Year in and year out there are always surprises breakout players in the NFL. A lot of players who didn’t get much recognition the previous year are overlooked heading into the next season for a multitude of reasons: being a late round draft pick, being too far down the depth chart, or just needing extra time to learn and develop. So many players go under the radar but their drive and competitiveness push them to perform in a way that brings them into the spotlight. Here is a list of some potential unexpected breakout players for 2022.
Okwara improved his sophomore season in 2021 with 5 sacks, 12 hurries, and 4 QB hits. That’s good enough for a 76.8 pass rush grade by PFF with a 16.2% win rate. Okwara showed the pass rushing ability and despite adding edge rush in the draft, look to find Okwara progress even more and make a bigger impact in 2022.
Hamler has struggled with injuries his first two seasons but it’s tough to ignore the potential. He has the speed and quick twitch to be a nightmare matchup and blow the top off a defense. Prior to his season-ending ACL injury, Hamler had 5 receptions for 74 which averages around 15 yards a catch. Russell Wilson is now the QB in Denver and he has long been one of the best deep ball passers in the NFL. Watch for Hamler to have a breakout season in 2022.
Odum comes to San Francisco after having been a key contributor in Indianapolis for his special teams play and on defense. Per PFF, Odum had an 84.8 special team grade and 62.9 defensive grade. He signed a three-year, $9.5MM contact to be the starting safety for San Francisco. Look for Odum to show out even more carrying the bulk of the defensive snaps in 2022.
Deablo is another player who was a special team standout last year for the Raiders. He posted a 76.3 grade by PFF. He did not get many snaps on defensive last year, but they increased late into the season. In the snaps he had, he posted a 71.8 run defense grade and a 67.9 pass rush grade. If he is able to develop his coverage skills he can be a dominant linebacker.
Walker is another linebacker whose play on special teams earned him reps at linebacker. He played more consistently each game throughout the year but look to see him be an every down LB in 2022 with Foyesade Oluokun departing in free agency. Walker posted a 65.6 special teams grade along with a 71.3 defensive grade in 2021 by PFF. His coverage skills for a linebacker are also to be noted as he graded out at a 69.6.
The former third round pick hauled in 34 receptions for 571 yards in 2021. He had a 62.9 overall offensive grade, according to PFF. Edwards ended up being in a pretty crowded skill group that included Darren Waller, Hunter Renfrow, and Zay Jones. Edwards is now on the Falcons and part of a receiving corps that consists of Olamide Zaccheaus, who has 795 career receiving yards in his three seasons, and the eighth overall pick of the 2022 Draft, Drake London. Look for Bryan Edwards to be a center point of the offense for Marcus Mariota in 2022.