News & Analysis

Preseason Week 1 takeaways – first-round rookie performance

By Mark Chichester
Aug 14, 2018

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Aug 9, 2018; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (26) rushes against Cleveland Browns defensive back Damarious Randall (23) during first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

The first week of the NFL preseason has come and gone. Our analysts watched and graded every player on every play of every game this past weekend and Premium Stats 2.0 has shown light on every rookie who played a snap, whether a first-round pick or an undrafted free agent, during their first game action at the professional level.

[For more information on all the Premiums Stats listed below, grab a PFF Elite subscription which comes with the new and improved Premium Stats 2.0.]

Taking a look through the league’s first action of the 2018 season, here are the instant takeaways from every first-round rookie’s play during the first week of the preseason:

Pick 1, Cleveland Browns: Baker Mayfield — QB, Oklahoma

It only took 44 snaps of game action for Mayfield to show exactly why the  Browns made him the first overall pick in this year’s NFL draft. In a spectacular debut performance, Mayfield excelled from a clean pocket and posted a passer rating of 139.6 when he was kept clean from pressure, which not only ranked first among rookie quarterbacks this week but is the third-best mark ever recorded by a rookie signal-caller with at least 10 attempts in Week 1 of the preseason.

Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns

Pick 2, New York Giants: Saquon Barkley — RB, Penn State

It took Barkley just one play to make an impact in his team’s contest against the Browns, as he turned his first professional touch from what looked like a negative play to into a 39-yard gain with a lightning fast explosion past the line of scrimmage. He ended his debut with 36 yards after first contact from just four carries and a running grade of 73.6 – the fifth-best mark among rookie running backs this week.

Pick 3, New York Jets: Sam Darnold — QB, USC

The former USC quarterback was exactly as advertised on Friday night and produced a number of impressive drives that can only help his chances of becoming the team’s Week 1 starter. Darnold logged 41 of his team’s 63 offensive snaps against the Falcons and was at his very best when he faced defensive pressure, completing 4-of-4 passes for 37 yards and a passer rating of 105.2 – the second-best mark among rookie quarterbacks this week.

Sam Darnold, New York Jets

Pick 4, Cleveland Browns: Denzel Ward — CB, Ohio State

The former Ohio State standout quite literally hit the ground running during his first NFL appearance and made his presence felt early and often throughout his 16 snaps. He ended the game with two defensive stops, one against the run and one in coverage and accumulated an impressive run-defense grade of 70.7, the ninth-best mark among rookie cornerbacks.

Pick 5, Denver Broncos: Bradley Chubb — DE, NC State

The Broncos first-round pick only played 15 snaps in his team’s opening game, but did show some promise in that limited action. While he came up empty as a pass-rusher, he did manage to tally a tackle and a stop on six run-defense snaps.

Pick 6, Indianapolis Colts: Quenton Nelson — OG, Notre Dame

Nelson started at left guard and played 33 offensive snaps against the Seattle Seahawks, 21 of which came in pass protection where he allowed just two hurries on the night. All told, he graded much better as a run-blocker and ended his first NFL game with a run-blocking grade of 67.1, which was the seventh-best mark among rookie offensive guards.

Pick 7, Buffalo Bills: Josh Allen — QB, Wyoming

The rookie quarterback may have taken us through the exact same highs and lows that we wrote about in his scouting report, but that didn’t make it any less entertaining, as Allen produced a couple of breathtaking throws that displayed his trademark arm strength and velocity. The former Wyoming star played 34 snaps on the night and produced well when under pressure, completing 4-of-7 passes for 71 yards and a passer rating of 92.0 – the third-best mark among rookies this week.

Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills

Pick 8, Chicago Bears: Roquan Smith — LB, Georgia

Smith and his representatives remain in a standoff with the Bears over a contractual dispute, so we’re going to have to wait a little longer to see Smith don the Bears uniform and remind us of why we think he’s the perfect linebacker for today’s NFL.

Pick 9, San Francisco 49ers: Mike McGlinchey — OT, Notre Dame

The former Notre Dame offensive tackle logged 22 snaps in his first game as a pro. 15 of those snaps came in pass protection and he performed admirably, keeping a completely clean slate. McGlinchey put a number of nice reps on tape, including an impressive stonewall against Cowboys pass-rusher Taco Charlton.

