With the majority of OTAs having concluded or wrapping up this week, it seems like a fine opportunity to power rank the players that have been the most impressive during the contact-less workouts.
Skilled position players gain an advantage by standing out during OTAs. Without the presence of contact, the usual stars of OTAs are quarterbacks, receivers and defensive backs.
Apologies to any linemen aficionados who come upon this list and are let down by the lack of big fellas.
However, if your kick is speedy, high-flying receivers, you've come to just the right place.
Considering that Ryan Broyles is coming off of consecutive season-ending injuries—one during his final season at Oklahoma and the other in his rookie year with the Detroit Lions—the news that he has been participating in individual drills during OTAs is music to the Lions' ears. The Lions have been searching for pieces to put around Calvin Johnson since his arrival in Detroit.
When healthy last season, Broyles appeared to be on his way to being a full-time contributor. His 2012 season featured two six-catch games and a chemistry with quarterback Matt Stafford.
Following a modest 31-catch rookie season, T.J. Graham turned heads during the Buffalo Bills' OTAs with his big-play abilities.
After drafting Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin with the 41st and 78th picks, respectively, the competition at wide receiver will be fierce this offseason for the Bills.
Graham has taken advantage of OTAs, as the second-year receiver currently finds himself starting opposite Steve Johnson on the Bills depth chart.
The 2012 second-round pick had a less than ideal rookie campaign for the St. Louis Rams. Catching 11 passes on a desperate offense certainly doesn’t shout impact.
But Quick has been sensational so far during OTAs and appears to be on the verge of a breakout season.
Tony Softli of 101 ESPN St. Louis detailed Quick’s impressive OTAs on the station's airwaves.
St. Louis was one of the surprise teams in 2012, led primarily by its stout defense. If Quick can offer the Rams more in 2013, it could go a long way for the team’s overall success.
As I mentioned in the opening slide, it’s difficult for linemen to distinguish themselves during OTA’s. Yet, Osi Umenyiora has done just that during the Atlanta Falcons' offseason workouts.
The veteran defensive end’s work ethic and leadership has already impressed Atlanta’s coaching staff.
If Umenyiora can produce at a high level for the Falcons this season, it would make his acquisition one of the steals of free agency.
Atlanta has Umenyiora listed as the team’s starting right defensive end on its depth chart.
To this point in Darrius Heyward-Bey’s career, he is best known as the super-fast player Al Davis selected way too early, seventh overall, in the 2009 draft.
DHB has done his best to remedy his reputation since arriving in Indianapolis through an impressive round of OTAs.
Granted, OTAs are formatted for athletic, speed-demon players like Heyward-Bey to excel. It was observing similar contact-less drills that led the Oakland Raiders to reach for Heyward-Bey back in 2009.
However, if DHB transitions his offseason success into the regular season, the Indianapolis Colts will have another weapon to complement Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton.
Fendi Onobun grew up playing basketball. After a four-year basketball career at the University of Arizona, Onobun transferred to the University of Houston to play football for the first time.
He would catch just two passes.
Now, after being cut by five different NFL teams, Onobun finds himself with the Chicago Bears and is starting to carve himself a spot on the Bears offense.
The Bears starting tight end spot is being comfortably held down by Martellus Bennett, who oddly enough was Onobun's high school basketball teammate and longtime friend, but Onobun has shown enough in OTAs to warrant some first-team snaps come preseason.
In the NFL, having too many offensive weapons is an oxymoron. If Onobun continues his development, he'll find a way into the Bears' offensive plans.
Cobi Hamilton is picking up with the Cincinnati Bengals right where he left off at the University of Arkansas.
The sixth-round draft pick was impressive during OTAs, which wrapped up last Friday.
Hamilton's performance has caught the eye of head coach Marvin Lewis, who told the team's website, "Cobi has not disappointed us at all. We really think he's going to make us better."
Hamilton joins a young, up-and-coming offense led by Andy Dalton and A.J. Green. If he continues his development and rookie Tyler Eifert—who (spoiler alert) comes in ranked at No. 6 on this list—does the same, the Bengals will inch closer to their AFC North title pursuit.
When Nnamdi Asomugha signed with the San Francisco 49ers this offseason, the acquisition was much less newsworthy than his previous signing with the Philadelphia Eagles. This of course was due to a decline in production during his Eagles tenure.
Yet, early reports out of San Francisco reveal the 31-year old veteran is settling in comfortably with his new team. With Tarell Brown sidelined during OTAs, Asomugha has seen extensive reps with the first-team defense.
