Week 1 of the NFL preseason will wrap up Saturday evening with three primetime games.
It starts with the Cincinnati Bengals taking on the Chiefs in Kansas City. At about the same time, the Los Angeles Rams will do battle with the Raiders in Oakland’s final preseason home game in Northern California.
Remaining in California, the San Francisco 49ers will host the Dallas Cowboys in their annual preseason matchup.
It’s in this that we look at one player from each team to that you should pay attention to Saturday evening.
Mecole Hardman, wide receiver, Kansas City Chiefs
This rookie second-round pick from Georgia has been super impressive thus far in training camp for the Chiefs. The 5-foot-10 Hardman is of Tyreek Hill’s ilk in that he has the speed and shiftiness to create nightmares for opposing defensive backs.
There’s actually a good chance that Hardman could break camp as the Chiefs’ No. 2 wide receiver behind Hill. He’ll get some action in with Patrick Mahomes against a suspect Bengals defense. It should be fun to watch.
Germaine Pratt, linebacker, Cincinnati Bengals
Speaking of the Bengals’ suspect defense, Pratt has an opportunity to start out of the gate as a rookie. The third-round pick has been getting play with Cincinnati’s starters during camp and has impressed in a big way.
At 6-foot-2 and 245 pounds, Pratt is billed as a tremendous cover guy. In fact, he transitioned from safey to linebacker at North Carolina State. It’s something the Bengals desperately need at linebacker. We’re intrigued to see how he looks against an elite and deep Chiefs offense.
Marcell Ateman, wide receiver, Oakland Raiders
Given the Antonio Brown drama and potential retirement, the Raiders are now going to have to find others to produce at receiver. Barring Brown’s return to action, Tyrell Williams will be Derek Carr’s top target. However, there’s a plethora of unproven receivers behind him. That includes this second-year player.
A seventh-round pick last year, Ateman has been performing well with Derek Carr in training camp. He’s a big target at 6-foot-4, something Carr needs if he hopes to improve from major struggles last season. Ateman should get a lot of run against the Rams. How he performs will tell us a lot heading into the regular season.
Darrell Henderson, running back, Los Angeles Rams
A lot has been made about Todd Gurley’s injury and the fact that Los Angeles plans to lessen his workload this season. Enter into the equation rookie third-round pick Darrell Henderson. The Memphis product has had an eye-opening training camp thus far and should get the start Saturday night against Oakland.
We’re highly intrigued to see how Henderson performs against one of the worst defenses in the NFL. Los Angeles did not exhaust an early third-round pick for him to take a redshirt season as a rookie. He’s expected to make an immediate impact.
Nick Mullens, quarterback, San Francisco 49ers
One of the biggest competitions during 49ers camp is at backup quarterback. It’s between former third-round pick C.J. Beathard and this undrafted free agent. Last season saw Mullens vastly outplay Beathard once starter Jimmy Garoppolo went down with a torn ACL. He should have the upper-hand in this competition.
With Garoppolo slated to sit out the preseason opener, it would not be a surprise to see Mullens play more than a quarter against Dallas. Given that the 49ers are only going to roster two quarterbacks, this could lead to Kyle Shanahan and Co. having to make a decision. There’s also an off-chance that another quarterback-needy team will come calling should Mullens continue to impress.
Tony Pollard, running back, Dallas Cowboys
This rookie undrafted free agent from Memphis has been pretty much the story of Dallas’ training camp. With Ezekiel Elliott still holding out, Pollard has been getting run with the Cowboys’ first-team offense. To say he’s been impressive would be an understatement.
Some strong words right there from the Hall of Fame executive. Pollard is going to start against the 49ers Saturday night. He has a chance to prove his worth in real-game action. It should be fun.