The 2023 NFL Draft is in the books, and now the newly drafted players can start to work with their new coaches. With rookie minicamps starting immediately after the draft, I share my experience working with rookies who have gone through this process, the dates the camps will be held, and what fans should be expecting from them.
When Are the 2023 NFL Rookie Minicamps?
- May 5-8
- Baltimore Ravens
- Chicago Bears
- Green Bay Packers
- Indianapolis Colts
- Kansas City Chiefs
- New York Giants
- New York Jets
- Philadelphia Eagles
- May 12-14
- Arizona Cardinals
- Atlanta Falcons
- Buffalo Bills
- Carolina Panthers
- Cincinnati Bengals
- Cleveland Browns
- Dallas Cowboys
- Denver Broncos
- Detroit Lions
- Houston Texans
- Jacksonville Jaguars
- Las Vegas Raiders
- Los Angeles Chargers
- Miami Dolphins
- Minnesota Vikings
- New Orleans Saints
- Pittsburgh Steelers
- San Francisco 49ers
- Seattle Seahawks
- Tamp Bay Buccaneers
- Tennessee Titans
- Washington Commanders
Who Will Be Attending NFL Rookie Minicamps?
The rookie minicamps are for a team’s draft picks, the undrafted free agents they signed following the draft, and tryout players. The team draft picks and priority free agents will certainly be the focus, as they’ll be expected back when training camp and mandatory minicamps begin with the veterans.
The tryout players are often UDFAs as well, but not players the team opted to sign. The truth of the matter is that most of these players are bodies so that the team can conduct meaningful minicamps with enough people to run certain drills, etc. The secondary hope is that the tryout player really stands out and makes an impression. That player will then be signed as a free agent and invited back for mandatory minicamp.
Where Are the 2023 Rookie Minicamps Being Held?
NFL teams usually keep it pretty relaxed for their rookie minicamps. As these events usually take place over a couple of days, they will often be held at one of the team’s facilities. This is in contrast to the full training camp, where some teams will take their team outside their facilities in order to train at an external site.
What Should Be Expected From Minicamps?
I’ve had several players that I work with go through the rookie minicamp process and have worked with coaches on what they expect. The main focus of rookie minicamps is to accomplish two things. First and most important is to get the rookies in the building and introduce them to the team culture. They meet all of the coaches, and trainers, and are given a tour of the facility. They also meet with a nutritionist and sleep specialist who will give them individualized plans.
Secondly, rookies are introduced to the playbook and practice style. These camps are not designed for rookies to get “up to speed,” as they are only a few days long. Rather this is an introduction so that when the veterans report and the real work begins, they have a chance at keeping up and learning the basics won’t slow everyone else down.
The rookies will be sent home with specific techniques the coaches want them to focus on before they return. The goal is always the same: when you come back, don’t be the reason practice is slow.
Rookie Minicamps Are a Feeling Out Process
Rookie minicamp is the first time these players will see how their team does things. There are 32 different environments in the NFL, and each one does it differently. That is amplified when a player makes the jump from college to the pros.
In the classroom, rookies get a taste of how their position coach runs a film session. This gives the player a chance to see what matters to the coach in terms of technique, how they approach film, what is the best note-taking strategy, etc. Some coaches are pretty fluid, others jump around a lot.
I have had a player say he knows he needs to leave blank space in a notebook because he knows that even though they’ve moved on from something, the coach can jump back at any time. The players begin to learn nuances like that in rookie minicamps.
When on the field, it’s in many ways the same thing.
It’s like a laboratory experiment. Each side, the players and coaches, are feeling each other out. Players take note of how the coach teaches, how they motivate, and what they care about (hustle over perfection?). Likewise, coaches try to determine which players need to work on the foundations of what their position needs. All of it is used to inform the next time they get together.
Rookie Minicamps Are a Reminder There Is Still a Class System
We shouldn’t be naïve. NFL locker rooms are rife with politics. It’s more than talent or merit which determines playing time or roster standing. Those politics begin at rookie minicamps.
For those looking to earn roster spots, they can leave an initial impression in the minds of their coaches. For the UDFAs and tryout players, the potential opportunity to make an impact and earn a roster spot is invaluable. It’s nothing but upside.
However, for drafted players, there are real risks. A bad day for a Day 1 or 2 selection will not be the end of their time with the team. However, it can leave them on the back foot heading into the next stage of the offseason.
A coach may feel he’s got to ride a player especially hard to remind them who’s the boss, so to speak. Meanwhile, any good impression they leave could be fleeting. Ultimately, to earn a roster spot or a starting role, how rookies fare against veterans already on the team will be telling.
Of course, a good performance cannot be overrated. The rise of Russell Wilson to be a Week 1 rookie starter for the Seahawks started because of a good rookie minicamp performance. However, uplifting stories like that are often outweighed by those of players whose careers were almost over before they began because of struggles in these rookie minicamps.
For the Day 3, UDFA, and tryout players, the stakes are higher. Teams have invested little in the way of guaranteed capital in these players, and if they struggle, they could find themselves having to go and fight for a roster spot elsewhere in the league.