6 NFL rookies who showed out during Week 1 of the preseason

NFL rookies were on center stage as the preseason kicked off this past weekend. Top picks such as Aidan Hutchinson and Travon Walker made impact plays. The same thing can be said for fellow top-10 pick Charles Cross.

With that said, there were lesser-known first-year players who stood out the most. Former Wisconsin linebacker and undrafted Chicago Bears player Jack Sanborn forced two turnovers in his outing against the Kansas City Chiefs. San Francisco 49ers Samuel Womack matched that total with two picks of Green Bay Packers quarterback Jordan Love.

On the offensive side of the ball, rookie signal callers Kenny Pickett and Sam Howell performed well for their respective teams. These are among the six standout NFL rookies from Week 1 of the preseason. Here’s a look at them all.

Related: Top 10 takeaways from Week 1 of the NFL preseason

George Karlaftis aces first test with the Kansas City Chiefs

For most of the pre-draft process, this former Purdue standout was seen as a top-15 lock. That’s why it was such a surprise that he fell to Kansas City with the 30th pick in the annual event.

The Chiefs have a pretty major need out on the edge. That led to the team signing veteran free agent Carlos Dunlap. However, it was Karlaftis who stole the show against a much-maligned Bears offensive line on Saturday.

George Karlaftis stats (Week 1 preseason): 2 QB hits, 1 tackle for loss, 1 sack

If Kansas City can get consistent production opposite Frank Clark out on the edge, it will be huge. That’s particularly true given its question marks at cornerback.

Related: Sportsnaut’s preseason NFL power rankings

George Pickens is going to be among best NFL rookies in 2022

nfl rookies: george pickens
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Pickens’ college stats (1,347 career receiving yards at Georgia) don’t do him justice. He showed out during the pre-draft process, ultimately landing in the perfect spot with the Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 52 overall.

Working with fellow rookie Kenny Pickett and others against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 1, Pickens continued to open eyes in Pittsburgh. That included catching a 26-yard touchdown strike from Mason Rudolph.

Talk about displaying great route-running ability and tremendous athleticism to get both feet down for the touchdown. It’s been a common theme for Pickens throughout the summer. And in reality, he’s going to provide whoever is under center for the Steelers an excellent target as a rookie.

Related: NFL rookies and where they stand

Samuel Womack looking like the real deal

Free-agent signing Charvarius Ward and Emmanuel Moseley will start outside for the 49ers in 2022. Both cornerbacks were impressive in training camp prior to going down with minor injuries.

With that said, there’s a major competition brewing in the slot. Darqueze Dennard and Deommodore Lenoir will compete with this rookie fifth-round pick for the starting job.

If Friday’s outing against the Green Bay Packers is any indication, Womack might have the edge. He absolutely dominated in coverage throughout the evening in Santa Clara, including two interceptions of Jordan Love. The second was especially eye-opening in that Womack displayed great technique and an ability to read the quarterback’s eyes for the pick. If Womack can have this extend to Week 1 against the Chicago Bears, it will make an already elite 49ers defense that much more dominant.

Related: Top NFL QBs of 2022

Sam Howell puts Carson Wentz on notice

nfl rookies; sam howell
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

There’s no reason to believe that Sam Howell will beat out Carson Wentz for Washington’ starting job. At least, not yet. Wentz actually performed well in his preseason debut with the Commanders after being acquired from the Indianapolis Colts during the spring.

It wasn’t enough for Wentz to overshadow his young counterpart. Howell displayed great field vision, pocket awareness and accuracy as the fifth-round pick from North Carolina got his NFL career going. He also showed the athleticism that made him such a running threat with the Tar Heels.

  • Sam Howell stats (Week 1 preseason): 9-of-16 passing, 145 yards, 3 rushes, 19 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT

Washington’s quarterback situation is tricky. Head coach Ron Rivera and Co. are in win-now mode. However, they also have to be looking to the future. For at least one day, Howell looked to be very much the part. That’s for sure.

Related: Top highlights from Week 1 of the NFL preseason

Jack Sanborn could be a major steal for Chicago

nfl rookies; jack sanborn
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Despite being a first-team Big 10 performer a season ago with Wisconsin, Jack Sanborn found himelf undrafted this past spring. There was a ton of concern over his athletic measurements and whether the linebacker’s game would translate to the NFL.

With All-Pro linebacker Roquan Smith having requested a trade, the linebacker spot becomes of paramount concern for Chicago. That’s why it’s so important Sanborn stepped up big time in his inital NFL action Saturday against the Kansas City Chiefs. He recorded seven tackles, recovered a fumble and came away with an interception. While Sanborn will likely be a reserve in 2022, he pretty much guaranteed himself a spot on the 53 by virtue of Saturday’s performance and could be one of the underrated NFL rookies to watch in 2022.

Related: Top QB performances from Week 1 of the NFL preseason

Kenny Pickett was among most impressive NFL rookies

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Pittsburgh Steelers
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Prior to Saturday’s game against Seattle, reports surfaced out of Pittsburgh that Kenny Pickett would end up taking over for Mitchell Trubisky as the Steelers’ starter sooner rather than later. If what we saw from the rookie first-round pick in his NFL preseason debut is any indication, Pickett’s time could soon be coming.

The youngster completed 13-of-15 passes for 95 yards while taking what Seattle’s offense would give him. That’s until he threw the game-winning touchdown on a 24-yard strike to Tyler Vaughns with three seconds left. It left Heinz Field sounding more like a rock concert than an otherwise meaningless preseason football game.

Pittsburgh was maligned or taking Pickett in the first round over quarterbacks who “experts” had graded out better. But he seems to be a perfect fit in this offense. It could also lead to Pickett being one of the NFL rookies we pay most attention to during the regular season.

This article was originally published on Sportsnaut.com and is republished here with permission.

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