With 2022 NFL training camps now here, we’re starting to get an idea of how these draft classes will impact each roster this fall.
In this series, we’’ll break down the most likely instant-impact rookies from each class, while also providing some insight into why certain early picks may not see the field.
And while we won’t assign a specific grade to each draft class, we’ll offer a quick assessment of the overall draft haul for each team and some thoughts on their draft process.
Chicago Bears Rookie Class Impact for 2022
Former GM Ryan Pace put the Bears in a bad spot entering this draft with limited resources, but his replacement, Ryan Poles, was aggressive in trading down to acquire more assets and ended up with 11 selections.
Kyler Gordon (second round) will likely start immediately at outside cornerback. His experience in Washington’s zone-heavy coverage scheme should allow for a smooth transition into Matt Eberflus’s defense.
Gordon’s strength is his ability to locate and play the ball in coverage, as he generated a ball-hawk rate 67% above expected last season based on route-adjusted data.
Gordon will be joined in the secondary by Jaquan Brisker (second round), who will also likely start as a rookie.
Brisker primarily played in the box in 2021 at Penn State, but spent his early years in the deep secondary and will likely shift back to that role in Eberflus’s defense which used two-high looks 45% of the time last year in Indianapolis.
Velus Jones Jr. (third round) will immediately compete for reps due to the Bears’ unimpressive depth chart at receiver.
Jones’s strength is his ability to produce after the catch, as he generated 30% more yards after the catch than expected based on route-adjusted data in 2021.
On Day 3, the Bears added four offensive linemen. None of the rookie linemen are expected to compete for starting roles and it’s possible some don’t even make the roster 一 but that’s why Poles stocked up on Day 3 selections. The Bears desperately needed quality depth, and more selections increase the chances some options emerge in training camp.
Dominique Robinson (fifth round) may have the most upside among Chicago’s Day 3 crew and could contribute immediately as a pass-rusher in sub-packages. Robinson generated a 15% pressure rate last season at Miami (OH) and posted strong testing numbers at the combine.
Trestan Ebner (sixth round) could compete for snaps out in the backfield, specifically on passing downs. Ebner had over 1,500 receiving yards on 160 targets during his career at Baylor.
The Bears also landed a new punter, Trenton Gill (seventh round), who will start immediately. Unlike some overaggressive front offices, Poles was wise to wait until his final selection to address his special teams needs. On punts inside his own 40-yard line, Gill averaged 49.6 yards per punt, which ranked ninth in the nation. His big leg should play well in Chicago.
Although this draft class won’t dramatically alter Chicago’s immediate future, Poles took a smart approach to the rebuilding process by aggressively trading back to load up on Day 3 selections.
The Bears likely landed a couple of immediate starters in Brisker and Gordon, but Poles’s intention heading into this draft was clearly to overhaul the back end of the roster. The added depth should help improve the team’s consistency, and the size of this class increases the odds Chicago landed a couple steals on Day 3.
It appears as though Poles is taking a smart, patient approach to rebuilding this franchise. The turnaround won’t be fast, but this class was an indication the team is following a process which has been proven to work.
Detroit Lions Rookie Class Impact for 2022
Detroit was ecstatic when Jacksonville selected Travon Walker, allowing Aidan Hutchinson (first round) to fall into their lap. Just like last year when Penei Sewell fell to them with the seventh pick, the Lions benefitted from others making riskier selections at the top of the draft.
Hutchinson is often described as a safe prospect 一 which is true 一 but don’t mistake that for a lack of upside. Hutchinson led the Big Ten with an 18.1% pressure rate last season, and should immediately improve Detroit’s pass rush.
GM Brad Holmes made his first truly aggressive move since taking over in 2021 by trading up for Jameson Williams (first round). In a poor draft class, especially due to the lack of quarterbacks, teams moving down had to accept less than market value for their picks 一 and Holmes took advantage of this opportunity to move up 20 slots for Williams.
Williams brings an explosive skill set to the Lions’ offense which should complement Amon-Ra St. Brown well. Based on route-adjusted data, Williams generated 39% more yards after the catch than expected.
Josh Paschal (second round) is a versatile defensive lineman, but was a surprising selection following the addition of Levi Onwuzurike last year. Like Onwuzurike, Paschal can play inside or on the edge, but offers limited pass-rush ability on the outside. When lined up on the edge, Pascal generated a 12.6% pressure rate, good for 12th in the SEC.
