The volatility of the NFL has been an ongoing concern among the media, players, owners, agents and all fans involved. There are several factors that have played an integral role in the changing of the National Football League.
NFL teams rely heavily on their belief in analytics to assemble a Super Bowl contender. But, is analytics truly the answer? There have been many NFL team executives, who have depended upon their belief in pure numbers to evaluate talent for their organization. However, the analytics lock has still yet to be picked. Sashi Brown, former GM of the Cleveland Browns, is a testament to the lack of success using analytics. In his two seasons as the Browns GM, his leadership resulted in a 1-31 record for the organization. Volatility is created within all NFL organizations as teams continue to try and crack the code using analytics to sift out talent to generate a winning product on the field. From the 2017 NFL Draft, there are 15 players that have been cut, including eight players that were drafted in the second or third round. Former Michigan State standout DT, Malik McDowell, is one of the players included in this draft class. He was waived by the Seattle Seahawks in June after being drafted 35th overall. As the NFL continues to change, the turnover rate of draftees seems to be ascending as it has become a reality that NFL teams are evasive to the idea of wanting to develop these young draft picks. Rather, it has become an actuality that the NFL Draft has become more disposable in nature than in years past.
NFL teams are not the only party involved having issues sifting out talent. Agents are scratching their heads now more than ever as well. “What type of players should agents recruit?”, is the question that agents are trying to answer as they attempt to recruit prospective clients to their firm. Aside from the player’s personal values and beliefs, agents are trying to decipher what type of players these modern NFL teams want in their organization. Are players who are former standouts in other sports the secret? Such as Eagles OT Jordan Maliata and Cowboys TE Rico Gathers, who were highly regarded rugby and basketball players, respectively. Or international players such as Bengals TE Moritz Bohringer from Germany? Agents and NFL teams have no clue in today’s game.
Because of these unanswerable questions, an established agent of a top 10 firm believes that within the next couple years, 95 percent of all NFL players will be represented by 5 percent of agents because the middle class of agencies will be run out of the business. Although there are hundreds of good agents who truly work hard and care for their clients, the worries of falling into debt and being unable to pay back investors is a legitimate concern. As a middle-class agency, it will be very difficult to compete year after year with the top agencies in the industry such as CAA, Athletes First and Rosenhaus Sports Representation. With the constant uncertainty across the board regarding preferences in players, training facilities are being affected as well. The pre-draft model of agents spending an average $10,000-$15,000 for training cost for each of their clients prior to the draft is no longer a route that agents are willing to take. Thus, draft prospects are limited in their training and preparation in the events leading up to draft day.
Possibly the most intriguing factor that the NFL will have to adapt to is the creation of new leagues. The XFL and the Alliance of American Football (AAF) could be the leagues that take advantage of the NFL’s volatility. The masterminds behind both leagues should have the NFL worrying galore. The relaunch of the XFL, led by Vince McMahon and commissioner Oliver Luck, is being built to last. The WWE Chairman, McMahon, funded $500 million in hopes to establish a legitimate professional football league to compete with the NFL. The AAF’s leadership speaks volumes on the potential impact that this league could make as well. Co-founder, Bill Polian will lead the AAFs efforts alongside former NFL greats, Troy Polamalu, Hines Ward, Justin Tuck and retired NBC Sports executive, Dick Ebersol.
As the NFL continues to evolve, the true winners, on and off the field, will be the ones who are willing to adapt, innovate and exploit these opportunities along with several other potential opportunities that will continue to arise over time. The on-field issues, specifically regarding penalties, and the ways in which scouting, evaluating, and player representation are truly going to drastically change. The future and the potential of the NFL will be at the mercy of those willing to be innovators.