Breakout Candidates for the 2022 NFL Season
NFL training camp is officially underway, and the count down to opening night is on. As teams begin training camp after an offseason full of player transactions, coaches and front offices will be looking to see if the big-time player they traded for will produce, or which players will step up and fill the void left by the departures of some of the NFL's best. That being said, let's take a look at a few players who are poised to have a breakout season.
Rashod Bateman, WR: Baltimore Ravens
Bateman was selected by Baltimore in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft but missed the beginning of his rookie season due to an injury. Appearing in just twelve games a season ago, Bateman recorded forty-six receptions, five-hundred and fifteen yards, and just one touchdown. Going into year two, Bateman is fully healthy and sits atop of the receiver depth chart in Baltimore. Bateman will be poised for an expanded role this season after the departure of long-time Ravens wideout Marquise Brown. With Brown now in Arizona, the Ravens will need someone to make up for his production a season ago as his departure also vacated ninety-one receptions, over one thousand yards, and six touchdowns.
Gabriel Davis, WR: Buffalo Bills
Davis exploded during last season’s AFC Divisional matchup against the Chiefs with eight receptions for two hundred and one yards and four touchdowns. After the Bills lost both Cole Beasley and Emmanuel Sanders this offseason, Davis will now have a larger role in the Bills’ high-powered offense. Although Davis will still be the second option to All-Pro Stefon Diggs, Davis has sky-high expectations leading into the 2022-2023 season and could be in store for a career-altering season.
Cole Kmet, TE: Chicago Bears
Kmet goes into his third NFL season after an interesting 2021 season in which Kmet recorded great numbers, but was unable to get into the endzone. Kmet comes off an impressive sophomore campaign, tallying sixty-three catches for over six hundred yards, good for second most on the Bears, as the Notre Dame product was one of Justin Fields’ favorite targets. As Fields goes into year two with a rather weak receiving corps, Kmet is expected to continue to have a large target share and be a pivotal piece to Chicago’s offense this season.
Devin Singletary, RB: Buffalo Bills
Singletary had to spend most of the 2021-2022 season sharing the backfield with then-teammate Matt Breida, and current Bills running back Zack Moss. However, when Singletary was put into the role of the team’s lead back, he shined. Singletary ran for over eighty-five yards in three of the last four regular-season matchups for the Bills and continued to hold a small role in the passing game. Buffalo selected Georgia’s James Cook in the second round of the 2022 draft, and the rookie is expected to be more involved in the passing game than Singletary yet, Singletary is still in line to be the lead back for Buffalo’s rushing attack.
Trey Lance, QB: San Francisco 49ers
Lance was selected with the third overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, and after a rookie season that was spent mostly backing up QB Jimmy Garoppolo, Lance is set to take over as the man under center full-time. During his rookie season, Lance appeared in six games, recording over six-hundred yards passing and six total touchdowns. As the 49ers QB1 for the 2022-2023 season, expectations for Lance are high. However, with the weapons Lance is equipped with, he’s in the perfect position to burst onto the scene in 2022.
Tua Tagovailoa, QB: Miami Dolphins
Tagovailoa is entering year three in Miami but now begins his first season in his young career where there are Super Bowl expectations. After the Dolphins drafted Tua fifth overall in the 2020 NFL Draft, their next goal was to build their offense around him. Miami did so, drafting Tua’s college teammate and receiver Jaylen Waddle, who in year one had a record-breaking season. Miami had mild success in building the offense other than drafting Waddle, until this offseason when Miami made one of the biggest blockbuster trades of the summer, by acquiring Tyreek Hill from Kansas City. The speedy wideout has been one of the best deep threats and receivers in general in the NFL over the last few seasons with the Chiefs, and Miami is hoping he can propel their offense and help take Tua to the next level. The explosive combination of Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle will be difficult to stop this season, as Tua and the Dolphins look to win their first division title since 2008.
Rashaad Penny, RB: Seattle Seahawks
Penny, a former first-round pick of Seattle, wasn’t featured much in Seattle’s offense in his first three seasons in the NFL. Towards the end of the 2021-2022 season, however, Penny became the lead back in Seattle’s offense, and he put up big numbers. In four of Seattle’s last five regular season games, Penny had at least fifteen touches, one-hundred, and thirty-five total yards or more, and at least one touchdown. With Chris Carson having just announced his retirement from the NFL, Penny’s only real competition in the running game is 2022 second-round pick Kenneth Walker III from Michigan State. It’s expected that Penny will open training camp and begin the season as Seattle’s lead back, with Walker competing for the number two slot on the depth chart.
Allen Lazard, WR: Green Bay Packers
Green Bay made arguably the most shocking move of the offseason, by trading All-Pro receiver and Aaron Rodgers’ favorite target, in DaVante Adams. As a result, the Packers receiving corps took a big hit, and a unit that already was amongst the weakest in the league got even weaker. Going into training camp, Lazard is listed as the number one receiver on the depth chart and could become Aaron Rodgers’ new ‘go-to’ guy. Lazard posted career highs in every category a season ago, including touchdowns, with eight last season. With one-hundred and twenty-three catches, over fifteen hundred yards, and eleven touchdowns vacated from the Packers’ offense, Green Bay is likely to lean heavily on Lazard as well as rookie Christian Watson.
*All stats were received from ESPN's Stats & Info. Department