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NFL rookie survey: Favorite players, jersey swaps, rule changes and more

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Forty-five players in the NFL’s 2023 rookie class got to wear their pro jerseys for the first time Saturday morning, stepping out of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum tunnel and onto the dewy grass field with giant grins.

It was the third day of their jammed Rookie Premiere weekend, an annual business and marketing event thrown by the NFL Players Association in partnership with several companies, including presenting sponsor Panini America, Fanatics, EA Sports, Pepsi and others. The young players rotated through branding and endorsement meetings and orientations throughout the weekend, taking the field in full uniform Saturday for an action photo shoot for Panini America’s trading cards.

The Athletic surveyed several first- and second-round rookies at the Coliseum on lighter topics that included where their MVP votes would have gone in 2022, the most exciting players in the NFL, what rules they would change if they could and much more.

Note: Some responses have been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.

If you’d had an MVP vote last season, who would you have voted for?

Bryce Young, QB, Carolina PanthersProbably would have gone with Jalen Hurts or Pat (Mahomes). Pat deserved it, for sure. … But I think that Jalen and Pat just had great years. Pat’s speaks for itself — amazing throughout the season and finished with a championship. J-Hurts, that year he had last year (as) a leader, how he handled himself on and off the field, I just have a ton of respect for both of them.

C.J. Stroud, QB, Houston TexansIt would have been a split between Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts.

Anthony Richardson, QB, Indianapolis ColtsJalen Hurts. That man is a dog. This man was going crazy the whole season, leading his team (and) being a great dude, being a great player, of course. Just him being himself — he’s a dog. I would have voted for him a thousand times.

Jonathan Mingo, WR, Carolina Panthers: I would pick Jalen Hurts. … The way he progressed every year, he made strides every year. He took Philly from a first-round (playoff) exit team last year to almost winning the Super Bowl. Jalen Hurts — or Patrick Mahomes.

Will Anderson Jr., edge, Houston Texans: Micah Parsons, a defensive player. And offensively, Patrick Mahomes. Or Jalen Hurts.

Dalton Kincaid, TE, Buffalo BillsJosh Allen.

Who are you most excited to jersey swap with?

Young: Probably C.J. (Stroud) and Will (Anderson Jr.). Those are guys — I’ve known C.J. for a long time; that’s my brother. Will, that’s my brother too. We go to war every Saturday. We came in at the exact same time. Same schedule. We’ve really leaned on each other these past couple of years, on and off the field.

Stroud: All my former teammates! Even in high school … Bryce, and I’m trying to think of anybody else. I definitely want to get a Mahomes jersey. But I don’t want to seem like “that guy.” (Laughs) My teammates, I’m comfortable enough to ask.

Richardson: C.J. Stroud, Bryce Young, Lamar JacksonTrevor Lawrence, if he thinks I’m cool enough to get his jersey. Mainly, all of the QBs.

Marvin Mims, WR, Denver BroncosI’d probably say (Chiefs linebacker) Nick Bolton. We went to high school together. He was a senior my sophomore year. That would be sweet, kind of a full-circle thing.

Mingo: Probably (Saints linebacker) Demario Davis. We grew up across the street from each other, and he went to high school with my brother. So I remember when I was a kid, I used to knock on his door to throw the ball with him all the time.

Anderson: Any big-time quarterback. And probably a big-time defensive end, (like) Nick Bosa or Von Miller.

Zay Flowers, WR, Baltimore RavensProbably all of the rookies. I’ll be excited — whoever I play from the rookies, I’ll be excited to swap. … I’m cool with all of them. We’ve got our own little group chat. We talk and hang out together.

Which NFL player is the most exciting to watch? (QBs could not pick other QBs)

Young: I feel like Dub (“J-Dub” is receiver Jaylen Waddle’s nickname) or Tyreek Hill. It’s crazy they’re on the same team. Tyreek Hill or Dub, it’s pure excitement. Speed. You can’t teach that.

Stroud: I would say Tyreek Hill. … Travis Kelce is very entertaining … CeeDee Lamb is pretty entertaining. Justin JeffersonDavante Adams! There are so many entertaining players; I love watching football.

Richardson: My goodness, it’s a whole bunch of them. Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase … almost everybody. They’re in the league for a reason. Almost everybody is legit!

Mingo: Any receiver. I just love watching receivers; I go home and watch highlights versus defensive backs. I like watching all the best receivers, especially.

Mims: Patrick Mahomes. Dude does, like, everything well. It’s kind of ridiculous even watching the way he controls the offense. … Now I’m going to have to play him, so that’ll be pretty sweet. Hopefully we go out there and beat ’em.

