I continue my series revisiting the 2022 NFL rookie class before we purge our brains of this past draft. So turn up the Vitamin C on your stereo and bundle up because we’re going North.
|2||48||Jaquan Brisker||S||Penn St.||Active|
|5||168||Braxton Jones||OL||Southern Utah State||Active|
|5||174||Dominique Robinson||EDGE||Miami (OH)||Active|
|6||186||Zachary Thomas||OL||San Diego St.||Cut/Waived|
|7||255||Trenton Gill||P||North Carolina St.||Active|
UDFA: CB Jaylon Jones, LB Jack Sanborn, FB Jake Tonges
The Bears’ roster may be one of the most bereft of talent in the NFL, especially on offense, and it didn’t help that they didn’t have a first round pick this year. WR Velus Jones and RB Trestan Ebner do little to ameliorate the dearth of offensive weapons. Jones was one of the oldest prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft, having caught passes from Sam Darnold in at USC. The speedster lacks nuance in his route-running, and his best hope for early contribution is on special teams. Ebner is essentially a budget clone of Tarik Cohen. He mirrors his abilities as a pass-catcher out of the backfield and potentially usage as a returner. The Bears struggled to keep franchise QB Justin Fields upright last year to the tune of a league-leading 58 sacks. OL Braxton Jones, Zachary Thomas, Doug Kramer, and Ja’Tyre Carter were brought in to help on the offensive front. However, Thomas has since been cut, Kramer has been injured for most of the preseason, and Jones and Carter will need time to adjust to the professional game coming from small schools. Don’t expect any major contributions from this group of OL, considering the low draft capital and need for development.
CB Kyler Gordon fits the Cover-3 CB mold that the Bears covet. Gordon was considered by some to be the better prospect of the two Washington CBs in this draft due to his size and catch-point skills. The Bears also added S Jaquan Brisker out of Penn State to start at SS. Brisker was the best two-high coverage safety in the draft, despite being burned by Rakim Jarrett on the same play twice in one game. Brisker and Gordon can and will be expected to contribute early and often for this defense. EDGE Dominique Robinson reminded me of Bears veteran Trevis Gipson during the evaluation process in that he comes into the league very raw and inexperienced but having shown flashes of twitch. Gipson has since worked his way into a possible starting role this year. Robinson is a QB-turned-WR-turned-EDGE, meaning while the athleticism is there, there is work to be done on technique and instincts. LB Jack Sanborn is a product of the LB machine: Wisconsin. He’s not the most athletic but has good instincts and has the strength to hold up in a run-fill.
As for other role players in this rookie class, P Trenton Gill walked into the building as the starting punter and FB Jake Tonges was brought in to compete with Khari Blasingame.
|5||177||James Mitchell||TE||Virginia Tech||Active|
|6||188||Malcolm Rodriguez||LB||Oklahoma St.||Active|
|6||217||James Houston||LB||Jackson St.||Cut/Waived|
|7||237||Chase Lucas||CB||Arizona St.||Active|
UDFA: iDL Demetrius Taylor
Michigan fans were overjoyed when the Detroit Lions drafted hometown hero EDGE Aidan Hutchinson. Considered a safer prospect than first overall pick Travon Walker, Hutchinson has above-baseline athleticism and the ability to shed blocks at-will. S Kerby Joseph should rotate in at the FS spot right away for this surprisingly decent secondary. Joseph fits the mold of a traditional free safety with plus ball skills, especially in single-high, and good play speed. LB Malcolm Rodriguez is an undersized LB who earned his spot on the roster as a special-teamer but could worm his way onto the field with his relentless motor and toughness. CB Chase Lucas can fill any corner spot on the field with his adequate size and good measurables.
TE James Mitchell was one of my favorite TE prospects in this class. With toughness, plus athleticism, and room to grow, he has the makings of a solid-contributor and potential fantasy asset down the line. His lack of college production tanked his draft stock, but in the context of playing at Virginia Tech, Mitchell definitely did well for himself.
WR Jameson Williams and EDGE Josh Paschal will start the year on the injured list, but could return sometime this season. Williams was part of the highly-touted Alabama receiving corps during their 2021 run. His absence was readily apparent after his injury, as the passing game struggled in the national championship game. Williams’ game-breaking speed will add a new dimension to this underrated WR room in Detroit. Paschal was one of the best run defenders from the EDGE position in this draft class. His evaluation has been about potential more than production thus far, but there are a lot of tools that coaches will like if he can stay healthy.
