Talent Assessment Prior to the Draft

Similar to last year, this is not a ‘depth’ chart. Instead, I’m trying to depict the "Talent" on this team prior to 2023 draft. This will change as free agency continues, the draft ends, position competition and the season begins. I’m trying to project the floor for this upcoming season by using the player’s performance last year while considering the player’s over-all history. The assignment of players to positions is done solely on my feelings as to where the player can make his best contribution. It is definitely not something that I feel is set in stone (except for the LG and C),

Jonathan Williams

Sam Howell

Brian Robinson

Jacoby Brissett

Antonio Gibson




Cole Turner

Andrew Norwell

John Bates

Cornelius Lucas

Saahdiq Charles

Tyler Larsen

Chris Paul

Trent Scott

Dyami Brown

Marcus Kemp

Jahan Dotson

Logan Thomas

Andrew Wylie

Sam Cosmi

Chase Roullier

Nick Gates

Charles Leno

Curtis Samuel

Terry McLaurin


















Kendal Fuller

Darrick Forrest

Chase Young

Jon Allen

Daron Payne

Montez Sweat

Kamren Curl

Benjamin St-Juste

Christian Holmes

J. Smith-Williams

John Ridgeway

Phidarian Mathis

Efe Obada

Danny Johnson

Cameron Dantzler



Cody Barton

Jamin Davis

David Mayo


Percy Butler

Jeremy Reaves

Special Teams






Tress Way


Cam Cheeseman


Antonio Gibson

Joey Slay

Dax Milne









Elite : Player is in Top 10 (not percent, but Top 10) on a position important statistics of his position group, if the primary statistical ranking is not used


Quality Starter : Player is in Top 25% of his position group


Competent Vet Starter : Player is in Top 50% of his position group


Proven Rookie / Promising Development


Journeyman / Prove It Situation : can work out for a season or two



Back Up : relief duties, sub-packages, temporary injury replacement


Unproven / Developing Player (shouldn’t be appearing as a starter or primary back-up)


Bubble / PS (shouldn’t be appearing as a starter or primary back-up)

A huge difference with last year’s assessment is the near absence of "OPEN" positions (last year had six). At that time, and I still find it useful, I defined a position as "OPEN" if it were manned by a "back-up" quality player. As of now, no "back-up" quality player is expected to start except on Special Teams (K, PR). All draft picks have a legitimate, if unproven, starting player to acclimate behind. From Day 1 of the preseason, draft picks are competing with established (and more importantly, healthy) players for starting jobs. If we were to see a draft pick in the starting line-up, he bested a "starting quality" player and we could be talking of rising the team’s ceiling.

Why so much Gray? All these players are in a Prove It situation (even if not on a prove-it deal). All Free Agents have to prove that they can play within our scheme, under our coaches, beside these teammates—regardless of all previous feats of walking on water: "Prove you are a fit." In addition to the FA’s, all others are in "prove you can remain healthy" or "prove that you can perform" situations: Turner, Thomas, Cosmi, Young (health/performance); Bates, Charles, Brown (performance); while Roullier and St-Juste (health). Collectively, this group is an extremely potent collection of talent. Nevertheless, the question remains "are they part of our future plans?"

It is telling how few defensive players are in a Prove It situation (even with my greatly expanded and elastic definition) compared to the offensive side. There are only two ways to explain this discrepancy: either poor offensive-talent evaluation or poor offensive-coaching. Honestly, I think it’s both. I hope Rivera and Del Rio make draft picks on the defensive side only (where they have done real good) and leave Bieniemy alone on the offensive side (where they—and I, since I’ve liked many of their draft picks—have really sucked). I have high hopes in Gates (beating Norwell for LG)/Wylie (securing RT); but, their previous teams released them for some reason.

