2023 Skill Position Draft Review Part 2

The following part 2 of this series examines the remaining studied WRs and RBs from the 2023 draft. In general, players in this section were examined less than those in part 1. In order to build so many profiles, prioritization has to be given to players that provide the most promising early impressions. And when players show seemingly disqualifying traits early in the process (such as Jalin Hyatt and Chase Brown who both show underdeveloped/ stunted posterior areas) those profiles get shunted off to the side and given less time for profile building and testing (or in the cases of Hyatt and Brown, don’t get revisited at all). Which doesn’t necessarily suggest they will bust. Simply that the only way to build full profiles for promising but obscure players like Puka Nacua is to prioritize study by biomechanical efficiency (based on early impressions) rather than consensus projections.

The following five wide receivers belong somewhere along the spectrum between complementary players and starter level players. With development and correct usage they may become quite productive statistically. But they each present holes in their profiles/ abilities, to go along with some high level traits.

Josh Downs (medial centric anterior dominant) shows one of the most impressive biomechanical profiles in this WR class in terms of developmental maturity and efficiency. This shows itself in his superlative body control, strong durability, and excellent hands with good speed. However, Downs’s compact frame and small size combine with his orientation (anterior dominant, generally more finesse-oriented than powerful/ explosive) to strongly limit his ability to fend off tight man coverage. Put simply, if Downs showed the same profile with 3 extra inches of height and 20 more pounds of weight, he would likely become a star WR. But at his current size, he simply lacks the explosiveness and strength to threaten longer/ stronger corners. As such, Downs seems likely to be very effective against zone coverages where his quick movement and reaction time can be strong assets. But he will likely struggle to separate against tighter man coverage.

Rashee Rice (medial centric anterior dominant), like Josh Downs, profiles with very high levels of overall development and efficiency. But where Downs is a small finesse type receiver, Rice is the exact opposite– a large, strong, contested-catch warrior. Rice’s well rounded profile suggests excellent overall control and strength, but without any singular areas of efficiency high enough to generate truly explosive movement. As explained in a previous series, wide receivers generally create separation via systemic borrowing (driving whole body movements via interlinked connections)– this allows the body to move as if it is a coiled spring bursting in a particular direction. While Rice’s high levels of biomechanical slack predict durability and room to further tighten mechanics, Rice’s system at present does not show much capacity for this type of explosive movement – his system is simply not wound tight enough. As such, Rice does not generate much separation on his routes and wins balls via hand fighting and raw strength/ leverage. So while Rice appears to be a superlative overall athlete who shows enough overall efficiency and slack to develop substantially in the future (potentially even into a star WR), at present he appears likely to be pigeonholed as a contested catch specialist. Profiling a bit like rookie year Kelvin Benjamin in terms of high levels of efficiency/ independence of movement, but without the explosiveness to generate much separation. Likely the only WR in this category with long-term star receiver in his range of outcomes, Rice will need substantial development and mechanical tightening to reach his ceiling.

Tank Dell (lateral oriented posterior dominant) is similar to Josh Downs in that he shows a truly high level biomechanical profile. Very high levels of efficiency in a number of areas (particularly thoracic), which when gauged purely on their own merit suggest a star level player (with soft hands, excellent body control, and crisp route running). In addition, while Downs shows a lack of explosive movement potential, Dell’s posterior orientation allows him far burstier movement, even if Dell lacks some of Downs’s finesse and quickness. However, while Downs is small, Dell is absolutely minute, weighing in at only 163 lbs and measuring only 5’8″. As such it is hard to imagine Dell becoming a long term primary threat, even if it seems very likely that he will be extremely difficult to cover out of the slot.

Unlike the above few receivers who show high level traits but with limiting factors (size, explosive movements etc), Jayden Reed (medial centric posterior dominant) appears to be more well rounded from a skills perspective. Reed shows high levels of efficiency in most areas, without particularly outstanding efficiency in any of them. Which translates to strong/ soft hands but not a huge catch radius, very good route running but not especially elusive movements, and good overall play strength without being overwhelming in contested catch situations. While on the smaller side, Reed’s compact frame and dense musculature likely preclude his being swamped by strong corners (unlike Downs). So while he may lack a singular outstanding skill, Reed’s high quality overall well rounded profile/ skillset predict strong long-term production out of the slot.

