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Volume 21 No. 2

Labor and Agents

CAA Sports this year represented the most, or tied for the most, first-round picks in four major North American league drafts: the NFL, NHL, NBA and MLB. It is thought to be the first time a single agency has accomplished this. 

CAA Sports represented five in the first rounds of the NFL and NHL drafts and six in the NBA draft, and is advising six selected in the first round of the MLB draft (see chart). The agency had the most first-rounders in the NFL, NBA and MLB this year and tied with Newport Sports, the hockey representation firm owned by agent Don Meehan, for the most in the NHL. 

“We didn’t try to set out to accomplish this achievement in particular,” said CAA Sports co-head Michael Levine. “We are just trying to do the best we can in each individual circumstance, and we are thrilled that the collective work demonstrates the collective success of the group that we put together at CAA Sports.”

In the agent world, arguments exist about which agency had the “best draft” in every sport, and weight is given not just to the quantity of picks but to the quality. Top-10 and top-five picks are much prized, and when analyzing those numbers, other agencies stand out as well.

In hockey, Newport Sports arguably had the best draft, representing Sam Reinhart, the No. 2 overall pick, as well as picks Nos. 7, 10, 17 and 21.

In baseball, Boras Corp. and Excel Sports Management each are advising five first-round picks. Excel MLB agents are advising the No. 1 overall pick, as well as the Nos. 2 and 4 picks. In the NBA, Wasserman Media Group represented five first-round picks, including the No. 2, 3 and 5 overall picks. 

Wasserman in 2012 represented the No. 1 overall pick in four league drafts: the NFL, NBA, MLB and MLS. That accomplishment was thought to be a first for any agency. 

This year, CAA Sports’ highest draft pick was the No. 8 overall pick of the NFL draft, Browns rookie cornerback Justin Gilbert

“The criticism will be they [CAA Sports] didn’t get the top five in any of those [four major league drafts],” said Bob Kain, former co-CEO of IMG and now senior adviser to CAA Sports. “It’s still first-rounders. And it is a first.” 

“There have been many years we had terrific years in a particular sport but may not have had, on paper, the draft that we had had in prior years,” Levine said. “The recruiting cycles ebb and flow and in this particular year, it’s pretty amazing now that all four drafts are over, we can look back and say, ‘Man, we had all four of these groups, all 40 or 50 agents in the respective sports, humming on all cylinders together and outpacing their competitors in each instance.’ And that’s pretty remarkable.” 

> ROC NATION EXECS TO SIT FOR NFLPA TEST: Roc Nation Sports president Juan Perez and vice president Rich Kleiman will take the NFL Players Association test, which is required before agents are certified to represent NFL players in contract talks, sources said. 

Perez and Kleiman, as well as Roc Nation Chairman Jay Z, are already certified to represent NBA and MLB players in playing contract work. Jay Z, who has been touring to promote his “Magna Carta Holy Grail” album, is not expected to attend the NFLPA seminar and test, which will be July 24-25 in Washington, D.C. The NFLPA, unlike the National Basketball Players Association and the MLB Players Association, requires prospective playing contract agents to apply months in advance, attend a two-day seminar and take an exam on the NFL collective-bargaining agreement before they are certified to represent players in contract talks. 

A Roc Nation spokesman declined comment. 

> MVP SIGNS KOPECH: MVP Sports Group signed Michael Kopech, a right-handed pitcher from Mount Pleasant High School in Texas, after he was drafted No. 33 in the MLB draft by the Boston Red Sox and agreed to terms with the club. Danny Lozano, MVP Sports Group president and founder, will represent him.  

Liz Mullen can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @SBJLizMullen

SportsBusiness Journal research director David Broughton contributed to this report.

Octagon has hired three former NFL players — All-Pro center Jeremy Newberry, defensive tackle John Thornton and cornerback and club scout Charles Fisher — as it reignites its NFL player representation division. 


Newberry and Thornton were certified to represent NFL players for contract work last year by the NFL Players Association, and Fisher is expected to apply for certification. They will work with veteran Octagon agent Ken Landphere and agent Mike Swenson, who was hired earlier this year. 

“We are adding these three former players who have developed very significant business experience after their player days and are in an ideal situation to assist top football players in their development on and off the field,” Octagon President Phil de Picciotto said. 

Fisher and Thornton went to the same college, West Virginia, and were both drafted in the second round in 1999. Thornton last played for the Bengals in 2008. Fisher’s playing career was cut short in 2001, but he later worked as a scout for the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks. 

John Thornton (left) and Jeremy Newberry were certified last year to represent players.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES (2)

In 2009, Thornton and Fisher founded a company, JockBiz Sports, which served as a management company, advising NFL players on issues including which NFL agent to sign with for representation. Octagon is hiring Thornton and Fisher, not acquiring their business. 

Notably, Fisher and Thornton were involved in advising New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith on his second agent search last year, which ultimately resulted in him picking Kim Miale of Roc Nation Sports. Thornton said his experience in managing players will help him in his new career as an agent for Octagon.


“I have sat in on everybody’s presentation,” he said of agents trying to sign NFL players. “I know how they pitch and what they pitch.” 

Newberry was an Octagon client during his playing career, in which he was a two time All-Pro selection.  

Octagon had a large football practice, but agents Doug Hendrickson and C.J. LaBoy left in March to join Relativity Sports’ NFL practice, and 40 to 50 players are said to have joined them at Relativity. Octagon is involved in litigation with Hendrickson and LaBoy regarding a dispute involving fees for former Octagon clients, including Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch. 

Veteran agent Andy Ross also left Octagon in May to start his own NFL practice. There is no litigation between Ross and Octagon. 

It is not clear exactly how many NFL clients Octagon has now, but the company has a 30-year history in representing NFL players and personalities. Clients include Super Bowl-winning coaches Brian Billick and Bill Cowher, hall of famer Emmitt Smith, current Bengals and Falcons coaches Marvin Lewis and Mike Smith, respectively, Stanford University coach David Shaw and former coach and current ESPN talent Herm Edwards. 

Octagon’s new hires are excited about expanding the business. 

Swenson, a 27-year-old agent who was certified by the NFLPA in 2012 and joined Octagon in March, called the hiring three former NFL players revolutionary. “With these guys, [Newberry] being an ex-Pro-Bowler, 11-year vet, one of them being an ex-scout, I think we are all going to bounce great ideas off of each other, learn a lot from each other and we all bring something different to the table,” Swenson said.