Another week of preseason action brings another round of performance-based grading. With my red pen in hand, I chose one notable rookie per game in Week 3, and they are arranged according to grade, as you can see below:
Drafted: Round 1, No. 6 overall
It might be time for the critics to issue a few apologies to GM Dave Gettleman and head coach Pat Shurmur for the harsh criticism of the Giants' selection of Jones after watching New York's top pick kill it again in preseason action. The Duke product connected on 9 of 11 passes for 141 yards on an assortment of quick-rhythm throws to the perimeter. Jones repeatedly delivered the ball on target on throws at short and intermediate range while also showing anticipation on back-shoulder throws along the boundary. No. 8's superb timing, touch, and anticipation are outstanding for a rookie passer acclimating to the pro game. That said, Jones has to take better care of the ball in the pocket. He's been careless with the ball while under duress and the fumbles (three in the last two games) will prove costly in real game action. Overall, Jones has exceeded expectations as a potential QB1 and Giants officials should be giddy over his progress to this point.
Drafted: Round 1, No. 16 overall
The Panthers' top pick continues to impress with his dominance off the edge this preseason. Burns has overwhelmed offensive tackles with his speed and quickness, as evidenced by his four sacks in three games. Against the Patriots, No. 53's speed and athleticism were on display as he tallied five tackles, two sacks, and a forced fumble. Although Burns is primarily a speed rusher (upfield rusher with a dip-and-rip move or inside spin), he has a good feel for retracing his steps when he rushes past the depth of the quarterback's drop. He demonstrated that awareness on his strip-sack of Jarrett Stidham, which resulted in a turnover for the Panthers. Burns also notched a sack on an inside loop as part of a "T-E" game (defensive tackle goes outside and the defensive end loops around and comes through the inside gap) in which he displayed outstanding balance, body control, and burst. With Burns also chasing down the run from his stand-up position, the rookie looks like a star in the making as an edge defender.
Drafted: Round 1, No. 8 overall
The big-bodied pass catcher is making a strong case to become the new No. 1 option in the Lions' passing game. Hockenson displayed strong hands and powerful running skills while snagging three passes for 52 yards on four targets against Buffalo. The former Iowa standout was viewed by some as a Rob Gronkowski-like playmaker leading up to the draft and his impressive display of blocking and receiving skills should help the Lions transition into the blue-collar offensive approach preferred by head coach Matt Patricia.
Drafted: Round 1, No. 7 overall
Allen was viewed as the top prospect in the 2019 draft by some experts, but was surprisingly still available for Jacksonville with the seventh pick. After watching No. 41 wreak havoc off the edges against the Dolphins, the Jaguars should feel pretty good about their new defensive playmaker. Allen registered a pair of tackles for loss, including a takedown of Kalen Ballage that showcased his explosive first-step quickness and burst. With Allen settling in as an edge defender with a knack for creating disruption, the Jaguars' frontline has the potential to be a major problem for AFC South opponents this season.
Drafted: N/A (undrafted)
The undrafted rookie is making quite the impression on Raiders officials with his spectacular play this preseason. Doss looks like a 10-year vet running precise routes and snagging balls on the perimeter. Against the Packers, Doss continued to dazzle with a four-catch, 52-yard effort that included a jaw-dropping acrobatic catch along the sideline that confirmed his status as a ballerina on grass. No. 89's hand-eye coordination and footwork are impressive for a first-year player. If he can continue to get open and come down with a few more of the balls that head in his direction, Doss will not only make the squad but he could emerge as a key contributor this season.
Drafted: Round 2, No. 57 overall
The Eagles are definitely in the business of drafting prospects with skills similar to their established playmakers. Arcega-Whiteside has some Alshon Jeffery in his game and he put it on display against the Ravens during an eight-catch, 104-yard performance. No. 19 overpowered Ravens defenders on the perimeter while running an assortment of slants and digs against one-on-one coverage. He bullied his way past press coverage at the line of scrimmage and flashed strong hands at the catch point with defenders clinging to his body. He also displayed outstanding running skills while routinely turning short passes into positive gains with a nifty run after the catch. Although a drop takes away points from Arcega-Whiteside's final grade, he definitely turned some heads with his play against the Ravens.
Drafted: Round 4, No. 116 overall
Hooker is quietly making a nice transition to the NFL after shining at Iowa. The ex-Hawkeye came down with an interception on an overthrow by Steelers QB Mason Rudolph while also registering three tackles (two solo). As a slot defender, Hooker displays the IQ, awareness and quickness to be an effective nickel corner. Moreover, he is the rangy center fielder that every defensive coordinator covets. That said, he needs to continue to improve as a hitter/tackler, but the rookie has been a solid addition to the secondary as a developmental player.
Drafted: N/A (undrafted)
The undrafted rookie could go from long shot to key reserve as a swing player on the line. Bars has shown impressive position versatility playing multiple spots up front, including spending the second half at left tackle against Indy. The Notre Dame product has held his own in each spot, which makes him a valuable commodity as a reserve on game day. If Bars continues to progress as a backup with the capacity to play guard or tackle, he could make the 53-man roster and be in position to earn a spot as a game-day dresser during the regular season.
Drafted: Round 2, No. 46 overall
The Browns might've walked away with the biggest steal of the draft when they plucked Williams with the 46th overall pick. The former LSU standout is a prototypical cover corner with the combination of size, length, and athleticism to blanket receivers in space. However, questions about his toughness and tackling led to a surprising draft-day slide into the second round. Williams continues to silence critics questioning his physicality with his effort in the preseason. He has shown a willingness to come up and support the run and is more than capable of getting receivers down in the open field. Against the Buccaneers, Williams made a couple open-field tackles and returned to the game after exiting for a trip to the medical tent with an apparent injury early in the third quarter.
