Top NFL Picks Branded

First-round draftees are products of former Sports Illustrated Editor Don Yaeger's media training program which emphasizes branding.

Two of the first three picks in Thursday's National Football League draft - headlined by top pick Sam Bradford and number three selection Gerald McCoy - and 26 players chosen in the first three rounds headed to their new teams after completing intensive Media Training and Branding sessions led by former Sports Illustrated associate editor and established media coach Don Yaeger and his Tallahassee-based team.

Tyson Alualu, selected tenth overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars, said, "What I will take with me is the idea of choosing particular words and making those your brand. I can focus on those words, those characteristics about myself, so that they become my brand."

It is the fourth year in a row that Yaeger has served as media coach to the draft's Number 1 pick - and the fourth year in a row that nearly one-third of the top picks had been through his program.

"20 years ago, players were drafted solely on their athletic ability," Yaeger said. "Now the most desirable draftees also portray a positive image and are able to communicate effectively. Our work with those players is intended to teach each player that he is a unique brand and that everyone -- including NFL teams -- want to align themselves with the best brands on the market. Teams know their players' brands reflect directly on their own, so they are choosing much more carefully."

Bradford has already put two of his brand words - winner and competitor - into action. "Whichever team drafts me will get a winner," Bradford told USA Today shortly before draft day, "an extremely accurate quarterback and a really fierce competitor."

Yaeger's 180 Communications team partners with Athletes' Performance Institute to prepare the players. API is a combine-prep center with facilities in Tempe, AZ, Los Angeles and Gulf Breeze, FL that focuses on enhancing performance on the field and recognizes the value of Media Training off of it.

"I have witnessed first hand, our athletes immediately implement the techniques they learn from Don and his team," said Peggy Iralson of API. "The principles the athletes learn are a great value for their draft process and throughout their entire NFL career."

The list of players Yaeger trained in this year's draft also includes top-25 selections Derrick Morgan of Georgia Tech, Jermaine Gresham of Oklahoma, Demaryius Thomas of Georgia Tech and Bryan Bulaga of Iowa.

"We truly worked with a great group of guys this year," said Yeager. "Real character guys."