• Pittsburgh Steelers QB Kenny Pickett and New Orleans Saints OT Trevor Penning were the only first-rounders to earn 80.0-plus grades in limited preseason action.
• New York Jets CB Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner wasn't targeted all preseason across three games, and the tape shows that was a result of his stickiness in coverage.
• Jessie Bates III's holdout gave Daxton Hill plenty of snaps to show off his versatility en route to a 74.8 preseason grade.
Estimated reading time: 12 mins
The NFL preseason is now over, and with it the last chance we have to see rookies in action before things get real in the regular season.
Here is how each of the 32 first-rounders performed across their preseason playing time, which varied dramatically.
Preseason Grade: 71.1
Preseason SNAPS: 51
Walker got an early start with Jacksonville in the Hall of Fame game, but the team made up for it later by resting most players of consequence in their final preseason game in Week 3. Walker played in three games overall, with 30 of his 51 snaps being pass rushes. Those rushes netted him three pressures, and he had two defensive stops. His athleticism was clear to see, but the impact he will have as a rookie remains undetermined.
2. Detroit Lions: EDGE Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan
Preseason Grade: 65.2
Preseason SNAPS: 31
Hutchinson played in two preseason games and flashed dominant playmaking ability. He had an outstanding play against the run in the first game, and against Pittsburgh was able to earn his part of a sack on Mitchell Trubisky after rushing with power from the inside. Hutchinson looks like he will be an important part of what could be a strong Lions defensive line.
Preseason Grade: 71.3
Preseason SNAPS: 43
Stingley made his preseason debut in the second week of preseason and then saw extensive playing time in the final game. Overall, he was targeted in coverage just twice across his snaps, allowing one catch for 22 yards. He broke up a pass on the lone incompletion. Stingley has outstanding movement skills and the size to be an impact player for a defense that seemed engaged in being a good unit throughout preseason.
Preseason Grade: 70.4
Preseason SNAPS: 35
Gardner is already earning his “Sauce” nickname at the NFL level. In college, he went his entire career without allowing a touchdown, and in his first NFL preseason, he didn’t allow a single catch. In fact, Gardner wasn’t even targeted across three different games. When you throw on the tape, you see him in consistently sticky coverage and squeezing throwing lanes in zone coverage.
5. New York Giants: EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon
Preseason Grade: 70.4
Preseason SNAPS: 31
Thibodeaux saw his preseason come to a premature end after he injured his knee on a cut block against the Bengals in Week 2. He had played 33 snaps at that point, 18 of which were rushing the passer. He tallied just one pressure, but also two winning pass-rush reps that didn’t get a chance to become pressure. The injury is not serious, but it may slow his chance to make an immediate impact in the regular season.
Preseason Grade: 64.0
Preseason SNAPS: 66
It hasn’t all been smooth sailing, but it looks like Ekwonu will be the team’s starting left tackle after a rollercoaster of a preseason. In three games, Ekwonu allowed three pressures. He flashed some run-blocking dominance, but it was on just 21 run-blocking snaps. Ekwonu has huge potential but a broad range of outcomes in his rookie season as the Panthers rely on him to lock down Baker Mayfield’s blind side.
Preseason Grade: 55.9
Preseason SNAPS: 52
Neal played in two preseason games before the Giants elected to rest most players of consequence against the Jets in the team’s final preseason game. Neal allowed three pressures and three more pass-protection losses across 37 pass-blocking snaps. He struggled at times to deal with the speed and power of NFL pass-rushers, and the Giants may be in for a tough rookie year unless Neal can make big strides quickly.
8. Atlanta Falcons: WR Drake London, USC
Preseason Grade: 76.6
Preseason SNAPS: 5
London lasted just five snaps before a hit to the knee at the end of a nice catch and run put him out for the remainder of the preseason. The injury is not serious, but the Falcons are understandably treating their top draft pick with an abundance of caution. It’s hard to gauge anything from just five snaps, but London looked plenty fast and athletic enough on his catch before the awkward hit.