Drafted: Round 1, No. 1 overall
The No. 1 overall pick had a nice bounce-back performance against the Vikings after a rough outing vs. the Raiders a week prior. Although Murray only completed 14 of 21 passes for 137 yards with zero touchdowns vs. Minnesota, he displayed poise, patience, and confidence in the pocket. He quickly works through his progressions and routinely delivers the ball on target to his receivers when they are ready to make the catch. Murray showed good touch, timing and range on a few deep tosses down the boundary against zone and man coverage. He connected on a beautiful "hole" shot to KeeSean Johnson and dropped a dime to Damiere Byrd on a similar route against man coverage. Considering the accuracy and ball placement he displayed, Murray's arm talent rates off the charts. That said, he still needs to work on throwing around defenders at the point of attack to reduce the number of batted balls at the line. While he hasn't turned the ball over yet, some of those tipped and deflected passes will find their way into the hands of defenders for interceptions, so it is important for him to find and throw through windows to avoid possible giveaways. If Murray can keep his turnovers down, the diminutive QB1 should be able to give his team a chance to win some games in Year 1.
Drafted: Round 2, No. 36 overall
The rookie pass-catcher is inching closer toward becoming the 49ers' WR1. Samuel snagged a couple of passes for 27 yards on three targets against the Chiefs. Although he didn't provide the 49ers with the big-play spark that the team has grown accustomed to getting from him this preseason, he continues to show the coaches that he can be a dependable "chain-mover" as the lead option in the passing game. With Jimmy G. bouncing back from a disastrous showing in the second week of the preseason, the 49ers' passing game appears to be in good shape with Samuel joining Marquise Goodwin, Dante Pettis, and George Kittle as a critical piece of the offensive puzzle.
Drafted: Round 3, No. 68 overall
The Florida product is in line to earn significant playing time with Brandon Copelandsuspended for the first four games of the regular season. Polite has the potential to emerge as a disruptive force off the edge based on his size, motor, and instincts. Although he didn't register a tackle against the Saints in 28 snaps, Polite's effort was solid and I believe he will eventually become a playmaker off the edge. Considering how D-coordinator Gregg Williams loves to incorporate hard-hitting defenders with nasty dispositions into the mix, it's safe to say Polite is in line for an important role despite his zeros on the stat sheet against the Saints.
Drafted: Round 2, No. 54 overall
There weren't many bright spots for the Texans in a 34-0 loss to Dallas, but Johnson will get a thumbs up from his coaches for his work against the Cowboys. The rangy cover corner displayed nice ball skills and awareness in coverage while also providing the unit with a little toughness on the perimeter. Johnson was credited with three tackles and two passes defensed -- he batted away one potential touchdown pass with tight coverage down the field. Despite his occasional struggles with leverage and positioning, No. 32 competes like a mad man and that will give him a chance to hold his own in matchups against top pass catchers.
Drafted: Round 1, No. 15 overall
Redskins head coach Jay Gruden announced Sunday he's going with Case Keenum as his starter for Week 1, but Haskins, the QB1 of the future, continues to make his case that he should be the team's QB1 of the present with his play. He connected on 7 of 13 passes for 74 yards, but his stat line was negatively impacted by a few dropped passes on the perimeter. The rookie was pretty sharp delivering the ball to receivers within their strike zone on short and intermediate throws. Haskins has a good feel for the quick-rhythm passing game (slants, quick outs, and flats) that are tied to the "catch, rock and throw" footwork utilized in the pocket. He also displayed good timing and touch on a few fade routes down the boundary. Although he narrowly missed connecting on a few of those throws, the ball placement away from the defender should earn him solid marks from the coaches when grading the film. From a critical standpoint, Haskins needs to continue to work on winning the pre-snap phase of the game and identifying pressure from disguised looks. If he can quicken the thought process while maintaining his pocket discipline and awareness, No. 7 might be able to handle the starting role sooner rather than later.
Drafted: Round 3, No. 70 overall
If the rookie from Memphis is going to carve out a role behind Todd Gurley, he is going to need the coaches to focus on his practice habits instead of his game film. With the exception of a 26-yard catch in Week 2, Henderson hasn't been much of a factor throughout the preseason and he did little to change the narrative with his play against the Broncos. He finished with 32 scrimmage yards on 12 touches (11 rushes, one reception) and failed to make a dent in the Broncos' defense as a runner-receiver. Granted, the Rams' leaky offensive line was overwhelmed at the point of attack, but the runner who displayed plenty of slipperiness during his college career barely produced positive yards with the ball in his hands. Elite playmakers routinely make something out of nothing, but Henderson has failed to meet that standard in the Rams' preseason games.
Drafted: Round 4, No. 120 overall
The former West Virginia standout finds himself squarely on the roster bubble after an up-and-down preseason that's teased Seahawks officials. Jennings has the size (6-foot-1, 216 pounds) and big-play potential to thrive in Seattle's run-first offense, but mental errors/costly penalties could prompt head coach Pete Carroll and GM John Schneider to hold off on penciling in No. 11 as one of the final 53. The big-play pass-catcher finished the night with one catch for 12 yards, but his unnecessary roughness penalty on a crackback block in the second quarter will nullify the positive vibes from his reception.