rookie contract advisors. "The type of information I need is how to do recruiting, what to look for in a prospect when you find one, and signing them to a contract with my agency," wrote a member of the 2020 class of agent hopefuls. It's a question we get often, and our response is this: it all starts with identifying the right prospect, then deciding how much it will cost (if anything) to train, house and feed him. We can't help with the second part, but we can with the first. Tuesday night, former Titans Director of College Scouting Blake Beddingfield will join several contract advisors, new and old, to expand on how to succeed with the '21 draft class. Blake will start by offering his list of 50 off-the-grid prospects to consider this fall, grouping them by prospect, and giving a brief overview of his picks. Each member of the audience will also get a copy of his list to follow along during his presentation. Next, he'll give his tips on how to identify sleepers. Based on position scarcity, school, injury history and other easily searchable factors, what's the best way to determine who will make it and who won't? Finally, he'll take questions from the audience, commenting on specific players, giving his thoughts on how he expects NFL front offices to handle scouting this fall, and where the blind spots may be the 2021 draft class. Cost is $35, and for this session, we're eating the tax. We hope this one-night session gives dozens of agents some clarity in a football landscape that has provided nothing but confusion and questions so far. Are you in? Click here to register. Hope to see you Tuesday.
Rep Rumblings: We were back strong with four reports this week, and some were pretty meaty. On Monday, we had the latest on where one major "free" agent may be headed, agency-wise. We also looked at the fall training plan for two major combine prep services, Nashville-based BOOST Performance and Dallas-based Michael Johnson Performance, and we had plenty of signing buzz. Tuesday, we looked at the various former scouts and executives who make up the NFL's new HBCU Scouting Committee. We also had agent movement and hiring, signing buzz, and words of advice for those hoping there will be a spring college football season. Wednesday, we looked at the recent ESPN story on The Spring League and dug deeper, passing along lots of relevant information for scouts, agents and players. If you work in the game, The Spring League offers some exciting opportunities for members of the '20 draft class as well as opt-outs in the '21 class. We also had plenty of signing buzz. Finally, on Thursday, we focused on even more news and notes on players who have signed or may sign with agents soon. It was a busy week with plenty of good stuff for people in the game. Review all our reports this week, and this year, here.
Don't sleep on the NFLPA: Virus or not, hundreds of people are hoping to get certified as members of the '20 agent class. The problem is that the NFLPA hasn't set a new date for the agent exam, given the conditions in Washington, D.C., as well as the players association's work to get training camps underway safely. We still expect the PA to set a date (for what's expected to be an online exam), but we're not so confident applicants will have weeks, much less months, to get ready for the exam. If you're one of those people waiting for a date before starting the study process, we recommend you reconsider. We've had a lot of success helping people realize their NFL agent dreams, as we recounted in today's edition of our weekly blog.
Book update: Today we uploaded the cover (as chosen by our voters) and our formatted manuscript to Amazon. It was a little bumpy, but we got through it. That means, soon, we'll be holding a galley copy of Scout Speak: Thinking and Talking About Being an NFL Evaluator. We're hopeful that takes about a week. Then, presuming we're all clear, we'll give the go-ahead to Amazon, and we'll have a link in this space (kinda like this one for our last work) where you can order the second book written by ITL's Neil Stratton. Price will be the same, $12.95. We're excited, and we hope you are, too. It's on its way. Hang in there, and thanks to all of those who've asked about the book's progress.
Next week: Well, in the last week, the Big Ten, the Pac-12 and the Mid-American Conference all pulled the plug on fall play. Let's hope this week isn't like the last one. We'll do our part to make it as smooth as we possibly can, at least in our corner of the world. Next week, we'll be back with all of our regular features. They include, of course, our Rep Rumblings, our weekly blog, our Team Scouting Reports (including USC and SMU, which we failed to get to this week, plus Southern Miss, Stanford, Syracuse, TCU and Temple) and the ITL Rising Contract Advisors Newsletter. This week in our newsletter, we'll focus on some of the bigger names in the agent business who've used our materials to get ready for the agent exam. We also hoped to launch the 2021 ITL Signings Grid this week, but we didn't get to it. If we see a flood of players opting out this week (which we expected last week), we'll get it posted; in the meantime, we're holding our fire. Tuesday night, we'll host former Titans executive Blake Beddingfield on a one-night Zoom sessionintended to help agents make sense of the next four months and figure which players should draw most of their attention. We'll also offer our 'static' features, such as our agent exam study materials, a book, and dozens of grids, lists, features, studies and more gathered over 18 years, and it's all saved at the mothership. If you're ready to be part of our team, we're happy to have you, and there are no tryouts (well, there's this, but you know. . . .). What's more, there are no questions about whether or not we'll be in action this fall. Join us!