NFL all-hype workforce: Which gamers have stood out in coaching camps, preseason?

On Aug. 16, 2010, undrafted rookie free agent Victor Cruz caught six passes for 145 yards and three touchdowns for the Giants in his first preseason recreation. Cruz went viral in social media’s early days. He was injured for many of that season, however the subsequent yr he grew to become one of many NFL’s greatest receivers — catching 82 passes for 1,536 yards and 9 touchdowns.

Marques Colston was a seventh-round choose in 2006. He regarded so good in coaching camp that the Saints traded Donte Stallworth to present him a chance to play as a rookie. Colston caught 70 passes for 1,032 yards as a rookie — and exceeded 1,000 yards 5 extra instances in a 10-year profession.

For each Cruz or Colston, every franchise has a dozen gamers who turned heads in coaching camps and preseason video games however could not rise to the duty within the common season. With all that stated, we have compiled an early all-hype workforce made up of gamers across the league you must control. Some are early picks and a few weren’t picked in any respect. Some will begin video games and others will work day jobs. However these are the gamers making an impression — and those who’ve essentially the most to achieve by doing so in August.


Dorian Thompson-Robinson, Browns — At this charge, DTR has the makings of a preseason legend. Throughout two video games, the rookie has accomplished 17-of-21 passes for 184 yards and two touchdowns and added one other 47 yards on the bottom. It is sufficient to make you surprise how he fell to the fifth spherical.

Drew Lock, Seahawks —  There is not any denying the arm expertise of Lock, who completed 17-of-24 for 191 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception in three quarters of labor. Lock battled Geno Smith for Seattle’s beginning job final season. Now the clear No. 2 quarterback, there’s nonetheless love for Lock within the constructing for the Seahawks and he needs to be one of many higher backups within the NFC West.

Aiden O’Connell, Raiders — The competitors for the No. 2 job behind Jimmy Garoppolo heated up. The rookie out of Purdue completed 15-of-18 for 141 yards, with a landing cross and no interceptions in three quarters of labor in opposition to the San Francisco 49ers.

Shane Buechele, Chiefs – How about outpassing your workforce’s different three quarterbacks? Buechele threw for 155 yards and two touchdowns in an in depth loss to the Saints on Sunday, whereas Patrick Mahomes, Blaine Gabbert and Chris Oladokun mixed for 126 yards and one rating. And sure, he is the son of former Rangers, Pirates and Cubs third baseman Steve Buechele. 

Nathan Rourke, Jaguars — Rourke was so good within the Jaguars’ preseason victory over the Cowboys that he went from unknown to the potential frontrunner to be Trevor Lawrence’s backup. Registering the preseason play of the yr, the previous CFL star accomplished 9-of-17 passes for 153 yards and a landing and a formidable 103.3 passer score. 

Malik Cunningham, Patriots — He entered the sport within the fourth quarter because the workforce’s fourth quarterback. New England had given him some run at quarterback within the week previous to the preseason opener, however for all of coaching camp, the Pats had been targeted on changing Cunningham to receiver. Now? The Patriots appear extra open to giving him a have a look at quarterback. Cunningham led the workforce’s solely landing drive whereas going 3 of 4 for 19 yards with 5 rushes for 34 yards and the rating. New England is ready at QB1 (Mac Jones) and QB2 (Bailey Zappe) however Cunningham might stick round as QB3 and W6.

Stetson Bennett, Rams —  A fourth-round choice for the Rams on this yr’s draft out of Georgia, Stetson accomplished 17-of-29 passes for 191 yards, together with an 11-yard landing cross to fellow rookie Puka Nacua. He is competing in opposition to Brett Rypien for the No. 2 job behind Matthew Stafford

Justin Fields, Bears — Positive, it is yr three for Fields and he is the unquestioned starter. He’ll completely be essentially the most well-known participant on this listing. However after all of the investments Chicago made within the offense to assist him out this offseason, there have been a number of eyes on the Bears’ quarterback place. Relying on who you speak to, Fields lived as much as the hype and created extra. 

In two sequence, he accomplished all three passes he threw for 129 yards and two touchdowns. His good passer score has despatched Bears followers right into a frenzy, and although each of these have been display passes that went for mixed unfavourable air yards, the truth that Fields has weapons round him to do the work has to now land him on this listing.


Deuce Vaughn, CowboysHow typically does essentially the most talked-about man on the workforce instantly have the most effective preseason debut? Vaughn’s been a reputation to know because the Cowboys drafted him, and he constructed on the hype with a robust efficiency in opposition to Jacksonville. On 12 simply touches, the 5-foot-5 operating again dodged and juked his method to 80 all-purpose yards and a landing.

