Grading Every NFL Team's Rookie Class After 2022 Preseason

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonContributor ISeptember 3, 2022

Grading Every NFL Team's Rookie Class After 2022 Preseason

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    CANTON, OH - AUGUST 04: Travon Walker #44 of the Jacksonville Jaguars runs off the field after the 2022 Pro Football Hall of Fame Game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium on August 04, 2022 in Canton, Ohio. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images)
    Travon Walker (Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images)

    Before the NFL regular season starts on September 8, let’s catch up to speed on the progress of the 2022 rookie class.

    Since the draft, the rookies have gone through minicamp, organized team activities (OTAs), mandatory minicamp, training camp and the preseason, which gives them four months to develop before the games count in the standings.

    Over the summer, first-year players have impressed their teammates and coaches with exceptional plays on the practice field and in exhibition contests. But in some cases, clubs may have to lean on veterans in the short term while the youngsters continue to earn snaps.

    We’ve graded every team’s rookie class based on the growth or struggles of the players through the offseason with an emphasis on who’s ready to contribute in starting or rotational roles for the 2022 season.

Arizona Cardinals

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    Arizona Cardinals defensive lineman Cameron Thomas takes part in drills during the NFL football team's training camp at State Farm Stadium, Thursday, July 28, 2022, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
    Cameron Thomas (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

    · Round 2, No. 55 overall: Trey McBride, TE, Colorado State

    · Round 3, No. 87 overall: Cameron Thomas, DE, San Diego State

    · Round 3, No. 100 overall: Myjai Sanders, DE, Cincinnati

    · Round 6, No. 201 overall: Keaontay Ingram, RB, USC

    · Round 6, No. 215 overall: Lecitus Smith, G, Virginia Tech

    · Round 7, No. 244 overall: Christian Matthew, CB, Valdosta State

    · Round 7, No. 256 overall: Jesse Luketa, LB, Penn State

    · Round 7, No. 257 overall: Marquis Hayes, G, Oklahoma

    The Arizona Cardinals will have to wait for their top draft pick to contribute with consistency. On the flip side, they may have found a couple of pass-rushers to fill a void on the edge following Chandler Jones’ departure to the Las Vegas Raiders and a late-round running back who can handle a portion of the rushing workload.

    McBride battled a sore back throughout the summer and failed to haul in a target in two preseason games. Zach Ertz and Maxx Williams will log a majority of the snaps at tight end for the upcoming campaign.

    On a brighter note, Thomas (two) and Sanders (0.5) combined for 2.5 sacks in the exhibition games. They'll have an opportunity to back up or complement Markus Golden on the edge.

    As a sixth-rounder, Ingram took advantage of his preseason workload, recording five receptions for 46 yards in addition to 27 carries for 97 yards and a score on the ground. He’ll start out on the back end of the roster, but the USC product has showcased the ability to push for some touches.

    Grade: C

Atlanta Falcons

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    ATLANTA, GA - AUGUST 27: Desmond Ridder #4 of the Atlanta Falcons warms up prior to a preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on August 27, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
    Desmond Ridder (Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

    · Round 1, No. 8 overall: Drake London, WR, USC

    · Round 2, No. 38 overall: Arnold Ebiketie, EDGE, Penn State

    · Round 2, No. 58 overall: Troy Andersen, LB, Montana State

    · Round 3, No. 74 overall: Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati

    · Round 3, No. 82 overall: DeAngelo Malone, OLB, Western Kentucky·

    · Round 5, No. 151 overall: Tyler Allgeier, RB, BYU

    · Round 6, No. 190 overall: Justin Shaffer, G, Georgia

    · Round 6, No. 213 overall: John FitzPatrick, TE, Georgia

    This group’s short-term future looks bright.

    London only suited up for one preseason game, hauling in one pass for 24 yards before he exited with a knee injury. Atlanta Falcons head coach Arthur Smith told reporters that he doesn’t see the wideout’s absence as a “long-term thing” and praised the USC product for a “good camp.”

    If London suits up for most of the 2022 term, he’ll probably see the second-most targets behind tight end Kyle Pitts regardless of who’s under center.

    Speaking of the quarterback position, Marcus Mariota will start while healthy, though Ridder did enough to show he can potentially take over the offense late in the season. The rookie signal-caller completed 34 out of 56 passes for 431 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions, rushing for 58 yards on eight carries.

    With a completion rate above 66 percent in two outings and the willingness to use his legs, Ridder flashed intriguing upside through the preseason.

    Unlike Ridder, who’s clearly a backup at his position, Allgeier may be able to earn a feature role early in the season. He recorded 17 carries for 68 yards and a touchdown along with four receptions for 14 yards and a score through three exhibition outings.

    If Cordarrelle Patterson has a bigger role at wide receiver, Allgeier can move into the No. 1 spot on the Falcons’ running back depth chart over a career backup in Damien Williams and Avery Williams, who's transitioned from cornerback to running back this offseason.

    On defense, Ebiketie (four tackles), Andersen (five tackles and a pass breakup) and Malone (four tackles and a pass breakup) had decent performances through the preseason. Ebiketie could provide a significant boost to the Falcons’ pass rush.

    Grade: B+

Baltimore Ravens

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    Baltimore Ravens safety Kyle Hamilton (14) lines up against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Sunday, Aug. 21, 2022, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
    Kyle Hamilton (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

    · Round 1, No. 14 overall: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame

    · Round 1, No. 25 overall: Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa

    · Round 2, No. 45 overall: David Ojabo, OLB, Michigan

    · Round 3, No. 76 overall: Travis Jones, DT, Connecticut

    · Round 4, No. 110 overall: Daniel Faalele, OT, Minnesota

    · Round 4, No. 119 overall: Jalyn Armour-Davis, CB, Alabama

    · Round 4, No. 128 overall: Charlie Kolar, TE, Iowa State

    · Round 4, No. 130 overall: Jordan Stout, P, Penn State

    · Round 4, No. 139 overall: Isaiah Likely, TE, Coastal Carolina

    · Round 4, No. 141 overall: Damarion Williams, CB, Houston

    · Round 6, No. 196 overall: Tyler Badie, RB, Missouri

    This year, the Baltimore Ravens could use a lot of big nickel looks with three safeties, featuring Marcus Williams, Chuck Clark and Hamilton.

    Hamilton can cover space on the back end or step into the box for run support. He had a decent preseason, logging five tackles, a pass breakup and a fumble recovery.

    The Ravens should exercise patience with Linderbaum, who battled a foot injury that sidelined him for a stretch during training camp. Rookies need every possible rep through their first offseason, so the Iowa product may come along slowly this year. Yet he expects to be 100 percent and play Week 1.

    Back in April, general manager Eric DeCosta expressed optimism via team doctors about Ojabo’s potential return to action after he ruptured his Achilles at Michigan's pro day. Nonetheless, we shouldn’t expect much from him this year. Look out for the athletic edge-rusher in 2023.

    Williams had a highlight moment in Week 2 against the Arizona Cardinals, picking off a pass and returning the ball 29 yards. He’ll add depth to the cornerback room and carve out a role on special teams.

    Likely had one of the best overall preseason performances among all rookies, hauling in 12 passes for 144 yards and a touchdown. He can take the field with Mark Andrews to form one of the league’s best pass-catching tight end duos.

    The Ravens traded wideout Marquise Brown to the Cardinals during the draft, but don’t just look for Rashod Bateman to soak up more targets, Likely could make an impact as a pass-catcher this year.

    Grade: A

Buffalo Bills

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    ORCHARD PARK, NEW YORK - AUGUST 13: Kaiir Elam #24 of the Buffalo Bills warms up prior to a preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts at Highmark Stadium on August 13, 2022 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)
    Kaiir Elam (Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)

    · Round 1, No. 23 overall: Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida

    · Round 2, No. 63 overall: James Cook, RB, Georgia

    · Round 3, No. 89 overall: Terrel Bernard, LB, Baylor

    · Round 5, No. 148 overall: Khalil Shakir, WR, Boise State

    · Round 6, No. 180 overall: Matt Araiza, P, San Diego State

    · Round 6, No. 185 overall: Christian Benford, CB, Villanova

    · Round 6, No. 209 overall: Luke Tenuta, OT, Virginia Tech

    · Round 7, No. 231 overall: Baylon Spector, LB, Clemson

    Following a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC divisional round, the Buffalo Bills have a team that’s ready to contend for a Super Bowl. With the exception of Elam, they need quality role players in this group.

