Big-time agent Don Yee switched his path, made right choice

Thu Jan 27 3:28pm ET
By ROB MAADDI
AP Pro Football Writer

Long before he represented Tom Brady, Bryant Young, Sean Payton and Jimmy Garoppolo, Don Yee considered a career in journalism.

Changing course was the right choice. Yee became one of sports' most influential agents.

Yee was a producer for a sports radio show in California after high school and covered Magic Johnson's rookie season with the Los Angeles Lakers as a student at UCLA.

He learned plenty about the business in a short time at a young age.

''Those experiences were really valuable for me because I got to experience a little bit trying to cover sports from the side of the media and all the difficulties that entails,'' Yee said on the AP Pro Football Podcast.

''It's really served me well in my career because now, obviously, I deal with the media quite frequently and it's made me very empathetic also to the pressures that reporters, columnists, editors, producers, everybody in the food chain that works hard to deliver product every day. I'm very sensitive to that.''

Like everyone else, Yee doesn't know what Brady will decide about his future. The 44-year-old, seven-time Super Bowl champion is contemplating retirement after 22 seasons in the NFL, including the past two with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

''He can do it as long as he wants, because his intangibles really are very much off the charts,'' Yee said.

Yee discovered Brady, who ended up being drafted with the 199th overall pick in the sixth round of the 2000 draft by the New England Patriots, because his business partner, Steve Dubin, was a Michigan alum. Yee would kid his partner about Michigan's offense being archaic so he decided to watch all the Wolverines' games during Brady's senior season.

''I watched every single game start to finish, and it was just plainly obvious to me that everything you needed to be a successful NFL quarterback was right there in front of my eyes,'' Yee said of Brady.

''And since I own my own agency along with my partner, we don't have any outside investors or anything like that, so we literally put our own resources at risk. I said I'm going to bet on my opinion and let's pursue this player.''

Yee learned to do his own scouting from his mentor, former Cleveland Indians pitcher and major league baseball manager Bob Lemon. His instincts about Brady were right on, even if every team passed on him until Bill Belichick took him with a late pick.

''He was really the person who advised me to just think for yourself in sports so every year I'm looking at players and kind of doing our own scouting for ourselves,'' Yee said of Lemon. ''I really don't take into consideration the opinions of anybody else when I'm personally evaluating players.''

Last year, Yee teamed with former ESPN and NFL Network executive Jamie Hemann to develop HUB Football. Based in Southern California, HUB provides opportunities for college players and street free agents to be seen in action by NFL teams through tryout camps.

A total of 18 players from the HUB Football camps were invited to NFL training camps in the summer and three landed on practice squads: linebacker LB Emmanuel Ellerbee (Atlanta), wide receiver Jordan Veasy (Houston) and tight end Jordan Matthews (San Francisco). Kicker Tristan Vizcaino was signed by the Los Angeles Chargers. Several more players got CFL contracts.

''We've had essentially one pathway to the NFL, and that's been through college football,'' Yee said. ''And then once players get to the NFL, if they don't happen to make it and they're unemployed for a brief period of time, what's happened for agents and players, generally speaking, is that they just wait for the phone to ring. There's never been any kind of proactive platform, and there's a lot of good players out there. Anyone will tell you there are a lot of players that can play the game at the highest level, but they just merely haven't been seen or seen enough.''

HUB Football is also considering one-day audition camps for college football transfer players that are in the portal to give them more visibility for schools.

''The whole venture is geared toward addressing some of the inefficiencies in the NFL player personnel system,'' Yee said. ''The relationship (with the league) has been very good in that they've cleared the way for NFL personnel to physically attend our events, meaning that our policies are designed so that they comply with all NFL player personnel policies.

''They're doing the best they can to bridge the development gap and create a better NFL product. But obviously, they're not in control of the NCAA system, either. But they've been very good and having an open dialogue with us and assisting us with thoughts and ideas.''

While Yee won't get to watch Brady play Sunday in a conference championship game for only the second time in 11 years, Garoppolo tries to lead San Francisco to the Super Bowl for the second time in three seasons when the 49ers visit the Los Angeles Rams.

Garoppolo watched the Niners trade up to draft his replacement, Trey Lance, with the third pick in the draft, held onto his starting job and has helped San Francisco reach this point.

''He's done an unbelievable job this year,'' Yee said. ''He's a mentally tough person, and he also knows this is the NFL and nothing is promised to you. You're only as good as your last performance, generally speaking. And so he has a very realistic view of the business side of football.''

Top Headlines
The Paur Report

Scout Championship Overview

Player Notes
Justin Fields Jan 27 11:40am ET
Justin Fields

On Thursday, the Chicago Bears hired former Colts Defensive Coordinator Matt Eberflus to be their head coach. Eberflus took a Colts defense that was ranked 26th and 27th in total defense before he arrived and made them a top-10 unit. The Colts never featured tremendous pass rush rates and blitzed at one of the lowest rates in the league, but the Bears defensive scheme only blitzed 2.4% more and both teams ran a variation of a 4-3 base defense, so it's possible there won't be much change in philosophy. However, the biggest question will be who Eberflus hires as offensive coordinator and what that means for Justin Fields. Since Eberflus spent four years coaching under former NFL quarterback Frank Reich, it wouldn't be a stretch to assume that he soaked up some knowledge in that relationship and will use it to make a hire that's in the best interest of his quarterback's development.