The Lions already have a crowded depth chart on the defensive line, so the selection of Paschal was likely about landing the best available player in their eyes. He doesn’t appear to have a path to significant immediate playing time.
Kerby Joseph (third round) will compete with Will Harris for a starting job at safety. Joseph played almost exclusively in the deep secondary and he’ll likely see significant action there if he wins the job 一 Detroit used two-high formations on 41% of snaps in 2021.
James Mitchell (fifth round) slid down draft boards due to a torn ACL which ended his 2021 campaign. If healthy, he would have likely been a top-100 pick as one of the few tight ends in this class with a legitimate track record as a pass-catching weapon.
Based on route-adjusted data, Mitchell picked up 29% more yards after the catch than expected during his career. If he returns to full strength, he should emerge as an excellent second option at tight end behind T.J. Hockenson.
Malcolm Rodriguez (sixth round) is the perfect selection for Dan Campbell. Although he’s undersized, Rodriguez was a four-year starter and two-time team captain at Oklahoma State. At worst, Rodriguez will excel in a role on special teams, but he’ll also be given an opportunity to compete with Jarrad Davis and Derrick Barnes for a starting job. James Houston (sixth round) could potentially factor into that competition as well, though he’s more likely to see action as a situational pass-rusher.
The Lions closed out their draft by taking a flier on the undersized Chase Lucas (seventh round). Lucas allowed a catch rate 13% below expected last season as an outside cornerback, but will likely be groomed for a role in the slot.
Although Holmes has only been with Detroit through two draft classes, he’s making a case to be mentioned about the savviest GMs on draft weekend. For the most part, he lets the board come to him 一 but also took advantage of an opportunity to trade up for Williams when a favorable deal was on the table.
The Lions appear to be in good hands for this rebuilding process, and the 2022 draft class should push them a step closer to competing in the NFC North.
Green Bay Packers Rookie Class Impact for 2022
The story of the Packers’ draft was how they addressed the wide receiver position. Although Green Bay landed three prospects, none of the rookies appear to be suited for an immediate role.
Green Bay traded up for Christian Watson (second round), who fits the mold of receiver GM Brian Gutekunst covets as a tall, faster weapon on the outside. However, he’s a work-in-progress, coming from North Dakota State with minimal production against quality competition.
As a prospect who is still developing as a route-runner, it’s difficult to imagine Aaron Rodgers feeling comfortable integrating Watson into a significant role in the offense in 2022. Romeo Doubs (fourth round) and Samaori Toure (seventh round) each fit into the same mold as Watson and should be given a similar opportunity to compete for playing time. Doubs has been getting all of the attention in training camp.
Despite being the last of the three selected, Toure’s experience in the slot should give him a genuine opportunity to earn reps early in his career as the Packers attempt to replace Davante Adams. Toure was a weapon after the catch last season at Nebraska, picking up 25% more yards after the catch than expected based on route-adjusted data.
The Packers’ decision to triple up on receivers was likely due to their inability to land one in the first round. As the run on receivers happened earlier than expected, Green Bay was left to select Quay Walker (first round) with its first pick.
Walker is a talented athlete, but may not have the traits needed to be a green-dot defender in an NFL defense. This perception made his selection moderately surprising, as it limits his value, although the Packers do have experienced green-dot linebackers on the roster in De’Vondre Campbell and Krys Barnes.
Devonte Wyatt (first round) was also a surprise first-round selection due to a history of off-field issues. From a talent perspective though, he was an obvious target for Green Bay due to his ability to upgrade their porous run defense. Green Bay allowed 4.1 yards per attempt when opposing offenses ran up the middle last season, which ranked 28th.
Sean Rhyan (third round) provides valuable versatility and depth to the Packers’ offensive line. While he was a three-year starter at left tackle for UCLA, Rhyan’s build and skill set should allow for a transition to guard.
Rhyan could potentially push Royce Newman for his job at right guard or compete with Elgton Jenkins to replace Billy Turner at right tackle. Zach Tom (fourth round) could also factor into those competitions, though he is a better athlete than Rhyan and likely the better fit at tackle.
Kingsley Enagbare (fifth round) saw his stock plummet after a poor combine workout, but his production as a pass-rusher in the SEC can’t be overlooked. Enagbare finished second in the SEC with a 19% pressure rate last season. He’ll provide valuable depth on the edge and help replace Za’Darius Smith’s production.
