Players who are drafted in the first and second rounds of the NFL draft have lofty expectations placed upon them. Their first season in the league can play out a multitude of ways but one of the most unfortunate ways for any player’s season to end is through injury.
“Second year players have a tremendous opportunity to build on their rookie year, including participating in their first offseason program,” says former NFL General Manager Mike Tannenbaum. “This is further amplified by rookies who were injured during their initial seasons.
“Players such as Caleb Farley should benefit from this extended time to give himself the foundation to have a meaningful opportunity to play his entire second season.
“Bringing them along slowly (obviously depending on where they are in their rehab) is paramount as you don’t want any setbacks.”
Below is a list of some of the first and second round rookies from the 2021 class who missed significant time due to injury:
Tennessee Titans Cornerback Caleb Farley
Caleb Farley was the 22nd overall pick for the Titans in the 2021 draft. He played in three games in 2021 before suffering a season ending ACL tear, the second ACL tear of his football career (suffered an ACL tear at Virginia as well).
Farley saw just 37 coverage snaps in 2021 and allowed 7 receptions for 75 yards and 6 first downs. Tennessee released veteran Janoris Jenkins this offseason, clearing the way for Farley to return with a starting role for 2022. Tennessee also has a trio of young cornerbacks with Kristian Fulton, Elijah Molden, and Farley slotted to start in 2022.
An interesting note for Tennessee: Their 2020 and 2021 first-round draft picks have combined to play in 4 games since they’ve been drafted. Farley struggled with injuries throughout college and dealt with serious back issues in the pre-draft process. His ability to stay healthy this year will be of significant importance to the Titans and for his career.
Carolina Panthers Cornerback Jaycee Horn
Jaycee Horn is the highest draft pick on this list. He was selected 8th overall by the Carolina Panthers and played three games before suffering a foot injury that cost him the rest of his rookie season.
Horn played 94 coverage snaps and allowed just one reception on six targets. He’s a hyper aggressive cornerback who plays with fluidity and physicality which allows him to excel in man coverage. He’ll immediately slide back into Carolina’s starting defense as an outside cornerback.
CJ Henderson, Donte Jackson, and Horn are one of the more intriguing young cornerback groups in the NFL.
Jacksonville Jaguars Running Back Travis Etienne
Travis Etienne was the 25th overall pick in the 2021 draft by the Jaguars. He missed his entire rookie season due to a foot injury, but is on track to be ready for the start of the 2022 NFL season.
Etienne has great contact balance and body control and pairs it with long speed and explosiveness to make him a big play threat anytime he touches the ball. In his final year at Clemson he averaged 7.2 yards per carry and 11.2 yards per reception. His ability to create yards will be welcomed by his former teammate Trevor Lawrence.
New Orleans EDGE Payton Turner
Payton Turner missed most of the 2021 season due to shoulder and calf injuries. The former 28th overall pick played 168 snaps his rookie season, with 111 of those snaps coming as a pass rusher.
Turner recorded a 10.8% pressure percentage on those snaps (per PFF) and flashed his potential in Week 2 against Carolina when he totaled 6 pressures, 5 hurries, and a sack. With Cam Jordan turning 33 this July, Turner could be viewed as his successor and will likely continue to be used on passing downs in 2022 as a situational pass rusher.
Packers Center Josh Myers
Josh Myers missed a majority of his rookie season in 2021 due to a combination of injuries in his legs. He tore his MCL and had a tibial plateau fracture week 6 against Chicago. He missed 10 games but was able to return for Week 18 and the Divisional Round playoff game against San Francisco.
The 2021 second round pick was drafted as the successor to Corey Linsley, and in these seven games he allowed just a 4.2% pressure rate on 214 pass blocking snaps. Returning to the lineup for a full 17 games, as the starting center, will be essential for his continued development and for a Packers offensive line that lost right tackle Billy Turner and Lucas Patrick to free agency.
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