SBJ/May 19-25, 2014/Labor and Agents

Veteran agents, firms retain control of NFL draft’s first round

Veteran NFL agents and representation firms came away with the majority of first-round NFL draft picks once again this year, despite increased competition from new agents and talk that top prospects may not even need an agent under the new NFL rookie system.

Seven agencies had multiple first-round picks (see chart), accounting for 19 of the top 32 players picked. All of those agencies have previously represented first-round NFL draft picks.
For the eighth year in a row, CAA Sports led all agencies in first-rounders, landing five.

“We thought we were going to have five,” said Jimmy Sexton, who heads CAA Sports’ football division with Ben Dogra and Tom Condon.

CAA Sports represented Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert (Browns) at No. 8, Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan (Titans) at No. 11, Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier (Steelers) at No. 15, Notre Dame offensive guard Zack Martin (Cowboys) at No. 16 and Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley (Ravens) at No. 17.

CAA Sports, along with Athletes First, Lagardère Unlimited (formerly Blue Entertainment Sports Television) and Five Star Athlete Management (formerly France AllPro Athlete Management), have represented 66, or more than 40 percent, of the 160 players selected in the first round of the NFL draft over the past five years (see related chart).

There has been media and industry
speculation, due to new and small agencies signing high-profile prospects, as well as the new NFL rookie pay system, that multiple agents could sign more players in the first round this year. Many agents said privately that smaller firms were offering marketing guarantees and cutting fees to get clients, although no one would offer evidence of such action.

Additionally, there are fewer terms for agents to negotiate for rookies under the 2011 CBA. Some have argued there may not be a need for agents and last year, safety Matt Elam, who was taken No. 32 by the Ravens, negotiated his own contract. But this year, all 32 picks were represented.

“The business always changes, year to year,” said Sexton, who has been certified to represent NFL players since 1987. “If you look at this year’s first round, there were some differences, but on the whole, most players were still looking at experience in the agent space as the most important factor. I would say experience and track record.”

Of the 14 agencies with one pick each (one player was co-represented by two agencies), eight of them — LMM Sports, Rep 1, Priority Sports & Entertainment, Allegiant Athletic Agency, Select Sports Group, Foster Easley, Sportstars and MS World — have previously represented at least one first-round pick. The NOVO agency, which was founded in 2010, has not previously represented a first-round pick, but its founder, veteran NFL agent Jeff Sperbeck, has represented multiple top picks at previous agencies.

Among NFL agents, representing a first-round draft pick is both a rite of passage and a calling card for future business.

 

AT LEFT: Priority Sports & Entertainment agent Deryk Gilmore (right) with D.J. Fluker last year. AT RIGHT: CS Sports Management’s Darren Jones (left) and Gilmore co-represent Mike Evans.
PhotoS by: COURTESY OF DERYK GILMORE (2)

> PRIORITY & CS SPORTS CO-REPPING EVANS: Priority Sports & Entertainment agent Deryk Gilmore and CS Sports Management agent Darren Jones are co-representing wide receiver Mike Evans, who was picked No. 7 overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Priority has represented multiple first-round picks over the years, and Gilmore, who was certified by the NFLPA in 2006, has represented multiple first-rounders, including Chargers offensive tackle D.J. Fluker, picked 11th overall last year. But it is the first first-round selection for Jones, who has been certified since 2002 and represents many NFL players, including Detroit Lions defensive tackle Andre Fluellen and Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback William Gay.

Evans has told the media that he will be represented for marketing by Cash Money Records founders and brothers Ronald “Slim” Williams and Bryan “Birdman” Williams. Jones is a longtime friend of the Williamses. Jones and Gilmore will be working with the Williams brothers on Evans’ marketing, but they will maintain their NFL player practices at their established firms.

> BAKARI GETS A FIRST: Adisa Bakari, who heads up the sports practice at national law firm Kelley Drye, represents 40 players in the NFL, but defensive end Dee Ford, who was taken No. 23 by the Kansas City Chiefs, was his first first-round pick. In the past, rival agents have tried to use that against him in recruiting, Bakari said. “They can’t say that anymore,” he said.

> VET AGENT BAUER REPS FIRST TOP-10 PICK: Michael Bauer, owner of Sports Advisors, has represented more than 100 players since he was first certified by the NFL Players Association in 1994, and will represent UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr, who was taken No. 9 overall by the Minnesota Vikings.

“This is my first first-rounder,” Bauer said of Barr. “But I have been around the block and I have been around the industry and understand it as well as the so-called top-notch agents.”

> MORGAN REPS BECKHAM: Morgan Advisory Group has been in business since 2004 and represents LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham, who was taken No. 12 overall by the Giants.

“I don’t know if we are part of the new wave,” said agency President Ryan Morgan, who was certified in 2001 and co-reps Beckham with agent Zeke Sandhu. But he said the signing can help the agency in the future. “Absolutely, having a top-12 player shows what we are capable of and what we bring to the table,” he said.

> NEW AGENCY GETS FIRST-ROUNDER: Attorney Tom Santanello founded Elevate Football in Boca Raton, Fla., in 2013 and represents Florida defensive tackle Dominique Easley, who was taken with the 29th pick by the New England Patriots.

Easley suffered an ACL injury last fall and underwent surgery by Dr. James Andrews on Oct. 25 last year. He missed the combine and his pro day because of the injury, but Santanello engineered a private workout, which was attended by 17 NFL clubs, including the Patriots.

“I put a game plan together on what it would take for him to get into the first round,” Santanello said. “There wasn’t any room for error. We had to show that, No. 1, he was healthy, and No. 2, he was as explosive as he was before the injury.”
It worked. If the Patriots did not take Easley, the Seahawks were ready to do so later in the round, according to reports.

> UTA SIGNS MALIGNAGGI: United Talent Agency has signed former world boxing champion and current Showtime boxing analyst Paulie Malignaggi in all areas, including broadcast, licensing and endorsements. Previously without representation, he will be represented by agent Ryan Hayden.

Research director David Broughton contributed to this report. Liz Mullen can be reached at lmullen@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter @SBJLizMullen.


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