For ten of my fifteen years as an NFL Executive, I served on the CAC (College Advisory Committee). This committee is made up of General Managers, Vice Presidents, Directors of Player Personnel, College Scouting Directors and other appointed personnel men, as well as both Directors from the College Scouting Organizations NFS (National Football Scouting) and Blesto. When I was hand-picked to serve as member by the league office, it was considered an honor to be a member of this very important committee. There were only twelve members at that time, today because of the influx of underclassmen over the years each team must commit a personnel man to contribute to the evaluation process.
The NFL’s Player Personnel department has a strong mission for the CAC and its members; “To provide all applicants which are underclassmen a fair evaluation, based off film only and provide a potential round they may be selected in. Provide the Head Coach information so they may maintain dialogue with the student-athlete through the Special Eligibility process”.
As a senior member of the committee, I encouraged coaches to talk to their players about making the jump to the NFL. I spoke to hundreds of underclassmen over the years encouraging them to stay in school, and made sure they understood the value of an education. Getting there degree was the ultimate goal when signing their letter of intent.
The CAC was created and developed for the 1994 NFL Draft at the request of the AFCA (American Football Coaches Association) to serve as a sounding board or advisors to underclassmen that were serious at the NFL (those that had the athletic ability and skills to consider making the jump to the next level by giving up their amateur status and entry the NFL Draft).
Those eligible for a CAC evaluation must be Underclassmen. This means they must be three years removed from high school, and only those that are seriously considering petitioning for special eligibility for the NFL Draft may request evaluation (those that are just curious about their potential status, who do not have remaining eligibility, are no longer in rolled in a College/University or those interested in obtaining insurance information). The NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) provides players a website where they may apply for the NCAA Exceptional Student-Athlete Disability Insurance Program.
The request, which is mailed directly to the NFL office located in New York City, must arrive no later than the third Friday in the month of December (special acceptance will be considered until the first Sunday of January). The deadline is the third Monday of January.
The paperwork, evaluation form or application is handed out by the Pro Liaison (college liaison for professional scouts and Executives), Head Coach and in some cases the Athletic Director. The application must be signed by the applicant, Pro Liaison or Director of Football Operations. The application and an official College or University transcript must be faxed, not mailed to the NFL office.
The evaluations by committee members, is no guarantee and is non-binding. I know once a head coach knew I was on the committee, I was bombarded with phone calls, text and email messages on potential applicants. Some of the players were top Underclassmen with a ton of production since they walked on the campus, and really in several cases it was a no brainier.
The committee members are responsible for reviewing a minimum of (3) three full games. If the applicant is a defensive back or skill position and is also a returner (Punt or Kick-off), Special Teams must be evaluated as well. Several members will evaluate the same player in order to give a cross check look (at least three grades are required). Upon completion of the evaluation, a round grade is attached to each player. For example a true first rounder would be a 1, if the evaluator feels he is a first and possibly a second rounder then he is given a 1-2. Below is the grade chart used for CAC.
1 – Frist Round
1-2 – First/Second
2 – Second Round
2-3 – Second/Third
3 – Third Round
3-4 – Third/Fourth
4 – Fourth Round
4-5 – Fourth/Fifth
5 – Fifth Round
5-6 – Fifth/Sixth
6 – Sixth Round
6-7 – Sixth/Seventh
7 – Seventh Round
7-FA – Seventh/Free Agent
FA – Free Agent
When I evaluated a prospect, and I knew he had issues off the field (Criminal, Drugs, Arrest, Fights, etc.), I stayed focused on the challenge of evaluating the player. I took great pride in the grade I sent to the league office. It was a starting point for my organization as well (it provided the background check, medical history and conversation with my sources on campus; a pure evaluation). Once I gave a round grade, it was sent via a NFL Player Personnel department computer program, which allowed access to the members of the committee only.
While coaches, agents and in a lot of cases the parents (thru the agent) want to know directly from the source, the evaluation is CONFIDENTIAL! Only the player and the head coach are notified of the Round Grade. A representative of the Commissioner’s office personally contacts every player and coach by phone, until communication has been reached.
Every year I looked forward to the challenge, and worked to grade all the Underclassmen which gave me a jump on those that declared. With the growing number of juniors coming out early, it makes for an intriguing chuck of talent in the first three rounds.