Shawn Zobel is a young man who saw an opportunity and took advantage of it.  There are 117 days left until the 2009 NFL Draft, and Zobel is already hard at work compiling information on all of the college seniors and eligible juniors that will be declaring early.  He also has a nice interview up with Rulon Davis.  Zobel took a break from watching the bowl games to have a short discussion with me about the success of his site thus far and what the future beholds.

Darren Heitner: So, tell me again, how old are you?

Shawn Zobel: 19-years-old

Darren: And what’s your site?

Shawn: www.draftheadquarters.com

Darren: There are tons of draft websites out there and plenty of people who call themselves expert analysts.  What makes your site different from all the others out there and how did you get started?

Shawn: I go to the NFL draft every year.  I started in going in 2004.  I also go to events like the Senior Bowl every year.  In 2006, I decided to start predicting who would get drafted as hobby.  Last year, I started the website and did so well in my predictions that the Minneapolis Star Tribune did a story on me, which really picked up our visits.  Since then, the site has become much more respected.

Darren: Where do you get your information from?

Shawn: I watch as many games as possible.  I sit through 4-5 games each Saturday, I head to the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine every year to build knowledge, and then I write player profiles for every guy I see.

Darren: Mel Kiper, Todd McShay and other analysts must see you at these events.  How do they feel about a 19-year-old self-proclaimed “analyst”?

Shawn: It’s up and down.  I get funny looks because of my age.  Some people are helpful and I am sure that others don’t want me there. At first I was star struck, but then realized it’s a business and I am a part of it.  Experiences such as speaking and getting to know guys like Marvin Lewis are fun for me.

Darren: What year in school are you?

Shawn: First year at a small undergraduate school in Minneapolis.

Darren: You talked about what analysis say about you, but what do your friends think?

Shawn: Originally, they thought it was a joke, but when I beat Mel Kiper’s picks last year, many started to take me more seriously.

Darren: Do you plan on doing this for a while?  What’s your long term plan?

Shawn: I want to be a GM in the NFL.  I have spoken to the Vikings about a possible internship in the past.  Most of their interns are post-schooling so I’m trying to work something out.  In the meantime, I am working hard to improve my resume and contacts.

Darren: Are you making any money from the site?  Any buyout offers?

Shawn: I sold 60 previews last year. I didn’t make money the first year since it was a hobby along with the start-up costs I had to incur.  I made some money in the site’s 2nd year and hope that it improves.  I have received no buyout offers at this point..

Darren: This interview will be going up on SportsAgentBlog.com, a site that a lot of sports agents frequent – what should they know about your site and how can your site help them?

Shawn: It is very easy to find big name prospects. I am good at finding lower round picks who will eventually be good players.  Example: Jacob Ford of the Tennessee Titans was a 6th round pick that I was very high on.  He has had a great year with the Titans.  Jerome Mathis is another guy I thought would be successful.  My site can help an agent find those players.

Darren: Better NFL quarterback: Tebow or Bradford?

Shawn: Bradford. He has accuracy and smarts…some of the best intangibles.  Tebow, of course, has the love, intensity, and passion but his arm isn’t as strong as Bradford or Stafford, and doesn’t read defenses as well yet. Tebow could use another year.  He needs to work his way into a pro style offense and not the spread.  He could move to TE or FB or RB…one more year in school would be ideal.

Darren: What would you tell other young people looking to break into the tough business of sports?

Shawn: Don’t stop working hard.  Build contacts and take advantage of them.  Build your resume.  For me, since I’m 19, it’s hard to get credibility.  I’m looking for the chance to make it big nationally.  I’m so young, I just want that shot.

Darren: Will you be doing a full mock draft?

Shawn: Yes, full 7 rounds online. Updated as late as 2-3 hours before draft.

Darren: What do you have finished as of today?

Shawn: Just one round. After this week, the top 20 spots in the draft will be solidified.  I complete the 2nd-3rd rounds in February.  It doesn’t make sense to do a solid mock before the draft order is set.  My preview is better and more accurate than all others.  Last year it was 130 pages, and included a couple paragraphs on each player (strengths/weaknesses).  It also previews next season.