Caleb Williams is taking big risk going into NFL Draft without an agent

A huge part of being a top athlete is knowing when to call your own shot and go in alone. Caleb Williams is doing it before the NFL Draft. This week it was revealed that Williams intends to go through the pre-draft process without an agent in his corner. It’s a risky move that protects his wallet, but could have other ramifications down the line.

On the surface it might seem like hiring an agent as a future NFL Draft pickick is a fool’s errand. After all, the pay scale is already locked in — meaning there’s no actual negotiation which needs to take place. Why give someone money to operate as a go-between when you can do it yourself?

This ignores the two primary reasons that hiring an agent is important in the pre-draft process — both of which could come back to hurt Williams as he moves forward as a potential No. 1 overall pick.

The misinformation game

Football is a dirty business, especially when it comes to the NFL Draft. In an ideal world prospects would be able to turn up, show off their stuff, and court teams based on their skill alone — but that’s not the reality. Away from the cameras at the combine, or filmed workouts exist text message strings between agents and scouts, agents and front office employees, discussions a player has no control over.

Whether it’s allaying fears about their clients, or highlighting the deficiencies of others, ultimately an agent is about getting their money — and if that means playing dirty, they’ll do it.

If you see a leaked report about a bad team meeting, a quarterback “struggling” on the whiteboard, or claims of attitude problems, you can bet good money that somewhere down the line an agent was involved. During the draft season it’s their sole duty to get their client drafted as high as possible, even if that means sabotaging someone else’s draft stock.

One would think that teams were smart enough to see through the BS, but often they’re not — especially in struggling organizations. These are teams that typically have less experienced general managers and staff, who often fall for seeing the trees rather than the forest.

If something happens at the combine where Caleb Williams doesn’t show out as expected, if he struggles on the route tree or in a meeting — there won’t be an experienced person in his corner to run counter-ops to stop it. We saw this with Lamar Jackson in the 2018 NFL Draft, where he chose to represent himself. Prior to the process it was widely believed Jackson would go after Baker Mayfield, but somewhere in the top 15 picks of the draft. When rumors ran rampant that he had poor meetings and might not even be able to play quarterback at the next level he tumbled, and everyone else’s loss was Baltimore’s gain. Jackson ended up being drafted behind Josh Allen and Josh Rosen, falling all the way to No. 32.

Williams will not plummet that far, but weird things can happen when locked in a battle with Drake Maye for the presumptive No. 1 pick, and with Jayden Daniels and J.J. McCarthy picking up steam as top 10 quarterbacks. If you look around the pre-combine headlines there’s almost no hype around Williams right now, and a large part of that is not having an agent talking to everyone about why he’s the best player in this class.

NFL teams feel more comfortable working with an agent

NFL teams are predominantly run by old men with old thinking, and they don’t like anything that makes them vaguely uncomfortable. In this way an agent operates as a predictable negotiator and sounding board. Teams are willing to speak freely with an agent, voice their concerns about a player, and push for answers in a way that they’re not with the player directly.

Couple this with widespread thinking of “this is how business is done” and Williams faces a scenario where teams know they’ll be talking directly with him — rather than someone they’ve done business with for years. That shouldn’t be a factor, but it is a turn off to a lot of organizations, and perception is everything when you’re trying to pitch yourself as the No. 1 pick.

As it stands he’s going into the combine without a buffer, without someone who can guide him through the process, and which pitfalls to ignore.

Will this hurt Caleb Williams’ draft stock?

That remains to be seen. Right now, no — but if there’s any kind of adversity in Indianapolis that could turn on a dime. We will have a solid week of hearing incredible things about the other QBs, misinformation about others, and Williams won’t have someone in his corner.

If he struggles with any element of the combine then not having an agent will magnify his issues. That’s where this could cause damage. Now, “damage” is all relative. In this case it would take something disastrous to push him outside of QB2, but it’s so early in the process. A bad showing, paired with an amazing one by either Daniels or McCarthy, without an agent to have Williams’ back? Keep an eye on that.

Caleb Williams is choosing to bet on himself. Trust that he can handle this process without someone to manage everything around him. Time will tell if he’s a genius who saves millions, or if this is a massive mistake.

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