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, Shook examines the AFC North.
- (No. 14) Kyle Hamilton, S, 16 games/4 starts
- (25) Tyler Linderbaum, C, 17 games/17 starts
- (45) David Ojabo, LB, 2 games/0 starts
- (76) Travis Jones, DT, 15 games/3 starts
- (110) Daniel Faalele, T, 16 games/1 start
- (119) Jalyn Armour-Davis, CB, 4 games/1 start
- (128) Charlie Kolar, TE, 2 games/0 starts
- (130) Jordan Stout, P, 17 games/0 starts
- (139) Isaiah Likely, TE, 16 games/2 starts
- (141) Damarion Williams, CB, 14 games/0 starts
- (196) Tyler Badie, RB, 1 game/0 starts (w/DEN)
Notable free agent signee:
- Anthony Brown, QB, 2 games/1 start
Hamilton didn't start every game at safety, but he fit rather nicely in coordinator Mike Macdonald's defense, making a notable impact while filling a slot role in the nickel package in the second half of the season. He finished with a strong Pro Football Focus grade of 82.3 on defense, displaying an ability to play effective coverage and provide quality run support while taking the first steps in what could be a long, productive career. Linderbaum was another solid pick, stepping into a starting role immediately and serving as the Ravens' No. 1 center for his entire rookie season. Both Linderbaum and Hamilton earned Pro Football Writers of America All-Rookie Team selections. Ojabo made three appearances (including the playoffs) and only logged considerable snaps in one of them (Week 18), but the fact he played at all after tearing his Achilles during his Pro Day workout was an achievement. With one sack recorded, Ojabo briefly demonstrated why the Ravens risked a second-round pick on him. Jones followed a route that was typical of a third-round pick, filling a rotational role and showing occasional flashes of a brighter future -- he finished with 24 tackles and one sack. Faalele didn't see a ton of snaps and thus didn't have much of a chance to show off his skills or improvement. He's a project player at this point. Armour-Davis is another developmental player who arrived with an Alabama pedigree but only played in four games before landing on injured reserve near the end of November. Kolar lost most of his rookie season to sports hernia surgery in August, but he did show off his potential in the final week of the regular season, catching four of six targets for 49 yards. Stout replaced longtime Raven Sam Koch and did a decent job, finishing with a per-punt average of 45.9 yards. Likely's 2022 season was a pleasant surprise; the backup tight end finished with the third-most targets of any pass-catcher on Baltimore's roster, putting up quality numbers (36 catches, 373 yards, three TDs) for a non-starter and shining in place of Mark Andrews when the star wasn't available. Still, Baltimore's passing game wasn't prolific or effective enough to allow Likely to break out. He's a promising second option opposite Andrews.
Baltimore attacked its lack of secondary depth by adding plenty of options at the position in the offseason, and Williams received some early chances to prove his worth. It didn't quite pan out, as his snap totals dropped in the second half of the season, but he has room to grow with the Ravens. Badie missed the final 53-man roster and spent most of his season on the practice squad before signing with Denver in late December. Brown was forced into action due to injuries to Lamar Jackson and Tyler Huntley, and looked very much like a rookie who should have spent 2022 adjusting to the pro game.
- (No. 20) Kenny Pickett, QB, 13 games/12 starts
- (52) George Pickens, WR, 17 games/12 starts
- (84) DeMarvin Leal, DE, 11 games/2 starts
- (208) Connor Heyward, TE, 17 games/0 starts
- (225) Mark Robinson, LB, 4 games/2 starts
- (241) Chris Oladokun, QB, 0 games/0 starts (now w/KC)
Notable free agent signee:
- Jaylen Warren, RB, 16 games/0 starts
It's hard to not love the top of this small class for Pittsburgh. The Steelers selected the local hero, Pickett, then allowed him to learn behind Mitch Trubisky until it became clear Pickett was likely their best option at quarterback. Down the stretch, Pickett sorted out the turnover issues we saw early in the season, impressing onlookers with his decisiveness and composure and leading many to believe he could become the long-term answer at the position. His knack for clutch play sent the Steelers into the offseason with plenty of optimism. A big reason why Pickett's future is so bright is the inclusion in this class of Pickens, a stud receiver who turned heads in camp and made multiple highlight-reel grabs in 2022. It's now easy to understand Pickens' frustration with a lack of early-season opportunities: He's a game-changing, playmaking artist who is destined to become Pittsburgh's No. 1 receiver. He's not yet a household name, but give it time. Pittsburgh hasn't found a fit for Leal yet; in part because of T.J. Watt's pectoral injury, he was stuck somewhere between being a down lineman and a 3-4 outside linebacker. (His knee also sent him to injured reserve midseason.) Until the Steelers firmly decide on his role, it's unfair to expect much from him.
Heyward was one of my favorites at the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine, landing on my All-Combine Team because of the skills he demonstrated during his workouts. Heyward's size (6-foot-0, 230 pounds) precludes him from filling a traditional tight end role, but he could find a place as a fullback/tight end hybrid. When the Steelers needed him to play the latter position late in the season, he shined. The kid can ball -- Pittsburgh just needs to find the best way to use him. Robinson spent most of his rookie season as a healthy scratch, buried behind Myles Jack and Robert Spillane at inside linebacker, logging just 44 defensive snaps. With turnover coming at the position, though, Robinson could soon have a chance to prove his worth. Oladokun missed the final 53-man roster cut and ended up on Kansas City's practice squad. Warren was a pleasant surprise. The powerful, physical spell back rushed 77 times for 379 yards and one touchdown, averaging nearly 5 yards per carry. He's a second option to help take some of the load off Najee Harris -- a necessity, if the team is to maximize Harris' potential in the years ahead.