Green Bay Packers
|2||34||Christian Watson||WR||North Dakota St.||Active|
|4||140||Zach Tom||OL||Wake Forest||Active|
|5||179||Kingsley Enagbare||EDGE||South Carolina||Active|
|7||228||Tariq Carpenter||S||Georgia Tech||Active|
|7||234||Jonathan Ford||iDL||Miami (FL)||Active|
|7||249||Rasheed Walker||OL||Penn St.||Active|
UDFA: LS Jack Coco
Many mocked the Packers for drafting defensive players when the QB had expressed malcontent in their lack of investment in the offense. Nevertheless, the Packers were able to bolster their positions of need and also obtain some developmental weapons for Aaron Rodgers. WR Christian Watson has been hurt much of the preseason and is mostly projection due to his lack of college production in a run-heavy system. But, he has plus-plus linear speed, some hip flexibility to turn, and good size. Fellow rookie WR Romeo Doubs is almost the complete opposite. Doubs was very productive in the explosive Nevada offense, and continued to produce throughout the preseason. While he lacks any notable athletic traits, he does what is needed to effectively stack CBs and create separation out of a cut. WR Samori Toure is a bottom of the depth chart receiver who gets in and out of breaks smoothly and could fill in as a warm body in a pinch.
The Packers get away with the most holding calls in the NFL yet are considered one of the best at developing OL. OTs Sean Rhyan and Rasheed Walker will need to take full advantage of that coaching, as both have all the physical tools needed but need to put it together mentally. Rhyan has better hands and coordinates his upper and lower halves well. Walker is a bit bigger and has good agility and hips. However, both need to work on balance and redirect their high-effort to play leverage instead of fixating on body leverage. OL Zach Tom has already made waves in the preseason for his versatility and maturity. He played four out of five line positions for Wake Forest and excelled by most metrics. He may get the earliest opportunities for playing time from this draft class.
The Packers’ first two picks were Georgia defenders LB Quay Walker and iDL Devonte Wyatt. Walker’s biggest deficiencies are in play recognition and awareness, and was college teammate Nakobe Dean often pointed in the right direction. The Packers’ staff hopes to teach him how to diagnose on his own and take advantage of his superior athleticism at the LB position. Wyatt was the more refined of the two DTs from Georgia, being the older and normal-human-sized prospect. He fires off the ball well and can beat an OL using penetration or simply moving them out of the way. EDGE Kingsley Enagbare cut his teeth in the SEC, and while he lacks plus athletic traits, he will contribute soon with his methodical approach to pass-rush.
|5||169||Ty Chandler||RB||North Carolina||Active|
|6||191||Jalen Nailor||WR||Michigan St.||Active|
|7||227||Nick Muse||TE||South Carolina||Cut/Waived|
UDFA: EDGE Luiji Vilain, P Ryan Wright
The Vikings entered this offseason looking to improve their secondary given the loss of Jeff Gladney and their current reliance on the ancient Patrick Peterson. S Lewis Cine is a perfect running mate for Harrison Smith. The two will fit together as enforcer-types on the backend that can also cover. Cine was an interesting prospect, as he plays like a heat-seeking SS despite technically played FS for Dan Lanning at Georgia. This versatility meshes perfectly with the veterans on the roster. CB Andrew Booth has a very high ceiling if he can just stay healthy. The former five-star recruit is a smooth operator with decent ball-skills. If he can manage his cushions better and stay on the field, he could fill Peterson’s spot once he retires. CB Akayleb Evans provides immediate depth as a scrappy physical presence. LB Brian Asamoah is a run-and-chase LB cast in a similar mold as Kenneth Murray, his predecessor at Oklahoma. Asamoah needs a good DL to keep him clean, as he struggles with OL due to his short stature. When given space, he can track down the ball carrier with astonishing speed. DL Esezi Otomewo is a long 5-tech that could rotate in as soon as later this year. He is recovering from a knee injury from college.
The offensive line that the Vikings have put together are all athletic movers with surprising strength. iOL Ed Ingram fits this mold as a stouter Guard who easily gets to the second level but can also forklift smaller iDLs. Expect him to start right away. RB Ty Chandler was the beneficiary of the UNC offense that produced Javonte Williams and Michael Carter Jr before him. Many were unsure of how he would adjust in a short time span when he transferred in, but he put those doubters to rest with his decisive running style and receiving ability. Sixth rounders OL Vederian Lowe and WR Jalen Nailor are depth pieces from the B1G that won’t get attention but should contribute when injuries provide opportunities. Lowe is a versatile Bret Bielema OL who might struggle with pass protection but has the nastiness to make an impact on the ground. Nailor is a small, quick WR that could take advantage of the defensive focus on Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen. He has better slot skills than the newly-acquired Jalen Reagor so could see rotational minutes relatively soon.