NFL News & Analysis

Reviewing all 32 first-rounders through NFL preseason Week 2

New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) audibles against the New Orleans Saints defensive line during the first half at Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

There is no shame in a rookie looking like a fish out of water in his first NFL preseason — at this time a year ago, Justin Jefferson and Justin Herbert weren’t even starters.

That being said, NFL franchises will be extremely encouraged by those first-round rookies who already look the part. Let’s check in on every first-round pick from the 2021 NFL Draft to see how they’re adapting to the NFL game.

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1. QB Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars

63.4 overall, 49 snaps

While he hasn’t quite looked like the right hand of God, as some were hoping he’d be, Lawrence has not looked like a liability, either. He’s been under pressure on 14 of his 36 dropbacks and hasn’t had much in the way of open targets. While he admittedly took a bad sack in his first outing against Cleveland, he looked far more poised in tight pockets against the Saints on Monday Night Football.

2. QB Zach Wilson, New York Jets

85.7 overall, 44 snaps

Twenty dropbacks, two big-time throws and no turnover-worthy plays — you can’t play much better than Wilson has to start his career. The same confidence we saw on display last year at BYU has translated immediately to the NFL. His touchdown pass to Tyler Kroft on a seam route was a perfect example of that.

On a chalkboard, this route shouldn’t be open. It’s a seam-route bending into a middle-of-the-field safety, and if he leads his tight end, it’s either a hospital ball or a pick. But Wilson has the touch, accuracy and awareness to place it on Kroft’s back shoulder to take the safety out of the play. That’s high-level stuff.

3. QB Trey Lance, San Francisco 49ers

50.5 overall | 63 snaps

Lance looks just like a quarterback who has played only one football game in the past 20 months. His accuracy was in question throughout the draft process, and it’s been a bit of a mess with a 73.1% adjusted completion percentage. However, the most worrisome thing has been his decision-making, as he already has five turnover-worthy plays on only 37 dropbacks. And that has to subside before Kyle Shanahan thinks about handing him the keys to the offense.

4. TE Kyle Pitts, Atlanta Falcons

N/A | 0 snaps

Pitts hasn’t played a snap, but he isn’t even injured. He’s just that good already; they just don't want to get him hurt.

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5. WR Ja’Marr Chase, Cincinnati Bengals

34.6 overall | 15 snaps

Bengals fans should take solace in the fact that Chase’s nightmare performance came in an absolutely meaningless preseason game. He dropped all three of his targets against the Football Team last weekend, sparking some panic among the Cincinnati faithful. But, truthfully, I am more encouraged by the fact that he’s been targeted on four of his 10 routes run this season.

6. WR Jaylen Waddle, Miami Dolphins

52.7 overall | 36 snaps

Waddle has been a walking highlight reel in practice, but he has failed to generate much in the way of explosive plays in two games. He’s been targeted four times on 22 routes, recording three catches (and one drop) for 21 yards.

7. OT Penei Sewell, Detroit Lions

48.3 overall | 43 snaps

Sewell has looked nothing short of uncomfortable after switching to the right side this preseason; the depth of his sets and his hand usage are all over the place. Sewell has allowed three pressures on 27 pass-blocking snaps and just needs more reps.

8. CB Jaycee Horn, Carolina Panthers

63.8 overall | 7 snaps

Horn has been praised throughout camp for his mentality, but we’ve yet to see much of him on the football field. The South Carolina product has been targeted twice, with both falling incomplete — though one was batted at the line — and was right at the catch point on a dropped slant.

9. CB Patrick Surtain, Denver Broncos

91.2 overall | 38 snaps

Surtain came out like a house on fire with a pick-six and pass-breakup in his debut. He allowed a 12-yard completion this past week, but so far, he’s done all he can to claim a starting job.

10. WR DeVonta Smith, Philadelphia Eagles

53.2 overall | 26 snaps

Smith has been exceptional getting off the line of scrimmage for the Eagles. He’s caught two of his four targets for 19 yards, though he has dropped one pass. Unfortunately, he’s already been dinged up a couple of times in camp, but it has been nothing too serious.

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11. QB Justin Fields, Chicago Bears

65.3 overall | 71 snaps

Fields has been largely the same guy we saw at Ohio State, only in a disastrously different situation. His legs have been his biggest weapon so far, with 79 rushing yards on nine carries already (eight of which were scrambles). He’s been under pressure on a ridiculous 24 of his 49 dropbacks, though some of that is down to his 3.69-second average time to throw. He has to start protecting himself better if he’s going to take over as the starter.

12. LB Micah Parsons, Dallas Cowboys

91.0 overall | 43 snaps

Parsons already looks like a dude. His 91.0 grade is the highest we’ve ever seen from a rookie linebacker in the preseason. Whether it’s in coverage, coming downhill in the run game or as a blitzer, Parsons is a problem for opposing offenses.

13. OT Rashawn Slater, Los Angeles Chargers

71.4 overall | 20 snaps

Slater was lights out in the only action we saw from him this preseason a couple of weeks ago. He didn’t allow a single pressure on 12 pass-blocking snaps. The 2020 opt-out hasn’t missed a beat.

14. G Alijah Vera-Tucker, New York Jets

N/A | 0 snaps

Vera-Tucker has been day-to-day with a pec injury throughout camp and returned to practice just this week.