- (No. 31) Daxton Hill, DB, 15 games/2 starts
- (60) Cam Taylor-Britt, CB, 10 games/9 starts
- (95) Zach Carter, DL, 16 games/9 starts
- (136) Cordell Volson, OL, 16 games/16 starts
- (166) Tycen Anderson, DB, 0 games/0 starts
- (252) Jeff Gunter, DL, 10 games/0 starts
Notable free agent signee:
- Cal Adomitis, LS, 15 games/0 starts
Cincinnati's choice of Hill made logical sense, but they simply didn't use him enough to properly evaluate him: Hill played more snaps on special teams than he did on defense. His value is likely in how he fits the Bengals' long-term plans, potentially as a replacement for Jessie Bates if Bates leaves in free agency. Taylor-Britt was thrown into the lineup following Chidobe Awuzie's season-ending injury, and while he endured some typical rookie struggles (reflected in his defensive grade of 56.1 from PFF), Taylor-Britt also improved down the stretch. Carter's campaign doesn't look great when viewed as a whole, but he finished on a notably strong note, filling a rotational role as Cincinnati's third defensive tackle in a unit that thrived against the run (see: Week 18 and Super Wild Card Weekend against Baltimore). He provides depth and gave Bengals fans reason to be excited about his future. Volson started in every game, initially filling the left guard spot out of necessity, then proving he was worthy of the job. Volson had some early bumps in the road but ended up improving in the second half of the season, named Offensive Rookie of the Year by the team's site. If he can continue to improve, the Bengals will have one less offensive line position to worry about going forward. A two-time All-Mid-American Conference selection at Toledo, Anderson didn't see the field in 2022, landing on injured reserve in early September. Gunter didn't have much playing time defensively, spending most of his 2022 season as a special teamer, save for Week 15 (in which he played 18 defensive snaps). Long snappers usually stay out of the spotlight unless they make a mistake, but Adomitis played in 15 games and handled the inclement weather in Buffalo quite well in the Divisional Round -- so much that he received a game ball following Cincinnati's win.
- (No. 68) M.J. Emerson, CB, 17 games/6 starts
- (78) Alex Wright, DE, 17 games/5 starts
- (99) David Bell, WR, 16 games/3 starts
- (108) Perrion Winfrey, DT, 13 games/0 starts
- (124) Cade York, K, 17 games
- (156) Jerome Ford, RB, 13 games/0 starts
- (202) Michael Woods, WR, 10 games/0 starts
- (223) Isaiah Thomas, DE, 10 games/0 starts
- (246) Dawson Deaton, C, 0 games/0 starts
Notable free agent signees:
- D'Anthony Bell, S, 16 games/2 starts
- Ben Stille, DT, 7 games/1 start
Drafted for his length, the 6-foot-2 Emerson quietly compiled a quality season for a rookie corner. He was consistently effective in tough matchups, blanketing Steelers rookie George Pickens one-on-one and effectively eliminating Buccaneers star Mike Evans in Week 12. Other rookie corners (e.g., Defensive Rookie of the Year Sauce Gardner and Tariq Woolen) received more attention, but Emerson was right behind them in terms of performance; he gives the Browns another trusty option among their talented corners. Wright played more often than most likely expected and made a minor impact that was more noticeable on tape than the stat sheet, but he still has plenty of room to improve. Bell arrived as a developmental replacement for Jarvis Landry in the slot, but injuries hampered the start to his pro career. He began finding his footing, but his evaluation is incomplete, due to a lack of opportunity (he finished with 24 receptions on 35 targets). Winfrey's highlight tape got Browns fans excited coming in, but while he could occasionally overpower some blockers in pass-rushing situations, he showed he's not yet consistent enough to be counted upon to make a significant difference inside. York began his Browns career by nailing a 58-yard field goal to help secure the team's second season-opening win since returning to the NFL in 1999. He had an up-and-down year, converting 75 percent of field-goal attempts and notably missing two extra-point tries (including one that led to a 1-point Browns loss in Week 2), but he started to settle in late in the season.
The Browns had too many running backs on the roster to give Ford ample snaps, but they did work him into the return game, where he proved to be dangerous. The preseason star should see more action in 2023 after veteran back Kareem Hunt's expected departure. The Browns had a clear need at receiver throughout much of 2022; that issue perhaps overshadowed the very few glimpses of Woods' talent we saw. He caught just five passes, with his longest going for 15 yards, and injuries got in the way, but there might be something there. The high point of Thomas' season came in a Monday Night Football game against Cincinnati, when he powered through the outside shoulder of Jonah Williams with a rip move and sacked Joe Burrow. Outside of that, there wasn't a whole lot to say, other than that he's another player who looked better on tape than on the stat sheet. Deaton suffered a season-ending injury before the start of the campaign. Bell served almost exclusively as a special teamer until the end of the season, finishing with 14 tackles. Signed off the Dolphins' practice squad in November, Stille filled an unexpected rotational role, peaking at 28 defensive snaps played in Week 11.