From RotoBaller

Trevor Lawrence Jan 27 11:30am ET
Trevor Lawrence

After earlier reports that Byron Leftwich was set to be the next head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, reports surfaced early on Wednesday that the negotiations were held up because Leftwich wanted Jacksonville to get rid of General Manager Trent Baalke to hire Adrian Wilson, who is Vice President of Pro Scouting for the Arizona Cardinals. Not long after that, Adam Schefter reported that the Jaguars interviewed former Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio for their head coaching position. While we don't know where this will end up, Fangio has been a far more run-heavy coach in his career than we'd expect Leftwich to be since Leftwich has learned under Bruce Arians. It's possible that if Fangio were to be hired in Jacksonville, we could see a running back committee of Travis Etienne and James Robinson in the same way Denver deployed Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon this year. It would also potentially sap the upside of Trevor Lawrence, Laviska Shenault Jr., and D.J. Chark, so let's hope Jacksonville does the right thing here.

From RotoBaller

Micah Parsons Jan 27 11:20am ET
Micah Parsons

Dallas Cowboys Defensive Coordinator Dan Quinn has told teams that he will remain with the Cowboys next year and not pursue any more head coaching positions. Six teams had requested interviews with Quinn, but he decided to return in pursuit of a Super Bowl. The Dallas defense under Quinn this year finished as the number one fantasy defense thanks to their propensity for turnovers., so Quinn's return should be good news for the Cowboys DST next year as well. Also, fantasy managers in IDP leagues don't have to worry about new schemes for studs like Micah Parsons and Trevon Diggs

From RotoBaller

Ben Roethlisberger Jan 27 10:43am ET
Ben Roethlisberger

Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger announced his retirement Thursday, Jan. 27.

Fantasy Spin: Big Ben will be remembered for this size, athletic ability and big arm. He was different and will surely be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. The Steelers will pivot to Mason Rudolph, for now, but there will be a number of options in free agency. Rudolph will be a QB2 in fantasy if he's the starter.

From TheHuddle

Joe Burrow Jan 27 9:30am ET
Joe Burrow

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (knee) popped up on the injury report with a knee issue. Despite showing up on the latest injury report, the 25-year-old was a full participant in Wednesday's practice. He is expected to be all systems go for the AFC Championship Game against the Kansas City Chiefs. The former No.1 overall pick completed 28-of-37 passes for 348 yards, no touchdowns, and one interception in Saturday's 19-16 Divisional-Round win over the Tennessee Titans. He's been on absolute fire recently, throwing for 1,563 yards, 10 touchdowns, and one pick over his last four games. Burrow is an excellent QB option with a $7,500 price on FanDuel for Sunday's main DFS slate.

From RotoBaller

Tee Higgins Jan 27 9:10am ET
Tee Higgins

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins (thumb) popped up on the injury report with a thumb issue. He was a full participant in Wednesday's practice despite showing up on the latest injury report. In last week's Divisional-Round win over the Tennessee Titans, the 23-year-old hauled in seven receptions on nine targets for 96 yards. He is expected to be all systems go for the AFC Championship Game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Higgins caught three passes for 62 yards in the Week 17 win over the Chiefs and is an excellent mid-tier option at his $6,400 price tag on FanDuel for Sunday's main DFS slate.

From RotoBaller

Darrel Williams Jan 27 9:00am ET
Darrel Williams

Kansas City Chiefs running back Darrel Williams (toe) participated fully in Wednesday's practice. Last week, the 26-year-old was limited with a toe injury and was inactive for the Divisional -Round game against the Buffalo Bills. He is expected to be available for Sunday's AFC Championship Game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Williams will split touches out of Kansas City's backfield with Clyde-Edwards Helaire and Jerick McKinnon. Due to the uncertainty of his role, Williams is more of a GPP option in Sunday's main DFS slate.

From RotoBaller

Mason Crosby Jan 27 1:23am ET
Mason Crosby

Green Bay Packers PK Mason Crosby is likely to be released during the offseason as a cap casualty, according to The Green Bay Press-Gazette's Pete Dougherty.

From TheHuddle

Aaron Rodgers Jan 27 1:13am ET
Aaron Rodgers

Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers indicated he should have made a decision about his future by late February during an appearance on The Pat McAfee Show, which coincides with when the Packers would potentially utilize the franchise tag on WR Davante Adams, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent.

Fantasy Spin: If Rodgers and Adams return to Green Bay in 2022, or reunite elsewhere, both would be No. 1 options at their respective positions. Rodgers' decision as to whether he'll play in 2022 figures to be the first domino to fall.

