It’s notoriously difficult to make any definitive judgment about players based on preseason action; there are a lot of back-ups flying around and teams don’t like to show their upcoming opponents too much by way of complicated blitzes, etc.
That said, if we don’t have any views on preseason, what’s the point in playing it at all? So we’ve mitigated issues regarding strength of opposition by only considering play against starters (except where noted) and compiled a rating for every first round pick, judging them against what we’d like to see at this stage from a player drafted at that position:
Green = Exceeded expectations
Amber = Met expectations
Red = Fallen below our expectations
No. Player Rating Comments
1 Andrew Luck,
Did everything asked and more. Despite being under pressure and having six passes dropped his first two games, made very few poor throws and many good ones.
2 Robert Griffin III,
Athletically as advertised with some nice throws on the move and scrambles for first downs. Was generally under less pressure than Luck but when he was hurried, looked uncomfortable in the pocket.
3 Trent Richardson,
A knee injury kept him out for all of the preseason action. Not a great start for a Cleveland team which was relying on him to keep the pressure off fellow rookie, Brandon Weeden.
4 Matt Kalil,
Not a natural run blocker, has struggled at times in that regard. Generally competent in pass protection, but had issues against both Aldon Smith and Antwan Barnes. Still a significant upgrade on Charlie Johnson.
5 Justin Blackmon,
After the early off-field issues and subsequent late signing, Blackmon has done everything he could on the field. Smooth hands, getting open underneath, and yards after the catch have been evident in every game.
6 Morris Claiborne,
He started from Week 2, has done little wrong but so far he’s not really been tested. Some of his run support has been a bit tentative, but it now looks as if his first real test won’t come until Wednesday night against the Giants.
7 Mark Barron,
Not seen that much of him in coverage but his work elsewhere has been very good. Not afraid to take on blockers, closes quickly and made his tackles. A huge upgrade for Tampa Bay at an area of need.
8 Ryan Tannehill,
He gets a bit of a pass here on two fronts: firstly, David Garrard was always meant to start, so when he went down Tannehill was forced into a position never envisioned. Secondly, although he’s thrown some poor stuff, he’s had no help from a receiving corps that can’t get deep and dropped five passes against Atlanta alone.
9 Luke Kuechly,
Not perfect and perhaps not the prototypical run defending linebacker, but this is now a passing league. He tends to negotiate his way through traffic, but as a coverage guy, has all the skills. We’ll see if Carolina’s desire to get Thomas Davis on the field holds him back.
10 Stephon Gilmore,
This is maybe a tad harsh, but he’s been playing so far off its surprising more people haven’t taken advantage. Add to this a lack of form tackling and limited commitment in run defense and he could be a weakness to be exploited in the regular season.
11 Dontari Poe,
Rotating with Anthony Toribio at NT, Poe had a couple of good plays against the Rams--a hit and a batted pass--but was then very well handled by Seattle center Max Unger the following week.
12 Fletcher Cox,
Make sense of this. He does OK in 16 first half snaps vs. Pittsburgh, faces a secondstring Patriots group, and then, because of the Week 1 regular season matchup with them, gets very little against Cleveland. Let’s call it a contaminated sample.
13 Michael Floyd,
It comes to something when you are scrambling around in the secondstring mire to find anything tangible to say about someone who should have started from Day 1. His acrobatic catch in the last game apart, his only significant contributions have been a dropped pass from John Skelton and running an out route from Kolb so shallow he left a full yard to pick up on fourth down.
14 Michael Brockers,
After three games, the overall view of the Rams' new DRT is mixed. He played a lot against the Colts but didn’t do much, got no pressure in the KC game (although his read and react run defense went well) and against Dallas got a couple of hurries.
15 Bruce Irvin,
Edge Rusher (Seahawks)
Currently only a sub package player who, at 245 pounds, needs to spend more time trying to go around people than through them. Got very little going against the first-string offenses he faced.
16 Quinton Coples,
Impressive in two of his three games, Coples looks like he may add another dimension to an already strong Jets defensive line. While everyone else is superb against the run, he looks less so but will get more pressure on the QB to compensate.
17 Dre Kirkpatrick,
Another player to spend the entire preseason recovering from injury. He fractured a bone in his knee preparing for training camp and while he apparently can play Week 1, its unlikely he’ll do much with zero NFL game experience.
18 Melvin Ingram,
The Chargers are currently rotating Ingram and Larry English with starters Jarret Johnson and Shaun Phillips, but I’m not sure why. In this configuration against the Vikings, the only pressure he got was a hit on a stunt. In addition, he managed a ridiculous penalty for running into the returner on a punt and another for a face mask when Christian Ponder shaped to avoid him in the open field.
19 Shea McClellin,
Has had very limited opportunities against starters. Looked a little light-weight in the run game but did get some pressure against backups.
20 Kendall Wright,
Starting from the first game, he’s been impressive in two of the three considered here. After picking up 47 yards against the Seahawks, he then made Patrick Peterson look bad on two important catches vs. the Cardinals.
21 Chandler Jones,
After an explosive first outing against an unprepared Jermon Bushrod he also had his share of success against Donald Penn and the Bucs. Equally good against run or pass, the Patriots may just have struck gold.
22 Brandon Weeden,
Weeden’s taken his share of criticism but if Tannehill is getting a pass at No. 8, I’m certainly giving him one at No. 22. After a brilliant start against Detroit he went badly downhill and has been an eclectic mixture of good and bad since. Some of his better throws do stick in the mind, though.
23 Riley Reiff,
He’s not been able to unseat Gosder Cherilus as a starter at right tackle so he has no first string action on his resume. He’s done OK versus the back-ups we’ve seen, but that’s hardly a recommendation.
24 David DeCastro,
Was probably endearing himself to the Steeler faithful with some “to the whistle” type play before injury struck. Looked like he’d be worth watching until a handful of plays into the game at Buffalo he sustained an MCL tear. May be back this year.
25 Dont'a Hightower,
The second of the Patriots' two first-round defensive draftees looks a lot less impressive than the first. While he has started in base, he’s been tentative coming forward and uncomfortable in coverage. Unsurprisingly, he’s not penciled in for passing downs.
26 Whitney Mercilus,
Has done fine against back-ups but with Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed doing well, it’s difficult to see where his playing time comes from.
27 Kevin Zeitler,
After a poor game first up, things started to come together for Zeitler and as the first half of the Packer game wore on he started to look more assured; giving up nothing in pass protection and getting movement going forward.
28 Nick Perry,
Playing LOLB opposite Clay Matthews the Packers needed someone to at least threaten getting pressure and in that regard they seem to have succeeded. He’s also held his own against tight ends in the running game and so far Green Bay must be optimistic about resolving a long term weakness.
29 Harrison Smith,
Another player to start from the second game in, Smith has been given the role of a deep high safety on the majority of the snaps I saw. He did blitz a couple of times when up, once batting down a pass. Overall he’s been able to keep things in front of him and make the tackle.
30 A.J. Jenkins,
In WR-needy San Francisco, most of the people playing at the same time as Jenkins are no longer with the team. Although we’d disagree, Jim Harbaugh probably views what he’s seen to date as the coming of the next Jerry Rice.
31 Doug Martin,
Excellent avoidance skills and balance allows him to run through multiple glancing blows and keep his feet. Very much a north-south runner who gets up-field in a hurry. An impressive start.
32 David Wilson,
Got zero first team action in the first two games but broke out against the Bears with a super display. Here he showed his speed and ability to take a hit and stay up, but also ran laterally on occasion. Just not seen enough to make this a green yet.