An Open Letter to 2020 Draft Prospects and Industry Leaders

The Coronavirus pandemic has brought sports, and society-at-large, to a screeching halt. Athletes on all levels have found themselves fighting between massive free time and massive uncertainty.  

For prospects who are positioning themselves for this week’s NFL Draft (and the upcoming NBA draft), an already strange process has left many with even more questions than before. While the top picks are better suited for weathering the storm, for the later round and undrafted prospects, the new norm can seem devastating. 

In any normal year, the calendar and the process have a predictable roadmap. Prospects spend the weeks following their season in training mode to maximize measurables in particular combine-oriented drills to showcase their speed, strength, agility, health, and position-specific knowledge. The goal then is to showcase these attributes at their respective college pro days in front of pro personnel. Team meetings and private workouts would follow with the purpose of making an impression that would lead a team to potentially draft, offer a free agent contract, or extend a rookie tryout.

Little, if any, of that has happened. So, they are faced with even less transparency during one of the most crucial stages in their journey.

This all begs the questions, “What – if anything – could draft hopefuls have done, or still do to proactively position themselves for success? And what resources are available to make informed decisions in the process?”

These questions are magnified in an unprecedented time like this. Unfortunately, even in a normal year, players simply ride the wave and never take the time to actively ponder them. In previous years, players simply watch what others have done, sign with a rep who often arbitrarily steers them where they want, and then hope for the best. Rinse. Repeat.

As teams and leagues are scrambling to salvage seasons, and as players associations are worried about current members, who can these unproven players turn to for guidance? Who are their allies?

There is no clear answer to this question, and there is no centralized solution to the inherent problem. There are 20,000 athletes pursuing the NBA and NFL alone, seeking to fill roughly 2,000 spots, current players included. Over 50% of current players are represented by just a small handful of agents. There are more agents than jobs available and so, transparency is limited. With little substantive data or qualitative information about agents, and no vetting or rating system, an athlete may end up with a poor fit, and their first chance at success squandered. 

COVID-19 doesn’t just impact players, but also those who represent them. How should we consider the role management plays in the recruiting process of athletes? The vast majority of agents already have a hard time recruiting players – citing a lack of capital to acquire talent, lack of network resources and relationships with brands and sports front offices that appeal to players, and lack of awareness to find talent.  

Newer agents and smaller firms may be hit the hardest. This could mean further consolidation of capital in mega-firms at the expense of these smaller agents, a trend that’s already been building in recent years. 

In times of uncertainty, players will likely go where they see other players thriving during this draft period – and yet, the question remains the same: Is that the right place for them? 

With the luxuries and convenience afforded in the digital age, it is time to reinvent the system, balance the flow of information, and modernize the process.

For football players, these last few quarantined months are a good opportunity to reflect on the quality of people surrounding you. Prospects, before your name is called, or your phone rings later this week, consider this, “In times of uncertainty and chaos, how did the people you entrusted to manage your future react? What did they do differently and uniquely for you? How did they stand out in pressured times? How did they earn their paycheck? If things go sour, do you trust them to not only have your back, but to lead the charge?” For NBA prospects, are you putting yourself in the best position to be successful come draft time? Have you asked the right questions? Do you know what the right questions even are?

ProShark Sports will offer a first-of-its-kind digital platform that provides athletes a way to discover, meet, and validate prospective sports agents. While also providing agents with a network of talented athletes to recruit, sign, and negotiate contracts digitally with ease. We exist to bring humanity back to the field of athletics. As a response to COVID-19, our leadership and trusted advisors from across industries are committed to that purpose. We are offering remote strategic soundboarding sessions to all 2020 draft prospects to help them best navigate the waters as they begin the next stage of their lives. 

For more information or to sign up, contact [email protected].

Derrick S. “DT” Thomas
Founder & CEO, ProShark Sports

Don Povia
Founder & President, Transition Sports & Entertainment
Member, ProShark Sports Board of Advisors

Derrick S. “DT” Thomas is Founder and CEO of ProShark Sports.  He was captain and four-year starter on Drexel University basketball team.  He is a former top worldwide producer at Tesla.  He spent over two years with private equity firm, National Financial Partners Corp (NFP) as the youngest settlement consultant in U.S., advising notable civil trial attorneys settlement, spearheading NFP’s expansion into Tampa, FL and New York City, generating over $800K in revenue.

Don Povia is Founder and President of Transition Sports & Entertainment. He was a former student-athlete for the Monmouth University football team, and has spent over a dozen years in the sports digital space bridging the gap between traditional media and the social web.  He created the first-of-its-kind new media sports conference series and community, and has worked with public relations and digital agencies to help develop and implement strategies for sports and lifestyle brands, both on a national and global scale, including for the New York Yankees, NASCAR, Vice Media, Subway, Vox, and others.