From TheHuddle

Jimmy Garoppolo Jan 26 9:40pm ET
Jimmy Garoppolo

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (thumb) practiced fully on Wednesday. The 49ers have removed his sprained shoulder from the injury report, but his sprained right thumb remains. The 30-year-old has somehow led the 49ers to the NFC Championship despite throwing for 303 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions over both playoff games. He threw for 316 yards, one touchdown, and two picks in the Week 18 win over the Rams. Garoppolo should be all systems go against the Los Angeles Rams and is the only value option at quarterback for Sunday's main DFS slate with a $6,200 price tag on FanDuel.

From RotoBaller

Jeff Wilson Jan 26 9:30pm ET
Jeff Wilson

San Francisco 49ers running back Jeff Wilson Jr. (knee) did not participate in Wednesday's practice. Teammate Elijah Mitchell also missed Wednesday's session with an ongoing knee issue. Wilson suffered a low-ankle sprain during the first quarter of Saturday's Divisional-Round game over the Green Packers and did not return. According to head coach Kyle Shanahan, he could play in the NFC Championship Game against the Los Angeles Rams. The 26-year-old has two more chances to practice in some capacity and will most likely be questionable for Sunday's game. If active, Wilson could have an expanded role if Mitchell (knee) cannot suit up. Stay tuned.

From RotoBaller

Van Jefferson Jan 26 9:10pm ET
Van Jefferson

Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Van Jefferson (knee) did not practice on Wednesday due to a knee injury. The 25-year-old did not participate in the Rams walkthrough session and was listed as a non-participant. He's considered day-to-day, and it's unclear if Van Jefferson will miss the NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers. He caught two passes for 31 yards in the Week 18 loss to the 49ers. Fantasy managers should continue to monitor his status throughout the week. If active, Van Jefferson provides salary relief with his $5,200 price tag and is a solid option against the 49ers in Sunday's main DFS slate. Stay tuned.

From RotoBaller

George Kittle Jan 26 9:00pm ET
George Kittle

San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle isn't listed on the injury report ahead of Sunday's NFC Championship Game against the Los Angeles Rams. He was seen limping at the end of the Divisional-Round win over the Green Bay Packers but is expected to be all systems go for Sunday. The 28-year-old logged a full practice Wednesday and was removed from the injury report. He caught five of seven targets for 10 yards in his previous contest against the Rams. Despite the dud against Los Angeles in Week 18, Kittle provides excellent value at his $5,800 price tag on FanDuel for Sunday's main DFS slate.

From RotoBaller

Deebo Samuel Jan 26 8:50pm ET
Deebo Samuel

San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel (knee) isn't listed on Wednesday's injury report ahead of the NFC Championship Game against the Los Angeles Rams. The 26-year-old said he was sore after taking a helmet to the knee in last Saturday's Divisional Round win over the Green Bay Packers. On Wednesday, he logged a full practice and was removed from the injury report. Samuel caught four passes for 95 yards and rushed for 45 yards on eight carries and a score in his previous game against the Rams. Deebo will have a vital role in the NFC Championship Game and is a strong option with his $8,400 price tag on FanDuel for Sunday's DFS slate.

From RotoBaller

Jimmy Garoppolo Jan 26 7:03pm ET
Jimmy Garoppolo

San Francisco 49ers DE Nick Bosa (non-injury), C Alex Mack (non-injury), RB Elijah Mitchell (knee), OT Trent Williams (ankle) and RB Jeff Wilson Jr. (ankle) did not participate in practice Wednesday, Jan. 26. CB Ambry Thomas (knee) was limited during practice, while QB Jimmy Garoppolo (thumb) fully participated in practice.

From TheHuddle

Lee Smith Jan 26 5:53pm ET
Lee Smith

Atlanta Falcons TE Lee Smith announced his retirement from professional football Tuesday, Jan. 25.

From TheHuddle

Josh Gordon Jan 26 5:33pm ET
Josh Gordon

Free-agent WR Josh Gordon was signed to the Kansas City Chiefs practice squad Wednesday, Jan. 26.

From TheHuddle

Anthony Hitchens Jan 26 4:33pm ET
Anthony Hitchens

Kansas City Chiefs S Tyrann Mathieu (concussion) did not participate in practice Wednesday, Jan. 26. RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire (shoulder), CB Rashad Fenton (back), WR Mecole Hardman (hip), WR Tyreek Hill (heel), LB Anthony Hitchens (back), DT Chris D. Jones (groin), CB L'Jarius Sneed (knee), CB Charvarius Ward (neck), RB Darrel Williams (toe) and OG Andrew Wylie (elbow) fully participated in practice.

From TheHuddle

Tre'Davious White Jan 26 4:23pm ET
Tre'Davious White

Buffalo Bills OG Ike Boettger (Achilles) and CB Tre'Davious White (knee) are on schedule in their recoveries, according to head coach Sean McDermott.

From TheHuddle