NFL fans rushed to stadiums and TV's around the country when preseason action started on Aug. 3, hungry for professional football after an approximate six-month layoff. What they saw over four preseason games was 90 players on each team jockey for 53 spots on a roster. Now that rosters have been set, FOX Sports South looked at players whose stock dipped or climbed over the last five weeks.
Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY SporTimothy T. Ludwig
Stock UP: Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Running Back
What started months ago as a possible backfield that featured multiple running backs, now looks like a place for Martin to be the sole star. He also showed some receiving skills during preseason action and could now be a legitimate three-down threat. Also factor in the addition of run-blocking stud Logan Mankins at left guard, and the stars are aligning for Martin.
Melina Vastola-USA TODAY SportsMelina Vastola
Stock DOWN: Andre Williams, New York Giants - Running Back
Williams was a workhorse at Boston College last season, where he carried the ball 355 times for 2,177 yards. But he wasn't much of a threat to catch passes, and now it seems the coaching staff in New York doesn't feel he's ready to be a large portion of the game plan. Rashad Jennings will handle the bulk of the carries, and also play on third down until Williams is ready to take a chunk of the touches away.
The Star-Ledger-USA TODAY SportsThe Star-Ledger-USA TODAY Sports
Stock UP: Markus Wheaton, Pittsburgh Steelers - Wide Receiver
As a rookie last season, Wheaton caught just six passes for 64 yards. In all likelihood, he'll far surpass those figures in 2014. Wheaton will be Pittsburgh's new speedy, outside threat, a target quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will rely upon to get behind defenses. In this role, Wheaton could approach 1,000 yards receiving in his second season, and make one of the bigger second-season jumps in the NFL.
Jason Bridge-USA TODAY SportsJason Bridge
Stock DOWN: James Starks, Green Bay Packers - Running Back
In Green Bay, Eddie Lacy is the man at running back. That fact is certain and incontrovertible. The plan for who will back up Lacy isn't so easily explained. Starks was the front runner, but his mishandling of third downs during the preseason, combined with DuJuan Harris' emergence could spell trouble for the fifth-year rusher. Harris led the Packers in preseason rushing, and Starks averaged 3.8 yards per carry, well behind Lacy and Harris.
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY SportsBenny Sieu
Stock UP: Bene Benwikere, Carolina Panthers - Cornerback
Benwikere, a fifth-round pick in May from San Jose State, played his first two preseason games as a backup, but was elevated to starting nickel back for Games 3 and 4. According to Pro Football Focus, he was the highest rated defensive back for Carolina in Game 3. Benwikere is a smart cover guy with good ball hawking skills, and has quickly jumped up the depth chart to make a difference early in his rookie campaign.
ASSOCIATED PRESSStephan Savoia
Stock DOWN: Travian Robertson, Atlanta Falcons - Defensive Tackle
There were times when Robertson looked absolutely unstoppable in positional drills during camp. Which is why when he was left off the 53-man roster, it was a bit of a shock. Robertson cleared waivers and was signed to Atlanta's practice squad, but the return of Corey Peters, and the growth of Ra'Shede Hageman may make it tough for Robertson to elevate onto the active roster.
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY SportsDale Zanine
Stock UP: Bishop Sankey, Tennessee Titans - Running Back
Sankey averaged 6.1 yards per carry during his final preseason game, after setting his preseason high the week before on 44 yards against the Atlanta Falcons. Sankey is picking things up with the Titans quickly, and should be a part of their running back by committee in 2014. But he's still not going to shoot higher than a piece of the puzzle, rather than the answer, during the early portion of the season.
Jason Getz-USA TODAY SportsJason Getz
Stock DOWN: Lache Seastrunk, Free Agent - Running Back
In Washington's final preseason game of 2014, Seastrunk took a screen pass and turned it into an 80-yard touchdown catch. He also powered Baylor's rushing attack for the last two seasons with 2,189 yards and 18 touchdowns while averaging 7.6 yards per carry. But his college resume and 80-yard scamper weren't enough for the Redskins to keep the sixth-round pick on the roster. Not only did they waive him, they did not sign him back on the practice squad.
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY SportsGeoff Burke
Stock UP: Ben Tate, Cleveland Browns - Running Back
When the Browns finalized their 53-man roster and added players to their practice squad, Tate was grouped with three rookie running backs. Eventually one of those young rushers will begin to take some touches away from Tate, but right now, Tate's in charge of first, second and third down in Cleveland. Tate only notched 22 carries during preseason action, but with Cleveland's current quarterback situation, he should be worked very hard when the games count.
Ron Schwane-USA TODAY SportsRon Schwane
Stock DOWN: Ka'Deem Carey, Chicago Bears - Running Back
When you think of rookies that underperformed during the preseason, Carey's name might be top on the list. Given the most carries (27) of any Bears rusher, Carey only averaged 2.7 yards per attempt. Chicago kept the fourth-round pick on its 53-man roster, but until he learns to either push tacklers back off the line of scrimmage, or evade them, Carey won't be on the field with the ball.