July 11, 2018

This email is directed at any NFLPA-certified contract advisor interested in how the NFL draft works as well as the months leading up to the draft. Note: We are not endorsed, sponsored, or otherwise affiliated with the NFLPA.
2014 Case Study: John Thornton
Neil's brief primer: John's name first surfaced for me when I got into an on-air verbal altercation with a radio broadcaster in West Virginia in 1999 who insisted that John would be drafted highly that spring. I disagreed. The joke was on me; he was drafted 2/52 in the '99 draft by the Titans and went on to a 10-year NFL career. Later, along with partner and fellow ex-Mountaineer and ex-NFL DB Charles Fisher, he worked with several NFL draft hopefuls vetting agents, marketing deals, etc. He decided the natural progression would be to get NFLPA-certified. Charles and John are now co-workers at Roc Nation Sports.
Active NFL clients (2014): Bengals DE Michael Johnson (co-represented with Priority Sports) along with Seahawks OT Garrett Scott, who was drafted 6/199 this spring. Scott was waived with the Non-Football Illness (NFI) designation due to a heart condition that slipped through pre-draft physicals, but he's still with the team on an unofficial basis as he receives treatment, and hopes to re-sign with the team. Editor's note: John now has five active NFL clients, including '18 first-rounder Jaire Alexander of the Packers.
Why did he become an agent?: "I helped (Cardinals DE) Frostee Rucker during his pre-draft process (in '06), and while I was helping him, the Lions wanted me to come play because (then-Detroit head coach) Jim Schwartz had been my defensive coordinator at Tennessee, so I agreed to it, but two days later, I backed out. I just said, I have something I want to do. . . I had this itch to be a manager and be a professional and help guys off the field. As far as wanting to be an agent, that was the next step for me as player, mentor, manager, and then being an agent."
Day job: Full-time NFL contract advisor.
His take on the NFLPA exam: "It was a little, I won't say easy, but I had general knowledge of a lot of things, but the way it was structured, you had to know what they were talking about or it would lead you to the wrong answer. . . I think they focused more on benefits post-career and injury protections more than contract negotiation."
Hardest part of being an agent: "I think the rookie side of the business has gone out of whack on how they train and agents are told where (players are) going to go. I would say that's the craziest part of this thing. . . On the rookie side, so much is done for egos. You know a lot of that is BS, but everybody's doing it."
He felt like he'd had a successful first year as a contract advisor when: ". . . Michael Johnson was the highest-paid defensive end in free agency, and on top of that, it happened after an $11 million franchise tag. . . And then Garrett had no combine and no all-star game, but I knew he was a good player, and he was drafted. Those two guys showed me you can do it in different ways, and I was proud because I felt like I'd helped their careers a little bit."
Lesson he learned that he wished he'd known last summer: "You gotta really keep your circle tight on who you do business with. Most people say they can do things and they can't, and they're usually marketing people or financial people . . . Everybody says they have a deal for you, but they don't always have it on paper. All they really want to do is to have a player's name so they can go shop it around."

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Sincerely, Neil Stratton
Inside the League

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