32 players to watch at NFL offseason workouts: Stefon Diggs, OBJ and lots of QBs


Staff member

The NFL Draft is over, and so are rookie minicamps. Next up on the league calendar: a monthlong stretch of offseason practices and team minicamps. The Atlanta Falcons and Washington Commanders both open organized team activities (OTAs) this week before the rest of the league joins in starting May 20. Team minicamps are the first two weeks of June.

New coaching staffs will introduce their playbooks, roster additions will meet their teammates and the groundwork for training camp in late July will begin to be laid.

This is where all of the puzzle pieces begin to come together and where positional battles begin to take shape.

Here’s a rundown of one key player on every team to watch during offseason workouts. A reminder that player attendance at OTAs is voluntary but mandatory for June minicamp. You can find each team’s OTA and minicamp schedule here.

AFC North​

Baltimore Ravens: RB Derrick Henry

After years of running back-by-committee approaches, the Ravens lured one of the most dominant backs to Baltimore in free agency this offseason. Henry, who is coming off his fifth 1,000-yard rushing campaign in six seasons, should help ease pressure on Lamar Jackson and ensure balance for the Ravens’ offense. Offensive coordinator Todd Monken and the Ravens coaches will spend the offseason integrating the 30-year-old Henry into the mix.

Cincinnati Bengals: QB Joe Burrow

Surgery to repair torn ligaments in his right wrist ended Burrow’s 2023 season after 10 games, but he has been throwing since early April and is fully cleared for everything except contact. Patience is key, however. Having a healthy Burrow by the start of the season is priority No. 1 for the Bengals, who struggled out of the gate last season as the quarterback battled a calf injury suffered during the preseason. Then the wrist injury occurred. Cincinnati is eager to return to the playoffs after going 9-8 last season and missing out. The Bengals made AFC Championship Game appearances in 2021 and 2022.

Cleveland Browns: QB Jameis Winston

Winston is among the most important players in Cleveland until starter Deshaun Watson fully recovers from shoulder surgery. Gone is Joe Flacco, who shocked the league and helped lead the Browns to the playoffs in place of Watson. In his place is Winston, the 2015 No. 1 pick, who spent the last four seasons as a backup in New Orleans. Winston went 6-4 in 10 starts for the Saints. This offseason, he’ll learn Kevin Stefanski’s and new offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey’s playbook and work on establishing chemistry with his new teammates, particularly wideouts Amari Cooper and Jerry Jeudy.

Pittsburgh Steelers: QB Russell Wilson

The Steelers scrapped the Kenny Pickett experiment after just two seasons and acquired Wilson, believing the former Super Bowl champion can turn them into contenders in the division and beyond. The Seattle Seahawks and then Denver Broncos both moved on from Wilson after deciding his best days were behind him. Can Wilson redeem himself in Pittsburgh, where the Steelers are installing a new offense and have just invested heavily in their offensive line? Or will Wilson’s run as QB1 for Mike Tomlin be short-lived, opening the door for Justin Fields’ own redemption quest?


Keon Coleman has big shoes to fill in Buffalo as he works to create chemistry with Josh Allen. (Kirby Lee / USA Today)

AFC East​

Buffalo Bills: WR Keon Coleman

Stefon Diggs, Josh Allen’s former No. 1 target, is gone. In his place is Coleman, the 6-foot-3, 213-pound rookie from Florida State who must assume the role of Buffalo’s big-play weapon. Coleman has much to learn. He lacks Diggs’ speed, but he does have great size and with it comes the potential to become an imposing possession receiver and red zone threat. Coleman will get to work on developing chemistry with Allen and learning how to beat press coverage, something he saw little of in college.

Miami Dolphins: WR Odell Beckham Jr.

They already own one of the league’s most prolific offenses, but the Dolphins believe there’s no such thing as too many weapons. So, they added Beckham to a receiver unit that already features Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. This is a curious experiment since knee injuries and surgeries have robbed the 31-year-old Beckham of most of his explosiveness, and the Dolphins’ offense is all about speed and timing. Beckham was serviceable in Baltimore with 35 catches for 565 yards and three touchdowns but did average a career-best 16.1 yards per reception. How will the ever-creative Mike McDaniel work OBJ into the mix?

