With the start of a new season fast approaching, there will be many players who have their “breakout” season and rise to prominence within the league. There are also a lot of new faces in new places that will allow many to show discernible improvement. Here we take a look at the 5 players who could make their first Pro Bowl in 2022.
Miami Dolphins TE Mike Gesicki
The Dolphins have made major additions to their offense this offseason, to help surround their QB with the talent necessary to ascend to the next level. The obvious one is bringing in Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill to pair with second year WR Jaylen Waddle as options for Tua Tagovailoa in the passing game. The underrated “signing” is bringing back TE Mike Gesicki, who the franchise tag was used on this past offseason. Gesicki has been a bright spot for the Dolphins organization since being drafted in the second round of the 2018 Draft. He has grown as a pass catcher and a reliable option in the passing game every season he has been in the NFL.
Last season, Gesicki accumulated 73 receptions on 112 targets, for 10.7 yards per reception, but only two TDs. The next step in his progression is being the go-to option in the red zone for Tua. Opposing defenses will have to deal with more talent on the field with the Dolphins offense, with the improvement at WR, and RB. This will allow Gesicki to see more 1-on-1 mismatches where he can use his combination of strength and speed to outrun LBs and his height (6-foot-6) to outplay safeties in the air. Last season, the Dolphins red zone touchdown percentage sat at 13th in the league with a 61.22% TD percentage when playing in the red area. The majority of the teams listed above them on the 2021 list were playoff teams, including, but not limited to: Buffalo, Tampa Bay, San Francisco, Dallas, New England, and Kansas City. The Tight Ends in the 2021 Pro Bowl: Kelce, Waller, Hockenson, and Engram, averaged over double the number of TDs as Gesicki did in 2021. He will have to play at a high level with the top talent at TE in the AFC being stronger than that in the NFC.
Cleveland Browns WR Donovan Peoples-Jones
The new look Browns will feature a much different receiving core than they did at the start of 2021. With Landry going to the Saints, Beckham in the mid-year acquisition to the Rams, and the arrival of Amari Cooper, the Browns are starved for a WR2. While they did draft David Bell in the 3rd round, the former 5-star WR, and 6th round pick out of Michigan, Donovan Peoples-Jones will have the first crack at the spot. Deshaun Watson will lead the Browns offense (although a potential suspension is looming) with their blockbuster trade to acquire him this offseason.
In his time in Houston, Watson has shown a propensity to push the ball downfield. This will help DPJ’s development as he wins with his deceptive route running, long speed and ability to play at catch point. In his first two seasons as a Browns player, he averaged 18.8 yards per receptions, and fell just 3 yards short of 600 this past season. While Peoples-Jones will need to work on his hands, (4 drops on 62 targets), he can be the deep option for Watson. While Watson started for Houston, he had Will Fuller, who struggled with health, as his deep threat. During these years, Fuller averaged 14.9 yards per reception and 24 TDs, but only cracked 11 games started once (his rookie season).
Kansas City Chiefs OC Creed Humphrey
Potentially the biggest Pro Bowl “snub” in 2021 should find his name on the Pro Bowl roster after this upcoming season. In over 800 pass blocking snaps in his rookie season on the Chiefs OL, he allowed only 1 QB Hit (1 sack) and allowed a 1.5% pressure rate on these snaps. This is the 2nd lowest pressure% in the NFL last season with over 300 pass protection snaps (only behind Rodney Hudson, who played about half as many snaps).
Credit to the Chiefs for their OL turnaround in one season, seemingly hitting on Humphrey, Trey Smith and bringing in Joe Thuney (also top 6 in pressure% allowed). Humphrey has a background in wrestling which helps with his quick feet, leverage, and re-anchor. In the second round, it seems as though the Chiefs got a franchise OC for years to come.
Detroit Lions CB Amani Oruwariye
After finishing the season with the second worst record in football, the Detroit Lions had the #2 overall pick, in which they brought in hometown favorite Aidan Hutchinson. They completed the draft by bringing in 2 other players who can play from Day 1 in Jameson Williams, the WR from Alabama and Kerby Joseph, the Safety out of Illinois. While it hasn’t and won’t get the credit it deserves, the Lions have a formidable secondary, due in part to the emergence of Amani Oruwariye. They will get the return of former 1st round pick Jeff Okudah to pair with DeShon Elliot, and Tracy Walker (a spot that could end up being Joseph’s sooner rather than later).
Oruwariye was their de-facto CB1 last season in which he fared well. He allowed only 2 TDs and snagged 6 INTs in the process of allowing 1.1 yards per coverage snap. While these aren’t gaudy numbers in the likes of Humphrey, he allowed only .1 more yards per coverage snap than Jalen Ramsey while bringing in 2 more INTs and allowing 1 less TD. Comparing this to 2021 Pro Bowl invite, Trevon Diggs, who emerged with his playmaking ability, he allowed over 500 less receiving yards, and .52 yards per coverage snap. If he can continue his playmaking ability from last year and can cut down on allowing the big plays, from last year (18 receptions of 15+ yards, the 6th most amongst CBs with 300+ coverage snaps), he has a chance to make a Pro Bowl.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers DE Joe Tryon-Shoyinka
The Tampa Buccaneers have had an interesting offseason, to say the least, with their franchise QB retiring, then un-retiring as well as their head coach stepping down, moving into a managerial role and the defense coordinator taking his place. They have also had some turnover on defense with Ndamukong Suh and Jason Pierre-Paul, not re-signing with the team. This allows for 2021 1st round pick, Joe Tryon-Shoyinka to step in and take the role as a pass rusher on defense.
On an extremely talented defense, Tryon-Shoyinka will have plenty of opportunities to rush 1-on-1 against a tackle or a guard. Last season, he had a pass rush win rate of 11.6% last season, and a 10.2% pressure percentage. Both the pressure percentage and the pass rush win rate were higher than Suh and JPP, by a significant margin. Along the defensive line, he finished 4th in pressures generated, and had the 5th highest pressure percentage on the 2021 Buccaneers. Pressures and pressure percentage are both statistically significant to future sack rate, which could bode well for Tryon-Shoyinka in 2022.