Every new NFL season produces its fair share of rookie players. The nature of the NFL draft, which sees the best college players promoted to the professional ranks, means that many will be featuring for the very first time.
2022/23 is no exception, but who are the new players who have stood out?
The Drama of 2022
It’s been another thrilling campaign in American football’s top flight and one that culminated in the Super Bowl showdown between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Kansas City Chiefs at the start of February. While the NFL odds suggested the KC Chiefs would be in the hunt all season, their victory was still about as dramatic as they come.
The entertainment on the field has been embraced off the pitch. Viewing figures for each live NFL game remain high, while around 100 million Americans are set to watched the Super Bowl itself.
Associated industries continue to benefit. TV revenue is strong, while the spread of sports betting in the USA means that there are more Moneyline, Futures and NFL point spread betting markets than ever before.
Established players have the biggest roles to play, but there is scope for younger players to contribute and many have made their mark in 2022.
Sauce Gardner: New York Jets
The number four pick in the 2022 NFL draft, Sauce Gardner is one player who certainly delivered on his potential. The 22-year-old New York Jets Cornerback returned some impressive stats which included 75 tackles, 2 interceptions and 20 pass deflections.
Those 20 pass break ups put him tied at the top of the entire NFL table. The only man who could match him was the LA Rams’ Jalen Ramsay who has been playing professionally since 2016.
He has a big future ahead of him, and many feel that Sauce Gardner is already the best Cornerback in the NFL.
Brock Purdy: San Francisco 49ers
Not many quarterbacks get a chance to shine in their rookie season, but Brock Purdy was always going to be different. He was picked up, almost as an afterthought by the San Francisco 49ers who claimed him as the 262nd overall draft pick.
Purdy repaid the 49ers belated faith with a stunning debut campaign. He returned 1,374 passing yards with 13 touchdown throws and 65.3 QBRs.
The rookie QB only got his chance due to an injury to first choice Jimmy Garappolo. During his stint in the team, he proved to be more mobile than his experienced team mate and San Francisco will have difficult choices to make moving forward when both men are fit.
Chris Olave: New Orleans Saints
Rookie wide receivers may also be made to wait their turn after breaking into the NFL. However, with Chris Olave being claimed as the number 11 pick overall, he would have been expecting to get some game time.
New Orleans Saints gave the youngster his opportunity and he gleefully accepted it. It’s generally accepted that receiver is the toughest position for those college football players transitioning into the professional ranks.
Olave made that leap and he also became the go to man for Saints quarterbacks across much of the season. He finished the 2022 campaign with 1,042 yards under his belt and he also ran in four touchdowns. Expect to see much more of Chris Olave in 2023.
Aidan Hutchinson: Detroit Lions
Defensive ends are the rocks on which NFL teams are built, so there is great responsibility for any young players crossing into the professional ranks. Rookie DE Aidan Hutchinson took on the role admirably and he should develop into the Lions’ regular first choice in 2023 and beyond.
In his debut season, Detroit’s new man returned some exceptional stats after being drafted as the number two pick. He made 52 tackles, completed 9.5 sacks, while adding three interceptions and two fumble recoveries.
He also led the list of rookies with 42 pressures and will have a pivotal role to play moving forward.
Kenneth Walker III: Seattle Seahawks
Running backs were well represented in the draft and Seattle claimed Kenneth Walker as the number 41 pick. From a relatively modest ranking, the rookie proved his worth with 228 carries, 1,050 rushing yards, 27 catches, 165 receiving yards and nine touchdowns.
Early season promise meant that Walker quickly became a first choice for the Seahawks in their back field. He’s strongly built and carries an imposing presence which should lead to a big future in the game.
Laying the Platform
In 2023, we will see another new crop of rookie players joining the professional NFL ranks. Some, especially those who appear in the first round of draft picks, will have a big reputation to live up to. Others, who are ranked further down the pecking order, have the capacity to punch above their weight.
Not everyone will make it, but there is scope for the next crop of youngsters to come through and make a real name for themselves in the NFL.