The NFL preseason is an avalanche of new information. We have been in our caves of slumber since the NFL Draft for major player value movement. Now, we get breadcrumbs of data from NFL teams - hints of players who will be kept, cut, featured, etc. Here are the key takeaways from the preseason as a whole:
Rookie Quarterbacks: They are who we thought they were
Heading into Week 1, the first-round rookie quarterbacks have all settled into what we thought back in May:
- Baker Mayfield: Firmly behind Tyrod Taylor to start the season, looks comfortable in the pocket (poor man's Drew Brees)
- Sam Darnold: Likely to start Week 1, play-maker traits, will likely never look conventional in how he plays
- Josh Allen: Eye-popping arm strength, needs to be reigned in, likely to learn on the job whether a good thing or not
- Josh Rosen: Looks the part, between Rosen and Mayfield for most comfortable in the pocket at outset, needs Sam Bradford injury early to start
- Lamar Jackson: Dynamic runner/mover, not close to ready as a pure passer, developmental with high upside later
Day 3 Running Backs for a reason
- Nyheim Hines has been a slow starter (being kind)
- Mark Walton has not looked like anything special
- Ito Smith is a baseline NFL back in the RB3/4 mold
- Kalen Ballage has had the boom-bust moments consistent with his college profile
- Jaylen Samuels is stuck between positions and not likely to challenge James Conner
- Jordan Wilkins has looked pedestrian and only is appealing due to uncertain Colts depth chart
- Boston Scott will be lucky to make the Saints roster
- Trenton Cannon's frame is concerning for any meaningful workload
- Bo Scarbrough has been challenged by Darius Jackson in the RB3/4 roles more than pushing Rod Smith for RB2
- Justin Jackson has yet to play but could see a nice workload in the final preseason game
Like we see in most classes, there are undrafted backs rising up beyond that of the lower Day 3 options. This year, the risers are Chris Warren III III in Oakland, Josh Adams looking good in a small sample size for the Eagles, Roc Thomas and Mike Boone fighting for the RB3 spot in Minnesota, Phillip Lindsay looks like a roster lock in Denver, Ryan Nall looking functional in Chicago, and Gus Edwards and Mark Thompson showing promise in Baltimore. They will not all make the 53-man roster (or even stay where they are for practice squad designations), but there are kernels of optimism they can play in the league.
Follow the Pedigree
Some of the ambiguous situations around NFL passing games are as simple as following the pedigree.
Cowboys: Michael Gallup looks to be the 1A wide receiver to open the season. Between a low-level returning contract for Terrance Williams, a reclamation project shot on Allen Hurns (and Tavon Austin), Gallup as a Day 2 pick with strong metrics has done nothing but breed optimism in his role to start his rookie season.
John Ross: The top-10 pick last year mired through injuries and getting up to speed - it was a lost season across the board. Ross is the WR2 behind A.J. Green and flashed his elite athleticism this preseason.
Kevin White: All signs are pointing to White as a starting receiver for Chicago, despite all Anthony Miller fans assuming Miller walks into the WR2 job. White is a former top-10 and durability has been the most significant barrier to-date. White has not proven (or disproven) he can play in the league, but high pedigree options typically get plenty of shots to figure it out and White is no exception.
Phillip Dorsett: The former Round 1 pick has emerged as a likely beneficiary in New England with Julian Edelman suspended to start the season. An honorable mention for Cordarrelle Patterson, who can be an impact on situational touches, for the Patriots as well.
Tight End Shake-up
Ravens: Hayden Hurst had the lead job locked up, but an injury puts the first few weeks of the season in jeopardy. Nick Boyle is likely to benefit with Mark Andrews slow to incorporate as he recovered from an offseason injury as well.
Bengals: Tyler Eifert is back! But he is likely to be heavily managed as a pass-centric option. This dampens any appeal for Tyler Kroft as a full-time replacement and also Eifert without a full opportunity share.
Jets: Neal Sterling has been running as the starter for the much of the preseason (outside of working through an injury). The team likes rookie Chris Herndon, but he has seen very few reps over the past month. Eric Tomlinson is the primary blocker, but a lackluster receiving option.
Steelers: Vance McDonald is the fantasy upside option, but is not healthy. Jesse James is the primary blocker and will see a high snap count regardless of McDonald's status, but offers less receiving appeal.
Bears: Adam Shaheen's ankle injury in the preseason projects to not be as severe as the video and initial look, however, he will need to work back as he looked fantastic in limited time. Trey Burton gets a lead role for the first time in his career after simmering behind Zach Ertz in Philadelphia for years.
Lions: Luke Willson's injury leaves Hakeem Valles as the name to know for the pass-catching role. Michael Roberts has been a disappointment this offseason and closer to the cut list than a high-snap option for 2018.
Cowboys: The consistent preseason pecking order has been Geoff Swaim as the likely snap count leader and preferred blocker. Blake Jarwin has more receiving traits but has been the clear TE2 in snaps and usage.