NFL News & Analysis

Stock up, stock down after Week 1 of the 2023 NFL preseason: Tank Dell, Trey Lance and more

2RGRAGA August 10, 2023; Foxborough, MA, USA; Houston Texans wide receiver Tank Dell (13) runs with the ball during the NFL pre-season game between Houston Texans and New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Anthony Nesmith/CSM

• Tank Dell looks every bit a top WR for the Texans: Dell caught five passes for 65 yards and a touchdown in Week 1, displaying his quickness and route-running chops along the way.

• The Browns have something in Dorian Thompson-Robinson: The rookie may have been fourth on the depth chart entering training camp, but he is making a serious case to be Cleveland's QB2 in 2023.

• A turnover-worthy touchdown for Trey Lance: The former first-round pick did himself no favors in Week 1 of the preseason with a touchdown pass that should have been picked off.

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The first full week of NFL action since the Super Bowl has concluded, and while it was “only preseason,” that’s still more than enough for our football-starved brains to make wild declarations and draw sweeping conclusions from.

So with no further context needed, here are some players whose stocks went up or down after the first week of games.

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QB Aidan O’Connell, Las Vegas Raiders

The best rookie quarterback performance of the week and arguably the best of any quarterback, fourth-rounder Aidan O’Connell out of Purdue carved up the 49ers' defense. O’Connell was 15 of 18 for 141 yards and a touchdown, with two of the incompletions going down as drops by his receivers. He added a couple of rushing first downs on quarterback sneaks and critically avoided the big mistakes that punctuated his college career.

O’Connell’s highlight reel in college is impressive, and now he’s showing it translates against NFL defenses.

WR Tank Dell, Houston Texans

Houston’s third-rounder was one of the best receivers in college football but slipped in the draft because he measured 5-foot-8 and 165 pounds at the NFL Combine. An official 4.49-second 40-yard dash time didn’t help, but Dell’s first preseason action reminded everybody that he is all but unstoppable on the field.

Against the Patriots, he caught five passes for 65 yards and a touchdown. Some of his best plays came outside of those catches with his quickness and route running. Dell should force his way into the Texans' plans on offense in a hurry.

WR Calvin Austin III, Pittsburgh Steelers

Austin missed his rookie season with an injury, but he reminded people this week that not only can he be a very useful part of this offense but that he also specializes in something the rest of the Steelers aren’t brimming with: blazing straight-line speed. Austin caught two passes, one of which was a 67-yard touchdown bomb. He also saw a couple of rushing plays as the team tried to get the ball into his hands.

QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson, Cleveland Browns

Thompson-Robinson backed up an impressive debut in the Hall of Fame Game with an even better encore. DTR has now completed 17 of his 21 pass attempts for 184 yards and two touchdowns in the preseason, averaging 8.8 yards per attempt and boasting a 90.5% adjusted completion rate. When you factor in what he can do as a rusher, where he has added 47 yards and broken two tackles, few quarterbacks are looking as good anywhere in the league.

OT Dawand Jones, Cleveland Browns

Jones, a mammoth rookie right tackle, got another healthy dose of playing time this week, adding 54 snaps to his debut of 74 in the Hall of Fame Game.  He had another excellent outing, allowing just one hurry across 39 pass-blocking reps.

Jones has looked excellent as a pass blocker when the league trend is for second-string linemen to struggle in that area. Many argued that he was a first-round talent who slipped to the fourth, and his preseason so far has been adding credence to their case.

RB Ty Chandler, Minnesota Vikings

Dalvin Cook’s time in Minnesota is over, and Alexander Mattison will take over the lead-back duties. Even still, Ty Chandler stated his case to feature in the offense with his preseason debut. Chandler ran hard all game against Seattle, and though he averaged just 3.7 yards per attempt, 3.0 of that came after contact. He also caught all four passes thrown his way for an additional 29 yards in the passing game.

EDGE Keion White, New England Patriots

White was destructive against the Houston Texans in his debut for the Patriots' defense. He finished the game as the best-graded player on New England's defense, totaling three pressures and three defensive stops over 27 snaps.

The majority of White’s snaps came out wide on the edge, but he did move inside over the tackle and even into the B-gap on more than one occasion, showing a versatility at 290 pounds that will be critical to his success in New England.


QB Trey Lance, San Francisco 49ers

Lance was already behind the eight-ball with how Brock Purdy showed out last season, but lighting things up in the preseason could at least make it a difficult decision for head coach Kyle Shanahan. Instead, Lance looked hesitant and indecisive  — maybe the worst sin in a Shanahan offense — and made multiple glaring mistakes in his half of football against the Raiders. He did throw for the team’s only touchdown, but it was a pass that hit a defender in the hands and should have been picked off.

WR Quentin Johnston, Los Angeles Chargers

The knock on Johnston as a prospect was questionable ball skills at the catch point. His preseason debut didn’t do anything to quiet those concerns. Johnston was thrown at six times, catching three of them for just 10 yards and a touchdown. He had one poor drop and another suspect effort at the catch point, and some even criticized the way he caught his touchdown with his body rather than via a clean-hands catch. His plus points remained obvious, but Johnston didn’t immediately dispel those draft criticisms as invalid.

OT Andrew Wylie, Washington Commanders

Washington is reshuffling its starting offensive line heading into the season, and one of the new acquisitions, right tackle Andrew Wylie, had a rough debut. Wylie allowed a couple of quick pressures against Cleveland and was flagged for two penalties on just 21 snaps at right tackle.

Sam Cosmi has been moved inside to guard to accommodate Wylie — and performed well there in the same game — but Wylie didn’t demonstrate right away that it's the team's best combination.

EDGE Lukas Van Ness, Green Bay Packers

First-round pick Lukas Van Ness saw 20 snaps for the Packers against a Bengals offensive line that wasn’t playing its starters. Fifteen of those snaps were as a pass rusher, allowing him to tee off and get after the quarterback.

However, Van Ness finished the game with just one hurry and PFF grades in the 40s for both run defense and pass rushing. Van Ness is a raw, powerful prospect but looked like he might have a ways to go to contribute as a rookie.

CB Jack Jones, New England Patriots

Jones was a surprising impact player for the Patriots as a rookie cornerback last season. A fourth-round pick, he ended up playing more than 400 snaps on defense and had some outstanding games, but he did tail off a little toward the end of the year.

New England added serious competition this offseason in first-round pick Christian Gonzalez, and Jones had a rough preseason debut against the Texans. Statistically, he allowed just one catch for five yards, but he was in trouble on multiple occasions only to get bailed out. For example, C.J. Stroud’s interception came on a play where Tank Dell had sent Jones reeling with his break, a play that would have resulted in a first down but for the safety undercutting it.

OT Jackson Carman, Cincinnati Bengals

Carman was given extensive playing time this week against Green Bay, starting at right tackle and having the opportunity to force his way into the competition to start there. He failed to do so with some problematic pass protection. Though he was outstanding as a run blocker, he allowed four total pressures as a pass blocker and looked like a potential liability even against second-string players.

K Jake Moody, San Francisco 49ers

Drafting kickers early on is always risky business, and the 49ers raised eyebrows by selecting Jake Moody in the third round of the 2023 NFL Draft. He struggled in his NFL debut despite playing in a dome. Moody made his only extra point attempt, but he missed both field goal attempts. The first was a 40-yard kick just before halftime to try and get the 49ers to within four points. His second attempt was a 58-yard shot, so missing is a lot more expected, but it was a bad miss, way off target on a fourth-quarter try.

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