Pick 10, Arizona Cardinals: Josh Rosen — QB, UCLA

The future face-of-the-franchise didn’t quite manage to set fireworks off, but he certainly showed flashes of potential in his first NFL game. Playing the majority of his 18 snaps with second and third-string offensive linemen, Rosen faced pressure on seven of his 13 dropbacks, but still showed poise under that pressure and posted an adjusted completion percentage of 66.7 percent on his pressured attempts, the fifth-best mark among rookie signal callers this week.

Pick 11, Miami Dolphins: Minkah Fitzpatrick — S, Alabama

Fitzpatrick showed up in a big way Thursday night and was seemingly all over the field for the Dolphins defense. The highlight of his night came from a ferocious hit on wide receiver Chris Godwin that jarred the ball loose at the last second. He was targeted three times on the night but allowed just one reception for 12 yards and allowed a passer rating of just 46.5 – the sixth-best mark among rookies with multiple targets in Week 1.

Minkah FItzpatrick, Miami Dolphins

Pick 12, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Vita Vea — DI, Washington

Vea was forced to miss his team’s first game due to the calf injury he sustained during training camp. The former Washington star was selected 12th overall in the 2018 NFL Draft after he finished the 2017 college season with a pass-rush productivity of 10.6, the third-best mark among draft eligible interior defensive linemen.

Pick 13, Washington Redskins: Da’Ron Payne — DI, Alabama

Like Vea, Payne was also absent from his team’s game on Thursday night as he’s currently recovering from the ankle injury that he sustained during training camp. The Redskins run defense, who ranked 29th this week, will be hoping that he can recover and return to action soon.

Pick 14, New Orleans Saints: Marcus Davenport — DE, Texas-San Antonio

The first-round pass-rusher was one of the 10 Saints players to not suit up for Thursday’s game against the Jaguars. We’ll have to wait a little a longer to get a glimpse of the promising college athlete that ranked fourth among draft-eligible edge defenders in pass-rushing productivity (16.4) in 2017.

Pick 15, Oakland Raiders: Kolton Miller — OT, UCLA

The rookie left tackle only played 12 snaps in his debut, but did seem to struggle at times. He allowed a hurry on one of his seven pass-blocking snaps and was beaten a couple times on his five run-blocking snaps. He ended the game with an offensive grade of 53.8, which ranked 27th of 36 rookie players at the position.

Pick 16, Buffalo Bills: Tremaine Edmunds — LB, Virginia Tech

The rookie linebacker had an uncharacteristically quiet night against the Panthers. All told, he played 17 defensive snaps (five in the running game and 12 in coverage) and he ended the contest with just one missed tackle to his name.  

Pick 17, Los Angeles Chargers: Derwin James — S, Florida State

The versatile defensive back showed flashes on his 28 defensive snaps against the Cardinals. The majority of his game action came in coverage, where he allowed three receptions for 24 yards but also logged two tackles and a defensive stop. He ended the game with a defensive grade of 68.2, which ranked 12th among rookie safeties with at least 10 snaps.

Pick 18, Green Bay Packers: Jaire Alexander — CB, Louisville

With it being the first game of the new NFL season, Green Bay decided to rest 18 players, including their first-round pick Alexander, who is currently nursing a minor groin injury. Current reports indicate that he’s now back at practice, so we may get a chance to see him in his team’s next preseason matchup against the Steelers. The former Louisville star was selected 18th overall after he allowed a passer rating of just 17.7 over the course of his final college season.

Pick 19, Dallas Cowboys: Leighton Vander Esch — LB, Boise State

The former Boise State Bronco played 31 defensive snaps in his NFL debut and showed that he’s more than capable of producing at the top level. He did the majority of his work against the run, where he accumulated two defensive stops on 11 run-defense snaps and ended the game with a run-stop percentage of 18.2 percent – the sixth-best mark among rookie linebackers.

Pick 20, Detroit Lions: Frank Ragnow — G, Arkansas

All eyes were on first-round pick Frank Ragnow in his NFL debut Friday night and the former Arkansas star put on a very solid performance indeed. He kept a completely clean slate on his 12 pass-blocking snaps and ended the game with a pass-blocking grade of 82.6, the sixth-best mark among rookies at the position.

Pick 21, Cincinnati Bengals: Billy Price — C, Ohio State

Price’s debut was a tale of two halves, as he performed quite admirably in pass protection but imploded at times in the run game. Focusing on Price’s strength, he didn’t allow a single pressure on any of his 12 pass-blocking snaps and he ended the contest with a pass-blocking grade of 77.8, the fourth-best grade among rookie centers with at least 10 snaps.

