SBJ/December 17-23, 2012/Labor and Agents

Tough to predict which players will go first in next NFL draft

Liz Mullen
In the next few weeks, NFL player agents will be signing college football players for the 2013 NFL draft, but unlike past years, it may take a while to figure out which agency has the best draft class.

That’s because the 2013 draft may be one of the most difficult in years to prognosticate as to which players may be top-10 picks, let alone the No. 1 overall pick, according to agents and NFL talent experts.

“I don’t think there is a clear-cut No. 1,” said Gil Brandt, former head of player personnel for the Dallas Cowboys and current NFL.com writer who invites the top draft prospects to New York every April to hear their names called by the commissioner. “But I think there are 15 different guys who are in the draft or could be in the draft who could be the first player picked.”
 
ESPN NFL draft analyst Todd McShay said there are probably 18 players whom he could rank as mid-first-rounders this year, but none who he feels comfortable saying is “an absolute lock” as a top-10 pick.

“It’s wide open,” McShay said. “The crazy part is, at some important positions, there are a lot of good players.”
But those good players, according to agents and others, are not at the positions on which NFL clubs typically spend high first-round picks. There are a lot of good defensive tackles and offensive guards in the 2013 class, McShay and other talent experts said, but not so many cornerbacks or quarterbacks. “The lack of quarterbacks at the top makes it really up in the air,” McShay said.

West Virginia’s Geno Smith may be the first quarterback taken in next year’s NFL draft.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
McShay last week said his 2013 mock draft ranked Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei as the No. 1 overall pick, and he had West Virginia’s Geno Smith as the first quarterback to be picked, at No. 10. McShay said he doesn’t have any of the 2013 quarterback prospects rated as high talentwise as this year’s No. 8 overall pick, Ryan Tannehill, who shot up draft boards in the months leading up to the draft.

Agents said that at this time last year it was pretty easy to pick out the top picks in the next draft. Quarterback Andrew Luck was seen as the sure-fire No. 1 pick. Four or five other players, including quarterback Robert Griffin III, running back Trent Richardson, cornerback Morris Claiborne, wide receiver Justin Blackmon and offensive tackle Matt Kalil, were seen as top-10 picks.

Not this year.

“This is probably one of the toughest drafts to figure out in the last 10 years,” said Octagon NFL player agent Doug Hendrickson, who has represented a number of first-round picks in the last decade. “It means you have to keep digging for more information on who are the top guys.”

NFL player agent Chad Speck, who has represented two first-round picks in the last three years, acknowledged he is spending more time at talent evaluation this year. “I think you have to do your due diligence and you have to work a network you have with NFL teams to see where guys are going in the draft,” he said.

> SHEEHY REBRANDS: Veteran NHL player agent Neil Sheehy has rebranded his Sheehy Hockey as ICE Hockey Agency. ICE stands for “influential,” “committed” and “experienced,” Sheehy said.

Additionally, ICE has formed a partnership with New York-based talent marketing firm Maxx Sports & Entertainment for marketing assistance for its clients, who include Minnesota Wild defenseman Ryan Suter, Buffalo Sabres wing Drew Stafford and Philadelphia Flyers wing Matt Read.
 
Sheehy said that since his agency’s specialty is contract negotiations it made sense to partner with a New York agency that specializes in marketing representation. Maxx, which represents sports personalities for marketing and broadcasting, will market the players and work on any broadcasting opportunities for them when their on-ice careers are over, Sheehy said.

> YEE & DUBIN SIGN QB: Los Angeles-based sports management and consulting firm Yee & Dubin Sports, which counts New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady among its clients, has signed Southern Utah quarterback Brad Sorensen for representation in next year’s NFL draft. Agents Don Yee and Carter Chow will represent Sorensen, who is a finalist for the Walter Payton Award, given to the outstanding offensive player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision.

Liz Mullen can be reached at lmullen@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter @SBJLizMullen.

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