*a quick note about methods: all 22 film is essential for studying wide receivers, in order to view the entirety of their routes. DynastyNerds.com prospect film room therefore became indispensable for studying these receivers. However, Dontayvion Wicks was not included in their film room (and no other all 22 film was discovered), therefore his profile is unable to be categorized for now

Dontayvion Wicks (medial centric anterior dominant) shows truly superlative levels of anterior lumbar efficiency and good lumbar efficiency overall. This anterior lumbar efficiency is reflected in some very quick leg movements, and some sophisticated route running. Because Wicks’s leg lift is so controlled and powerful, he is able to use false steps and quick movements to bait defenders and generate separation. So that even on longer developing routes where his underwhelming long speed might present difficulties eluding coverage, Wicks is still able to create space at the top of routes. As a high waisted player, Wicks strongly favors his lumbar areas over his thoracic ones. Wicks therefore does not show a particularly large catch radius, nor strong contested catch skills. While Wicks shows excellent ball tracking and was very productive on downfield routes in college, he also shows a propensity for drops when he is unable to borrow upward towards his thoracic areas at the catch point. Wicks is still young enough that he may improve his ball plucking substantially in the coming years. At which point his excellent route running and prototypical size may allow him strong production.

Complementary receivers

Marvin Mims (medial centric posterior dominant) profiles with a rare and sought- after set of abilities. Specifically, Mims shows the unusual combination of elite long speed with soft/ strong hands. While Mims’s anterior lumbar efficiency appears to be only average (he does not show great quickness or short area elusiveness), Mims’s high levels of posterior lumbar efficiency show themselves through his tremendous long speed and powerful (if sometimes broad) changes of direction. Staying with Mims downfield and on longer developing routes is most likely going to be very challenging for defenders, and unlike most speed threats of this nature, Mims shows very strong ball plucking (via superlative thoracic efficiency), even in difficult contested catch situations. While Mims’s statistical production will likely be somewhat boom/ bust and he is unlikely to develop the high end route running of a primary threat (due to the aforementioned limited anterior lumbar efficiency), Mims’s value to his football team will likely hugely outsize his limited production at times. A role player, but an extremely valuable one who opens up the offense for other players and is a threat to make a game breaking catch on any given play.

Centric Tillman (lateral oriented anterior dominant) also shows some high level traits, but in a very different part of the field. Specifically, Tillman (who shows good systemic efficiency and well rounded development) profiles as an excellent intermediate threat, playing outside. Tillman’s high anterior lumbar efficiency translates to excellent quickness on route breaks, and he shows very soft hands with a good catch radius (high thoracic efficiency overall). Where Tillman is limited however is exactly where Mims shines– explosive long speed. On longer routes (particularly vertically oriented ones), Tillman does not show enough speed or explosive directional changes to successfully elude coverage. As such, while Tillman appears to be an excellent overall athlete and will likely contribute meaningfully on intermediate/ shorter breaking routes, he seems unlikely to ascend to primary target status.

Jonathan Mingo (medial centric posterior dominant) shows some areas of high efficiency, but some notably low efficiency areas as well. While Mingo’s posterior areas show high levels of development/ efficiency, translating to long powerful arms and fast/ powerful straight line running, these areas are paired with noticeably underdeveloped anterior lumbar areas. Meaning that Mingo shows stiff hips (unable to change direction fluidly), and limited short area quickness. While certain routes allow Mingo to showcase his straight ahead speed and powerful running/ ability to stop quickly (such as deep posts/ digs), many others show rounded breaks and difficulty generating separation. As such it seems likely that Mingo will remain with a somewhat limited route tree and role over time (although he may excel running those specific routes)

Potential 3 Down Complementary RBs

Tank Bigsby (lateral oriented anterior dominant) shows high levels of lateral efficiency (both thoracic and lumbar), but with no apparent areas of full efficiency. In practice, Bigsby runs with control and finesse, while also showing good hands and strong situational awareness. Despite the name Tank, Bigsby is not a power runner and generally seems to do better working the outside and finding creases to exploit– he shows good contact balance, but not great straight ahead run power. Overall, a high level complementary back who does many things well (including catching passes), but without the requisite lumbar efficiency to become a long term starter.

Sean Tucker (lateral oriented anterior dominant) also shows high levels of lateral lumbar efficiency as well as the capacity to develop into a quality receiver out of the background. But while Bigsby appears more controlled and elusive in small spaces, Tucker appears substantially more explosive in open space. Both backs fall more into the finesse portion of the RB spectrum, but while Bigsby can pick his way through interior spaces, Tucker does not throttle up and down quite as easily. Instead, Tucker offers substantially more big play potential when isolated in space or when rounding the corner. Another complementary back, but one more suited to a scheme that will enable him to operate in the open field.

Roschon Johnson is also oriented lateral anterior (like the above two backs), but where those players appear more as finesse type players, Johnson instead shows excellent contact balance and tackle breaking. In fact, in terms of overall athleticism, Roschon appears to be a standout, with high levels of efficiency in a variety of areas (both lumbar and thoracic) as well as excellent developmental maturity. However, while Johnson appears to be a very well rounded athlete, he doesn’t show the raw lumbar efficiency in any particular area to generate standout traits. While his contact balance and tackle breaking are noteworthy, his straight ahead run power is not exceptional. And neither his short area quickness nor his long speed appear likely to help him elude NFL defenders. So despite rare tackle breaking ability via an unusually well rounded/ developed setup, it is hard to imagine Johnson finding much running success as a primary threat. Likewise while he shows excellent hands, Johnson also does not appear to run particularly crisp routes. This sort of high level overall athleticism without standout traits often lends itself to excellent special teams play. And with his high level pass blocking, Johnson may find a successful role as a do-it-all 3rd down option. An excellent complementary athlete, even if he appears to be a bit too slow (and without explosive movement capabilities) to generate significant offensive production.

