Tampa Bay Buccaneers front-office personnel have begun directly emailing agents regarding their draft prospects, using the information for cross-checking purposes as the team assesses where it believes certain players will be selected later this month. It's an unusual practice, in stark contrast to how things were done in the past, based on distrust between teams and agents.
Misinformation and smoke screens are a part of life in the NFL in the days leading up to the draft, and the Bucs have taken an innovative approach in soliciting from agents the range they believe certain players will be taken April 28-30 in New York. According to the email sent to agents, the information is being used in putting together a "mock draft board." If an agent is feeling noncommittal, the email asks him to present a range of possibilities for his clients.
A team spokesman said the Bucs are using direct agent projections as just one aspect of cross-checking prospects and ascertaining where players will be selected, and he didn't want to discuss other components of the process for strategic reasons.
"Essentially, this exercise is one of a few valuable cross-checking methods that enables us to track draftees as thoroughly and accurately as possible," Bucs director of communications Jonathan Grella said by email. "One of its benefits is to identify disparities between our evaluations and others' assessments. So if a gap exists between our range and others', we're able to explore further."
The Bucs said this isn't the first year they have used this practice, and they lauded general manager Mark Dominik for being "forward thinking" and "innovative" in his approach to draft preparation.
Communication between agents and executives is nothing new, but the formal way in which the Bucs are conducting the process is somewhat unique, agents said.
"It's a new-school approach and it's smart," one prominent agent said. "In the old days, things could be pretty adversarial between teams and agents, but you can tell which of the young general managers gets it and understand there are different ways to do things.
"Teams will have 300 kids to evaluate for the draft and we might have eight to 10 kids. We know more about our players than they ever could, and through this process, they'll learn more about which agents they can trust and which guys don't know what they're talking about. So the following year, they'll know who (was disingenuous to) them about their kids, and for the credible agents, it's more empowering."