The NFL preseason is underway. Some fans consider it a chore to watch their teams play non-starters and others trying to make the roster as they search for compelling storylines. But it’s also a great opportunity to pay special attention to rookies who may be key contributors or the next superstars.
Here are the top four NFL rookies to watch in the 2019 preseason.
Trace McSorley, Baltimore Ravens
Before you do a double-take: yes, Trace McSorley was a quarterback at Penn State. And yes, the Ravens are quite set at quarterback with Lamar Jackson coming off a rookie season in which he took the team to the playoffs. But there are a few reasons to keep a close eye on McSorley, the Ravens’ sixth-round pick.
As the third-string quarterback, McSorley is playing wherever he can, which includes quarterback, wide receiver, running back, and on special teams. Here’s how he put it:
“…I also want to be able to help this team out as much as I can. It’s exciting to have some opportunities, to be able to get on the field on special teams and make some plays and try and be a difference-maker.”
There’s also the matter of Jackson’s playing style. He likes to run the ball, and running quarterbacks have a tendency to get banged up. If he does, McSorley may find himself in the game at some point.
Juan Thornhill, Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs offense was explosive last year, so they dedicated this offseason to improving the defense. Juan Thornhill, the safety out of the University of Virginia, may help them do just that. Thornhill was third in the ACC with six interceptions last season. College Football News named him to their All-American team, and he was also first-team All-ACC. He was the team’s second-round pick.
He’ll add youth to a Chiefs secondary that was pretty bad last year, particularly in pass coverage. They need athleticism at safety and they got that with free-agent addition Tyrann Mathieu. Thornhill gives them athleticism as well as depth to go along with Mathieu.
Dwayne Haskins, Washington Redskins
The Ohio State product isn’t expected to start the season as the number one quarterback on the depth chart. He does have a shot, however. But whether he starts or not, this preseason will be crucial to his progress as the team looks at him as the franchise quarterback of the future.
Dwayne Haskins showed a lot of promise in college, but he did not have experience at quarterback prior to his time at Ohio State. He’s gone from playing against the Big 10 last season to now being expected to handle NFL defenses. Haskins likely won’t start for quite some time, but watching his development will be interesting as he sees his first NFL snaps.
David Montgomery, Chicago Bears
Here’s the NFL.com scouting report on the third-round pick out of Iowa State:
“He runs with impressive calm and instincts in the midst of interior mayhem, weaving and battering his way through traffic. Smart teams will recognize his ability to create yardage for himself with his eyes, footwork, contact balance and power. Should alleviate concerns about his lack of explosiveness.”
While that lack of explosiveness may sound like a red flag, the other skills should add up to a solid, valuable pro. Montgomery’s biggest advantage? Opportunity. Chicago’s 2018 leading rusher, Jordan Howard, went to Philadelphia this offseason. With no clear-cut number one in place, the job is Montgomery’s to claim if he can assert himself during the preseason. That’s worth watching out for as the playoff-contender Bears try to figure out their offense.