The 2023 NFL preseason has begun in earnest. All 32 teams will have been in action between Thursday and Sunday, giving us our first looks at many of the league's heralded — and unheralded — rookies. Set your DFS lineups, glean your fantasy football insights and prepare for the regular season.
The Super Bowl champions are part of a two-game slate to close out Week 1, and while it’s unlikely that we’ll see much, if any, of Patrick Mahomes, there is still plenty to get excited about. In the other game, all eyes will be on the quarterbacks in San Francisco, with Trey Lance and Sam Darnold battling it out for the spot behind Brock Purdy.
Kansas City Chiefs at New Orleans Saints (1 p.m. ET)
Chiefs focus: Young receivers
Travis Kelce is Patrick Mahomes’ top target, but Tyreek Hill‘s departure last offseason has created plenty of opportunity for players to step up and earn the bulk of the targets among wide receivers. Skyy Moore, the Chiefs' second-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, saw 41 targets across his rookie season including the playoffs. He earned a 67.6 PFF receiving grade and flashed, but he didn’t really assert himself as a focal point of the team's offense.
Kansas City drafted Rashee Rice in the second round of this past draft out of SMU, and he has an easy path to seeing a lot of targets — making him a good dark-horse bet for Offensive Rookie of the Year. He was the key to the SMU offense in 2022 and forced 52 missed tackles on 232 receptions over the past four years.
Saints focus: Kendre Miller
Alvin Kamara has been suspended for the first three games of the season, and while that means he’ll be back for most of the regular season, touches are up for grabs in the Saints' backfield early in the year. Free agent signing Jamaal Williams will likely see the bulk of their short-yardage and goal-line snaps, but whether he is the team's lead back in those games will likely depend on what we see from Kendre Miller.
The Saints drafted Miller out of TCU with the 72nd overall pick in the draft this year. The preseason will be a good opportunity to see if he can be counted on early as a rookie. He’s coming off a season in which he earned a career-high 88.5 PFF rushing grade and forced 70 missed tackles on 224 carries.
San Francisco 49ers at Las Vegas Raiders (4 p.m. ET)
49ers focus: Backup quarterback battle
It’s unlikely that anything in the preseason will change who will be the 49ers' starting quarterback, with Brock Purdy seemingly locked in. Where there is a question mark, though, is over who backs him up. Two former first-round picks, one on his third team and the other in his third season with the 49ers, will battle it out to win that role.
Trey Lance has played just 339 competitive snaps since the end of the 2019 season at North Dakota State. He’s still 23 years old, but that’s an extremely small workload at a time when development is paramount. He has earned PFF passing grades below 60.0 in each of the past two preseasons.
Sam Darnold’s two seasons in Carolina went about as well as his three seasons in New York with the Jets, though his 65.5 PFF passing grade in 2022 was a career high. He now gets to work with one of the most quarterback-friendly play callers in Kyle Shanahan. If anyone can get the best out of Lance or Darnold, it’s the 49ers head coach.
Raiders focus: Jakorian Bennett
The Raiders are in one of the most, if not the most, competitive divisions in football. If they are going to pose any threat to make the playoffs in the AFC, they will need some young players to step up early. They have added veteran Marcus Peters at cornerback, but one of the most intriguing players on their roster heading into the 2023 NFL season is rookie fourth-round cornerback Jakorian Bennett.
Bennett wasn’t as good as his Maryland teammate Deonte Banks in 2022, but he did earn a 70.3 PFF coverage grade and boasts 4.3 speed. Over his three-year college career, he allowed four touchdowns on 914 coverage snaps, including none on 407 snaps in 2022, and racked up 17 pass breakups.