Top players by position of preseason Week 3
With week 3 of preseason in the books, let’s look at the players who earned the highest marks at their respective positions (game grades are in parentheses).
Quarterback: Blake Bortles, Jaguars (+5.7)
Cam Newton had a fine outing, but Bortles was the standout as he showed the kind of touch, anticipation and accuracy to make Jaguars fans excited about the year ahead.
Running Back: Rajion Neal, Packers (+3.4)
It’s not just what you do as a runner at tis position. Neal starred with his work catching the ball out of the backfield.
Fullback: Kyle Miller, Chargers (+1.4)
It’s tough for any fullback to make an impression with limited playing time in the preseason, but in 15 snaps Miller caught the eye.
Tight end: Clay Harbor, Jaguars (+2.5)
Others had more yards, but it was a complete effort from Harbor to land him on this list. He showed that while Jacksonville is deep at tight end, there could be a role for him somewhere.
Wide receivers: Martavis Bryant, Steelers (+2.8) and Fred Williams, Chiefs (+2.6)
Bryant’s performance last week reinforced how much the Steelers are going to miss him during his four-game suspension. Williams only got 17 snaps for Kansas City, but used them to continue his fine preseason.
Offensive tackles: Seantrel Henderson, Bills (+3.1) and Jason Peters, Eagles (+2.8)
Henderson had a rough rookie year and got off to a slow start in the preseason, but he showed why he’s the starter against Pittsburgh. One player who didn’t have to hold off a challenge for his starting spot is the excellent Peters — age shows no signs of slowing him down.
Offensive guards: John Jerry, Giants (+2.7) and Richie Incognito, Bills (+3.9)
Neither of our two guards gave up any pressures, while Incognito in particular was excellent in the run game. He’s playing like a man who has a point to prove.
Center: Travis Frederick, Cowboys (+2.4)
Narrowly edging out Brett Jones, Frederick is one of the league’s best centers, proving a fierce run blocker in the Cowboys’ bullying offensive line.
Author’s note: On defense we’ve created a hybrid front to best put guys in the position they make a difference.
Defensive line: Denico Autry, Oakland (+6.1), Brandon Williams, Baltimore (+4.2) and Aaron Donald, Rams (+4.9)
On the nose, we have Williams, who has in his short time in the league proved himself one of the premier run disrupters in the league. On either side of him we have our rookie of the year Donald, who is looking like he’s about to make another leap in performance this season, and former undrafted free agent Aubry. He made a case for a roster spot across the league with a destructive effort that saw him pick up a hit, three hurries and two batted passes.
Edge Rushers: Khalil Mack, Raiders (+10.7) and Cordarro Law, Chargers (+5.2)
If there was a criticism to be made of Mack’s impressive rookie year, it’s that he didn’t influence the passer enough. Against Cardinals tackle Bradley Sowell, he put on a pass-rushing clinic on his way to a monster grade. Law’s paled in comparison, but he should be extremely happy with the preseason he has put together.
Inside linebackers: Jasper Brinkley, Cowboys (+4.2) and Malcolm Smith, Raiders (+3.3)
Brinkley made a case to run with the starters during the suspension of Rolando McClain, showing the kind of early-down defense that makes him such a good run stuffer. For the second spot Smith edged out former teammate Brock Coyle with an all-action display that include three defensive stops.
Cornerbacks: Dax Swanson, Patriots (+3.5) and Charles Gaines, Browns (+3.2)
Swanson put together a stat line that any corner would love to have. Thrown at five times, he allowed just one reception for eight yards and broke up two passes. Gaines hadn’t made much noise in preseason until he bettered Swanson’s stat line by adding an interception to the mix.
Safeties: Barry Church, Cowboys (+3.7) and Isa Abdul-Quddus, Lions (+2.8)
Abdul-Quddus made this list for his skills in coverage, while Church stood out for his work against the run.
Kicker: Nick Novak, Chargers
He was perfect on the week, with a leg looking good from 50-plus yards. That’s all you can really ask for in a kicker in preseason.
Punter: Andy Lee, Browns
We saw some monster hangtime for Lee, who led our punter gradings on the week.
Returner: Tyler Lockett, Seahawks
The rookie continues to look electric returning the ball.
Special teamer: Brynden Trawick, Ravens
He did nice work on both kickoffs and punts, including two tackles.