The Xs and Os with Greg Cosell: Best scheme fits for 2023 NFL rookies
We’ve been discussing scheme fits for 2023 NFL rookies on Touchdown Wire of late, and we will continue to do so. We will continue to do so for one reason: It’s important for NFL teams to put their new players in the best possible schematic situations to succeed! Doesn’t always happen, but when it does, it’s pretty nice.
So, in this week’s episode of “The Xs and Os with Greg Cosell and Doug Farrar,” Greg (of NFL Films and ESPN’s NFL Matchup) and Doug (editor of Touchdown Wire) get into their favorite scheme fits for rookies selected everywhere from the first to the seventh round. In each case, the opportunities are there for these young players to make the most of their attributes in ideal environments.
You can watch this week’s “Xs and Os” right here…
…and you can listen to the podcast on Spotify…
and Apple Podcasts.
Anthony Richardson, QB, Indianapolis Colts
(Syndication: The Clarion-Ledger)
Greg: “We evaluate these players before the draft. We do not know who is going to draft them. But here’s the last line I typed in my [pre-draft] transition [evaluation of Richardson’s NFL transition]:
‘I could see Richardson early in his career working in an offense similar to the Eagles’ offense with Jalen Hurts. With multiple run game concepts that start with the quarterback, and a passing game that works off the run game — with defined reads and throws, given the greater predictability of defensive alignments and coverages.’ And then, of course, he gets drafted by the Colts, and their head coach [Shane Steichen], amazingly enough, was the offensive coordinator for the Eagles last year.”
Deonte Banks, CB, New York Giants
(Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports)
Greg: “It’s really interesting, because the Giants, for most of the 2022 season, were at the top of the league in playing Cover-1, which is man coverage with a single-high safety. And that’s a Wink Martindale staple. As the year progressed, though, when you started to get into Weeks 13, 14, 15, they started to play less Cover-1, and a lot more zone. And I’m sure that’s because he felt that he just didn’t have the people to do it at the level it needed to be done to be successful.
“But that’s what he wants to do — he wants to pressure, and he wants to play man coverage behind it. And Deonte Banks, to me, was the second-best cornerback prospect in this draft class [behind Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez], and this guy is a press-man cornerback.”
Mazi Smith, DI, Dallas Cowboys
(Syndication: Austin American-Statesman)
Greg: “Smith, to me, was someone where you had to watch full games. I saw on Twitter, people saying, ‘Well, he doesn’t have production.’ Production for interior defensive linemen is an odd thing. Obviously, if you don’t have a lot of sacks, people may view that as not a lot of production. But not a lot of interior defensive linemen have a lot of sack totals. Mazi Smith was really fascinating to me, because you’re dealing with a guy who’s 323 pounds, really good arm length… I mean, he played like an athlete. He’s quick and fluid, yet he was big and stout enough to dominate physically, with strength to control and displace. But when you watch the tape, he was a very good pass-rusher. He just didn’t get sacks.”
Joey Porter Jr. and Cory Trice Jr., CB, Pittsburgh Steelers
(Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Greg: “A lot of people listening probably know about Porter, so I’ll start with Trice. I thought he was better than where he was drafted [the 241st overall pick in the seventh round]. Because normally, 6-foot-3, 206-pound cornerbacks who can play press get drafted higher. We’re not going to decide his NFL future based on his short-shuttle time, but his short-shuttle time was under four seconds. For a guy with that kind of length, to have that kind of short-shuttle time was just ridiculous. His athletic testing numbers were really, really good. I thought he was a really interesting prospect,
“And then you get Joey Porter, who some people felt might have ‘dropped’ to the top of the second round. He’s your prototypical height/weight/speed cornerback prospect. He’s a press-man cornerback — that’s what he is. He’s 6-foot-2, he plays with a little bit of a swagger, and he’s got a great playing personality. He uses his long arms and his physicality to squeeze receivers out of bounds, particularly when he’s the boundary cornerback. He fits that role. Just like offenses say you need a boundary X receiver to be as expansive as you want to be and win one-on-one, as a defense you want a boundary cornerback who can prevent that from happening.”
Michael Mayer, TE, Las Vegas Raiders
(Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)
Greg: “You have to keep watching him. You probably wouldn’t describe him as smooth and fluid, but he certainly has a refined sense of how to use his vertical stem, plus he’s subtle with his head feints, he does have deceptive short-area quickness, and functional play speed. He’s not really going to run by you, but he is a three-level receiver, even though he’s not going to run by you and stretch the seam. And he’s dominant at the catch point.”
Zach Charbonnet and Kenny McIntosh, RB, Seattle Seahawks
(Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
Greg: “What stands out most watching McIntosh’s tape is his receiving ability, and the location and formation versatility he brings to an offense. He can line up in the backfield, he can detach from the formation, and he can run routes at all three levels.
“We know how Pete Carroll wants to play. They have Kenneth Walker, who has a good mix of being able to run inside and find open space and really take it to the house. Charbonnet isn’t necessarily a ‘take it to the house’ back — he’s much more that decisive, physical, powerful, competitive downhill runner. He’s got sustaining traits. He gets hard yards, which Pete Carroll loves. You have to have a back who, when it’s blocked for three yards, can get you six. Charbonnet is far more that kind of back.”