[Helman: Deuce Vaughn still has a lot to prove, but preseason opener was a great start]

Keaton Mitchell, Ravens — Sarcastically, Mitchell’s 35-yard landing run in opposition to Philadelphia did not really occur, because it was negated by a flag. The pace and energy he confirmed nonetheless helps clarify why he is producing buzz in Baltimore — particularly at a place that is lacking a starter, as J.K. Dobbins‘ holdout continues.

Elijah Dotson, Chargers — The undrafted rookie out of Northern Colorado confirmed an explosive burst with two lengthy landing runs of 40 and 37 yards within the last quarter for the Chargers. Dotson led the Bolts with 92 speeding yards, making his case for incomes a roster spot. 

Chris Rodriguez, Commanders – His 5 carries for 39 yards within the preseason opener do not soar off the stat sheet, however they do equate to a formidable 7.8 yards per carry. Extra importantly, the sixth-round select of Kentucky has develop into a training-camp favourite of Commanders offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. In a deep backfield, performances like this might earn him a job.

Tyjae Spears, Titans — The third-round choose had six carries for 32 yards (5.3 yards/carry) in his lone drive of motion with the beginning offensive line within the Titans’ preseason loss to the Bears, showcasing the pace and quickness that ought to function a pleasant complement to Derrick Henry within the backfield this season. 


George Pickens, Steelers — We already know George Pickens is an effective vast receiver, however he has the look of a participant about to make The Leap. Pickens did nothing to dissuade that notion in opposition to Tampa Bay, as his solely catch of the night time went to the home from 33 yards out.

A.T. Perry, Saints — A sixth-round rookie out of Wake Forest, Perry had an ideal Saints debut Sunday, catching six passes (on six targets) for 70 yards and a landing from Jameis Winston. New Orleans has Chris Olave and Michael Thomas, however the 6-foot-3 Perry (who caught 26 touchdowns in his final two years at Wake) might be a stable depth piece.

Tank Dell, Texans — Constructing off a formidable coaching camp, Dell was by far the most effective receiver within the Texans-Patriots showdown in Foxborough, with a game-high 5 receptions for 65 yards and a landing. Houston faces uncertainty in its receiving room and not using a true No. 1 choice, and Dell confirmed that he is usually a reliable goal for C.J. Stroud

Erik Ezukanma, Dolphins — Final yr, the hype was continuous. However after he lit up coaching camp, Ezukanma did not have any manufacturing within the common season. Perhaps that is why the excitement is dissipating round this younger receiver. However I am right here to maintain it alive. It was an underwhelming efficiency from Miami’s offense, however Ezukanma did effectively along with his alternatives. He had three catches on three targets for 15 yards and two carries for 52 yards, together with a 39-yarder.

Jordan Addison, Vikings — Addison had only one catch for 22 yards on the stat sheet however he ought to have had one other. It was a toe-tapping seize earlier than he fell out of bounds that confirmed all the things you want in your first-round receiver: dependable palms, physique management and consciousness, general tenacity. The catch was dominated incomplete but when it have been the common season, head coach Kevin O’Connell would have challenged the play and he would have gained. 


Cole Turner, Commanders — With 32-year-old Logan Thomas out with a calf harm, Turner took benefit with 4 catches for 31 yards – together with three for twenty-four on Washington’s first scoring drive. Any manufacturing from this 2022 fifth-rounder can be a giant assist for Washington’s younger QB, particularly since this place was a black gap for the workforce final yr.

Cole Fotheringham, Raiders — Tight ends are likely to flourish underneath Raiders coach Josh McDaniels. The query is whether or not Fotheringham might be a Raider in 2023. Las Vegas has veteran Austin Hooper and rookie Michael Mayer atop a deep group of tight ends. However Fotheringham led the Raiders in receiving yards (71) after a five-catch efficiency in opposition to the 49ers. That ought to hold the Raiders (and sure the opposite 31 groups) curious about rostering the undrafted free agent.

Miller Forristall/Zaire Mitchell-Paden, Browns — These two tight ends mixed for 10 catches and 127 receiving yards. Forristall is a 25-year-old journeyman out of Alabama who has performed for 3 totally different groups, together with Cleveland in 2021 and 2022. He briefly spent part of this offseason with the Saints, nonetheless. As for Mitchell-Paden, he’s getting into his second season with the Browns after being a standout at FAU. They’re possible combating for a spot on the observe squad, given the depth at tight finish in Cleveland, with David Njoku, Jordan Akins and Harrison Bryant.

