Heightened Off-Season Training will Result in Most Prepared NFL Rookie Class

By: Leigh Steinberg

ORIGINAL POST on Forbes.com-July 19, 2016- at 5:51pm.

When NFL training camps open in a few weeks the current crop of rookies will be significantly more prepared than ever. They will have spent more time with their teams in the pre-season than any group who came before them. Some of the rookies have spent as many as six weeks with their respective team working at the facility. This ought to make their progression in training camp much smoother and more productive than previous draft classes. It will be interesting to see if this results in an increase of rookies starting and improving the productivity of their seasons.

The transition from college play to pro football has always been steep. The game seems much faster, the less talented players are eliminated, the playbooks are more complex and the schemes are more confusing. Once the first few pre-season games are played, the reps in practice and plays in the games tend to go to the starters and the rookies not drafted in a higher round have little chance for experience or to impress the coaches. For years a rookie would be drafted, go to a rookie camp at the facility within the first few post-draft weeks, and spend four days with the team. He then would go home and report to training camp ten weeks later facing transition shock.

Certain positions rely on repetition. The more times a quarterback can read defenses, the clearer his field vision becomes. The more times an offensive lineman can execute a play, the more proficient he becomes. The salary cap pushes highly drafted rookies to play immediately and they are harshly judged by the press and fans early in their developmental cycle. Prior to this phenomenon quarterbacks might be judged after three years of development, now in certain circles they are judged after three games. So it is difficult to master enough technical skill in training camp and pre-season to look proficient.

This year many rookies came to mini-camp and stayed after. They spent two weeks in strength and conditioning training at the facility and also participated in Organized Team Activities, OTA's, for as many as four weeks. They lined up and executed plays with no contact. For a number of weeks they were running plays and working with their teammates and coaches. For someone like Denver Bronco rookie QB Paxton Lynch, that time was invaluable. Like training camp without hitting.

The extra pre-season training for QB's such as Jared Goff Rams,Carson Wentz Eagles and Paxton Lynch Broncos and offensive linemen like Ronnie Stanley Ravens, Laremy Tunsil Dolphins, and Taylor Decker Lions, should give them an extra edge in their development. It will be intriguing to watch.