NFL Draft News & Analysis

How all 31 first-round picks played this preseason

HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 28: Will Fuller V #15 of the Houston Texans warms up before a preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals at NRG Stadium on August 28, 2016 in Houston, Texas. The Texans defeated the Cardinals 34-24. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

With the entirety of the 2016 NFL preseason behind us, most of this year’s first-round draft picks have made their professional debuts. While injuries (and a contract dispute, in one circumstance) have kept some rookies sidelined, the first few on-field performance for many of these players have given us a small glimpse into their transition from the college game.

While many—if not most—of these rookies will improve as the season progresses, it’s certainly worthwhile to take a look at their performance to date before they make their first regular-season appearances.

1. Jared Goff, QB, Rams (Cal)

Snaps: 101

Key stat: 13.5 passer rating under pressure

Running with: Third team

Goff’s preseason has been poor enough that he isn’t just missing out on a chance to start in Week 1, but has fallen behind Sean Mannion in the pecking order and will open as Los Angeles' third quarterback. The arm talent is evident, but Goff has looked well short of being ready to lead an NFL offense.

2. Carson Wentz, QB, Eagles (North Dakota State)

Snaps: 38

Key stat: Completed just 25 percent of his passes under pressure (3 of 12) in first game

Running with: First team

We haven't seen anything from Wentz since the first preseason game due to the hit he took to the ribs, but the Sam Bradford trade has changed his outlook, and he figures to start Week 1 against the Browns if healthy.

3. Joey Bosa, DE, Chargers (Ohio State)

Snaps: N/A

Key stat: N/A

Running with: N/A

Joey Bosa’s contract dispute with the Chargers cost him the entirety of the preseason, but it did at least get resolved before the regular season kicks off. Chargers fans will get their first real glimpse of their first-round pick in Week 1.

4. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Cowboys (Ohio State)

Snaps: 14

Key stat: Gained 6.9 yards per attempt on 10 carries, averaging 3.1 yards before first contact

Running with: First team

Elliott was late to see game time because of a hamstring injury, but the few snaps he was on the field for against Seattle laid down a marker for the kind of impact he can have. The Cowboys O-line opened some big holes, and Elliott paid them back by delivering hammer blows against Seahawks strong safety Kam Chancellor once he hit the second level.

5. Jalen Ramsey, CB, Jaguars (Florida State)

Snaps: 53

Key stat: Allowed one catch for 10 yards on just three preseason targets

Running with: First team

After all of the confusion about what exactly Jalen Ramsey is pre-draft, on the evidence of the preseason, he is exactly what he was at Florida State: a shutdown outside corner with the rare ability to impact the run game for the defense. He looks exactly as advertised so far.

6. Ronnie Stanley, OT, Ravens (Notre Dame)

Snaps: 81

Key stat: Allowed two total pressures in 51 pass-blocking snaps

Running with: First team

Rookie tackles tend to struggle early in their careers—even achieving an “average” season by league standards is often beyond them. So far, however, Ronnie Stanley looks far beyond that level, and may be the first rookie tackle to grade well compared to established veterans since Dallas' Tyron Smith.

7. DeForest Buckner, DE, 49ers (Oregon)

Snaps: 43

Key stat: Recorded no pressure, but two defensive stops

Running with: First team

DeForest Buckner's preseason was hampered by a soft-tissue injury, but in 43 snaps, he graded well against the run and failed to generate any pressure as a pass-rusher. He looks in line to start Week 1, and should get back to his every-down status before long.

8. Jack Conklin, OT, Titans (Michigan State)

Snaps: 99

Key stat: Surrendered zero sacks, one hit, and three hurries, with all pressures allowed in the first game

Running with: First team

Jack Conklin’s first game of preseason was little short of a disaster against the Chargers. He didn’t allow a sack, but did surrender a hit and three hurries and didn’t grade well as a run blocker. He has played well since then, displaying the power in the run game he was known for at Michigan State, while also maintaining a clean sheet in pass protection across the final three games (one of which, admittedly, featured just three snaps, and only one of those was a passing play).

9. Leonard Floyd, OLB, Bears (Georgia)

Snaps: 101

Key stat: Seven total pressures from 59 pass-rushing snaps

Running with: Second team

The Bears have experimented a little bit with Floyd in various positions, but he has spent 79 of his 101 snaps lined up on the left side as an outside linebacker, with another 16 coming from the same position on the right side. He has so far played okay, but hasn’t really stood out or forced his way onto the first team.

