Every year we see players have seasons that were unexpected or surprising. We also see players that did not contribute the year prior who do in the current year. This could be due to injury, production, scheme change, team make-up, depth chart, etc. Here are 5 players who could have a much bigger impact in 2022 than they did in ‘21.
Ravens RB J.K. Dobbins
2021: Torn ACL (did not play a single snap in the 2021 season)
2022: This season, Dobbins will be a featured back in the Ravens offense entering his third season and second full year in the NFL. In his first season, he rushed for 6.0 yards per attempt while collecting a total of 805 yards, and 9 TDs with 18 receptions. Last season, Dobbins tore his ACL in training camp, and the Ravens rolled into 2021 with multiple backs starting in their offense. They still ran the ball over 515 times (5th in the NFL) and targeted running backs 82 times on passes.
While the full load will not go to Dobbins, it is expected that he will be the starting running back while being spelled by Gus Edwards, who is also returning from injury. With Lamar Jackson healthy, the Ravens will have a formidable offense that showcases an improved OL, a unique star QB, and a young roster of receiving weapons after trading Marquise Brown. They drafted two pass catching TEs in the 4th round to back up veterans Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle, signifying that they may be looking to roll out even more heavy packages than before.
Dobbins will be a substantial part of the Ravens offense on their path towards the playoffs after missing it last season.
Panthers CB Jaycee Horn
2021: Broken Foot (started 3 games in rookie season — IR for rest of year)
2022: In his rookie season, Jaycee Horn played in the first three games before his injury against the Texans. Horn allowed 1 reception on 6 targets, for 8 yards and a TD, as the primary CB1 on the Panthers defense. He was carving his path towards a tremendous rookie season prior to the injury.
Now, coming back in 2022, Horn is set to reclaim his post as the CB1 in Carolina. Horn had an INT and dropped another one in his rookie campaign. The Panthers are desperate for playmakers on the backend of their defense as they had only 9 INTs (26th in the NFL) last season.
Outside of turnovers, the Panthers were strong in the secondary, allowing the 4th least passing yards against, and the 6th least net yards per pass attempt. Adding Horn to this mix makes them one of the top three secondaries in the NFL if they are able to replicate their success from last season.
Steelers QB Mitch Trubisky
2021: Josh Allen back-up in Buffalo — 6/8, 43 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT / 13 rushes, 24 yards, 1 TD
2022: Trubisky was the backup option to Josh Allen last season in Buffalo and was able to learn from Ken Dorsey and Bills OC Brian Daboll. This year, he signed with the Steelers on a 2-year $14.285M contract including a $5.25M signing bonus. He could earn $4M per season in playing time bonuses and $250k Pro Bowl bonuses.
This season, there will be a fascinating training camp battle with rookie QB Kenny Pickett. Pickett was the 20th overall pick in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft. Pickett and Trubisky will be fighting for the starting job in camp. Trubisky will have a real chance as the starting QB this season.
Trubisky is a proven winner despite some obstacles. Since 2018, he has had the 4th highest winning percentage amongst active QBs behind only Mahomes, Jackson, and Rodgers with a minimum of 1,000 pass attempts, per CBS.
Jets EDGE Carl Lawson
2021: Ruptured Achilles tendon on left leg in training camp
2022: The New York Jets will not just be getting reinforcements through the NFL Draft, but they will be getting back their premier FA signing from 2021, EDGE Carl Lawson. In 11 starts in 2020 with the Bengals, he had 5.5 sacks and 32 QB Hits. This past season, without Lawson, the Jets really struggled to create pressure, having the league’s 6th lowest pressure percentage and the 7th least sacks in the NFL.
Lawson will combine with Quinnen Williams, John Franklin-Myers and Jermaine Johnson as the Jets initial pass rush group. He will be the veteran in the room, who should only get stronger as the year goes on.
Saints QB Jameis Winston
2021: Torn ACL and MCL in Week 8 — 5-2 record, 95/161, 1170 yards, 14 TDs, 3 INT / 32 rushes, 166 yards, 1 TD
2022: As a free-agent this offseason, Jameis Winston re-signed with the New Orleans Saints on a 2-year, $28M contract with $21M in guarantees. This includes a $14M signing bonus as well. Prior to his Week 8 injury, Winston was playing some of the best, mistake-free football of his career where the Saints were 5-2, and he had a 14/3 TD to INT ratio.
Winston will start once again for the Saints as they did not draft a QB this year but did sign veteran backup Andy Dalton. He will have a more robust receiving core this season with the addition of Olave, the hopeful return of Michael Thomas to pair with Kamara, and Mark Ingram, who they brought back to New Orleans this offseason. Winston is set up for success this season and should be able to build on what he started last year in New Orleans.