    Elam will likely start opposite cornerback Tre’Davious White, who will miss the first four games on the physically unable to perform list. The rookie cornerback didn’t give up much real estate in coverage through the preseason and seems ready to play in a starting position as the replacement for Levi Wallace, who signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    Unlike Elam, Bernard isn’t a projected full-time starter, though he’ll shore up a solid linebacker unit with Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano. The rookie third-rounder recovered a fumble and returned it 69 yards for a touchdown in his preseason debut against the Indianapolis Colts. He also played well in run support and in pass coverage for the other two exhibition outings.

    Here's some bad news for the rest of the league: Quarterback Josh Allen may have more viable weapons at his disposal.

    Shakir caught eight passes for a team-leading 151 receiving yards through the preseason. He’s a potential big-play option among a deep wide receiver group that includes Stefon Diggs, Gabe Davis, Isaiah McKenzie and Jamison Crowder.

    Cook accumulated 73 scrimmage yards through three exhibition outings. He recorded a 12-yard reception and a 19-yard gain on the ground. Out of the backfield or split out wide, the Georgia product could make game-breaking plays in space.

    On Saturday, the Bills released Araiza, who’s been accused of being involved in the gang rape of a 17-year-old girl while at San Diego State.

    Grade: B

Carolina Panthers

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    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - AUGUST 19: Ikem Ekwonu #79 of the Carolina Panthers looks on during the preseason game between the New England Patriots and the Carolina Panthers at Gillette Stadium on August 19, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
    Ikem Ekwonu (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    · Round 1, No. 6 overall: Ikem Ekwonu, OT, North Carolina State

    · Round 3, No. 94 overall: Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss

    · Round 4, No. 120 overall: Brandon Smith, LB, Penn State

    · Round 6, No. 189 overall: Amare Barno, LB, Virginia Tech

    · Round 6, No. 199 overall: Cade Mays, OL, Tennessee

    · Round 7, No. 242 overall: Kalon Barnes, CB, Baylor

    Aside from Ekwonu, don’t expect much from the Carolina Panthers' rookie class.

    The Panthers have already named Ekwonu their starting left tackle, and the New England Patriots tested him in Week 2 of the preseason. In that outing, he gave up two sacks on one drive. The North Carolina State product bounced back with a solid showing against the Buffalo Bills last week, per Pro Football Focus via Anthony Rizzuti of Panthers Wire.

    Ekwonu will likely have some rookie rough spots, but he’s an upgrade over last year's combination of Cameron Erving, Brady Christensen and Dennis Daley, whom the team traded to the Tennessee Titans.

    In Carolina’s second preseason game, Corral suffered a Lisfranc injury and will miss the entire 2022 season. Before the injury, he didn’t play well, completing 10 of 24 passes for 69 yards.

    Smith and Barno saw a lot of action through the preseason, though they’re all slated to play in second and third-string roles. The former stood out with nine tackles, a sack and a pass breakup in three exhibition contests.

    The Panthers cut Barnes, and he signed with the Miami Dolphins.

    Grade: C-

Chicago Bears

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    Chicago Bears safety Jaquan Brisker (9) runs on the field during the first half of a preseason NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski)
    Jaquan Brisker (AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski)

    · Round 2, No. 39 overall: Kyler Gordon, CB, Washington

    · Round 2, No. 48 overall: Jaquan Brisker, S, Penn State

    · Round 3, No. 71 overall: Velus Jones Jr., WR, Tennessee

    · Round 5, No. 168 overall: Braxton Jones, OT, Southern Utah

    · Round 5, No. 174 overall: Dominique Robinson, Edge, Miami (Ohio)

    · Round 5, No. 186 overall: Zachary Thomas, OT, San Diego State

    · Round 6, No. 203 overall: Trestan Ebner, RB, Baylor

    · Round 6, No. 207 overall: Doug Kramer, C, Illinois

    · Round 7, No. 226 overall: Ja'Tyre Carter, OT, Southern

    · Round 7, No. 254 overall: Elijah Hicks, S, California

    · Round 7, No. 255 overall: Trenton Gill, P, North Carolina State

    Gordon and Brisker will strengthen the Chicago Bears secondary, though the latter has some star potential.

    Brisker looked impressive through camp and registered four tackles and a pass breakup in one preseason appearance. He has a “real chance” to play Week 1 following surgery on his thumb, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapport. The Penn State product returned to practice Wednesday.

    Robinson played in two exhibition games, logging two tackles and a sack, he could become a solid reserve on the edge.

    In preseason action, Jones displayed his speed on special teams with 78 total yards on kick and punt returns, but he didn’t bring much to the aerial attack, catching one pass for four yards.

    Jones, the Southern Utah product, looks like the X-factor in this group. If he’s a solid left tackle, the Bears have a fifth-round steal, but the Day 3 pick has a lot to prove.

    With that said, Jones earned high praise from his teammate, Cody Whitehair (h/t Alyssa Barbieri of Bears Wire).

    “Braxton’s gonna be a good player,” Whitehair said. “The way he studies, the way he understands stuff. He’s very athletic. He’s got great length. He uses his hands well. I really like where Braxton’s at right now.”

    Grade: C+

Cincinnati Bengals

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    Cincinnati Bengal Daxton Hill speaks at a press conference introducing him as the NFL football team's first round pick in the 2022 NFL draft Friday, April 29, 2022, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)
    Daxton Hill (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)

    · Round 1, No. 31 overall: Dax Hill, S, Michigan

    · Round 2, No. 60 overall: Cam Taylor-Britt, DB, Nebraska

    · Round 3, No. 95 overall: Zachary Carter, DT, Florida

    · Round 4, No. 136 overall: Cordell Volson, OG, North Dakota State

    · Round 5, No. 166 overall: Tycen Anderson, S, Toledo

    · Round 7, No. 252 overall: Jeffrey Gunter, DE, Coastal Carolina

    The Cincinnati Bengals should have a stronger defense with the addition of this year’s class.

    While safety Jessie Bates III skipped out on nearly the entire offseason program, Hill looked like a starting-caliber player at the position. In three preseason games, he registered seven tackles, a pass breakup and an interception. As a first-round pick, the Michigan product can take on a big role whether the team works out a resolution with Bates or not.

    In the exhibition contests, Carter flashed with six tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and a pass breakup. He’s the primary backup to defensive tackle BJ Hill.

    Volson won the starting job at left guard, which is notable because he beat 2021 second-rounder Jackson Carman for the spot.

    Anderson made stops all over the field with 15 total tackles in three preseason contests. He’ll add a pop to the special teams unit.

    The Bengals did get some unfortunate injury news. Two weeks ago, Taylor-Britt underwent core-muscle surgery, and he's on short-term injured reserve. The rookie second-rounder could push cornerback Eli Apple for snaps late in the 2022 season, but he’s not ready to make that leap right now.

    Grade: B

Cleveland Browns

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    Cleveland Browns running back Jerome Ford (34) rushes for yardage against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the second half of a preseason NFL football game, Friday, Aug. 12, 2022, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
    Jerome Ford (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

    · Round 3, No. 68 overall: Martin Emerson, CB, Mississippi State

    · Round 3, No. 78 overall: Alex Wright, DE, UAB

    · Round 3, No. 99 overall: David Bell, WR, Purdue

    · Round 4, No. 108 overall: Perrion Winfrey, DT, Oklahoma

    · Round 4, No. 124 overall: Cade York, K, LSU

    · Round 5, No. 156 overall: Jerome Ford, RB, Cincinnati

    · Round 6, No. 202 overall: Michael Woods II, WR, Oklahoma

    · Round 7, No. 223 overall: Isaiah Thomas, DE, Oklahoma

    · Round 7, No. 246 overall: Dawson Deaton, C, Texas Tech

    The Cleveland Browns' rookie class had an exceptionally productive preseason. Players stood out in all three phases of the game.

    In his preseason debut, Emerson scored on a pick-six for possibly the best defensive play of the day. He also logged seven tackles. In the same game, Thomas logged two sacks. Perhaps he’s a seventh-rounder to watch going forward.

    Winfrey displayed his ball-tracking skills, recording four tackles, one pass breakup and a fumble recovery. He has a shot to carve out a sizeable role with former Jaguars’ 2018 first-rounder Taven Bryan and third-year pro Jordan Elliott trying to establish themselves as starters.

    Bell caught six passes for a team-leading 82 yards. He’ll likely join Amari Cooper and Donovan Peoples-Jones in three-wide receiver sets.

