NFL Stock Watch: The preseason is upon us and the first seven games are now in the books. Who are the biggest risers and fallers of the first couple days?
The first half of week one of the NFL preseason got underway on Thursday and Friday. While most of the attention is geared towards the rest of the roster, it is hard to downplay how much each quarterback was under the microscope. From rookies, to young starters, to veterans, a number of guys entered the week looking to prove themselves in one way or another.
Obviously, these games are merely 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. Right now, teams are permitted to carry up to 90 players on their active roster. Cut downs will be made in the following manner:
•Aug. 16: 90 Players —> 85 Players
•Aug. 23: 85 Players —> 80 Players
•Aug. 30: 80 Players —> 53 Players
Needless to say, the next couple weeks are huge for all involved. The entire trajectory of a players career can be created or destroyed during this small span of time. Even if it’s simply as a special teams player, some of the best to ever play the sport started with humble beginnings in the league. The only goal right now is to be one of the 53 men still standing on Aug. 30.
There are still nine more games left this weekend, but let’s break down the biggest risers and fallers following the first slate of preseason games.
Thursday Games (Aug. 11)
New York Giants vs. New England Patriots
•Riser: WR Tyquan Thornton (NE)
Thornton was a surprise pick to many when the Patriots selected him out of Baylor at No. 50 overall in the 2022 NFL Draft. The speedy wide receiver proved to all doubters that his athleticism will translate to the NFL. He was able to consistently create separation, even if his two catches for nine yards doesn’t show it. Thornton caught a touchdown at the end of the first quarter on a two-yard pass from Brian Hoyer. All in all, it was a strong showing for the rookie.
•Faller: QB Bailey Zappe (NE)
The biggest faller from this game was Bailey Zappe. Granted, Zappe was only a day-three pick and came from a school that rarely played against NFL talent. That being said, Zappe looked extremely raw against the Giants. He is not expected to challenge Mac Jones for the starter role, not any time soon at least. With Brian Hoyer entrenched at 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 no favors.
Tennessee Titans vs. Baltimore Ravens
•Riser: QB Malik Willis (TEN)
Another surprise from the 2022 NFL Draft centered around Malik Willis, albeit for entirely different reasons. Willis suffered a draft day tumble, falling all the way to pick 86 in the third round. The Titans wisely selected the talented signal-caller, and if his first preseason action was any indication, they got a steal. Willis missed on his first few passes, but finished strong by making plays with both his arm and legs. The most impressive highlight was a seven-yard scramble for the teams’ only touchdown. Watch out Ryan Tannehill.
•Riser: TE Isaiah Likely (BAL)
The Baltimore Ravens love the tight end position, this is obvious. Isaiah Likely fell in the 2022 NFL Draft after a disastrous testing process. Likely graded out as a sub-par athlete, which was puzzling for anyone who watched his tape. The unique tight end prospect regularly dominated at the collegiate level, and even has a 99-yard touchdown to his credit. He landed right in the laps of Baltimore, and after a four catch, 44-yard performance, all signs point towards Likely being a top target for Lamar Jackson.