The NFL Preseason is underway, and names across each franchise have made an early impact. Whether it’s a rookie or veteran, here is one standout player through the first week of preseason football:
Arizona Cardinals: Sam Bradford, QB
Many are assuming that rookie Josh Rosen will start for the Arizona Cardinals in week one, but Sam Bradford makes a valuable case for getting the nod. Tossing 6/6 for 61 yards, Bradford posted a 109.0 QBR against the New Orleans Saints defense. Arizona is being cautious with both quarterbacks, but this is a battle nonetheless.
Atlanta Falcons: Calvin Ridley, WR
With 6 early targets, rookie Calvin Ridley looked pro-ready in the Atlanta Falcons matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs. Reeling in 3 receptions for a total of 49 yards and 1 TD, Ridley also was placed within the special teams unit in order to return kicks. Showcasing himself as a utility player, he will surely be a bright spot in Atlanta’s roster.
Baltimore Ravens: John Brown, WR
Brown showed off a lot of what the Ravens’ coaching staff had been gushing about in their practices, great speed and phenomenal hands. Hauling in a key Joe Flacco TD pass in the second quarter of the game against the Colts was beyond impressive. Flacco, and possibly Lamar Jackson, will be thrilled to see Brown early and often in their tree routes.
Buffalo Bills: AJ McCarron, QB
The loss of AJ McCarron to a broken collarbone was devastating enough. Having to turn to a player like Josh Allen, who is far from being NFL-ready, is a near-death sentence. The Bills will need to find some sort of solace out of starting this season slow, and hope that others in the AFC do the same.
Carolina Panthers: Christian McCaffrey, RB
The Carolina Panthers promised to increase McCaffrey’s role after signing offensive coordinator Norv Turner, and they have showcased that during the preseason. With 5 attempts for 92 yards, McCaffrey dashed for a 71-yard touchdown in his early action. He will be the centerpiece (outside of Cam Newton) of the Panthers offense, and the preseason has only justified that argument.
Chicago Bears: Trey Burton, TE
There is a reason NFL experts are so high on Trey Burton with Chicago, and week two proved that. With 4 receptions for 45 yards and a touchdown, Burton is going to be a favorite target for Mitchell Trubisky through the regular season. In the end, this could be a career-best year to remember for the 26-year old tight end.
Cincinnati Bengals: Nick Vigil, LB
Nick Vigil, the third-year LB from Utah State, was flying all over the field for the Bengals, collecting 6 tackles (2 assisted) and one sack. If the Bengals’ offense is going to look as inept as it did against the Cowboys, they will need to rely on their defense to create turnovers and key stops down the stretch.
Cleveland Browns: Carlos Hyde, RB
Hyde showed me a lot in his last game against the Bills, running for 64 yards on 9 carries, including a touchdown run. Hyde looks the healthiest he has been in awhile, and Cleveland should feel very happy to have him in their backfield at this juncture.
Dallas Cowboys: Taco Charlton, DE
After an unsuccessful rookie campaign, defensive end Taco Charlton showed a bit of promise in his preseason action against the Cincinnati Bengals. With 3 tackles, Charlton also picked up a sack in his limited action. The Cowboys should be enthused about his potential for the future, as the defense has room to improve.
Denver Broncos: Chad Kelly, QB
How impressive has this rookie been? Kelly, the rookie out of Mississippi, showed off his accurate arm throwing nine times (and completing seven) for 90 yards and a touchdown. John Elway must be thrilled to have Kelly as an insurance policy in case Keenum continues to struggle in the Broncos’ offense.
Detroit Lions: Tavon Wilson, S
In a game where the Lions didn’t record a single sack or interception, Tavon Wilson was the bright spot on the defensive side of the ball. With 5 tackles and 1 deflected pass, Wilson is looking to get back in full-form in 2018. Spending the last two seasons with Detroit, Wilson has already missed 7 games during that time.
Green Bay Packers: Reggie Gilbert, OLB
After spending his first two seasons part of the Packers practice squad, Reggie Gilbert finished the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers with 2.5 sacks. With an overall 3 QB hits, Gilbert gives the Packers some potential on the defensive side of the ball. While multiple players stood out on Thursday night for Green Bay, Gilbert has the most to prove.
Houston Texans: Bruce Ellington, WR
Ellington was the first one to really stand out to me on the Texans’ offense this past week. He caught four passes for 50 yards and had a nice short yardage TD grab from Deshaun Watson as well. Ellington will likely be included in the packages for Houston when defenses tend to double up on their #1 receiver, DeAndre Hopkins.
Indianapolis Colts: Adam Vinatieri, K
Did you see that kick he had against the Ravens? Wow, is all I can truly say. A 45-year old kicker, still kicking the ball thru the uprights from 57 yards away is truly remarkable. The Colts have a future hall-of-famer in their locker room.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Ronnie Harrison, CB
This rookie from Alabama could be very special. Collecting five key tackles against the potent Minnesota Vikings offense is nothing to sneeze at, and he is improving at a rapid rate. Not to mention, Harrison also forced a fumble during this game that saw that Jags walk out victorious from.
Kansas City Chiefs: Patrick Mahomes, QB
Will the Chiefs regret trading Alex Smith to the Redskins? This question became a little bit clearer after Mahomes had a decent game against the Falcons, throwing for 138 yards (on 8/12 passing) and a TD and an INT. I still believe the Chiefs will rely too much on Mahomes to win games late, but for now, they’re doing what they need to do to walk out victorious.