    Ford turned heads in the exhibition games, racking up 159 yards and two touchdowns from scrimmage. On top of that, he returned a kick for 22 yards. The rookie fifth-rounder may have to wait for an opportunity to contribute behind running backs Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt and D’Ernest Johnson, but he certainly has the versatility to provide an offensive spark.

    Cleveland also found a new starting kicker in York, who converted on five out of his seven field-goal tries and scored on all five of his extra-point attempts in the preseason.

    Grade: A

Dallas Cowboys

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    Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Osa Odighizuwa, left, rushes against offensive tackle Tyler Smith (73) during NFL football training camp Wednesday, July 27, 2022, in Oxnard, Calif. (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)
    Tyler Smith (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)

    · Round 1, No. 24 overall: Tyler Smith, OT, Tulsa

    · Round 2, No. 56 overall: Sam Williams, DE, Ole Miss

    · Round 3, No. 88 overall: Jalen Tolbert, WR, South Alabama

    · Round 4, No. 129 overall: Jake Ferguson, TE, Wisconsin

    · Round 5, No. 155 overall: Matt Waletzko, OT, North Dakota

    · Round 5, No. 167 overall: DaRon Bland, CB, Fresno State

    · Round 5, No. 176 overall: Damone Clark, ILB, LSU

    · Round 5, No. 178 overall: John Ridgeway, DT, Arkansas

    · Round 6, No. 193 overall: Devin Harper, LB, Oklahoma State

    The top of the Dallas Cowboys' rookie class looked impressive through the preseason.

    Smith played well in a transition from a collegiate left tackle to a left guard, though, on 105.3 The Fan's Shan & RJ, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said "it's safe to say" the rookie will start at left tackle in place of Tyron Smith, who's out for an extended period because of an avulsion fracture in his knee.

    Dallas came into the season prepared in case Smith, who’s sat out 20 games over the last two years, continued to miss time because of injuries. The coaching staff can move the younger Smith back to left guard once the two-time All-Pro and eight-time Pro Bowler return to the field, which gives the coaching staff great flexibility.

    Williams made his presence felt in the Cowboys’ preseason finale, logging five tackles, two for loss and a sack. The rookie defensive end could make an impact as DeMarcus Lawrence’s backup on the edge.

    Tolbert didn’t blow anyone away with his preseason performances, catching six passes for 44 yards, but Prescott may look to him early in the season. Michael Gallup could miss some regular season games while recovering from a torn ACL, and James Washington will start the season on the mend with a broken foot.

    Dallas can feature running back Tony Pollard in the passing game to make up for the injuries at wideout and the departure of Amari Cooper, which would take some pressure off of Tolbert.

    Grade: B

Denver Broncos

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    ORCHARD PARK, NY - AUGUST 20: Nik Bonitto #42 of the Denver Broncos after a preseason game against the Buffalo Bills at Highmark Stadium on August 20, 2022 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)
    Nik Bonitto (Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)

    · Round 2, No. 64 overall: Nik Bonitto, OLB, Oklahoma

    · Round 3, No. 80 overall: Greg Dulcich, TE, UCLA

    · Round 4, No. 115 overall: Damarri Mathis, CB, Pittsburgh

    · Round 4, No. 116 overall: Eyioma Uwazurike, DT, Iowa State

    · Round 5, No. 152 overall: Delarrin Turner-Yell, S, Oklahoma

    · Round 5, No. 162 overall: Montrell Washington, WR, Samford

    · Round 5, No. 171 overall: Luke Wattenberg, C, Washington

    · Round 6, No. 206 overall: Matt Henningsen, DT, Wisconsin

    · Round 7, No. No. 232 overall: Faion Hicks, CB, Wisconsin

    The Denver Broncos may head into the season with the league’s deepest edge-rushing group. Randy Gregory and Bradley Chubb will likely start while Bonitto and Baron Browning provide a second wave. The club traded Malik Reed to the Pittsburgh Steelers, which gives the rookie a chance to soak up more snaps.

    Bonitto had a strong finish to the preseason, logging six tackles and two sacks against the Minnesota Vikings in the last outing. If Chubb continues to struggle with injuries or Gregory fails to play up to his new five-year, $70 million deal, Bonitto could play a significant number of defensive snaps in 2022.

    While talking to reporters, head coach Nathaniel Hackett expressed his satisfaction with Mathis and Hicks (h/t Jon Heath of Broncos Wire).

    Both those guys have exceeded my expectations. Any time you have rookies coming in, you always have second guesses as a coach on how much they’re going to be able to contribute to your team.

    I think both those guys, both on special teams and defense, have shown that it’s not too big for them and they can compete at the highest level.”

    As Michael Ojemudia recovers from a dislocated elbow on short-term injured reserve, Mathis could see the field as the No. 3 cornerback behind Pat Surtain II and Ronald Darby. Hicks is on the practice squad.

    Dulcich will head into the season on short-term injured reserve. He missed all three exhibition games because of a hamstring injury. Albert Okwuegbunam will start at tight end, though Dulcich could have an impact in the passing game with wideout Tim Patrick (torn ACL) out for the season.

    Grade: C

Detroit Lions

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    PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 28:  Aidan Hutchinson #97 of the Detroit Lions looks on during the fourth quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Acrisure Stadium on August 28, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
    Aidan Hutchinson (Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

    · Round 1, No. 2 overall: Aidan Hutchinson, DE, Michigan

    · Round 1, No. 12 overall: Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama

    · Round 2, No. 46 overall: Josh Paschal, DE, Kentucky

    · Round 3, No. 97 overall: Kerby Joseph, S, Illinois

    · Round 5, No. 177 overall: James Mitchell, TE, Virginia Tech

    · Round 6, No. 188 overall: Malcolm Rodriguez, ILB, Oklahoma State

    · Round 6, No. 217 overall: James Houston, OLB, Jackson State

    · Round 7, No. 237 overall: Chase Lucas, CB, Arizona State

    The Detroit Lions will head into the 2022 season without two of their top three rookies. The team placed Williams on the non-football injury list as he recovers from a torn ACL in January. Paschal must sit out the first four weeks because he’s still on the physically unable to perform list, recovering from core-muscle surgery.

    Atop of the class, Hutchinson looks ready for the regular season. He’s undoubtedly going to play plenty of snaps on the edge.

    Joseph led the Lions in tackles (20) through the preseason. Defensive backs coach Aubrey Pleasant called the rookie third-rounder a “project” but believes the Illinois product will contribute at some point this year.

    “When we say project, it's we don't expect him to come in Day 1 and compete for the starting spot, but there's something about his intangibles that maybe mid-year or after this year, he'll be able to excel,” Pleasant told reporters.

    Detroit released sixth-year linebacker Jarrad Davis on Monday, which means Rodriguez can make a splash at the position after he made a strong case to start for the regular season.

    Grade: B-

Green Bay Packers

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    GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN - AUGUST 19: Romeo Doubs #87 of the Green Bay Packers leaps into the stands following a touchdown reception against the New Orleans Saints during the first half of a preseason game at Lambeau Field on August 19, 2022 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
    Romeo Doubs (Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

    · Round 1, No. 22 overall: Quay Walker, ILB, Georgia

    · Round 1, No. 28 overall: Devonte Wyatt, DT, Georgia

    · Round 2, No. 34 overall: Christian Watson, WR, North Dakota State

    · Round 3, No. 92 overall: Sean Rhyan, OL, UCLA

    · Round 4, No. 132 overall: Romeo Doubs, WR, Nevada

    · Round 4, No. 140 overall: Zach Tom, OL, Wake Forest

    · Round 5, No. 179 overall: Kingsley Enagbare, OLB, South Carolina

    · Round 7, No. 228 overall: Tariq Carpenter, S, Georgia Tech

    · Round 7, No. 234 overall: Jonathan Ford, DT, Miami

    · Round 7, No. 249 overall: Rasheed Walker, OT, Penn State

    · Round 7, No. 258 overall: Samori Toure, WR, Nebraska

    Walker had a solid preseason with seven tackles in two games. Though Wyatt only appeared in one contest, logging just two tackles, two-time Pro Bowl nose tackle Kenny Clark believes the rookie first-rounder has “a lot of ability.”

    Tom looked solid at right tackle, committing just one penalty and allowing zero sacks in 124 offensive snaps, per Pro Football Focus.

    On the flip side, the Packers didn’t see anything from Watson in the preseason because he spent most of the offseason on the physically unable to perform list after undergoing knee surgery.

