When we put together the Rookie story for the magazine, it's basically sight unseen. We have college tape and combine performances to go on, but no actual preseason work. Now we've got a couple of those games to work with, and while it's far too soon to make any final judgments, I'll take a quick pass through the incoming rookies, the top 5 at each position, in order of their magazine rankings.
Baker Mayfield, Browns. So far so good with Mayfield. Doesn't look like the game is too big for him, and Cleveland (thus far) is saying and doing the right things. Tyrod Taylor should start this year, Mayfield takes over in 2019. Browns are headed in the right direction, though I still think they'll be replacing their head coach a year from now (and should have done so already).
Sam Darnold, Jets. Thought long and hard about ranking Darnold No. 1 back in May. Gave the edge to Mayfield, and I'll stick with that. Darnold has looked very good and it appears the Jets are hell-bent on starting him in Week 1. I don't understand the rush; start Josh McCown, and bring in Darnold when McCown gets hurt in Week 4 or 5.
Lamar Jackson, Ravens. Jackson showed up here because of his rushing potential, not because he's a sure thing as a passer. Seems pretty clear Jackson won't play at all this season, and who knows: maybe the Ravens have a great year, Joe Flacco has a great year, and Jackson needs to chill on the bench in 2019, too. Rewinding, I'd probably rank Jackson 5th.
Josh Rosen, Cardinals. Move Rosen up a spot. He's looked good for the Cardinals, and we all know Sam Bradford won't stay healthy for long.
Josh Allen, Bills. I've generally been impressed by Allen in the exhibitions. There's some work to do, and who's to say with any confidence the Bills have the coaching staff to accomplish it. They definitely don't have the talent around him. Five years from now, though, everyone might be thinking Allen is the best quarterback in this class.
Saquon Barkley, Giants. We've seen both good (a big breakaway run) and bad (some dancing, and now a hamstring injury). But there's nothing to suggest any other rookie should be ranked over him; if anything the gap is wider as the others have run into problems.
Derrius Guice, Washington. Guice had an impressive run in his debut; unfortunately he also tore his ACL. That's a not a death-blow to his dynasty value, but if you're in a rookie draft today, you factor in that he won't play in 2018 and there's no telling if he'll be 100 percent in 2019. On Guice's behalf, the guys we ranked 3-4-5 have either struggled or got hurt, too. If I were drafting right now, I'd be looking at wide receivers before any of the rookie runners, and then it'd be Guice, Sony Michel, or maybe Kerryon Johnson.
Rashaad Penny, Seahawks. Outplayed by Chris Carson and then injured, Penny will begin his career as a backup. I didn't like the pick from the get-go. But it's early, and Penny could still be starter in Seattle by midseason. Still, I'd rather have Michel or Kerryon and maybe even Guice I think.
Ronald Jones, Buccaneers. I drafted him at 1.07 in my rookie draft back in May, and cut bait last night: Jones and Barber for Sterling Shepard and a 2019 1st. Here's the thing. Jones has quickly proven to be a liability as a receiver, and NFL teams aren't patient; you can always find a Charles Sims, Theo Riddick or Shane Vereen to take that job. And he looks tentative as a runner. Jones is young and it's too soon to give up on him, but it seems clear he'll never be a three-down back. I'd rather have Shepard and a do-over in next year's draft to maybe get the franchise runner I hoped Jones would be.
Sony Michel, Patriots. You've got to be patient with rookies (and I realize I'm a hypocrite, apparently, since I was the opposite of that with Jones). I don't expect Michel to do a lot this season, but I still like the talent and think Michel could be great -- just maybe not this year.
Other RBs: We had them Kerryon Johnson, Royce Freeman and Nick Chubb in the magazine. Today, I'd move Johnson up ahead of Jones and maybe Freeman too. I wasn't a Chubb fan before and haven't seen anything to change that, but I understand some experts love the guy and must accept they could be right.
Calvin Ridley, Falcons. He's still the top wideout, and I actually like him even more now than I did back in May. He looked very comfortable working with the starters in Atlanta's second preseason game. Rewind to May, and I'd take him at 1.07 over Jones.
D.J. Moore, Panthers. This also seems OK. Working with a flawed quarterback, but he could very easily be the No. 1 wideout here before long.
Anthony Miller, Bears. He stays in this spot as well. Could be Chicago's No. 1 wideout a year from now, too.
Courtland Sutton, Broncos. Sutton has also looked good, enough that we speculated that Denver's two rookie wideouts, Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton, could be the starters here a year from now.
Michael Gallup, Cowboys. I think I like Gallup a little more than Ian, but will concede that he's not exactly joining the second coming of the Greatest Show on Turf or anything. Nobody in Dallas is going to keep him out of the lineup for long.
Other WRs: We had Christian Kirk, James Washington, and, er, J'Mon Moore as our next three. Based on the first couple of exhibitions and camp reports, Moore might be the 3rd-best rookie wideout on his own team, and New Orleans' TreQuan Smith definitely belongs up here with these guys -- maybe ahead of them.
Mike Gesicki, Dolphins. Gesicki hasn't shown anything yet, but it's early. The tight ends we ranked 2nd and 3rd, Dallas Goedert and Hayden Hurst, look like they should clearly be the top 2 tight ends. And I think Ian Thomas of the Panthers and Jordan Akins of Houston should round out the top 5.