More reps will continue to boost Asomugha’s confidence and comfortability in the 49ers defense.
Wes Welker was the headline of the Denver Broncos' offseason, but tight end Julius Thomas has had the more impressive performance during Denver's OTAs.
Thomas, a former college basketball player, has struggled to stay healthy since joining the Broncos in 2011. He lacks experience, catching just one pass in his NFL career.
Standing 6’5” and weighing 255 pounds gives Thomas obvious physical advantages against opposing defenses. But it has been Thomas’ ball skills that have shined brightest during OTAs.
Sam Bradford has been starving for weapons since arriving in St. Louis. This offseason, St. Louis Rams brass finally fed Bradford by drafting Tavon Austin and signing tight end Jared Cook.
Cook’s signing was lucrative, worth up to $38.5 million, and drew questions from critics.
If OTAs are any indication of Cook’s ceiling in St. Louis, the critics might be silenced.
Reports are that Cook and Bradford have already found a groove during practices. Cook’s rare athleticism for his position makes him one of Bradford’s most lethal targets.
When the 49ers first-round selection didn’t catch a single pass in 2012, eyebrows were raised concerning the pro prospects of A.J. Jenkins.
But when Jenkins showed up in sensational physical shape and started yanking down passes left and right during OTAs, the draft pick started looking less like a bust.
With Michael Crabtree likely missing all of 2013, San Francisco will need Jenkins to fill his shoes. After Mario Manningham and Anquan Boldin, the 49ers are extremely inexperienced at wide receiver.
The Arizona Cardinals' quarterback play in 2012 was shockingly incompetent. The Cardinals quarterbacks threw 11 touchdowns to 21 interceptions combined.
So when Arizona acquired Carson Palmer this offseason, there was nowhere for them to go but up.
After seeing Palmer in action this offseason, Bruce Arians seems to think the veteran is capable of performing at a high level. The Cardinals new head coach told ESPN’s Merill Hoge that Palmer “still has it.”
Both the Cardinals and Palmer hope he’s right.
Louis Murphy has taken advantage of the Hakeem Nicks-less OTAs.
Entering his fifth NFL season, Murphy’s tenure as a pro hasn’t gone as well as he envisioned. After two solid seasons in Oakland, Murphy has seen little action over the past two seasons.
But the former Florida Gator isn’t letting that discourage him.
After a one-year stint with the Carolina Panthers, Murphy signed with the New York Giants this offseason and has impressed both Eli Manning and coach Tom Coughlin during OTAs with his ability to stretch the field with his superior speed.
The departure of Anquan Boldin has opened a vacancy in the Baltimore Ravens starting lineup.
Second-year receiver Deonte Thompson has played himself into contention with his impressive performance at Baltimore's OTAs.
Thompson caught just five passes in 2012 but that hasn’t stopped offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell from glowing about the former Florida Gator’s progress this offseason.
Of the eight receivers currently on the Ravens depth chart, only Jacoby Jones and Torrey Smith caught more than 10 passes in 2012.
Translation: Thompson has as good a shot as any to settle into the No. 3 receiving slot.
The fact that Brent Grimes is fully participating in Miami Dolphins OTAs is stunning considering the proximity of his torn Achilles tendon injury.
The fact that Grimes is performing well and with the first-team defense makes him one of the most impressive players so far at OTAs.
If Grimes continues to stay healthy and perform, he will fill a gaping void in the Dolphins secondary. After Sean Smith departed for free agency this offseason, the already struggling Dolphins pass defense was aching for a consistent starting corner.
Texans Nation gasped when news broke that Arian Foster was injured during OTAs.
However, it appears there are two pieces of good news surrounding Foster’s injury. First, the star running back's injury isn't serious as Foster should be able to return for training camp.
Second, Ben Tate is filling in superbly.
After seeing his 2011 YPC average drop an entire yard in 2012, news of Tate playing well is great for both the running back and the Texans.
When Tate and Foster are both healthy and running at a high level, the Texans' zone-based rushing attack is brutal for opposing defenses.
Danny Amendola has been impressing during Patriots OTAs.
The shifty, slot receiver has turned heads with his route running and exceptional work ethic.
As important as impressing OTA onlookers, Amendola has drawn the adoration of quarterback Tom Brady. Speaking to Sportingnews.com Brady said of Amendola, "He comes in and he works really hard, and he wants to do everything right."
If Amendola can continue to build off his OTA success, he will lighten the loss of longtime Patriot Wes Welker.
Remember this hilarious commercial?