    Fortunately for Green Bay, Doubs had highlight moments that overshadowed some drops through the offseason, hauling in eight passes for 82 yards and two touchdowns. Toure had a strong performance against the Kansas City Chiefs in the team’s final preseason outing (six catches for 83 yards).

    Walker, Wyatt and Doubs could be immediate contributors. Tom has shown enough potential to fill in at right tackle if needed.

    Grade: B

Houston Texans

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    Houston Texans running back Dameon Pierce (31) runs for a first down against the New Orleans Saints during the first half of an NFL preseason football game Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
    Dameon Pierce (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

    · Round 1, No. 3 overall: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU

    · Round 1, No. 15 overall: Kenyon Green, OG, Texas A&M

    · Round 2, No. 37 overall: Jalen Pitre, S, Baylor

    · Round 2, No. 44 overall: John Metchie III, WR, Alabama

    · Round 3, No. 75 overall: Christian Harris, LB, Alabama

    · Round 4, No. 107 overall: Dameon Pierce, RB, Florida

    · Round 5, No. 150 overall: Thomas Booker IV, DT, Stanford

    · Round 5, No. 170 overall: Teagan Quitoriano, TE, Oregon State

    · Round 6, No. 205 overall: Austin Deculus, OT, LSU

    Watch out for the Houston Texans’ rookie class, it may feature a few stars.

    Stingley didn’t stand out in the preseason, but he made it through the offseason without any setbacks after missing most of his final term at LSU with a Lisfranc injury. He logged four tackles in two preseason games.

    Pitre made stops all over the field, recording nine tackles. He’ll make an immediate impact in run support. Based on the last two terms of his collegiate resume (nine pass breakups and four interceptions), the Baylor product will make some plays in coverage as well.

    If the Texans had a preseason award for best overall performance, Pierce would probably win it. In two games, he recorded 11 rush attempts for 86 yards and a touchdown. Jonathan M. Alexander of the Houston Chronicle thinks the Florida product will be the team’s lead running back for Week 1, which seems likely with Marlon Mack on the practice squad. By the way, Rex Burkhead just turned 32 years old in July.

    The Texans’ rookie class has also dealt with injuries and may lose one player for the year.

    Green missed some time during the offseason after he underwent surgery on his lateral collateral ligament and suffered a concussion, but the Texas A&M product had a good outing in the team’s preseason finale against the San Francisco 49ers.

    Metchie could sit out the entire 2022 season as he goes through treatment for acute promyelocytic leukemia.

    On a positive note, the Texans’ top three picks plus a fourth-rounder should all start and contribute right away.

    Grade: A

Indianapolis Colts

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    Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Alec Pierce during the first half of a preseason NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills, Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Joshua Bessex)
    Alec Pierce (AP Photo/Joshua Bessex)

    · Round 2, No. 53 overall: Alec Pierce, WR, Cincinnati

    · Round 3, No. 73 overall: Jelani Woods, TE, Virginia

    · Round 3, No. 77 overall: Bernhard Raimann, OL, Central Michigan

    · Round 3, No. 96 overall: Nick Cross, S, Maryland

    · Round 5, No. 159 overall: Eric Johnson, DL, Missouri State

    · Round 6, No. 192 overall: Andrew Ogletree, TE, Youngstown State

    · Round 6, No. 216 overall: Curtis Brooks, DL, Cincinnati

    · Round 7, No. 239 overall: Rodney Thomas II, CB, Yale

    Though Pierce only caught three passes for 36 yards in the preseason, he flashed on the practice field throughout the summer. Because of wideout Parris Campbell’s injury history (missed 34 games in three terms), the rookie second-rounder may finish second on the Indianapolis Colts roster in targets for the year.

    According to The Athletic’s Zak Keefer, Woods “looked lost at times” at the beginning of training camp, but he caught a touchdown pass in his preseason debut and found his way in recent practices.

    Eventually, Raimann can surpass Matt Pryor for the starting left tackle job. According to Pro Football Focus, the former allowed one sack in 118 snaps in exhibition action.

    With safety Khari Willis’ decision to retire, the Colts need Cross to start right out of college, though he seems ready for the challenge. The Maryland product recorded seven tackles and a pass breakup in three preseason games. Two-time All-Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore praised the rookie third-rounder.

    “I think (Cross is) coming along well,” Gilmore told reporters. “He’s always in the right position. He wants to be great, he’s fast, he can tackle, he can do it all. He doesn’t act like a normal rookie to me, and I think he’s going to help us out a lot.”

    Grade: B

Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Travon Walker (44) walks to the team bench before an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Saturday, August 20, 2022 in Jacksonville, FL. The Steelers defeat the Jaguars 16-15. (Peter Joneleit via AP)
    Travon Walker (Peter Joneleit via AP)

    · Round 1, No. 1 overall: Travon Walker, DE, Georgia

    · Round 1, No. 27 overall: Devin Lloyd, ILB, Utah

    · Round 3, No. 65 overall: Luke Fortner, C, Kentucky

    · Round 3, No. 70 overall: Chad Muma, ILB, Wyoming

    · Round 5, No. 154 overall: Snoop Conner, RB, Ole Miss

    · Round 6, No. 197 overall: Gregory Junior, CB, Ouachita Baptist

    · Round 7, No. 222 overall: Montaric Brown, CB, Arkansas

    For now, it seems as though the Jacksonville Jaguars made the right decision with the No. 1 overall pick. A few other rookies on defense will produce this year, too.

    In his preseason debut, Walker wreaked havoc on the Las Vegas Raiders offensive line and beat Brandon Parker multiple times on the edge. Through three preseason outings, he recorded four tackles and a sack, but those numbers don’t reflect how good the Georgia product has looked in game action.

    Lloyd missed time because of a hamstring injury, but he returned to action last week and had a solid outing against the Atlanta Falcons, registering five tackles. The Utah product should be ready to suit up for Week 1.

    Muma made several stops in run support, logging 11 tackles through the preseason. He’s not going to start over Foyesade Oluokun or Lloyd but he projects as a solid No. 3 linebacker in the rotation.

    Brown will probably contribute on kick and punt return coverage. He tied for second on the team with defensive tackle Jay Tufele in total tackles (13) through the exhibition period.

    Offensively, quarterback Trevor Lawrence will take snaps from a new center in Fortner following Brandon Linder’s decision to retire.

    Grade: A

Kansas City Chiefs

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    CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - AUGUST 13: George Karlaftis #56 of the Kansas City Chiefs looks on against the Chicago Bears during the first half of the preseason game at Soldier Field on August 13, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
    George Karlaftis (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

    · Round 1, No. 21 overall: Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington

    · Round 1, No. 30 overall: George Karlaftis, DE, Purdue

    · Round 2, No. 54 overall: Skyy Moore, WR, Western Michigan

    · Round 2, No. 62 overall: Bryan Cook, S, Cincinnati

    · Round 3, No. 103 overall: Leo Chenal, LB, Wisconsin

    · Round 4, No. 135 overall: Joshua Williams, CB, Fayetteville State

    · Round 5, No. 145 overall: Darian Kinnard, OT, Kentucky

    · Round 7, No. 243 overall: Jaylen Watson, CB, Washington State

    · Round 7, No. 251 overall: Isiah Pacheco, RB, Rutgers

    · Round 7, No. 259 overall: Nazeeh Johnson, S, Marshall

    The Kansas City Chiefs should feel encouraged by their rookie defensive backs.

    McDuffie took a majority of his preseason snaps on the perimeter, which indicates that he’ll likely play a big role in the upcoming season. Joshua Williams, who had some lapses in coverage, could see a decent number of snaps as well. He logged 12 tackles and two pass breakups in three preseason games. Cook recorded eight tackles, one pass breakup and an interception in just as many exhibition outings.

    The Chiefs may have found a long-term starter to play opposite of Frank Clark this year in Karlaftis. He’s generated a lot of buzz over the past two weeks with a sack in back-to-back exhibition games. Kansas City signed defensive end Carlos Dunlap, but the 13th-year veteran could see his snap count drop as the rookie’s workload rises through the season.

    Leo Chenal only played in two exhibition games but led the Chiefs in tackles with 10. He’ll round a young promising linebacker corps with Nick Bolton and Willie Gay in the lead spots.

    The Chiefs' pass-catching group features a deep wide receiver unit, so Moore isn’t under immense pressure to contribute right away. He only caught three passes for 23 yards in the preseason and may need a few weeks to adjust on the pro level.

