Top 5 breakout NFL players to watch in 2022
Whether it was injuries, lack of chances, or just growing pains of being new to the NFL, here are the players we expect to have a breakout year in 2022.
The NFL offseason and even training camps and preseason are never good indicators of what we will actually see during the regular season. Players may be killing it in drills, but that says nothing in terms of what they’ll do under the bright lights and pressure of a real NFL game. However, there are other indicators of what we might be able to expect from certain young players who’ve now got at least a year’s experience under their belt.
It’s unusual for a rookie in the NFL to have a crazy-good season. It happens, but it’s not common. Typically, you see the biggest differences between the first and second NFL year, after they have some professional experience and motivation to help them along. Of course, some take a little longer and some rare gems are stars right away. Here’s our list of the top five players we expect to have breakout seasons in the NFL in 2022.
Trevor Lawrence, QB Jacksonville Jaguars
Lawrence was the number one overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. He had the unfortunate fate of playing under Urban Meyer. Thankfully for him and the rest of the Jaguars team, they now have Doug Pederson as head coach. Pederson led the Eagles to a Super Bowl win in 2017, their first since 1960. Let’s just say, it’s a few giants steps up from the chaos that was Urban Meyer. Lawrence showed glimpses of promise in his first year, and Pederson has upgraded his o-line with Christian Kirk, Zay Jones, and Evan Engram to join Marvin Jones. Lawrence will have a lot more opportunities to show off his talent this season.
Rashod Bateman, WR Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens no longer have Marquise Brown on their roster, which will leave a lot on the shoulders of Rashod Bateman as their no. 1 receiver. Bateman was a first-round pick in 2021 and he showed potential in his rookie season, though he had to sit out the first five games with an injury. Quarterback Lamar Jackson (who was also injured for some of last season) makes the Ravens a more run-dependent offense, but comparing Bateman’s success with Jackson on the field compared to off the field, you can see that Bateman performs significantly better with him. Their chemistry should just continue to grow as they get comfortable together and as Bateman becomes the no.1 WR.
Kwity Paye, DE Indianapolis Colts
Another 2021 first-round pick, Kwity Paye had a decent rookie season. He started out a little slow, but picked things up mid-season, getting just one QB hit over six games and then getting 10 in the last nine games. The Colts now have new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, who thrives with explosive pass rushers like Paye. Paye had a three-game stint of 17 total pressures at one point last season, and he should just build even more on that defensive talent going into the 2022 season. The Colts have added defensive end Yannick Ngakoue plus have All-Pro DeForest Buckner to play alongside Paye, and I see Paye having an even more successful season with all of that considered.
Gabriel Davis, WR Buffalo Bills
Gabriel Davis is coming into his third season in the NFL and he’s not yet “broken out” completely. Besides Stefon Diggs, there has always been another receiver ahead of Davis on the depth chart, which limited his breakout status, but not this year. In 2022, Davis will be next in line as the no. 2 receiver and should get plenty of opportunities to show off everything he’s got. We got to see a tasty bit of what he’s capable of in the AFC Championship game against the Chiefs last season, when he put up over 200 yards and four touchdowns.
Jaycee Horn, CB Carolina Panthers
Jaycee Horn had an unfortunate rookie season, sitting out most of it with a foot injury. But that was last season, and this is this season. The eighth overall 2021 Draft pick is fully healthy again and in the very few games he did play, we saw glimpses of greatness. In the three games he played, he allowed just one catch on five targets and had an interception. I can’t wait, and fully expect, to see more of that from this defender going into the 2022 season.