Luke Musgrave, Packers — Inexperienced Bay quarterbacks went to their two rookie tight ends six instances all through the sport. Granted, Musgrave and Tucker Kraft solely caught a cross every however they’re going to be an enormous a part of the Packers scheme. Musgrave has drawn glowing evaluations from gamers and coaches alike this camp and the Packers utilized 12 personnel on the second-highest charge within the league final season. Musgrave is a rookie however he is carrying excessive expectations.

Is there an excessive amount of stress on Packers QB Jordan Love?


John Michael Schmitz, Giants — So much was anticipated of this second-round choose and he delivered within the preseason opener. He regarded sturdy, made good reads, and barely bought pushed into the backfield. He stood out in what was typically a poor efficiency by a patchwork line. If he wasn’t the Giants’ beginning middle earlier than this, he’s now.

Mekhi Becton, Jets — It felt like an accomplishment for Mekhi Becton to play 35 snaps within the workforce’s win over the Panthers. He had just a few breakdowns in cross safety, with a sack and hurry allowed. However due to his sturdy run-blocking talents, he completed with the second-highest PFF grade amongst Jets offensive linemen (70.8).

Atonio Mafi, Patriots — New England’s offensive line was the wrongdoer for his or her general lack of manufacturing. However not Mafi. In his 14 snaps, he allowed zero pressures and helped out on the bottom. It is easy to think about that, if positioned with the workforce’s starters (as he has been in coaching camp), he might see a large uptick in manufacturing. He’ll make the Patriots as their high backup at guard.

Darnell Wright, Bears — Head coach Matt Eberflus stated a giant a part of taking part in the offensive starters on Saturday was for Wright’s profit. However Wright already regarded the half from the primary snap. On Chicago’s second lengthy landing of the sport, approaching a 56-yard catch-and-run from operating again Khalil Herbert, Wright held down the proper facet on his personal whereas appearing proper guard Ja’Tyre Carter and middle Cody Whitehair ran with Herbert up the sphere, escorting him to the tip zone after a breakdown in safety on the left. No matter it was, it labored, and Wright had loads to do with it.


Nick Herbig, Steelers — The Wisconsin edge rusher was the fifth man drafted within the Steelers’ loaded rookie class, so perhaps he is flown underneath the radar a bit. A good way to alter that’s to splash within the preseason, which Herbig did by tallying 1.5 sacks and three tackles in simply 13 snaps on Friday night time.

Elijah Garcia, Broncos — A flexible defensive lineman who can play within the inside and on the sting of the defensive position, Garcia led the Broncos with two sacks and added three tackles in a loss to the Cardinals. 

Bruce Hector, Jets — He is bounced across the NFL and even gained an XFL title this spring with Arlington, however made his presence recognized in Saturday’s preseason win over the Panthers, not solely sacking Panthers quarterback Matt Corral, however forcing a fumble and recovering it.

Keion White, Patriots — It felt unfair for New England to maintain him on the sphere for so long as it did. Throughout his 27 first-half snaps, White tore up the Texans offensive line. White lined up at exterior linebacker, defensive finish and defensive sort out. He completed with three pressures (together with a QB hit) and three tackles. He additionally bought into the backfield on a fumble and knocked the operating again away from the soccer to make sure his teammates might recuperate the turnover. It was a dominant efficiency from the forty sixth general choose within the 2023 draft.

Boogie Basham, Payments — Here is a man to control. Basham has underwhelmed because the workforce drafted him within the second spherical of the 2021 draft. He has simply 4.5 sacks during the last two seasons. However Buffalo will need assistance off the sting with Von Miller recovering from ACL surgical procedure. Basham did effectively to maintain himself related, with two pressures and two tackles in opposition to the Colts.

Trevis Gipson, Bears — When the unofficial depth chart got here out earlier this week, Gipson discovered himself on the backside of it. He then went on to be the participant of the sport on Saturday, registering a sack, 5 mixed tackles and three quarterback hits in an eight-sack effort by Chicago.


Cam Thomas, Cardinals — The second-year professional out of San Diego State totaled three mixed tackles and a sack. The Cardinals completed with two sacks and eight quarterback hits in a preseason win over the Denver Broncos.  

Cam Gill, Bucs: Battling for a backup exterior linebacker job, Gill got here by way of with 1.5 sacks in Friday’s loss to the Steelers. He missed all of 2022 with a Lisfranc foot harm, however confirmed he was again as the best a part of Tampa Bay’s cross rush Friday.

