Ryan Tannehill from Texas A&M holds up a jersey as he stands on stage with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after he was selected #8 overall by the Miami Dolphins in the first round of during the 2012 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 26, 2012 in New York City. - 

The NFL draft starts tonight and will last for the next three days. Only a small number of players will be drafted and the ones that are picked will be the ones on stage, grinning ear to ear, wearing their new team hat.

It’s a process that pales in comparison to what it took to get that moment. Before his gig at ESPN, Andrew Brandt was an agent. He says the months leading up to it are filled with “painstaking work with thousands of man hours and thousands of dollars going into that process." Players hoping to be drafted pick an agent “within days if not hours from their last football game.” And after that, the agents take a big gamble on the right player, “they're right to pre-combine training and agents now pick up all those costs."

The paycheck at the end of that journey isn’t guaranteed.

"There's 250 players that are getting picked and if you're drafted, the lowest seventh round pick is probably getting about a $45- to $50,000 bonus so the maximum an agent can charge is 3 percent so now you're talking about $150 or something like that." And he says that’s "after putting in maybe $5-, $10-, maybe $20,000 of training expenses into these guys."

This year, one draft-hopeful, Matt Elam from Florida, is going without an agent. Brandt says there are pros and cons.

"For the actual negotiation, there's very little an agent can do now for rookie contracts. What the agent will say is that the pre-combine training, the after-combine training, the run up to the draft, the intel, the experience, the clout, the names, the connections with general managers, owners, personnel scouts -- all those things are part of a fee even though the actual fee is based on a negotiation."

He says a player would definitely need an agent for a second contract, which is usually complex.

During his time as an agent, Brandt had his ups and downs. He remembers losing Ricky Williams, "he wanted something a football agent couldn't give him -- access to the entertainment industry."

But also the glory of giving Matthew Hasselbeck his shot. Hasselbeck wasn’t invited to the combine -- so Brandt set one up for him.

"And he went on to be one of the better quarter backs in the league and he still is."So that's one of the things you love as an agent. To see a guy come out of nowhere and really blossom."

Follow Kai Ryssdal at @kairyssdal