The 2011 season will be my 10th year covering the draft—which makes me feel much older than I am. I started this crazy idea during my senior year of high school, when the Internet was still a new idea in rural Missouri.
Like most guys, I wanted to be in the NFL, but playing at 5'11" and 160 lbs. for a 1A school in Missouri, that wasn't happening. Instead I threw myself into the NFL draft world, learning as much as I could from websites and books, and even a little from icons on television.
One of the first books I read (that wasn't an assignment) was Steve Belichick's Football Scouting Methods. In fact, a copy is sitting next to my desk as I'm writing this today. I substituted the desire I had to play the game at the next level with a determination to learn everything I could about football. I thought for sure that I was on track to being the next Bill Walsh or Mike Holmgren.
Along the way I've coached high school and minor league football, one much more successfully than the other. I've stalked and annoyed many former coaches and scouts. I've consulted for NFL personnel departments, spent time scouting with the Indiana Firebirds and Albany Conquest in the Arena leagues and even considered moving to Canada for a job with the CFL before realizing that it is really cold in Canada.
The one constant over these last 10 years has been writing about the draft and scouting the best college football players each fall, most recently for a scouting company I founded six years ago—New Era Scouting.
As anyone who tries to start an independent blog or media website will tell you, it's damn hard to find a paying job in the field, especially when you are trying to cross over from coaching to writing while trying to support a family. It's not easy, or rather, it wasn't easy. I still find it hard to believe that I am actually doing what I've wanted to do for 12 years and that it's my full-time job. I grew up watching Mel Kiper Jr., and now I'm filling the same role on the fourth-largest sports website in the U.S. Being able to say that has taken a lot of getting used to.
Unlike the other four profiles you will read today as part of the new Lead Writer program at Bleacher Report, I am what we call a “homegrown talent.” My story of struggling to get noticed in a saturated NFL market up to this point is a little different from the other talented guys I'm honored to share this space with.
In November I stumbled upon Bleacher Report after seeing it mentioned on Twitter. Until that point, I had never heard of the company. What I found was exactly the platform I thought I needed to get my work seen.
That November I was put in contact with NFL Deputy Editor Dylan MacNamara. Thankfully, Dylan saw something in my work and shared my vision for year-round NFL Draft coverage. Today, Bleacher Report is giving me an opportunity to make draft coverage better for millions of readers—3 million thus far—and that’s a responsibility I take very seriously. I put a lot of time into researching and thinking about each article so that the content you consume is accurate, entertaining and thoughtful.
I pity those writers who hate their editors, because at Bleacher Report it’s different. Not to say I didn't work my ass off, because I did, especially when holding down a day job for the first five months of the year. Hard work pays off at B/R, because there are smart people in place to notice those who consistently turn out high-quality work.
I'm constantly meeting new people at B/R who blow me away. The vision of this place, from the front-end programming to the back-end analytics, is astounding. Coming from a situation where I couldn't get 1,000 people per day to read New Era Scouting to having articles reach over 300,000 reads in a few days is both humbling and inspiring. Working at Bleacher Report has been an awakening for me as to what is possible when you put really smart people with a love for sports together in a room and ask them to create the best sports website they can. The result is what you see here every day.
For any writer, new or old, who wants a chance to jump-start a career in sports media, I cannot imagine a better place to both have your work seen and also to have a chance at a paycheck to do this. Because, let's be honest, how many media outlets are hiring these days?
My job is to provide draft content 12 months out of the year; there will be no offseason. I also hope to give a different take on draft information, especially player profiles and comparisons. It's going to be a lot of fun, and it will surely change as I figure out what works best and you tell me what you want to see.
The goal of Huge Upside is to provide you with mock drafts breaking down which college players fit best with each NFL team, scouting reports breaking down the strengths and weaknesses of those college players and more rankings than you'll know what to do with.
Deep down, I'm just a draftnik like many of you, and my goal is to make sure Huge Upside is a site I would want to read.
Huge Upside plans to add contributing writers.