Los Angeles Rams: John Kelly, RB
While Todd Gurley is the obvious choice in the back field, the Los Angeles Rams relied heavily on John Kelly, as he totaled 18 carries for 56 yards. With a 1-yard TD in the mix, Kelly may very well become the go-to option if Gurley ever gets sidelined for injury or even casual rest in the regular season.
Los Angeles Chargers: Detrez Newsome, RB
Newsome, the talented rookie out of Western Carolina, ran the rock 19 times for 78 yards, which alleviated a lot of the pressure put on QBs Philip Rivers and Geno Smith. Newsome is looking like a near-lock for the starting-RB position for the Chargers and will need to continue to develop this season to improve all facet of his game.
Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, QB
14/17 for 100 yards is very efficient for a quarterback coming off of a campaign that was over in training camp last year. Tannehill did not throw any TDs, but he was extremely careful with the football as well, with no INTs either. Miami must be thrilled to have their captain back.
Minnesota Vikings: Ifeadi Odenigbo, DT
Drafted in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft, Odenigbo showcased himself against the Jacksonville Jaguars. In a game where 6 Vikings were sidelined with injuries during the course of the game, the defensive end recorded 7 tackles, 2 of which were sacks. Playing behind Sheldon Richardson, Odenigbo will need more performances like this in order to receive playing time.
New England Patriots: Tom Brady, QB
Tom Brady is clearly not messing around. Throwing for 172 yards and 2 touchdowns in a blowout of the Eagles may be a small dose of redemption for #12, but alas it’s only preseason football. Luckily for the Patriots, they might not need to get Brady any more reps before their season opener.
New Orleans Saints: Mark Ingram II, RB
For the second consecutive week, the most outstanding player in New Orleans continues to be Mark Ingram II. Scheduled to serve a four-game suspension, Ingram totaled 36 yards on 7 carries. Through two preseason games, Ingram has 60 yards on 14 carries with 1 TD. Alvin Kamara is the centerpiece of the running game for the Saints, but Ingram is proving to have consistent value.
New York Giants: Wayne Gallman, RB
After the minor injury to Saquon Barkley, the New York Giants are testing multiple running backs in order to dissect who the backup may be. Against the Detroit Lions, Gallman recorded 2 TDs and proved to be a valuable contender as the #2 to Barkley. While Gallman won’t play nearly the same amount of time as the other projected starters, he outperformed against teammate Jonathan Stewart, who rushed 4 times for -1 yard.
New York Jets: Terrence Brooks, S
Terrence Brooks looked impressive against the Redskins, and was flying all over the field. Brooks collected 8 tackles, including an impressive sack on Alex Smith. The NY Jets will need Brooks to continue to be a sure tackler when their CBs lose their receivers downfield.
Oakland Raiders: Marquel Lee, LB
The talented second-year linebacker registered four total tackles, including one for a loss in the backfield against the potent Rams’ offense. Lee has clearly put in some solid work in this offseason and Gruden will rely on Lee to be a steady leader with the LB corps.
Philadelphia Eagles: Nate Sudfeld, QB
After Nick Foles left the game with a strained shoulder, third-string option Nate Sudfeld did his best to stay afloat. Completing the game 22-39 with 312 yards, 3 TD and 1 INT, Sudfeld was sacked 4 times. With the status of Carson Wentz still in the air for week one, the Eagles will need to be more cautious about who they throw under center in the last two preseason games.
Pittsburgh Steelers: James Washington, WR
What a game from James Washington for the Pittsburgh Steelers! Catching five passes for 114 yards and two touchdowns would be a gift from the football gods on any fantasy squad. This rookie should be right at home with other talented WRs in Antonio Brown and Ju Ju Smith-Schuster.
San Francisco 49ers: Reuben Foster, LB
Reuben Foster, who missed 6 games in 2017 and is scheduled to be suspended for 3 games to start the upcoming season, looked like a valuable member of the 49ers defense in week two of the preseason. While he is obviously carrying baggage, perhaps it’s too early to judge the impact Foster can have for San Francisco?
Seattle Seahawks: Chris Carson, RB
With Rashaad Penny out with a hand injury until week one, Chris Carson has the opportunity to cement himself as the clear starter in Seattle. With a 3.8 YPC against the Los Angeles Chargers, the downside to Carson in week two included his fumble. While this isn’t a clear tendency, Carson will need to provide growth in weeks three and four.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jameis Winston, QB
Although Winston is suspended for the first three games of the regular season, he has been impressive through preseason. Against the Tennessee Titans, he completed 13-18 attempts for 226 yards and 2 TDs. Ryan Fitzpatrick is expected to fill in, so hopefully Tampa Bay can stay afloat until Winston returns.
Tennessee Titans: Taywan Taylor, WR
Taylor put on an absolute show against the Bucs. He caught four passes for 95 yards, including two huge TD grabs (one from Mariota, one from Gabbert). Taylor will be a key cog to the Titans’ offensive attack this year.
Washington Redskins: Rob Kelley, RB
After another injury to the backfield in Samaje Perine, the Redskins will eventually be forced to look for consistency from Rob Kelley. After Thursday night, Kelley has continued to shown a lack of explosiveness. With 7 carries for 17 yards, that brings Kelley’s preseason total to 11 carries for 23 yards (2.09 yards per carry). Washington needs to find some stroke of luck in the backfield, otherwise this is going to be a long season.