The O-Line is almost entirely composed of players in a "prove it" situation. Prior to free-agency, I really wanted Norwell and Turner gone. I wanted Lucas to get out of the starting line-up and assume the Swing Tackle role. Because of my regard for Norwell, when Gates came on board, I envisioned him as Norwell’s competition for LG. I think he would win that easily (somewhere I read that Gates posted his best pass blocking grade in the 80’s—not for the season but for specific games—at LG and I read somewhere that, as a center, he posted a sub-60 grade and I read somewhere else Norwell posted a 59 PFF grade at LG). After the ’21 season, Roullier was ranked as the 10thbest center in the league; on that same list, Gates was ranked as the 20thbest center. There is no way Gates sends a healthy Roullier to the bench. But against Norwell, he has a chance. So a line-up of Leno-Gates-Roullier-Cosmi-Wylie will instantly improve our offensive and our defensive production.

The entire TE room took a huge step back. Every TE regressed. Being so universal, I really can’t attribute this to the individual TE’s. First, there was a change in the position coach (I’m expecting a similar regression in our DB room with the loss of Harris, but we did promote his assistant so maybe not). Second, there was a shift in philosophy from Wentz to Heinicke: Running became more effective than passing. TE’s were forced into run blocking. When a pass was attempted, TE’s were forced to remain in pass protection. Both must have contributed to the decline in the importance and the production of the entire room. Any improvements of the O-Line will reverberate throughout the entire offense and have a bigger impact in every room than drafting any non-O-Line player—for the immediate future (i.e., within Rivera’s expected lifespan as our head coach).

In certain rooms (e.g., TE, WR), there seem to be a negative correlation between performance and length of exposure to our coaching staff. The longer the player is being coached on this team, the worse he becomes. Cosmi balled out during his freshmen year to the point that one analyst identified him as a "break out" candidate for the ’22 season. Well, that didn’t happen and now is unthinkable at the end of his sophomore year. At the end of Bates’s freshmen year, he was an 80% receiver ("hands of glue"). After his sophomore year, he regressed to being a 63% receiver ("hands of stone"). Now, some of us view Bates only as a "blocking TE." Look at Cam Sims record. In 2020 (Scott’s first year) he balled out enough to warrant a greater role in our offense—especially given our non-existent WR room. Every subsequent year, however, the more Scott talked about having to get him involved, the less involved he became! Now, he’s wearing another team’s uniform. I am so glad to be rid of Scott. Maybe Bieniemy will bring in an offensive coaching staff that Rivera could not put together—except for the RB coaches.

They have done well developing talent. Our rushing attack ranked 12thin the league and in a season where the O-Line was more of a hinderance than a help. Forget about running through the defensive line; they had to get through our offensive line first! Never have two men fought so hard to get so little. I think the O-Line finished 21stin the league.

Bieniemy, on the other hand, had the 20thranked rushing attack behind the 3rd(2ndor 1stdepending on your point of view) ranked O-Line. That worries me given his reputation as a running back coach. It’s not as if KC ignored that position (2020 1stround Clyde Edwards-Helaire) and, yet, in three years, CEH is probably going to be ranked as a bust; however, a 7throunder is developing nicely. And KC didn’t need much from their running attack considering the available passing attack. Yet only 12 teams produced fewer rushing-yards than KC.

I think Rivera’s performance in the free agency period was a success in terms of the O-Line, intriguing for the DB room (Dantzler was comped to Jackson III but many analysts did address his fit in a zone scheme), adequate for the LB room (but Holcomb’s departure hurts) and, just what was needed at QB. The FO, having established a nice floor during Free Agency, can focus on rising the team’s ceiling through the draft.

I really feel sorry for Howell. He has one year to prove to a new unknown owner (who may want his own head-coach and his own QB) and to a new unknown head coach (who may want his own QB) that he is a franchise quarterback. In terms of Howell’s future, he has to beat out Brisette and lead the team deep into the play-offs. A "one and done" will not offer any job security for Howell or Rivera. Rivera steered his steamboat onto a sand bar. And in his fourth year, he’s in the biggest "prove it" situation in a team full of "prove it" players: Prove you can pilot the boat off the sand bar.

However the future plays out, I like what Rivera has done this off-season. I’m surprised to say that.