New England Patriots: QB Drake Maye​

It’s a new day in New England as Jerod Mayo takes over for Bill Belichick. The Patriots traded failed 2021 pick Mac Jones, and then signed reliable veteran quarterback Jacoby Brissett. But then they used the No. 3 pick on Maye. The offseason is all about coaching up Maye in hopes that he can blossom into the team’s next great quarterback. It could take some time, and Brissett may serve as a bridge. But the Patriots believe their future is bright.

New York Jets: QB Aaron Rodgers

The 40-year-old Aaron Rodgers will take another stab at restoring the Jets to their former glory, but first, he must knock off the rust accumulated during his recovery from Achilles surgery. Rodgers will have no restrictions at offseason practices, and he’ll use this time to rekindle the budding connection he had with his receivers while also acclimating to a revamped offensive line.

AFC South​

Houston Texans: WR Stefon Diggs​

Hoping quarterback C.J. Stroud can take another leap forward after an impressive rookie season, the Texans have gone all out to upgrade his supporting cast this offseason. Among the new faces: Diggs, one of the most prolific wide receivers in the NFL over the last six seasons. Diggs grew frustrated in Buffalo but now has a chance to help elevate Stroud’s game, similar to how he provided a boost for Josh Allen. Stroud and Diggs will work on their connection this offseason while offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik figures out how to best integrate the 10th-year veteran into the offense.

Indianapolis Colts: QB Anthony Richardson

The gifted passer’s promising rookie season came to an abrupt end after four games because of a shoulder injury that required surgery. The Colts soon will welcome Richardson back onto the field, but for now, he continues to rehab and will likely train on the side as offseason practices kick off. Richardson resumed throwing earlier this spring and has told people he believes he is good to go. The Colts will exercise caution, however. Richardson could take part in positional drills once OTAs begin, and we’ll see if he can talk his way fully back into the mix by the time minicamp rolls around.

Jacksonville Jaguars: WR Brian Thomas Jr.

Jacksonville lost the talented Calvin Ridley in free agency, so finding new targets for quarterback Trevor Lawrence topped its offseason priority list. The Jaguars used the 23rd pick in the draft on Thomas, a 6-3, 209-pound LSU product, who clocked a 4.33-second 40-yard dash at the combine. Thomas will spend the spring and early summer learning his new quarterback and playbook as well as how to react to NFL coverages.

Tennessee Titans: WR Calvin Ridley​

Ridley returned from his yearlong gambling suspension and achieved a good degree of redemption with Jacksonville (76 catches, 1,016 yards and eight touchdowns). The Titans pulled off a stunner, signing him away from Jacksonville for $92 million over four seasons. They hope Ridley can become a security blanket for young quarterback Will Levis while also complementing DeAndre Hopkins, who turns 32 next month.

AFC West​

Denver Broncos: QB Bo Nix

Sean Payton shipped Russell Wilson to Pittsburgh and used the 12th pick on Nix, the Oregon quarterback who graded out as a late first-/early second-round draft pick. Jarrett Stidham and Zach Wilson are also on the roster, but the offseason is all about getting Nix coached up. The hope is that he can eventually lead the Broncos out of the wilderness they have wandered through ever since Peyton Manning retired in 2016 following a Super Bowl 50 victory.

Kansas City Chiefs: WR Xavier Worthy

The Chiefs snatched up the fastest wideout in the draft in Texas’ Worthy, who clocked a 4.21 40 at the combine. But there’s much more to NFL pass-catching than speed, as Worthy learned during a rocky rookie minicamp. The lumps came against fellow first- and second-year players, and soon, he’ll square off with veterans. Catching passes from Patrick Mahomes could help, but Worthy doesn’t have to be a finished product this spring. The Chiefs just want to see steady improvements.

Las Vegas Raiders: QB Gardner Minshew

The Raiders hoped to draft a top quarterback, but didn’t succeed at moving up and then refused to reach on a prospect. That means interim incumbent Aiden O’Connell and newcomer Minshew will duke it out for starting duties. Minshew took over for an injured Anthony Richardson last season and kept the Colts’ season alive. Now, he aims to spearhead a revival with the Raiders and coach Antonio Pierce, who was promoted from interim to full-time head coach this offseason.