    As a seventh-rounder out of Rutgers, Pacheco made the 53-man roster and could take on a decent role. He flashed his playmaking ability with a team-leading 66 rushing yards on 16 carries along with three receptions for 21 yards and three kick returns for 77 yards.

    Kansas City should see solid production from this group on both sides of the ball.

    Grade: A

Las Vegas Raiders

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    Las Vegas Raiders running back Zamir White (35) runs for a touchdown during the second half of an NFL preseason football game against the New England Patriots, Friday, Aug. 26, 2022, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
    Zamir White (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

    · Round 3, No. 90 overall: Dylan Parham, OL, Memphis

    · Round 4, No. 122 overall: Zamir White, RB, Georgia

    · Round 4, No. 126 overall: Neil Farrell Jr., DT, LSU

    · Round 5, No. 175 overall: Matthew Butler, DT, Tennessee

    · Round 7, No. 238 overall: Thayer Munford Jr., OL, Ohio State

    · Round 7, No. 250 overall: Brittain Brown, RB, UCLA

    The Las Vegas Raiders traded their first and second-round picks to the Green Bay Packers for wideout Davante Adams, but they still managed to draft a couple of players who can contribute in a major way this year. Both of their seventh-round picks also flashed potential.

    Over the summer, Parham took reps at center and guard, and he’s in contention for the starting left guard spot. His rapid development on the interior is good news for a team that finished with the fifth-fewest rushing yards last season.

    On the subject of the run game, White looks primed to spell Josh Jacobs on the ground. The Georgia product shined through the preseason, racking up 121 yards (90 rushing and 31 receiving) and two touchdowns from scrimmage.

    Farrell had an underwhelming start to the exhibition period, but he finished with seven tackles and caused some disruption on passing downs.

    In three preseason games, Brown registered 34 carries for 152 yards and two touchdowns along with seven receptions for 37 yards. He’s a quality asset on the back end of the running back depth chart.

    Munford pushed for the starting right tackle job before he suffered an (undisclosed) injury at practice in mid-August. He’s a potential long-term starting option at the position, per Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

    Grade: B-

Los Angeles Chargers

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    INGLEWOOD, CA - AUGUST 13: Los Angeles Chargers guard Zion Johnson (77) in an offensive stance during the NFL preseason football game against the Los Angeles Rams on August 13, 2022, at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA. (Photo by Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Zion Johnson (Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    · Round 1, No. 17 overall: Zion Johnson, OG, Boston College

    · Round 3, No. 79 overall: JT Woods, S, Baylor

    · Round 4, No. 123 overall: Isaiah Spiller, RB, Texas A&M

    · Round 5, No. 160 overall: Otito Ogbonnia, DL, UCLA

    · Round 6, No. 195 overall: Jamaree Salyer, OG, Georgia

    · Round 6, No. 214 overall: Ja'Sir Taylor, CB, Wake Forest

    · Round 7, No. 236 overall: Deane Leonard, CB, Ole Miss

    · Round 7, No. 260 overall: Zander Horvath, FB, Purdue

    The Los Angeles Chargers added a starter with their first selection and depth with the rest of the picks.

    At right guard, Johnson will provide a boost to the Chargers’ ground attack. Salyer, with his starting experience at multiple positions on the collegiate level (Georgia), can move into the first unit in spot duty on the interior or the perimeter if needed.

    Woods may eventually replace Nasir Adderley, who’s had his struggles in coverage (12 touchdowns allowed since 2020), or fill in the gaps for the often injured safety Derwin James Jr., but he's missed some tackles during the preseason. The Baylor product must tighten up in that area to help out in run support.

    At 6’1”, 215 pounds, Spiller could add a physical aspect to the run game as a complement to dynamic running back Austin Ekeler, though he’s off to a slow career start.

    Spiller recorded 13 carries for 37 yards in two exhibition outings. According to The Athletic’s Daniel Popper, he could miss Week 1 of the upcoming campaign with an ankle injury. Because of the rookie's potential early absence, third-year veteran Joshua Kelley will have another shot at the primary reserve role. Also, the team signed Sony Michel, which complicates the pecking order among the backups.

    Aside from the additions at guard, the Chargers’ rookie class isn’t going to change the outlook of this team in 2022.

    Grade: D

Los Angeles Rams

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    Los Angeles Rams cornerback Decobie Durant (14) participates in drills at the NFL football team's practice facility in Irvine, Calif. Monday, Aug. 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
    Decobie Durant (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

    · Round 3, No. 104 overall: Logan Bruss, OG, Wisconsin

    · Round 4, No. 142 overall: Decobie Durant, CB, South Carolina State

    · Round 5, No. 164 overall: Kyren Williams, RB, Notre Dame

    · Round 6, No. 211 overall: Quentin Lake, S, UCLA

    · Round 6, No. 212 overall: Derion Kendrick, CB, Georgia

    · Round 7, No. 235 overall: Daniel Hardy, LB, Montana State

    · Round 7, No. 253 overall: Russ Yeast, S, Kansas State

    · Round 7, No. 261 overall: AJ Arcuri, OT, Michigan State

    The Los Angeles Rams didn’t have a first- or second-round pick, so they had a difficult task in finding multiple starters with their top selection at No. 104.

    Among the Rams’ rookies, Bruss had the best chance to start for Week 1 because of the vacancy at right guard following Austin Corbett’s departure to the Carolina Panthers in free agency.

    Bruss struggled in the exhibition games, allowing two sacks in 63 offensive snaps, per Pro Football Focus. In the second contest, he tore his ACL and MCL, which will cost him his rookie term.

    Williams could’ve pushed for a rotational role in the backfield, but he underwent surgery for a broken foot in the spring, which slowed down his development this summer.

    Durant (eight tackles, a sack, a pass breakup and a forced fumble) and Kendrick (five tackles, a pass breakup and a fumble recovery) made plays in the August games, but they’re backup cornerbacks who will mostly play on special teams.

    Grade: D-

Miami Dolphins

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    Miami Dolphins linebacker Channing Tindall (51) defends in space during an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Saturday, August 13, 2022 in Tampa, FL. The Dolphins defeat the Buccaneers 26-24. (Peter Joneleit via AP)
    Channing Tindall (Peter Joneleit via AP)

    · Round 3, No. 102 overall: Channing Tindall, ILB, Georgia

    · Round 4, No. 125 overall: Erik Ezukanma, WR, Texas Tech

    · Round 7, No. 224 overall: Cameron Goode, OLB, California

    · Round 7, No. 247 overall: Skylar Thompson, QB, Kansas State

    The Miami Dolphins' small 2022 class had a productive summer.

    Tindall recorded a club-leading 14 tackles, a sack and forced a fumble. He’ll make an impact as the third inside linebacker, rotating with Jerome Baker and Elandon Roberts.

    Ezukanma hauled in 10 passes for 156 yards. The Dolphins cut wide receiver Preston Williams, which creates an opportunity for the Texas Tech product on the boundary as the No. 4 wideout in the pecking order.

    Goode logged 12 tackles and a pass breakup in the exhibition period and made it to the practice squad.

    Thompson lit up the field through the preseason, completing 36 of 48 passes for 450 yards and five touchdowns. Head coach Mike McDaniel told reporters that the rookie signal-caller’s performances made it difficult for the team in its decisions before final cuts.

    It’s rare that a guy can be a seventh-round draft pick and people outside of the organization actually know his name. I think he’s opened eyes with the way he’s played, and it’s made that situation very tricky, in terms of whether or not you can try to have him on practice squad or keep him on the 53 (-man roster).”

    Though Thompson probably won’t see the field in the regular season, Miami kept him as the third quarterback behind Tua Tagovailoa and Teddy Bridgewater. He could push for a primary backup role in the near future.

    The Dolphins don’t have any starters in this group, but the rookies all put their best on display over the past few weeks.

    Grade: C

Minnesota Vikings

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    Minnesota Vikings safety Lewis Cine (6) looks on during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the San Francisco 49ers Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Abbie Parr)
    Lewis Cine (AP Photo/Abbie Parr)

    · Round 1, No. 32 overall: Lewis Cine, S, Georgia

    · Round 2, No. 42 overall: Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson

    · Round 2, No. 59 overall: Ed Ingram, G, LSU

    · Round 3, No. 66 overall: Brian Asamoah II, LB, Oklahoma

    · Round 4, No. 118 overall: Akayleb Evans, CB, Missouri

    · Round 5, No. 165 overall: Esezi Otomewo, DE, Minnesota

    · Round 5, No. 169 overall: Ty Chandler, RB, North Carolina

    · Round 6, No. 184 overall: Vederian Lowe, OT, Illinois

    · Round 6, No. 191 overall: Jalen Nailor, WR, Michigan State

    · Round 7, No. 227 overall: Nick Muse, TE, South Carolina

    The Minnesota Vikings should feel confident about two of their top three draft picks heading into Week 1. However, they watched one of the top selections battle injuries throughout the offseason.

