Preseason football does have its merits in evaluating talent.
When a player or starting team plays very minimally in August, the results are apparent come the first few weeks of the regular season. They’re rusty, their timing is off, and they clearly needed the practice in live game action.
It’s a different prospect for individual players. Most guys playing a ton of exhibition football are trying to make a name for themselves. The preseason very well might be where they play most of the year. As such, it’s a fleeting opportunity they’d do well to maximize while it’s still in the palm of their hand.
But even when some individual players shine in the preseason, it doesn’t always mean that promise will transfer to the regular season. In fact, some sample sizes show their careers simply never got off the launch pad despite preseason flashes.
Here are five NFL players who shined in a respective preseason but never quite lived up to the hype after that.
(In case you missed it: Our Christian D’Andrea wrapped the 2022 preseason with a look at Justin Fields’ performance vs. the Browns, the Denzel Mims situation in New York, and so much more!)
2016 preseason stats (three games): Eight tackles, six sacks, four QB hits, four tackles-for-loss, forced fumble
Rush came on like a force of nature for San Francisco during their exhibition slate in 2016. The former Michigan State product was a consistent presence in the backfield then, but he never recorded any meaningful statistics in a regular season game.
2014 preseason stats (three games): 34 carries, 225 yards, 6.6 yards per carry
An undrafted free agent out of Missouri, Josey lit it up for the Eagles in 2014. Unfortunately, he could never get much traction in Philadelphia and bounced around that season before eventually jumping to the CFL.
2013 preseason stats (four games): 10 targets, 236 yards, seven catches, three touchdowns
After failing to get much traction in Arizona to start his career, Williams got a breath of fresh air with the Seahawks in 2013. And he maximized his new opportunity to the fullest in the preseason. But even despite a strong round of August performances, Seattle would cut Williams. He was out of the league by the following year.
2015 preseason stats (four games): 45-of-65 (69 percent), 640 yards, seven touchdowns
After taking a flier on Hundley in the fifth round of the 2015 Draft, early impressions of the former UCLA Bruin had those in Green Bay thought they had their heir apparent to Aaron Rodgers. However, Hundley was just a preseason superstar and has since bounced around the league as a perennial backup.
2014 preseason stats (four games): 32-of-44 (72 percent), 419 yards, two touchdowns
Many top-drafted quarterbacks haven’t lived up to expectations since Bortles in Jacksonville, but few actually provided as much as initial hope as he did in 2014. Between his various possession across the Jaguars’ entire preseason, Bortles looked sharp. After one solid year in 2015, Bortles never quite played like a No. 3 overall pick.