Los Angeles Chargers: OT Joe Alt

The Chargers are starting over under new coach Jim Harbaugh, whose goal is to support quarterback Justin Herbert with an imposing offensive line. Harbaugh used his first draft pick with the Chargers on Notre Dame’s Alt, who at 6-9, 321 pounds is massive and powerful and should become a franchise cornerstone from Day 1. Alt will take his lumps at camp from Khalil Mack and Joey Bosa, which will only help him round into form.

NFC North​

Chicago Bears: QB Caleb Williams

It’s a new day in Chicago, again. After failed experiments with Mitch Trubisky and Justin Fields, the Bears now turn to the former USC star, who is heralded as a generational talent. Williams will spend the offseason learning his teammates’ names and coordinator Shane Waldron’s offense, and establishing himself as the leader of a franchise desperate to put years of disappointments behind it.

Detroit Lions: CB Terrion Arnold

After falling short in the NFC Championship Game, the Lions filled one of their remaining pressing needs in the draft’s first round with Alabama’s Arnold. The first-team All-American hits the field with his veteran teammates during OTAs and should carve out a key role promptly, if not immediately.

Green Bay Packers: RB Josh Jacobs

Pedestrian in the rushing department last season (ranked 16th), the Packers revamped their backfield this offseason and pulled off the surprise signing of Jacobs, a two-time Pro Bowler and 2022 first-team All-Pro selection. Jacobs should fit well in Matt LaFleur’s running-back friendly system and should help ease pressure on Jordan Love, who is in a contract year and looks to build on last year’s late-season playoff push and wild-card-round upset of Dallas.

Minnesota Vikings: QB J.J. McCarthy

The Vikings signed 2018 draft bust-turned-journeyman Sam Darnold as an insurance policy after losing Kirk Cousins to the Falcons. Minnesota then used the 10th pick on McCarthy, who helped Michigan win the national title, and hopes to bring his winning ways to the Vikings. There’s no guarantee McCarthy will start initially. Kevin O’Connell will give the rookie time to learn the system and acclimate to the NFL before making a determination. However, every snap of the offseason is crucial to McCarthy’s development.


Will Micah Parsons, who plans to sit out OTAs, take a stand for his contract when it’s time to report for minicamp? (Gregory Fisher / USA Today)
NFC East

Dallas Cowboys: LB Micah Parsons

Dallas’ most dominant player is skipping the initial voluntary workouts, reportedly because the All-Pro pass rusher wants more personalized training sessions to prepare himself for the season. That’s the word, anyway. The Cowboys picked up Parsons’ fifth-year option on his rookie deal but have yet to give him a contract extension. Will that be a problem later? Or will Parsons, who deserves to be paid like the most dominant defensive player in the league, report for mandatory minicamp?

New York Giants: QB Daniel Jones

This is likely Jones’ last crack at the starting job in New York. Poor play and injuries have thus far prevented him from delivering on the promise the Giants saw in Jones when they made him the sixth pick of the 2019 draft. Jones is working his way back from the season-ending knee surgery; he said last month he hopes to take part in some drills during OTAs. A strong rebound both this offseason and regular season is crucial for Jones. He has just one winning season, with more than 24 touchdown passes in a single season just once. In six games last season, he recorded just two touchdown passes and six interceptions. Brian Daboll needs results in Year 3 as head coach, so his patience with Jones will not last forever.

Philadelphia Eagles: QB Jalen Hurts

The Eagles worked hard to keep their quarterback’s supporting cast intact, and they lured Saquon Barkley away from the Giants — a move that should be an upgrade in the backfield. Hurts enters this season under a good deal of pressure after he and the Eagles’ offense regressed somewhat in 2023. Kellen Moore takes over as offensive coordinator and must figure out how to blend the best elements of Nick Sirianni’s playbook with his own and simultaneously bring out the best in Hurts. Learning a new offense is nothing new for the fifth-year quarterback. The 2022 season was only the second time since 2014 and 2015 (his high school days) that Hurts had played in the same offense two years in a row.

Washington Commanders: QB Jayden Daniels

New owner, new general manager, new head coach and, now, new quarterback. Daniels, the No. 2 pick, assumes the leading role for Washington, which has had 38 starting quarterbacks since Mark Rypien led the team to victory in Super Bowl XXVI. New play-caller Kliff Kingsbury draws the task of teaching, developing and composing an offense that best positions Daniels for success.