    Cine and Ingram saw a lot of action in the preseason, and they’ll likely take on significant roles at safety and right guard, respectively. According to Pro Football Focus, the latter gave up a sack in 64 snaps, though he handled his run-blocking assignments well.

    Minnesota has to give Booth some time to acclimate himself to the pro game because of his stretches of absence over the past few months.

    Since March, Booth has undergone core-muscle surgery, battled a quad injury and re-aggravated an ankle issue. While talking to reporters a couple of weeks ago, head coach Kevin O’Connell downplayed the most recent snag in the rookie’s development.

    "It sounds like it's a positive thing from a standpoint of just an aggravation of an injury that we know about already. He's worked his way through that throughout camp and then ultimately, what it'll be is just how that thing looks the rest of the week, early on in the week, would love to still get him some work throughout this week as we continue to prep."

    After two appearances, Booth didn’t play in the final exhibition game. Because of his bumps and bruises, he may have a slow start to the season.

    Evans, who logged 12 tackles and a forced a fumble in two preseason outings, could see more action than Booth this year, providing healthy depth behind cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Cameron Dantzler.

    Chandler likely played himself into a rotational role out of the backfield with 15 carries for 113 yards and a touchdown in the preseason.

    Grade: B

New England Patriots

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    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - AUGUST 19: Cole Strange #69 of the New England Patriots looks on after the preseason game between the New England Patriots and the Carolina Panthers at Gillette Stadium on August 19, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
    Cole Strange (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    · Round 1, No. 29 overall: Cole Strange, OG, Chattanooga

    · Round 2, No. 50 overall: Tyquan Thornton, WR, Baylor

    · Round 3, No. 85 overall: Marcus Jones, CB, Houston

    · Round 4, No. 121 overall: Jack Jones, CB, Arizona State

    · Round 4, No. 127 overall: Pierre Strong Jr., RB, South Dakota State

    · Round 4, No. 137 overall: Bailey Zappe, QB, Western Kentucky

    · Round 6, No. 183 overall: Kevin Harris, RB, South Carolina

    · Round 6, No. 200 overall: Sam Roberts, DL, Northwest Missouri State

    · Round 6, No. 210 overall: Chasen Hines, G, LSU

    · Round 7, No. 245 overall: Andrew Stueber, OT, Michigan

    With a rookie class of 10, the Patriots may have one starter and a bunch of players who could take quite some time to contribute in a major way.

    At left guard, Strange will replace Ted Karras, who departed for the Cincinnati Bengals this offseason. He'll likely play the most snaps among New England's rookies.

    The Patriots allowed J.C. Jackson to walk in free agency, and they placed Malcolm Butler on season-ending injured reserve and then released him with an injury settlement. Now, with Jonathan Jones on the perimeter, someone has to fill the slot position.

    The Athletic’s Chad Graff believes that (Marcus) Jones “may have lost” the battle for the slot cornerback job. Myles Bryant will likely see an increased role with five defensive backs on the field. On the flip side, the Patriots beat reporter thinks (Jack) Jones has to chance to lock up the No. 3 spot on the boundary behind Jalen Mills and (Jonathan) Jones.

    The Patriots will have to wait for Thornton’s regular-season debut. He underwent surgery for a broken collarbone and could miss six-to-eight weeks, per ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. The team placed him on short-term injured reserve.

    Strong hasn’t made a legitimate case for a role out of the backfield, logging 52 rushing yards on 15 carries along with three receptions for 13 yards through the preseason.

    Zappe looked like a rookie who needs a lot of development, throwing for 462 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions in three exhibition outings. He’ll open the campaign as the third-string quarterback.

    Collectively, this group isn’t going to move the needle for the Patriots in 2022.

    Grade: D

New Orleans Saints

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    GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN - AUGUST 19: Chris Olave #12 of the New Orleans Saints participates in warmups prior to a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on August 19, 2022 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
    Chris Olave (Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

    · Round 1, No. 11 overall: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State

    · Round 1, No. 19 overall: Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa

    · Round 2, No. 49 overall: Alontae Taylor, DB, Tennessee

    · Round 5, No. 161 overall: D'Marco Jackson, LB, Appalachian State

    · Round 6, No. 194 overall: Jordan Jackson, DT, Air Force

    The New Orleans Saints have a solid wide receiver trio with two-time All-Pro Michael Thomas (if healthy), five-time Pro Bowler Jarvis Landry and Olave. The rookie first-rounder briefly flashed through the preseason, hauling in four passes for 51 yards and a touchdown.

    However, the Saints’ 2022 class dealt with some injuries that could hinder early growth.

    In New Orleans’ preseason finale with the Los Angeles Chargers, Penning tore a ligament in his foot and will sit out indefinitely, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. Before the injury, he caused a stir at practices for fighting with teammates. The Northern Iowa product has experienced a tough start to his pro career.

    Taylor battled a hip issue that sidelined him for multiple practices and all three exhibition contests. The Tennessee product warmed up before the Chargers game, but he didn’t suit up for action.

    Other than Olave, who might be the No. 3 option in the Saints' passing attack, New Orleans cannot count on this group to make big contributions in 2022.

    Grade: C-

New York Giants

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    New York Giants defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux (5) during an NFL preseason football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Aug. 21, 2022 in East Rutherford, N.J. The Giants won 25-22. (AP Photo/Vera Nieuwenhuis)
    Kayvon Thibodeaux (AP Photo/Vera Nieuwenhuis)

    · Round 1, No. 5 overall: Kayvon Thibodeaux, DE, Oregon

    · Round 1, No. 7 overall: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama

    · Round 2, No. 43 overall: Wan'Dale Robinson, WR, Kentucky

    · Round 3, No. 67 overall: Joshua Ezeudu, OG, North Carolina

    · Round 3, No. 81 overall: Cor'Dale Flott, CB, LSU

    · Round 4, No. 112 overall: Daniel Bellinger, TE, San Diego State

    · Round 4, No. 114 overall: Dane Belton, S, Iowa

    · Round 5, pick No. 146 overall: Micah McFadden, ILB, Indiana

    · Round 5, pick No. 147 overall: D.J. Davidson, DT, Arizona State

    · Round 5, pick No. 173 overall: Marcus McKethan, G, North Carolina

    · Round 6, No. 182 overall: Darrian Beavers, LB, Cincinnati

    The New York Giants added two top-10 picks who will immediately upgrade the roster at premium positions. They may have picked up a starter and a couple of quality special teamers on Day 3 as well.

    In Week 2 of the preseason, Thibodeaux had a scary moment when he went down after a low block from Cincinnati Bengals tight end Thaddeus Moss. After the game, while walking out of MetLife Stadium, he said, “I'm all right. I'm good.”

    According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Thibodeaux will sit out three-to-four weeks with a sprained MCL but has a chance to suit up for Week 1. Whenever he takes the field, the 2021 Consensus All-American should be a solid complement to Azeez Ojulari, who had eight sacks last year.

    Slated to start opposite of left tackle Andrew Thomas, Neal turned heads through the summer. According to Pro Football Focus, he didn’t give up a sack in 52 offensive snaps. Big Blue could have its bookend tackles for years to come.

    Robinson had an impressive training camp. At one of the practices, NBC’s Peter King called him a star. The Giants will be able to move the second-rounder all around the formation to spice up the offense.

    New York placed tight end Ricky Seals-Jones on injured reserve and released him with an injury settlement, which opens up the starting job for Bellinger. The rookie fourth-rounder showcased his pass-catching skills in the preseason, hauling in six passes for 52 yards in three outings. He’s a big target who can move the chains and become a threat in the red zone.

    On Thursday, the Giants cut Blake Martinez, which opens the pathway for McFadden (13 tackles and a forced fumble in the preseason) to take on a big role. The team also placed guar Shane Lemieux on short-term injured reserve, which creates an opportunity for Ezeudu to fill a starting position as well.

