NFL Stock Watch: The preseason is upon us, and the first seven games are now on the books. Who are the biggest rises and falls of the first days?
The first half of the first week of the NFL preseason kicked off Thursday and Friday. While most of the attention is on the rest of the roster, it’s hard to downplay each quarterback’s importance under the microscope. From rookies to young rookies to veterans, a number of guys entered the week looking to prove themselves in one way or another.
Obviously, these games are just exhibitions in the grand scheme of things and will have no impact on the upcoming season. However, many teams use this time to evaluate their rosters from top to bottom. Currently, teams are allowed to carry up to 90 players on their active roster. The cuts will be made as follows:
•August. 16: 90 players —> 85 players
•August. 23: 85 players —> 80 players
•August. 30: 80 players —> 53 players
Needless to say, the next two weeks are huge for everyone involved. The entire trajectory of a player’s career can be created or destroyed during this short time. Even if it’s just as a special teams player, some of the best to ever play the sport started with humble beginnings in the league. The only goal at the moment is to be one of the 53 men still standing on August 30.
There are still nine games left this weekend, but let’s break down the biggest risers and droppers after the first list of preseason games.
Thursday Games (August 11)
New York Giants vs. New England Patriots
• Elevator: WR Tyquan Thornton (NE)
Thornton was a surprise choice to a lot when the Patriots selected him over Baylor at No. 50 overall in the 2022 NFL Draft. The fast wide receiver proved to any doubters that his athleticism would translate into the NFL. He’s been able to consistently create separation, even if his two catches for nine yards don’t show it. Thornton caught a touchdown late in the first quarter on a two-yard pass from Brian Hoyer. All in all, it was a solid showing for the rookie.
• Faller: QB Bailey Zappe (NE)
The biggest faller in this game was Bailey Zappe. Granted, Zappe was only a third-day pick and came from a school that rarely played against NFL talent. That being said, Zappe looked extremely raw against the Giants. He’s not expected to challenge Mac Jones for the starter role, not anytime soon. With Brian Hoyer entrenched in the No. 2 spot on the depth chart, it’s hard to see Zappe being more than a third stringer. Significant progress is possible, but Thursday did him a disservice.
Tennessee Titans vs. Baltimore Ravens
• Countermarch: QB Malik Willis (TEN)
Another upset of the 2022 NFL Draft centered on Malik Willis, albeit for entirely different reasons. Willis suffered a fall on draft day, falling all the way to pick 86 in the third round. The Titans wisely selected the talented signalman, and if his first preseason action was any indication, they got a steal. Willis missed his early passes, but finished strong making plays with his arm and legs. The most impressive highlight was a seven-yard run for the teams’ lone touchdown. Beware of Ryan Tannehill.
• Elevator: TE Isaiah Likely (BAL)
The Baltimore Ravens like the tight end position, that’s obvious. Isaiah Likely fell in the 2022 NFL Draft after a disastrous testing process. Probably classed as an inferior athlete, which was confusing to anyone watching his tape. The lone tight end prospect has consistently dominated at the college level and even has a 99-yard touchdown to his name. He landed right in the Baltimore towers, and after a four-catch, 44-yard performance, all signs point to Lamar Jackson probably being a prime target.