Anderson: Patrick Mahomes. I mean, the way he can get out of the pocket, escape the pocket and throw the ball sideways and extend plays, it’s crazy.

Dorian Thompson-Robinson, QB, Browns: Probably Patrick Mahomes. Quick, easy answer.

Flowers: Tyreek Hill. Or Justin Jefferson. Both. Every time they touch the ball, they’re making a big play.

Kincaid: Josh Allen.

If there’s a current NFL rule you could change, or if you could create a rule, what would it be?

Stroud: I have two. Can I do two? I would say that everybody has to have a dome if you’re in a cold area. And two, more cool uniforms. I don’t think that uniforms are meant to be so generic. Tradition is fine. (But) I think that would make the game more fun. Every cold game in a dome … but it’s OK; you get used to it. Actually, I love playing in the cold, but it’s love-hate.

Richardson: It wouldn’t be a fair rule! But nobody could hit quarterbacks, and we could just score whenever we want. (Laughs)

Anderson: (Gesturing to full-length leggings underneath his pads) These tights. I have never played in tights before, ever, at all, in my life. I’ve never played with anything covering my legs before. Gotta be free. Gotta let my legs breathe.

Thompson-Robinson: Well, I need to make sure I look good on the field. So, covering these knees ain’t it. I’m making sure pads/pants are above the knees. You had better jump over somebody if they’re trying to take you out, because we’ve got to look good out here.

Flowers: I would change the “no showing skin” rule. You could wear low socks. Players are comfortable with low socks! If you don’t have anything on (your legs), you can just run!

If you could invite any NFL non-teammates and/or coaches to dinner and ask them anything, who would it be and why?

Young: I’m gonna cheat a little bit. I’m going to go with Will (Anderson Jr.), Jah (running back Jahmyr Gibbs) and B.B. (safety Brian Branch) because we were just on the same team. Those are my brothers.

Stroud: I would probably do Mahomes, Jalen Ramsey, probably Paris Johnson.

Richardson: All of the QBs, and talk about their experiences and what to expect and how it is in the league.

Mims: I’d probably say CeeDee Lamb. Both of us went to Oklahoma; I just missed him (he left as I was going in). Lot of similarities to what we’ve been through, and I would just talk to him about the NFL.

Anderson: Bill Belichick. Aaron Donald.

Flowers: The Dolphins’ head coach, Mike McDaniel. He’s a little cool; he’s a vibe. Like, funny. He doesn’t do too much, but he does an amount where you can enjoy yourself.

What is one thing about being a rookie that you don’t think people know about?

Young: I don’t want to say I speak for everyone, but I think you see us at these events — which is great; it’s an honor to be here — and at draft night, it’s an exciting process, but it doesn’t look like how it is publicized. We’re all in the facility just trying to get things together, trying to establish a routine and trying to gain the trust of our teammates. It’s a long and hard process. I’m grateful to be (in) on it … there’s nothing I’d rather be doing. But there’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes.

Stroud: It’s not what it seems. It’s a lot of fun, of course, and it’s a blessing. But it’s a lot of hard work. A lot of late nights, early mornings — not a lot of sleep. And we’re regular people. I don’t think people sometimes understand that. … People who are (on the outside), sometimes they think we’re not humble or whatever. I try to remain humble, and I just want people to know that.

Richardson: After getting drafted, you realize that — of course we’re playing ball for fun. But it’s your job now, you get paid to do it now, and there are expectations for you that you have to oblige by. Understanding that it’s your job and also enjoying it, having fun with it, I think that’s probably the main thing I’ve embraced so far about being a rookie.

Mims: For me, it’s just settling in. I still get starstruck being in the receivers room with the guys and seeing Russell Wilson in the team room, locker room, training room. It’s crazy. And having Sean Payton as a coach, I mean, a legendary coach. My family is from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, so huge Saints fans. It really hasn’t become real to me yet, so it’s just wild. Especially if you’re a fan, I’m still kind of like in a “fan mindset” … but I’m actually on the team!

Flowers: How much stuff I actually do. I can’t just be on the phone and stuff; you’ve got to be ready for everything that is coming your way. You’ve got to set some boundaries so you can get done whatever you’ve got to get done.

Thompson-Robinson: As far as I know, rookie dinners are now a myth. So I can keep my money in my pocket.

“There he goes. One of God's own prototypes.

A high-powered mutant of some kind, never even considered for mass production.

Too weird to live, and too rare to die.”

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