I imagine that the Seattle Seahawks rookie tight end Luke Wilson has received similar disappointed looks when people realize he's not the famous actor Luke Wilson.
However, if Wilson continues to perform like he has so far at OTAs, more and more people will start to learn who he is.
Head coach Pete Carroll certainly knows about Wilson, saying of his fifth-round tight end, “Luke had a very, very good OTAs. They say it’s called spring football, and he had a great spring. He really did.”
While Robert Griffin III has been rehabbing his injured knee and pledging his return, his backup Kirk Cousins has been balling out during OTAs.
Cousins has displayed full control of the offense and continued development into his sophomore season.
In fact, the former Michigan State quarterback has even taken reps in the pistol formation.
No matter how well Cousins performs, the starting quarterback job for the Washington Redskins will belong to RGIII. But Washington will sleep easier at night knowing Cousins is comfortable in its offense—especially considering the now multiple knee injuries Robert Griffin III has sustained.
First-round draft pick Tyler Eifert is solidifying his first-round selection at OTAs.
The tight end has been impressive thus far. Eifert’s imposing height has been matched by soft hands, which has captured the adoration of quarterback Andy Dalton. Speaking to the Bengals official website, Dalton said of his rookie tight end:
From Day One nothing has seemed too big for (Eifert). It’s like "You want to go do this, OK I’ll go do this." He does it really well. That’s why we picked him with the first pick and he’s really well deserving.
Before OTAs began, the Miami Dolphins starting running back competition was wide open. Since then, it appears Lamar Miller has seized the opportunity.
Ryan Tannehill told, without hesitation, the NFL Network's NFL Total Access that Miller is the Dolphins starting running back. Citing Miller’s adept skills as a pass protector, Tannehill sounded confident that the University of Miami product can shoulder the load for the Dolphins this season.
Miller saw little playing time in 2012, but in his limited reps he averaged an impressive 4.9 yards per carry.
When the Minnesota Vikings signed veteran quarterback Matt Cassel this offseason, it appeared to signify the end of Joe Webb’s tenure in Minnesota. Then came reports that Webb would be transitioning to wide receiver. Then came reports that Webb was excelling at receiver and fielding punts in practice.
Joe Webb among those fielding punts here. Getting extra instruction from Mike Priefer too. Seems like a real look. #Vikings— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) June 5, 2013
Heard this: Joe Webb has caught everything in workouts. Hands aren't an issue. It's learning everything else. OTAs ramp that up. #Vikings— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) May 28, 2013
Following the new CBA, many teams have transitioned to carrying just two quarterbacks on their 53-man rosters as opposed to the traditional three. This paradigm has made the competitions for backup quarterback gigs even more intense than ever.
If Webb can parlay his OTA excellence into preseason success, his odds at making the Vikings' final roster bode well.
Those final roster spots are usually given to a sixth receiver, a fourth running back or tight end, or a fifth cornerback because of their special teams contributions. If Webb can become the team’s fifth or sixth receiver, backup return man and their third-string quarterback, he would be essentially giving the Vikings' two extra roster spots.
Randall Cobb is poised to have a breakout season in 2013.
That may seem like a ridiculous statement considering Cobb hauled in 80 receptions in 2012. But with Greg Jennings swapping his green and yellow for purple and gold, Cobb and the other Green Bay Packers receivers will all see an elevated role this year.
Cobb has validated the quarterback's sentiments so far in OTAs. He is listed as a starter on the team’s depth chart and has been so impressive that the coaching staff is considering pulling him off special teams.
Denard Robinson was absolutely sensational to watch during his tenure at Michigan. Yet, it was thought the slightly built Robinson would exclusively play wide receiver in the NFL, if he made the league at all.
The Jacksonville Jaguars don’t subscribe to such limited notions.
So far in OTAs, Robinson has been a jack of all trades, lining up at quarterback, running back, receiver and kick returner.
The Jaguars' early plan is for Robinson to see 10-15 snaps a game.
After yet another disappointing season in 2012, Robinson’s OTA exploits are a much needed bright spot for the Jags and their fanbase.
The Alex Smith trade to Kansas City is a positive one for all parties involved.
Kansas City gets a drastic improvement from its ugly quarterback play in 2012, San Francisco got a high second-round draft pick for a backup and Smith got a much needed change of scenery.
So far at OTAs, it appears Smith’s transition is going quite well.
Considering the Chiefs thought highly enough of Alex Smith to discard the 34th overall draft pick, it was imperative that Alex Smith took control of the starting quarterback position from the beginning. Since he has, he ranks as the most impressive OTA player.