    Grade: A

New York Jets

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    New York Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner (1) runs on a play in the first half of a preseason NFL football game against the New York Giants, Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/John Munson)
    Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner (AP Photo/John Munson)

    · Round 1, No. 4 overall: Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner, CB, Cincinnati

    · Round 1, No. 10 overall: Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State

    · Round 1, No. 26 overall: Jermaine Johnson II, DE, Florida State

    · Round 2, No. 36 overall: Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State

    · Round 3, No. 101 overall: Jeremy Ruckert, TE, Ohio State

    · Round 4, No. 111 overall: Max Mitchell, OT, Louisiana

    · Round 4, No. 117 overall: Micheal Clemons, DE, Texas A&M

    We didn’t see a lot from the New York Jets’ rookie class in the preseason, but the coaching staff spoke volumes about this group at the podium and with its roster decisions.

    Clearly, head coach Robert Saleh trusts his top pick. He named Gardner a starter for Week 1, which isn’t a surprise to anyone. The 2021 AAC Defensive Player of the Year has great size (6’3”, 200 lbs) with the ball-tracking skills (nine interceptions at Cincinnati) to become an elite cornerback.

    Defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich had an up-close look at Johnson and came away impressed with his speed off the edge.

    "A lot of things have been promising about what he's done in practice and the game," Ulbrich said to reporters. "But what jumped out at thought was his speed. That is probably one of the biggest things that we coveted. He is a guy with a lot of size and length."

    Clemons could have a decent role at defensive end. While the Texas A&M product didn’t seem impressed with himself, he had a strong preseason debut with four tackles and a sack (tackle for loss).

    On the offensive side of the ball, Wilson can provide a spark to the passing attack. He’ll have to overcome a less-than-ideal quarterback situation with 37-year-old Joe Flacco in line to start while Zach Wilson recovers from knee surgery.

    The Jets may lean on the run game early in the season with Michael Carter and Hall in the backfield. The rookie second-rounder didn’t have an efficient preseason, rushing for 29 yards on 14 carries. As the bigger back, Hall could take over short-yardage and goal-line touches though, but he's going into the season as the backup, per ESPN's Rich Cimini.

    Grade: A

Philadelphia Eagles

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    MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA - AUGUST 27: Jordan Davis #90 of the Philadelphia Eagles walks off the field after a game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium on August 27, 2022 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images)
    Jordan Davis (Megan Briggs/Getty Images)

    · Round 1, No. 13 overall: Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia

    · Round 2, No. 51 overall: Cam Jurgens, C, Nebraska

    · Round 3, No. 83 overall: Nakobe Dean, ILB, Georgia

    · Round 6, No. 181 overall: Kyron Johnson, ILB, Kansas

    · Round 6, No. 198 overall: Grant Calcaterra, TE, SMU

    The Philadelphia Eagles will likely see two former Georgia Bulldogs make an instant impact within the front seven, which is the story of this class for the 2022 season.

    Davis had a quiet preseason, though he’s generated some buzz for showing his brute strength at an Eagles practice. The massive 6’6”, 336-pounder will take some snaps away from 31-year-old Fletcher Cox on the interior.

    Dean will make a huge impact as a full-time starter at inside linebacker. Despite concerns about his medicals leading up to the draft, which explains his fall to the third round, he moved well across the field, registering 10 tackles in three exhibition games. As long as the 2021 Dick Butkus Award winner can stay healthy, he’s the best linebacker on the roster.

    Jurgens showcased more good than bad through the preseason. On one hand, he sealed his blocks on run assignments but also committed two penalties in 69 snaps, per Pro Football Focus. The Nebraska product will likely back up center Jason Kelce for at least a year before he moves into the starting spot at the pivot.

    With 11 tackles in two August games, Johnson earned a back-end spot at linebacker on the 53-man roster.

    Grade: B-

Pittsburgh Steelers

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    JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA - AUGUST 20: George Pickens #14 of the Pittsburgh Steelers in action during the first half of a preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field on August 20, 2022 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Courtney Culbreath/Getty Images)
    George Pickens (Courtney Culbreath/Getty Images)

    · Round 1, No. 20 overall: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh

    · Round 2, No. 52 overall: George Pickens, WR, Georgia

    · Round 3, No. 84 overall: DeMarvin Leal, DL, Texas A&M

    · Round 4, No. 138 overall: Calvin Austin III, WR, Memphis

    · Round 6, No. 208 overall: Connor Heyward, HB/TE, Michigan State

    · Round 7, No. 225 overall: Mark Robinson, LB, Ole Miss

    · Round 7, No. 241 overall: Chris Oladokun, QB, South Dakota State

    The Pittsburgh Steelers’ top two rookies made headlines this summer.

    In an open three-man quarterback competition, Pickett finished with a higher passer rating (124.7) than Mitch Trubisky (115.2) and Mason Rudolph (98.2).

    Even though Trubisky may start Week 1, Pickett could take over the huddle at some point this year, especially if the offense looks stagnant early in the season.

    Pickens made several highlight plays at practice and in-game situations. He caught eight passes for 84 yards and a touchdown in three contests. The Georgia product has star potential and should put up big numbers with a decent quarterback.

    With Stephon Tuitt’s decision to retire, Pittsburgh had to fill a void on the interior of the defensive line. They signed Larry Ogunjobi, though Leal could also contribute on all three downs. The rookie recorded five tackles, a sack and a pass breakup in three preseason outings.

    Unfortunately for Austin, he'll miss the first four weeks of the regular season on injured reserve because of a foot injury.

    Robinson should help the Steelers' kick and punt coverage on special teams. He led the Steelers in tackles (15) through the exhibition period.

    The top of this class can change the trajectory of the Steelers franchise for the better.

    Grade: A

San Francisco 49ers

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    SANTA CLARA, CA - AUGUST 12: Danny Gray #86 of the San Francisco 49ers makes a catch and runs for a 76-yard touchdown during the game against the Green Bay Packers at Levi's Stadium on August 12, 2022 in Santa Clara, California. The 49ers defeated the Packers 28-21. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
    Danny Gray (Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)

    · Round 2, No. 61 overall: Drake Jackson, DE, USC

    · Round 3, No. 93 overall: Tyrion Davis-Price, RB, LSU

    · Round 3, No. 105 overall: Danny Gray, WR, SMU

    · Round 4, No. 134 overall: Spencer Burford, OL, UTSA

    · Round 5, No. 172 overall: Samuel Womack, CB, Toledo

    · Round 6, No. 187 overall: Nick Zakelj, OL, Fordham

    · Round 6, No. 220 overall: Kalia Davis, DT, UCF

    · Round 6, No. 221 overall: Tariq Castro-Fields, CB, Penn State

    · Round 7, No. 262 overall: Brock Purdy, QB, Iowa State

    During the preseason, Jackson showed flashes with his ability to disrupt the opposing offense at the line of scrimmage with two pass breakups. He’ll join a deep rotation on the San Francisco 49ers defensive line with three former first-round picks.

    We saw what a Trey Lance-Danny Gray connection may look like in regular-season form when the quarterback tossed a 76-yard touchdown pass to the rookie wideout in a Week 1 preseason matchup with the Green Bay Packers. With Lance’s arm and Gray’s 4.33 40-yard dash speed, head coach Kyle Shanahan can open up the offense with more big plays downfield.

    The 49ers picked up two rookies on Day 3 who will start or see a lot of action this year.

    Buford will likely open the campaign at right guard with three starts at the position during the preseason, and Womack may handle slot cornerback duties.

    Purdy looked impressive through stretches with backups, completing 30 out of 49 pass attempts for 346 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He’s a developmental third-stinger, who can move into the primary backup spot if the 49ers move Jimmy Garoppolo before the November 1 trade deadline.

    Otherwise, the 49ers’ rookie class had a relatively quiet offseason. Despite his early-round draft status, Davis-Price may not have a significant role behind running backs Elijah Mitchell, Jeff Wilson Jr. and possibly Deebo Samuel mixing in for some touches out of the backfield.

    Grade: B-

Seattle Seahawks

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    SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - AUGUST 18: Charles Cross #67 of the Seattle Seahawks looks to block during the preseason game against the Chicago Bears at Lumen Field on August 18, 2022 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
    Charles Cross (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

    · Round 1, No. 9 overall: Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State

    · Round 2, No. 40 overall: Boye Mafe, OLB, Minnesota

    · Round 2, No. 41 overall: Kenneth Walker III, RB, Michigan State

    · Round 3, No. 72 overall: Abraham Lucas, OT, Washington State

    · Round 4, No. 109 overall: Coby Bryant, CB, Cincinnati

    · Round 5, No. 153 overall: Tariq Woolen, CB, UTSA

    · Round 5, No. 158 overall: Tyreke Smith, OLB, Ohio State

    · Round 7, No. 229 overall: Bo Melton, WR, Rutgers

    · Round 7, No. 233 overall: Dareke Young, WR, Lenoir-Rhyne

    If not for the quarterback competition between Geno Smith and Drew Lock, the Seattle Seahawks’ 2022 draft haul may have made more offseason headlines.