NFC South​

Atlanta Falcons: QB Kirk Cousins​

Despite the Falcons’ selection of Michael Penix Jr. with the eighth pick, Cousins is indeed the man they hope leads them to the NFC South title and a deep playoff run. Cousins, after six seasons in Minnesota, signed a four-year, $180 million deal with Atlanta following a season lost to a torn Achilles tendon. His recovery from surgery has gone well, and he is back on the field during these controlled workouts, using them to help get back up to speed while also learning a new offense and new targets like Kyle Pitts, Drake London, Darnell Mooney, Rondale Moore and Bijan Robinson.

Carolina Panthers: QB Bryce Young

The 2023 top draft pick and his team are hitting the reset button. Frank Reich didn’t last the full season as head coach and in his place is Dave Canales, who has helped resurrect the careers of Geno Smith and Baker Mayfield and now will try to lead the Panthers to relevance in the NFC South. Job No. 1 is helping Young live up to his potential. Young must learn a new offense, new terminology and new way of doing things while Canales and his assistants work to gain an understanding of how to best use the quarterback and position him for success.

New Orleans Saints: QB Derek Carr

The Saints hoped the longtime Raiders quarterback would make them contenders in the NFC, but Carr delivered a pedestrian season and the Saints went 9-8 and missed the playoffs. With three seasons left on the four-year, $150 million deal Carr signed last season, the Saints badly need to get a return on their investment. Dennis Allen brought in a new offensive coordinator in Klint Kubiak, who must help Carr regain his four-time Pro Bowl form. The groundwork begins this spring.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: OLB Chris Braswell

The Bucs lost Shaq Barrett to free agency, so in free agency, they chose to roll the dice with Randy Gregory. He’s the well-traveled, oft-suspended and yet talented pass rusher who spent time with Denver and San Francisco last season. A month later, they drafted Braswell out of Alabama in the second round. The opportunity for a key pass-rushing role is available for the rookie. Gregory recorded just 3 1/2 sacks last season and with the inconsistent Joe Tryon-Shoyinka (13 sacks in three seasons) also penciled in as a starter, Braswell has a shot to force his way into the mix. He had eight sacks last season for the Crimson Tide.

NFC West​

Arizona Cardinals: WR Marvin Harrison Jr.

The Cardinals used the fourth pick of the draft on the Ohio State playmaker. They hope Harrison can help maximize their investment in Kyler Murray, who used the final eight games of last season to knock off the rust accumulated during his recovery from his reconstructive knee surgery late in 2022. Harrison should give the Cardinals’ offense quite a boost this season; that’s why these offseason practices are so crucial for the chemistry development between quarterback and young target.

Los Angeles Rams: DE Jared Verse

There’s a gaping hole along the Rams’ defensive front with Aaron Donald now retired, so selecting Florida State’s Verse at No. 19 made a lot of sense. Verse could see time at defensive end and outside linebacker, so new defensive coordinator Chris Shula will likely do a good bit of experimentation with Verse, who had nine sacks and 50 quarterback pressures in his final college season.

San Francisco 49ers: WR Ricky Pearsall

The 49ers raised some eyebrows when they drafted the Florida wide receiver in the first round. The selection sparked debate over whether the team would trade Brandon Aiyuk or Deebo Samuel. For now, both remain on the roster, but Pearsall’s development will be interesting to monitor. Kyle Shanahan certainly is creative enough to figure out how to feature all three, plus Christian McCaffrey and George Kittle, in the offense. Pearsall, though, could use this season to learn as a rotational player before stepping into a larger role next season.

Seattle Seahawks: QB Sam Howell

Geno Smith has revived his career while serving as Seattle’s starter the past two seasons. But the Seahawks’ trade for Howell, who started for Washington last season, shows they clearly have an eye on the future. Howell remains an unfinished project, but he’s a competitor and will do everything he can to push Smith for playing time. The offseason practices and training camp should give an indication of how significant the gap is between the steady Smith and Howell. Smith passed for 3,624 yards, 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions while going 8-7 as a starter last season; Howell had 3,946 yards, 21 touchdowns, 21 interceptions and a 4-13 record.