Israel Abanikanda (lateral oriented posterior dominant) appears very much to be a scheme dependent player. In a one cut and go scheme (such as a wide zone Shanahan tree offense) Abanikanda’s high levels of posterior lumbar efficiency translate to explosive runs off of sudden cuts, with some nice moves in the open field. In general, Abanikanda shows well developed lumbar areas and impressive athleticism. Which shows up in bursty movement, powerful cuts, and excellent long speed. However Abanikanda also shows stiff lateral anterior lumbar areas which preclude him from much side to side agility or ability to pick his way through a crowded LOS. Abanikanda was drafted into a wide zone scheme and so may be able to become quite productive for as long as the offensive line is able to clear holes for him– his early play contact balance is not likely an asset. However his explosiveness and big play potential will likely outsize his negative plays for as long as he is playing in his favored scheme.

Eric Gray (medial centric posterior dominant) profiles as a well rounded back who is good at a number of things but not exceptional at any of them (shows reasonably high lumbar efficiency and a very well balanced profile). In practice, Gray runs with decent power, shows a nice sidestep to avoid tacklers, and accelerates fairly quickly to a reasonably high speed. Likewise Gray shows soft hands for making receptions, and can absorb some contact without going straight to the ground. Gray shows high enough lumbar efficiency to threaten defenses, particularly going straight up the middle. But in general, Gray profiles more as a well rounded quality backup runner, or short term starter– someone who can carry the load for stretches of time, but lacks any singular exceptional trait to truly scare defenses.

Role Playing Complementary RBs

Chris Rodriguez (medial centric anterior dominant) shows very high levels of medial anterior efficiency, paired with highly developed/ efficient posterior lumbar areas (for an anterior dominant player). In practice this translates to subtle but powerful straight ahead running– when Rodriguez finds a crease, he explodes through it, often breaking tackles and adding yards after contact. A tough physical straight ahead runner, Rodriguez doesn’t show much lateral agility, nor does he show great vision for finding small openings. But while Rodriguez won’t likely be juking defenders or masterfully setting up blockers, his downhill running style is very effective when given clear openings or cuts. Also shows reasonably soft hands for making receptions, albeit probably not for routes behind standard screens/ dumpoffs. A complementary back, but one who will likely excel in a specific downhill role.

Kenny McIntosh (lateral oriented posterior dominant) appears to be a quality pass catching back, with long arms (high levels of thoracic efficiency) and some bursty movement in space. While he shows some explosive run potential with a clear runway, McIntosh doesn’t show the requisite contact balance or run power for early down work. But as a passing down/ receiving specialist, McIntosh appears to offer quality hands, good route running, and big play potential (with some nice elusive moves in the open field). A role player, but a high level one.

Deuce Vaughn (lateral oriented anterior dominant), like many of the smaller players in the 2023 draft, offers a compelling biomechanical profile when judged independently of his size. Although lacking full lumbar efficiency, Vaughn nevertheless shows a high level of efficiency and development in a number of areas (both lumbar and thoracic), showing itself in his quick bursty movement, ability to stop and start very quickly, and agility when making cuts (as well as quality hands for making receptions). However, at his size, Vaughn almost always goes down on first contact, lacks much of a catch radius, and will likely struggle when pass blocking. As a result, it’s hard to imagine Vaughn graduating past gadget player status (albeit a gadget player who may contribute a fair number of big plays).

Keaton Mitchell (lateral oriented posterior dominant) is similar to Vaughn in terms of diminutive size and high levels of efficiency. But where Vaughn is at his best juking defenders and eating up space via high level agility, Mitchell is a true runaway threat. Although lacking great side to side agility from a stop, Mitchell’s raw speed (superlative overall medial lumbar efficiency) allows him to house any run where he manages to clear the first level of defense. Running straight ahead (or rounding the corner) Mitchell’s combination of speed and acceleration are rare and potentially game breaking. In addition, he shows soft hands and the capacity to run quality routes (makes nice cuts/ good change of direction skills while maintaining speed). Mitchell’s diminutive size helps him throttle up and down very quickly, which adds to his elusiveness in the open field, where he also shows good contact balance for someone his size and changes directions fluidly and powerfully. His small size/ lack of run power and underwhelming side to side agility at slow speeds likely preclude Mitchell from early down work. But his game breaking acceleration/ top speed, quality pass catching, and elusiveness in the open field combine to offer a highly potent passing down skillset. Mitchell may therefore surprise with some strong production over time (to the degree allowable with a QB in Baltimore who rarely passes to RBs).