10. Eli Apple, CB, Giants (Ohio State)

Snaps: 73

Key stat: Allowed only four of 11 passes thrown into his coverage to be caught (36.4 percent) for a total of 24 yards (and a TD)

Running with: First team

Apple suffered an injury after 19 snaps in his first preseason game that kept him out of the second, but since then, he started the final two encounters, performing well and looking like a player that will be one of the Giants’ top three corners when they deploy sub packages, lining up outside when Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie moves inside to cover the slot.

11. Vernon Hargreaves III, CB Buccaneers (Florida)

Snaps: 83

Key stat: 0.0 passer rating allowed when targeted

Running with: First team

Over the course of the preseason, Hargreaves earned himself a role with the first team in nickel situations, and then finally as a starter outright. He has been the definition of shutdown over the games he has played, and looks like a true ball-hawking corner, catching more passes himself (two) than he has allowed receivers he was covering to catch (one).

12. Sheldon Rankins, DT, Saints (Louisville)

Snaps: 22

Key stat: One hit, one hurry, and one defensive stop

Running with: First team

Another player struck by injury, Sheldon Rankins played 22 snaps in his first preseason game before a broken fibula sidelined him for six to eight weeks.

13. Laremy Tunsil, OT, Dolphins (Ole Miss)

Snaps: 142

Key stat: Three QB pressures allowed over 85 pass-blocking snaps

Running with: First team

Tunsil is the team’s future left tackle, but will be the left guard in 2016. His pass protection has been good—as you would expect from a marquee left tackle prospect—but his run blocking has been far worse in two of the three preseason games he has played in. Miami needs to develop that side of his game for him to make an impact as a rookie on the line, but just holding up in pass protection will mean he is an upgrade for them over a year ago.

14. Karl Joseph, S, Raiders (West Virginia)

Snaps: 81

Key stat: Seven solo tackles and one defensive stop

Running with: First team

Safety can be a tough position to stand out at over the course of a preseason. With limited snaps for starters and the nature of the position, being involved in the play is often entirely at the mercy of the offense you are facing. Joseph was relatively non-descript over the preseason, but only saw 81 snaps across four games in which to prove himself.

15. Corey Coleman, WR, Browns (Baylor)

Snaps: 31

Key stat: Caught only one pass for 10 yards across two games

Running with: First team

A hamstring injury kept Corey Coleman out of the first two preseason games, but the former Baylor Bear entered the Browns' starting lineup immediately when healthy. He was targeted five times across two games, catching just one pass for 10 yards and dropping another. Coleman looks very raw as a receiver, but quick and lively if RG III can get the ball in his hands.

16. Taylor Decker, OT, Lions (Ohio State)

Snaps: 87

Key stat: One sack and one hurry surrendered, as well as two penalties

Running with: First team

Decker started three preseason games for Detroit, showing good and bad in both run blocking and pass protection across them, but balancing out somewhere around average overall. His best game was also the one in which he saw the most action—42 snaps against the Ravens—which is encouraging for him as he enters the regular season.

17. Keanu Neal, S, Falcons (Florida)

Snaps: 35

Key stat: Surrendered a catch every time he was targeted as the primary coverage defender

Running with: First team

Keanu Neal’s college highlight reel was spectacular, but PFF's play-by-play grading was less kind, and the 35 snaps he saw in an injury-shortened preseason were less than impressive. He surrendered a touchdown against the Browns, and only one of his tackles was close enough to the line or short of the markers on third down to be considered a defensive stop.

18. Ryan Kelly, C, Colts (Alabama)

Snaps: 72

Key stat: Allowed a sack and two hurries in 47 pass-blocking snaps; all three pressures came in final game against Eagles

Running with: First team

Kelly was having a nearly-perfect preseason until he faced Philadelphia, and while he still graded well in run-blocking that game, he struggled more in pass protection, surrendering a sack and two hurries. Beau Allen, in particular, got the better of him in that meeting, but it still has been a solid preseason overall for the rookie center out of Alabama.

19. Shaq Lawson, DE, Bills (Clemson)

Snaps: N/A

Key stat: N/A

Running with: N/A

Shaq Lawson didn’t make it past May before being shut down by shoulder surgery, which is scheduled to put him out of commission until at least Week 6 of the season.

20. Darron Lee, OLB, Jets (Ohio State)

Snaps: 95

Key stat: Missed as many tackles (five) as he has made

Running with: Second team

Darron Lee has impressive athletic ability, but so far it is uncontrolled, and he has been struggling to make the plays he needs to, missing five tackles over the course of the preseason. That’s the same number as he successfully completed, and three more than the number of defensive stops he was responsible for.

