NEPD Contributor: Evan Brennan
As NFL hopefuls finish their respective bowl games and seasons, they turn their attention to the prospects playing at the next level. Many find themselves being courted by various agents who wish to garner them as clients.
One of the key talking points of these negotiations that can have a dramatic effect on players’ careers, is where the player will train for the NFL Combine and his school’s pro day.
Players are looking to get the best training that they can get, and like agents, an opportunity to raise their draft stock. A smart player will want to negotiate with an agent to be sent to a facility where he will be a priority and where he can get adequate personal attention. A player will often look at the past trainees of the facility to see the facility’s previous history with players of the same position and perceived draft stock. Players will look at and be sold the amount improvement that a trainer has helped previous clients achieve in various NFL Combine drills.
For many players, a facility will have some significant bearing on choosing their choice of an agent, as many agents maintain close relationships with only a select few facilities, and they do a lot to push their clients to them. Often, players will want train in certain locations and areas. Facilities in non-tourist destinations can have some difficulty in attracting players even with agent support.
The Arizona, Los Angeles, and Florida areas have long been hotbeds for elite training facilities for a variety of different reasons, but ideal weather in the winter months of all of them is a common denominator. Well-known places such as API in Phoenix, Los Angeles, Texas, and Florida; Fischer Sports in Phoenix; and CES in Atlanta are some that have had great success with players, and their trainees form a strong contingent of the first three rounds of the NFL Draft ever year.
Other smaller outfits are also successful as well, finding their appropriate niche and market for players and their representatives.
Agents are looking to get up to 3% of any remuneration from NFL teams that their clients obtain. So insuring that they get drafted, how high they get drafted, and/or that get they picked up in free agency, is a paramount concern to an agent. In order to help them look as good possible at pro days, all-star games, and the NFL Combine in front of NFL scouts, they invest (in some cases, up to $30,000) in training, nutrition, positional work, and interview coaching per player to aid them.
These arrangements can greatly vary from agent-to-agent, and player-to-player, and depend on where both parties feel that a player is likely to go in the draft, what they to improve the player’s stock, and what they feel is necessary to entice them to sign. The most difficult part is investing properly and intelligently, while insuring that the agent’s client is going to see improvement in his stock.
Agents look for trainers that have experience in consistently helping players achieve high numbers in the combine and pro day drills. The lowering of a player’s 40-yard dash time by even half of a second is significant, and such skill and expertise is valued, marketed, and sold to agents and players. Agents also look for facilities that are in locations that are going entice a player to attend and can be a tool that will ultimately entice a player to sign with said agent as well.
Agents will hire former scouting personnel and other former NFL team executives to aid in preparing for the Wonderlic, team interviews, and other verbal assessments, which can have a dramatic impact on the stock of their client. Some of the top end training facilities have connections to these as well, and will include them in their package of services. Most of these are reserved for clients that are schedule to go in the mid-rounds or higher.
Positional coaching is another new wave that is coming in vogue for agents and facilities to offer their clients. Since pro days will also include position-specific drills in addition to combine style drills, the ability to do well in these drills is also important, hence the need to have positional coaching.
It is to be remembered that agents will always push innovative, varied, and convincing arguments as to why the facility that they want to send an athlete is the best and what great perks and aid it provides. All of this is done in the name of recruiting a player to be a client. Some facilities even reach out to players before agents do to garner their interest before an agent even arrives, thereby not relying on the agent to push the players towards them, but going directly to the source.
In closing, like choosing one’s correct representative, choosing a training facility as a player it is a highly individualized question that involves a variety of variables such as class size, cost, methods, location, history, positional work, etc. Regardless, the ultimate goal for any player, facility, and agent for the player, is to make it to the next level at the highest position obtainable, and achieving great numbers at the NFL Combine or pro day certainly aid in that quest.