Tariq Carpenter (seventh round) is among the most exciting late-round picks based on raw talent. He’s a hybrid linebacker/safety who should immediately excel on special teams, but could potentially develop into a dynamic weapon on Joe Barry’s defense. Green Bay has not used a Carpenter-like defender in recent years, so it will be fun to see how Barry attempts to incorporate him into their scheme.
In 2016, while with Washington, Barry attempted to develop Su’a Cravens (a second-round rookie) with a similar skill set. Cravens didn’t pan out, but it’s possible that experience will help Barry in his efforts to develop Carpenter.
Green Bay’s inability to land a top-tier receiver hangs as a dark cloud over this draft class 一 especially if Watson doesn’t quickly develop into an impact weapon. Although it’s fair to say the Packers were smart not to reach for a receiver once the top few were off the board, Gutekunst certainly deserves blame for his inability, or unwillingness, to trade up to address a glaring need for a potential championship-caliber roster.
The Packers ultimately used 11 picks in the draft, but likely lack the roster space to stash all those prospects. That extra draft capital will likely go to waste, and could have been spent in an effort to acquire a weapon with immediate-impact potential.
That criticism aside, it’s easy to be optimistic about many of the developmental prospects Green Bay landed. Gutekunst did not take the best approach to improve this roster for the 2022 season, but he did land a slew of prospects with the potential to develop into quality starters.
Minnesota Vikings Rookie Class Impact for 2022
In his first draft as GM, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah aggressively used his draft capital to trade down and acquire extra picks. This was a necessary approach to the draft, as the Vikings have many holes to fill but must work around Kirk Cousins’s massive contract, which represents the league’s third-largest cap hit in 2022.
Rather than select either Kyle Hamilton or Trent McDuffie 一 both players strongly linked to the Vikings prior to the draft 一 Adofo-Mensah’s trades allowed the team to address both positions early with Lewis Cine (first round) and Andrew Booth (second round).
Cine gives the Vikings another versatile safety to pair with Harrison Smith. Although he mostly played a free safety role at Georgia 一 he lined up in the box on just 8% of his snaps versus the run 一 Cine is a reliable tackler and should be able to handle a more diverse role.
Booth was a five-star recruit at Clemson who flashed elite skills but never fully met expectations at Clemson. In 2021, his play took a step backward and he allowed a catch rate 11% above expected based on route-adjusted data. When Booth was in man coverage last season (only 17% of his snaps), it did not go well 一 he allowed six receptions on 12 targets, including two touchdowns.
Booth also has a long history of injuries 一 he was unable to practice at mini-camp in May due to a recent hernia surgery 一 so he was a risky selection, despite the raw talent. If healthy, Booth should compete with Cameron Dantzler for a starting job on the outside.
Akayleb Evans (fourth round) could also factor into that competition. After four years at Tulsa, the 6-foot-2 Evans transferred to Missouri where he allowed a catch rate 7% below expected in 2021.
Evans also benefits from having played 44% of his snaps in man coverage last season, which should make for an easier transition to Ed Donatell’s defense. Last year in Denver, Donatell used man coverage at the league’s third-highest rate.
The Vikings made a controversial decision to draft Ed Ingram (second round) who faced two felony counts of aggravated and sexual assault of a minor, stemming from incidents alleged to have occurred when Ingram was in high school.
By drafting a player like Ingram 一 earlier than he was expected to be selected 一 Adofo-Mensah gave an indication as to the type of risk-taker he may be as a general manager. Off-field questions aside, Ingram adds depth to the Vikings’ interior offensive line and he will likely compete for the starting job at right guard.
Brian Asamoah (third round) will also have an opportunity to compete with Jordan Hicks for playing time and the team likely hopes he can replace Hicks by 2023. Hicks was signed to a two-year contract this offseason, but with little money guaranteed beyond 2022.
Esezi Otomewo (fifth round) adds some depth to the defensive line and should be an ideal fit in Donatell’s scheme. Last season with the Broncos, Donatell used just two down linemen on 70% of snaps. Otomewo’s skill set compares favorably to Dre’Mont Jones, whose versatility along the defensive line made him a valuable asset for Donatell in Denver.
The Vikings took some risks in this draft class 一 most notably Booth and Ingram 一 but Adofo-Mensah’s aggressive trading allowed him to acquire extra picks to address multiple areas of need. Minnesota could have as many as three rookies starting in 2022 (Cine, Booth, Ingram) with others providing valuable depth.