With the 2022 NFL season now officially in the books, all eyes turn toward the 2023 NFL Draft. But before a new wave of talent hits the league, Eric Edholm and Nick Shook are taking a team-by-team look back at the rookie class of 2022.
Today, Edholm examines the NFC North.
- (46) Josh Paschal, DE, 10 games/4 starts
- (97) Kerby Joseph, S, 17 games/14 starts
- (177) James Mitchell, TE, 14 games/0 starts
- (237) Chase Lucas, DB, 6 games/0 starts
In some respects, this was a wait-and-see draft for the Lions, but they also started putting together a foundation on defense, improving on all three levels with this rookie haul. When it's all said and done, we might look back at this class as a huge bedrock for a team that appears to be on the right track.
Aidan Hutchinson, the Defensive Rookie of the Year runner-up, was pretty terrific. Outside of a few quiet stretches, Hutchinson made his impact in multiple ways -- as a pass rusher (9.5 sacks), run defender (nine TFLs) and takeaway artist (three INTs, two fumble recoveries). His hustle, versatility and Michigan roots made him an easy fan favorite in Year 1.
Two more rookies instantly endeared themselves to the Detroit faithful. Kerby Joseph intercepted four passes (three via Aaron Rodgers) and forced two fumbles, showing an innate nose for the ball. Malcolm Rodriguez also displayed terrific instincts and timing and looked like a pro from jump street, ranking third on the team in tackles in 15 starts.
Sidelined by a torn ACL most of the season, Jameson Williams saw action down the stretch and had two touches -- a 40-yard run and a 41-yard TD catch -- in 78 offensive snaps. The Lions know they have a racehorse in the slim receiver, and he could break out next season. James Houston came on like gangbusters late, profiling as a prolific pass-rush specialist.
- (71) Velus Jones Jr., WR, 12 games/2 starts
- (186) Zachary Thomas, OG, 1 game/0 starts (now w/LAR)
- (203) Trestan Ebner, RB, 17 games/0 starts
- (207) Doug Kramer, C, 0 games/0 starts
- (226) Ja'Tyre Carter, OG, 3 games/0 starts
- (254) Elijah Hicks, S, 15 games/2 starts
- (255) Trenton Gill, P, 17 games
Notable free-agent signees
UPDATE: Upon review, after weighing the grades of all 32 teams, I felt the Bears' initial grade (B-) was just a shade high, even with the team lacking a first-round pick.
Missing the first-round pick from the Justin Fields trade (which ended up being No. 7 overall) had to sting a bit for first-year GM Ryan Poles, but the Bears managed to check off some important boxes on the offensive line and in the secondary via their Day 2 and 3 selections, as well as the undrafted free-agent pool.
Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker endured a trial by fire at times as rookies on a thinned-out Chicago defense, but they combined to produce seven INTs, eight passes defended and two forced fumbles in their 29 combined starts. Brisker also added four sacks, but some missed tackles and mental errors stood out. Gordon was picked on at times, but also picked off Jalen Hurts and Josh Allen in consecutive games.
Braxton Jones was the steal of the crop. He stepped in at left tackle and looked to be exactly the kind of athletic mover and mentally tough competitor the Bears were seeking. Even with a few glitches, Jones' future appears to be bright.
Velus Jones Jr. did not earn the coaches' trust in Year 1, outside of some late-season opportunities. He has some juice as a runner and returner but appears unrefined so far as a receiver. With Jones turning 26 in May, the Bears must figure out his utility quickly. Dominique Robinson started seven of the final eight games, but was held without a sack or even a QB hit. Jack Sanborn and Jaylon Jones played well enough to earn roster shots in 2023, but the rest of the group was underwhelming.
- (34) Christian Watson, WR, 14 games/11 starts
- (92) Sean Rhyan, OG, 1 game/0 starts
- (179) Kingsley Enagbare, OLB, 17 games/7 starts
- (228) Tariq Carpenter, S, 14 games/0 starts
- (234) Jonathan Ford, DT, 0 games/0 starts
- (249) Rasheed Walker, OT, 1 game/0 starts
- (258) Samori Toure, WR, 11 games/2 starts
UPDATE: Upon review, I felt I was a little harsh on the initial grade (C-) of the Packers, who received contributions from a fairly high number of rookies, including their top three picks.
There has been a lot of hand-wringing in Wisconsin over the first-year returns from the Packers' first-rounders, one of whom (Quay Walker) they received as a result of the Davante Adams trade. Devonte Wyatt was barely heard from on a disappointing defensive line, although he could take Dean Lowry's spot in 2023. Kingsley Enagbare, taken 151 picks after Wyatt, contributed much more. Walker made headlines for missed tackles (13, via PFF) and ejections (two) in an adventurous rookie year, but his speed and athleticism did stand out.
Are Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs the future 1-2 receiver combination in Green Bay? Maybe. They combined for 83 catches, 1,036 yards and 10 TDs in 2022, overcoming some early inconsistencies to earn a measure of Aaron Rodgers' trust. Watson showed the ability to take the top off defenses, and Doubs was effective working underneath and between the hashes. Even Samori Toure had some flashes late. Why he often sat in favor of Sammy Watkins is anyone's guess.
Sean Rhyan remains a mystery. The third-rounder played sparingly in preseason, took one regular-season snap (on special teams) and then was suspended the final six games for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances. Thankfully, Zach Tom stepped up in a big way and contributed at four positions: everywhere but center. He has the look of a super utility guy, but could start if needed.
- (No. 32) Lewis Cine, S, 3 games/0 starts
- (66) Brian Asamoah, LB, 16 games/0 starts
- (118) Akayleb Evans, CB, 10 games/2 starts
- (227) Nick Muse, TE, 10 games/0 starts
Notable free-agent signee
- Ryan Wright, P, 17 games
The Vikings went defensive back with back-to-back picks -- both top-50 selections -- to open the draft, but received very little from them in 2022. Both suffered season-ending injuries as rookies, although it's fair to ask just how much each would have contributed, even on the NFL's 32nd-ranked pass defense. They're both long, athletic and instinctive, but face a critical offseason for their development.
The biggest rookie contributor -- by far -- was Ed Ingram. Although he was humbled as a pass protector, giving up 11 sacks in 2022, Ingram made his mark as a run blocker and showed great durability in starting all 18 games and playing all but two snaps. Will he ever be a Pro Bowler? Perhaps not, but Ingram profiles as a steady, sturdy guard who can start for the next few years.
The grade here is heavily weighted to the first-year contributions, which were limited, to say the least. Ingram played nearly double the snaps of the rest of the Vikings' rookies combined. Brian Asamoah shined late in a very small sample size. Akayleb Evans had a few rough reps in coverage, but has the length and man-coverage chops to possibly vie for a starting spot as early as next season.