21. Will Fuller, WR, Texans (Notre Dame)

Snaps: 82

Key stat: Fuller’s average depth of target this preseason was 17.4 yards down field, almost 7 full yards further than DeAndre Hopkins (10.8)

Running with: First team

In his first preseason action, Will Fuller wasn’t called upon much. He saw just one target, which he caught for 4 yards, but his workload ramped up in a big way in the second game. He then saw eight passes sent his way, catching four of them for 73 yards and a touchdown. He will start for the Texans, and they will be relying on him to take the top off opposing defenses.

22. Josh Doctson, WR, Redskins (TCU)

Snaps: N/A

Key stat: N/A

Running with: N/A

Another victim of an early injury, Doctson has been sidelined with an Achilles injury since spring, but he has finally returned to practice.

23. Laquon Treadwell, WR, Vikings (Ole Miss)

Snaps: 130

Key stat: Caught only six of 15 passes (40 percent) thrown his way; dropped two

Running with: Second team

Over the final three preseason games Treadwell didn’t catch more than a single pass in two of them (he caught one against San Diego, and a second for a successful two-point conversion that won’t show on official stats). He was targeted a total of nine times against the Seahawks and Rams combined, but caught only one pass for 5 yards. The Vikings need more production out of him, even if he doesn’t start.

24. William Jackson III, CB, Bengals (University of Houston)

Snaps: N/A

Key stat: N/A

Running with: N/A

A torn pectoral muscle suffered in the first padded practice quelled Jackson’s rookie impact, and the team is still not sure if he will make it back for any of his first season.

25. Artie Burns, CB, Steelers (University of Miami)

Snaps: 47

Key stat: Allowed just one catch on five targets into his coverage

Running with: Second team

A leg injury kept Burns off the field until the final preseason game, but the Steelers tried to make up for lost time in that outing, keeping him on the field for 47 snaps. Burns played well in that game, allowing just one catch for 12 yards from the five passes thrown his way, breaking up two of them. The former Hurricane has been put behind the eight-ball by injury, but the Steelers need him to contribute sooner rather than later.

26. Paxton Lynch, QB, Broncos (Memphis)

Snaps: 155

Key stat: Passer rating of 98.9 when kept clean; dropped to 58.8 when pressured

Running with: Second team

Trevor Siemian won the starting job in Denver, but Paxton Lynch played well enough to convince the team that Mark Sanchez wasn’t needed as a veteran backup. More importantly, if Siemian struggles, Lynch is ready to see game time. He still has rough edges, but he showed some good play this preseason.

27. Kenny Clark, DT, Packers (UCLA)

Snaps: 38

Key stat: One hurry and one defensive stop

Running with: Second team

UCLA’s late graduation has put Clark somewhat behind the eight-ball, and a back injury put him even further behind. He sat out the final two preseason games, but hopes to play in Week 1, where he will be deployed behind Dean Lowry in the rotation. Lowry hasn’t done much to suggest he will keep Clark from the field for long, however, once the former Bruin is fully healthy.

28. Joshua Garnett, G, 49ers (Stanford)

Snaps: 132

Key stat: Allowed three total pressures from 74 snaps of pass blocking

Running with: Second team

Garnett’s 132 snaps of action this preseason were not good, and though he didn’t allow a sack or hit in pass protection, he did allow pressure and was bailed out by the passing game a few times. His run blocking was also unexpectedly below par, giving the 49ers little reason to insert him into the starting lineup as they would have been expecting.

29. Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Cardinals (Ole Miss)

Snaps: 60

Key stat: Notched five total pressures in 31 pass-rushing snaps and four defensive stops

Running with: Second team

A high-ankle sprain kept Nkemdiche off the field until the final two preseason games, but when he got snaps, he was quietly excellent, grading well against both the run and pass. In the final game against Denver, he notched a sack, hit, and three hurries, as well as a defensive stop every time he made the tackle. His prospects for contributing as a very effective role player early on look good.

30. Vernon Butler, DT, Panthers (Louisiana Tech)

Snaps: 76

Key stat: Failed to generate a single pressure on 47 pass-rushing snaps

Running with: Second team

A starting spot for Butler was always going to be hard to achieve within Carolina’s strong defensive front, but even so, how ineffective he was in the preseason with the second team has been if not concerning, then at least eyebrow-raising. He has generated no pressure at all, and been less than dominant against the run, as well. Playing time may be hard to come by for Butler early on.

31. Germain Ifedi, OT, Seahawks (Texas A&M)

Snaps: 93

Key stat: Surrendered just a single pressure over 49 pass-blocking snaps

Running with: First team

Ifedi’s first preseason game against Kansas City was rough, especially in pass protection, where he was beaten far more than the pressure count (one) would suggest, but the ball was gone before it could become a problem. Since then, though, he has settled down and been, if not dominant, than at least remarkably solid, especially given that he's in a new position in his rookie year.

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