Super Bowl LVI's in the books, ending the longest season in NFL history. How did the new guys perform in the expanded 285-game slate? Gennaro Filice and Nick Shook are taking a division-by-division look at each team's rookie class, providing grades and analysis on Year 1 production. Shook examines the AFC North below.
- (No. 5) Ja'Marr Chase, WR, 17 games/17 starts
- (46) Jackson Carman, OG, 17 games/6 starts
- (69) Joseph Ossai, DE, 0 games
- (111) Cam Sample, EDGE, 14 games/0 starts
- (122) Tyler Shelvin, DT, 3 games/0 starts
- (139) D'Ante Smith, OG, 2 games/1 start
- (149) Evan McPherson, K, 16 games
- (190) Trey Hill, C, 13 games/3 starts
- (202) Chris Evans, RB, 14 games/1 start
- (235) Wyatt Hubert, DE, 0 games
Chase lit up the NFL in 2021. He broke the league record for the most receiving yards by a rookie with 1,455, waltzed to the Offensive Rookie of the Year award and keyed the Bengals' run to Super Bowl LVI. Carman played three different positions -- right guard, left guard and left tackle -- out of necessity after losing the starting job at right guard in November. He's since proven fairly valuable, replacing the struggling Hakeem Adeniji at times in Cincinnati's AFC Championship Game win, and he could very much become a reliable guard in the future. The promising Ossai had his year wiped out by a preseason wrist injury. Sample filled a rotational role, recording 1.5 sacks and 14 tackles. Shelvin only played considerable snaps in two games (Week 18 at Cleveland and Cincinnati's Divisional Round win over Tennessee). Smith was a backup whose chance at significant action came when Cincinnati rested its starters in Week 18. McPherson shook off occasional early struggles to become a lights-out clutch kicker late in the season, starting a perfect streak in Week 17 that carried into Super Bowl LVI; he joined Chase on the Pro Football Writers of America All-Rookie Team. Hill played ample snaps in a few games in 2021, manning a fill-in role otherwise. Evans became a nice spell back behind Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine. Hubert's rookie season ended in July as a result of a torn pectoral.
- (No. 26) Greg Newsome II, CB, 12 games/11 starts
- (52) Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, 14 games/10 starts
- (91) Anthony Schwartz, WR, 14 games/2 starts
- (110) James Hudson, OT, 12 games/4 starts
- (132) Tommy Togiai, DT, 6 games/0 starts
- (153) Tony Fields II, LB, 10 games/0 starts
- (169) Richard LeCounte III, S, 9 games/1 start
- (211) Demetric Felton, RB, 16 games/2 starts
The Browns landed a stellar young corner in Newsome, who improved significantly over the course of his first season. Newsome blanketed opposing teams' top receivers opposite Pro Bowler Denzel Ward and landed on the PFWA All-Rookie Team. Also receiving that honor was Owusu-Koramoah, a lightning-quick linebacker who earned some early recognition as a potential Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate before he was slowed by an ankle injury. Owusu-Koramoah still finished with the second-most tackles among all Browns defenders. Schwartz flashed big-play talent thanks to his premier speed, but he needs to improve his hands if he is to carve out a bigger role in Cleveland's passing game. Hudson was likely called into action before he was ready; starting in Weeks 6, 14 and 17, he struggled against superior edge-rushing talent before finishing strong in Week 18 against Cincinnati's backups. Togiai played in a half-dozen games in a backup role. Fields was exclusively a special-teams player. LeCounte showed promise early in the season, was torched by the Packers' Davante Adams in Week 16 and finished strong in Week 17. Felton excelled as a pass-catching back, scoring two touchdowns on screen passes in a limited role while also making the PFWA All-Rookie Team as a punt returner.
- (No. 27) Rashod Bateman, WR, 12 games/4 starts
- (31) Odafe Oweh, LB, 15 games/2 starts
- (94) Ben Cleveland, OG, 12 games/4 starts
- (104) Brandon Stephens, DB, 17 games/11 starts
- (131) Tylan Wallace, WR, 17 games/1 start
- (160) Shaun Wade, CB, 3 games/0 starts (w/ NE)
- (171) Daelin Hayes, DE, 1 game/0 starts
- (184) Ben Mason, TE/FB, 0 games
After a hype-filled preseason, Bateman's debut was delayed by injury. While he finished with a decent rookie campaign, he also averaged less than 50 yards per game, leaving Ravens fans still hungry for a game-changing receiver. Oweh stormed out of the gate with three sacks and two forced fumbles in his first five games, and though he cooled off down the stretch, he scored a spot on the PFWA All-Rookie Team. Cleveland worked his way into the lineup late in the season, largely performing at an average level before finishing with a solid game in Week 18. A former college running back and cornerback, Stephens switched to safety in the pros, then stepped into a starting role following multiple significant injuries in Baltimore's secondary. He played solid football and has room to grow. Wallace failed to crack Baltimore's receiving corps, spending most of the season on special teams. Wade was traded to New England before the start of the season. Two stints on injured reserve ate up the bulk of Hayes' season. Mason was waived at the end of training camp, then bounced between New England's and Chicago's practice squads before signing a reserve/future contract with the Ravens in January.
- (No. 24) Najee Harris, RB, 17 games/17 starts
- (55) Pat Freiermuth, TE, 16 games/9 starts
- (87) Kendrick Green, C, 15 games/15 starts
- (128) Dan Moore Jr., OT, 16 games/16 starts
- (140) Buddy Johnson, LB, 4 games/0 starts
- (156) Isaiahh Loudermilk, DE, 15 games/2 starts
- (216) Quincy Roche, OLB, 14 games/3 starts (w/ NYG)
- (245) Tre Norwood, S, 17 games/3 starts
- (254) Pressley Harvin III, P, 15 games
Harris became a workhorse, logging over 300 carries and gaining 1,200 yards on his way to a PFWA All-Rookie honor. The fact that he was running behind an inexperienced offensive line likely accounts for his relatively modest per-carry average (3.9 yards) and rushing TD total (seven). Harris also contributed in the passing game (74 receptions, 467 yards, three touchdowns) and will be a key part of Pittsburgh's offense going forward. Freiermuth excelled in his first season, catching 60 passes for 497 yards and seven touchdowns. He'll be another important part of the Steelers' offense in the future and has already drawn comparisons to franchise hero Heath Miller. Green switched to center and played in all but two games, working out the kinks typical of a rookie pivot. Moore had an up-and-down season, but came on strong late at left tackle and looks to be a solid pick for a Steelers line that was in need of revamping prior to 2021. Johnson was primarily a special-teams player. Loudermilk became an interior rotational player who flashed his potential at times while playing behind entrenched All-Pro Cameron Heyward. Roche was waived at the end of camp and landed with the Giants. Norwood was a seventh-round steal, shining at times and appearing in every game in a very solid first season. Harvin showed off his big leg early in the campaign, but had a tumultuous first season on the field that became even more difficult with the losses of his father and grandmother in late December and early January.