15. QB Mac Jones, New England Patriots

92.4 overall | 75 snaps

Jones has been as good as any rookie quarterback we’ve seen since we started grading the preseason in 2013. His 92.4 overall grade would finish tops among all rookie quarterbacks over that span. It’s the overall confidence and efficiency he’s playing with that’s been the most impressive part of his performance. He’s averaging a swift 2.67-second average time to throw on 41 dropbacks this preseason and has no turnover-worthy plays against his name.

16. LB Zaven Collins, Arizona Cardinals

53.6 overall | 65 snaps

Collins’ grade stems from two missed tackles and one big play allowed to Byron Pringle up the seam after dropping into Tampa 2. Still, he’s been making some plays as well, with three stops over that span and one of those missed tackles coming in the backfield.

17. OT Alex Leatherwood, Las Vegas Raiders

63.2 overall | 39 snaps

Leatherwood has been moving people consistently in the run game, as his physicality is certainly translating. And after a couple of missed assignments in pass protection against Seattle, Leatherwood didn’t allow a pressure on seven pass-blocking snaps this past week.

18. EDGE Jaelan Phillips, Miami Dolphins

68.5 overall | 27 snaps

Unfortunately, Atlanta pounded the heck out of the rock against the Dolphins in Phillips’ first preseason game, so we only got to see him rush the passer five times. However, he did produce a couple of nice stack-sheds against tight ends in the run game, where he looked strong.

19. LB Jamin Davis, Washington Football Team

50.6 overall | 37 snaps

Right now, the game is moving a little fast for the rookie. That’s to be expected, given the simplicity of his role at Kentucky. Still, you can see that he can easily beat opposing linemen to their spot on wide runs. He’s made two stops in two games.

20. WR Kadarius Toney, New York Giants

N/A overall | 0 snaps

Toney started camp with a bout with COVID-19 and was held out of this past week’s game with an undisclosed injury. That’s not the start Giants fans were hoping for.

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21. EDGE Kwity Paye, Indianapolis Colts

82.9 overall | 15 snaps

Paye saw his first action this past week against the Vikings and didn’t disappoint. His freakish combination of power and quicks is still too much for even NFL linemen, as he had multiple dominant reps.

22. CB Caleb Farley, Tennessee Titans

50.4 overall | 16 snaps

Farley only played this past week against Tampa Bay. He got thoroughly trounced by Scotty Miller on an out-and-up, although Miller came down with it out of bounds. All we want to see is Farley stay healthy after his multiple back surgeries.

23. OT Christian Darrisaw, Minnesota Vikings

N/A overall | 0 snaps

Darrisaw underwent surgery on a core-muscle injury on Aug. 12 that, at the time, was reported to have a two- to three-week recovery period. It was his second surgery on the same injury, as he also underwent a procedure in January.

24. RB Najee Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers

70.7 overall | 45 snaps

Harris hasn’t had much room to work on the ground so far, with a grand total of nine yards before contact on 13 preseason carries. That’s something he’s just going to have to get used to behind Pittsburgh’s patchwork offensive line. He’s showed out as a receiver, though, with 65 yards on four catches so far.

25. RB Travis Etienne, Jacksonville Jaguars

53.7 overall | 16 snaps

We saw just 16 snaps from Etienne before a Lisfranc injury ended his season.

26. CB Greg Newsome, Cleveland Browns

57.6 overall | 44 snaps

While the stats might not look great, as he’s allowed two catches from three targets for 42 yards, I’m not too worried. Newsome was the victim of an absolute dime on a scramble drill from Trevor Lawrence, even though he was in perfect coverage. He was also at the catch point on the other reception he allowed. With Greedy Williams out with a groin injury, Newsome looks ready to start.

27. WR Rashod Bateman, Baltimore Ravens

N/A overall | 0 snaps

Bateman put up some nice camp highlights, including a go-ball over Marlon Humphrey, before a core-muscle injury necessitated an operation that will keep him out through mid-September.

28. EDGE Payton Turner, New Orleans Saints

N/A | 0 snaps

Payton has been held out of both preseason games with an undisclosed injury that is reportedly minor.

29. CB Eric Stokes, Green Bay Packers

59.0 overall | 25 snaps

Corey Davis gave Stokes a warm welcome to the NFL this past week when he stopped him in his tracks with a nifty shake on a post route. Stokes got some revenge, though, by sitting on a hitch and breaking it up.

30. EDGE Gregory Rousseau, Buffalo Bills

71.9 overall | 29 snaps

Rousseau gave some business to Penei Sewell in Week 1 and Lachavious Simmons for the Bears this past week. He now has six pressures on only 19 pass-rushing snaps. Before Bills fans get too excited, though, it’s worth noting they’ve all come on the same two-arm bull-rush. He’ll have to show a Plan B when he gets to the regular season.

31. EDGE Odafe Oweh, Baltimore Ravens

38.6 overall | 38 snaps

Oweh has all the tools to be a consistent pocket-pusher in time, but he’s still very much adjusting to the speed of the NFL game. The urgency with his get-off and hands is lacking at the moment, which will improve as he gets more comfortable. He’s been deploying multiple moves but with little success, as he has managed only two pressures on 25 pass-rushing snaps.

32. EDGE Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

72.0 overall | 56 snaps

My hand is up — Tryon looks like a completely different player than the one I saw on tape back in 2019. Had I seen this guy on tape, he’d have been in the top 20 on PFF’s draft board. He looks ultra-explosive and violent approaching blocks. He’s earned a 74.3 pass-rushing grade on 28 pass-rushing snaps so far.

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