    Cross and Lucas could become the team’s bookend tackles for the next several years. They played a combined 256 offensive snaps and allowed zero sacks, per Pro Football Focus. With that said, Cross must cut down on penalties (five). Otherwise, Seattle looks like it hit on two players at a premium position.

    In his preseason debut, Mafe looked disruptive on the edge, logging three tackles, one for loss and two sacks against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He’s battled a shoulder strain, but head coach Pete Carroll isn't concerned about it.

    Walker’s lone preseason performance fell flat with one catch for 11 yards in addition to five carries for 19 yards. He underwent hernia surgery, and Carroll isn't sure about his return timetable. When healthy, the rookie ball-carrier could handle a decent rushing workload alongside Rashaad Penny, who’s missed 28 games in four years.

    In the secondary, Bryant played like a regular-season starter, logging 11 tackles and three pass breakups in three exhibition contests. The 2021 Jim Thorpe Award winner likely played himself into a big role this year. He could line up at a vacant slot position; Seattle cut nickelback Justin Coleman.

    You’ll see several faces from this class on the field for a significant number of snaps in 2022.

    Grade: A

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    NASHVILLE, TN - AUGUST 20: Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive lineman Logan Hall (90) rushes the passer during the Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Tennessee Titans Preseason game on August 20, 2022 at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, TN. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Logan Hall (Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    · Round 2, No. 33 overall: Logan Hall, DE, Houston

    · Round 2, No. 57 overall: Luke Goedeke, OT, Central Michigan

    · Round 3, No. 91 overall: Rachaad White, RB, Arizona State

    · Round 4, No. 106 overall: Cade Otton, TE, Washington

    · Round 4, No. 133 overall: Jake Camarda, P, Georgia

    · Round 5, No. 157 overall: Zyon McCollum, CB, Sam Houston State

    · Round 6, No. 218 overall: Ko Kieft, TE, Minnesota

    · Round 7, No. 248 overall: Andre Anthony, EDGE, LSU

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will have to wait on the production and quality starts with this year’s draft class.

    Over the summer, Hall stood out among the group. In an August press conference, head coach Todd Bowles praised the rookie defensive end for his pass-rushing ability, though he didn’t show much of that in the preseason (two tackles).

    With now-retired Pro Bowl left guard Ali Marpet out of the picture and Aaron Stinnie’s injury (torn ACL and MCL), Goedeke likely moves into the first-string position.

    Goedeke has struggled through the preseason, committing two penalties and allowing a sack in 102 offensive snaps, per Pro Football Focus. If he’s the guy at left guard, expect him to go through rookie growing pains that may cause quarterback Tom Brady to face interior pressure.

    As a ball-carrier, White had an underwhelming summer, logging 19 carries for 60 yards, though he did provide a spark on special teams with four kick returns for 98 yards (33 yards for his longest return). He may be third in the backfield behind Leonard Fournette and Ke’Shawn Vaughn, who looked impressive in the exhibition games (29 rush attempts for 109 yards and two touchdowns). Giovani Bernard, who’s a 10th-year veteran, may see more action on offense than the rookie as well.

    Camarda will handle punting duties, but former NFL punter Pat McAfee isn't impressed with the rookie and believes the Buccaneers must "figure out their punter situation" (h/t JoeBucsFan).

    The Buccaneers likely bumped Otton and Kieft down on the depth chart when they signed Kyle Rudolph, who could split primary tight end duties with Cameron Brate following Rob Gronkowski’s second retirement.

    Grade: D

Tennessee Titans

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    Tennessee Titans wide receiver Treylon Burks (16) plays against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the first half of a preseason NFL football game Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
    Treylon Burks (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

    · Round 1, No. 18 overall: Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas

    · Round 2, No. 35 overall: Roger McCreary, DB, Auburn

    · Round 3, No. 69 overall: Nicholas Petit-Frere, OT, Ohio State

    · Round 3, No. 86 overall: Malik Willis, QB, Liberty

    · Round 4, No. 131 overall: Hassan Haskins, RB, Michigan

    · Round 4, No. 143 overall: Chigoziem Okonkwo, TE, Maryland

    · Round 5, No. 163 overall: Kyle Philips, WR, UCLA

    · Round 6, No. 204 overall: Theo Jackson, DB, Tennessee

    · Round 6, No. 219 overall: Chance Campbell, LB, Ole Miss

    For the most part, the Tennessee Titans can view the offseason program as a net positive for their rookie group, but they have one glaring question mark atop the class.

    When will Burks make contributions of significance with some consistency?

    Burks went through a rough spring as he dealt with asthma. At the beginning of camp, the Arkansas product lined up with the second and third-team offenses (h/t Mike Herndon of PaulKuharsky.com). Last week, after a highlight catch, he left practice early and then the team held him out on the following day.

    In three exhibition outings, Burks caught four passes for 37 yards and a touchdown with the bulk of that production (three catches for 33 yards and a score) coming in the last contest. Because of his turbulent offseason, he’s unlikely to provide much in the aerial attack early in the season. Tennessee will have to bank on his long-term upside.

    On a positive note, McCreary has impressed defensive coordinator Shane Bowen, who told reporters about the rookie's early strides.

    (McCreary’s) not a rookie. I don’t feel him as a rookie. He’s poised, he doesn’t panic in coverage, he stays square, he challenges, he’s got a good understanding of what it takes to play man-to-man, and we saw that stuff from his college tape. He’s been able to come in here and translate. He’s been outside, he’s been inside, he’s handled it."

    If Caleb Farley, who missed 14 games and tore his ACL in October of last year, doesn’t bounce back from injury, McCreary could take his spot on the boundary.

    Willis completed 28 out of 51 passes for 318 yards, two touchdowns and an interception with some highs and lows as a passer, though we cannot overlook his dynamic playmaking ability.

    Along with some flashy throws, Willis recorded 14 rush attempts for a team-leading 159 yards and a touchdown in three preseason games. Perhaps offensive coordinator Todd Downing uses the dual-threat signal-caller in run-pass option packages.

    Grade: B-

Washington Commanders

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    Washington Commanders wide receiver Jahan Dotson (1) looks on during pre-game warm-ups before a NFL preseason football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Saturday, Aug 27, 2022, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Terrance Williams)
    Jahan Dotson (AP Photo/Terrance Williams)

    · Round 1, No. 16 overall: Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State

    · Round 2, No. 47 overall: Phidarian Mathis, DT, Alabama

    · Round 3, No. 98 overall: Brian Robinson Jr., RB, Alabama

    · Round 4, No. 113 overall: Percy Butler, S, Louisiana

    · Round 5, No. 144 overall: Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina

    · Round 5, No. 149 overall: Cole Turner, TE, Nevada

    · Round 7, No. 230 overall: Chris Paul, G, Tulsa

    · Round 7, No. 240 overall: Christian Holmes, CB, Oklahoma State

    The Washington Commanders 2022 class showed some promise and despite an unfortunate situation, one of their youngsters may have a bright future in the backfield.

    Dotson generated a ton of buzz through the offseason because of his rapport with quarterback Carson Wentz. Though he only hauled in two passes for 23 yards in the preseason, the rookie wideout should see plenty of targets with the ability to line up in the slot or on the perimeter.

    Last Sunday, an armed individual shot Robinson in an attempted robbery. Head coach Ron Rivera seems optimistic about the rookie’s recovery and potential return to action for the 2022 campaign.

    Robinson had a chance to claim an early-down role or split the bulk of the rushing workload with Antonio Gibson, who will return kicks this season. The former registered 14 rush attempts for 57 yards and a touchdown along with two receptions for 15 yards in two preseason contests.

    In the exhibition games, Howell looked the part of a solid backup. Even though he took nine sacks, the North Carolina product still completed 43 of 69 pass attempts for 547 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Howell also showcased his mobility, rushing for a team-leading 94 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries.

    If Wentz doesn’t work out in Washington, Howell may have a shot to at least compete for the starting job.

    Grade: B


    Maurice Moton covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @MoeMoton.

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