Pick 22, Tennessee Titans: Rashaan Evans — LB, Alabama

The rookie linebacker left practice early last week with an undisclosed injury, so for now we’ll just have to wait patiently for his NFL debut. Evans was selected with the 22nd overall pick of the NFL draft and was a dominant force as a pass-rusher during his final college season, as evidenced by his 29 total quarterback pressures.

Pick 23:, New England Patriots: Isaiah Wynn — G, Georgia

The Patriots first-round draft pick sat out his team’s first preseason game against the Redskins, but was he was hardly required as his team ran away with a 26-17 victory. Without Wynn in the lineup, the team’s offensive line actually performed very well, and they ended the contest with a team pass-blocking grade of 79.9, second only to the Eagles this week.

Pick 24, Carolina Panthers: D.J. Moore — WR, Maryland

Moore put on an inspired performance during his NFL debut, catching all four of his targets for 75 receiving yards. He also displayed his tremendous athleticism with the ball in his hands, as he broke three tackles on one of his catches in the second half. His spectacular debut outing earned an elite grade of 90.2 and a place on our Team of the Week.

D.J. Moore, Carolina Panthers

Pick 25, Baltimore Ravens: Hayden Hurst — TE, South Carolina

In his second NFL game, Hurst tallied one catch for 12 yards and continued to make strides as a reliable blocker. He’s now caught all four of the catchable passes that have been thrown his way this preseason and he’s accumulated an offensive grade of 67.6, the seventh-best mark among rookie tight ends.

Pick 26, Atlanta Falcons: Calvin Ridley — WR, Alabama

The first-year wide receiver wasn’t given much of a chance to impress in his first professional contest and saw just 13 snaps before he was pulled from the game. He ended his debut with just one catch from a screen pass that went for negative yardage, but will no doubt be looking to build on that in his second game as a professional.

Pick 27, Seattle Seahawks: Rashaad Penny — RB, San Diego State

Penny’s final box-score stats may not look that impressive, but it was still exciting to get our first glimpse of the elusive running back as he logged 18 snaps in his team’s season opener against the Colts. He carried the ball eight times for 16 yards, with 13 of those rushing yards coming after he was contacted by a defender. He also forced three missed tackles.  

Rashaad Penny, Seattle Seahawks

Pick 28, Pittsburgh Steelers: Terrell Edmunds — S, Virginia Tech

The new Steelers safety logged 34 defensive snaps in his team’s victory over the Eagles and he was a menace against the run game. When he lined up within eight yards of the line of scrimmage, he produced one tackle, one defensive stop and he didn’t miss a tackle all night.

Pick 29, Jacksonville Jaguars: Taven Bryan — DT, Florida

Unfortunately for Jaguars fans, Bryan was forced to miss his team’s season opener against the Saints. According to reports, it appears the rookie will likely make his debut in Week 2’s game against the Vikings, so fans of the team will have to wait just a little longer to see the former Florida star, who ended the 2017 season ranked 10th among draft-eligible interior defenders with a pass-rush productivity of 9.7.

Pick 30, Minnesota Vikings: Mike Hughes — CB, Central Florida

The former Central Florida cornerback had an encouraging debut for the Vikings. His highlight play came as he quickly shut down a screen pass for no gain and he also racked up a defensive stop on one of his 10 run-defense snaps. He didn’t allow a single reception in coverage and he ended the game with a defensive grade of 74.9, the 10th-best mark among rookie cornerbacks.

Mike Hughes, Minnesota Vikings

Pick 31, New England Patriots: Sony Michel — RB, Georgia

The former Georgia running back was forced to miss his team’s opening fixture against the Redskins, as he battles to return from a knee injury. Right now, the timetable for his return is unclear, but the team will no doubt be hoping that Michel can return to his once dominant college form, as evidenced by his elusive rating of 95.1 in 2017, the sixth-best rating in the nation.

Pick 32, Baltimore Ravens: Lamar Jackson — QB, Louisville

Two games in, Jackson looks no threat to Joe Flacco’s starting job. The Louisville playmaker has certainly shown flashes at times, but he’s also looked inconsistent passing the ball and has made some very questionable decisions while doing so. Through two games, Jackson’s passing grade of 50.7 ranks 10th of 14 rookie quarterbacks with at least 10 dropbacks so far this preseason.

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