Channing Tindall, Dolphins — It is uncommon to see anybody rack up double-digit tackles in a preseason recreation however that is precisely what Tindall did: 10 tackles and a sack. Final yr, Tindall contributed solely on particular groups after Miami drafted him within the third spherical. He had 9 whole snaps on protection. So even with some moments of weak point in protection (two catches allowed) and a missed sort out, Tindall’s prolific work ought to replicate effectively on his possibilities of incomes a extra sizable defensive position in 2023.

Tua believes Dolphins are legit contenders: ‘it will probably get very scary, fairly harmful’


Tycen Anderson, Bengals — There’s been a number of dialogue concerning the safeties in Cincinnati, but it surely by no means felt like Anderson was a part of that dialog — till now. Anderson missed his whole rookie season with a hamstring harm, however he splashed onto the radar with two interceptions in opposition to Inexperienced Bay. That is the way you make the roster at a place of want.

Kahlef Hailassie, Chiefs — The undrafted rookie out of Western Kentucky picked off New Orleans Saints quarterback Jake Haener within the second half of his workforce’s loss on the street. The 6-1 cornerback is competing for a roster spot in Kansas Metropolis’s secondary. 

Dee Alford, Falcons — The previous CFL standout had 25 tackles for Atlanta final yr, however he might make a splash on punt returns – with three minutes left and a three-point lead on the Dolphins, he took a punt 79 yards for a landing to assist put the sport away. 

Jason Pinnock, Giants — The third-year security who was picked off the waiver wire final August already had the viral spotlight of the summer season – a stunning, one-handed interception over TE Darren Waller in observe. Then within the preseason opener, he added an interception, a sort out for a loss and a cross breakup – fairly good for under taking part in 5 snaps.

Sam Franklin, Panthers — Not a lot went proper for Carolina in a 27-0 loss to the Jets, however Franklin picked off a Tim Boyle cross and returned the interception 24 yards. He is a special-teams standout however has an opportunity to indicate his defensive chops within the preseason.

Eli Ricks, Eagles — He confirmed nice area consciousness by leaping a route and choosing off an Anthony Brown cross, then streaking down the sidelines for a 31-yard Decide 6. The undrafted free-agent nook out of Alabama most likely wants much more performs like that to stay in Philly’s loaded secondary. However this was a robust begin.

Dane Jackson, Payments — He logged an interception, with Colts quarterback Anthony Richardson throwing the ball virtually on to Jackson. So on simply 5 snaps, Jackson logged a turnover and a sort out. Not a foul day’s work. He did not get a lot taking part in time as a result of the Payments are taking a look at Kaiir Elam and Christian Benford as potential replacements for Jackson within the beginning lineup. It doesn’t appear to be they made up a lot floor — Jackson appears to have planted himself firmly within the driver’s seat for Buffalo’s CB2 spot.

Darius Rush, Colts — The fifth-round rookie cornerback had a 52-yard pick-six in Indianapolis’ preseason opener. That is the form of playmaking that may stick out within the Colts’ younger and inexperienced cornerback room. The workforce traded Stephon Gilmore and launched Isaiah Rodgers Sr this offseason. 

Carrington Valentine, Packers — Valentine led Inexperienced Bay in tackles with 4, and when you by no means desire a cornerback to have that honor, he additionally had three cross breakups and nabbed himself an interception. It wasn’t the one interception of the day, both. Security Dallin Leavitt had one, too. It appears there is likely to be one thing to “Strap Metropolis” in Inexperienced Bay, in spite of everything.

Particular Groups

Jake Camarda, Bucs: Drafted final yr, Camarda opened with two sturdy punts Friday night time in opposition to the Steelers, first a 54-yarder to the Pittsburgh 17. On the following drive, he drilled a 61-yard punt that was fielded on the 8, and due to a penalty, the Steelers began on the 4 for a web 65-yard punt. He ended up with three punts contained in the 20, in comparison with just one touchback.

Compiled by:

AFC South reporter Ben Arthur (@benyarthur)
NFC South reporter Greg Auman (@gregauman)
Dallas Cowboys reporter David Helman (@davidhelman_)
AFC East reporter Henry McKenna (@McKennAnalysis)
NFC West reporter Eric D. Williams (@eric_d_williams)
NFC East reporter Ralph Vacchiano (@RalphVacchiano)
NFC North reporter Carmen Vitali (@CarmieV)

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