Months after hearing their names called in the 2022 NFL Draft, Week 1 of the preseason has arrived and that means many of the best NFL rookies will finally take the field.
Expectations for the 2022 rookie class should naturally vary, both for the upcoming NFL season and Week 1 of the preseason. For those who are locked into starting jobs, the first week of the NFL preseason schedule will just provide a few drives to establish their footing and adjust to the speeds of pro football.
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For some, including a few top picks, they must still work their way up the depth chart. It leaves them with an uphill climb, but it also means they will receive ample opportunities to prove themselves this weekend.
Keeping that in mind, let’s take a look at five NFL rookies who football fans need to watch this weekend.
Romeo Doubs, wide receiver, Green Bay Packers
So much of the spotlight on the Green Bay Packers draft class focused on Christian Watson. Even before he landed on the Physically Unable to Perform list, though, rookie Romeo Doubs was the wideout poised to make the biggest contribution in 2022.
Doubs, the 132nd overall pick, is a more polished talent. He also fits into what Matt LaFleur’s offense needs, serving as a vertical threat who can make plays just like Marquez Valdes-Scantling did in previous years. Of course, the most challenging part of becoming a part of the Packers’ offense is earning the trust of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. It’s fair to say Doubs is gaining that.
Fans aren’t going to see the Rodgers-Doubs connection in the first preseason game. However, quarterback Jordan Love is still a viable passer who shouldn’t have much issue getting the football to the rookie wideout. If Doubs builds upon his hot start this summer, he could become the No.2 receiver in this offense.
Kenny Pickett, quarterback, Pittsburgh Steelers
The only quarterback drafted in Round 1, Kenny Pickett doesn’t exactly find himself in an ideal situation right now. After three weeks of training camp, the rookie is third on the Pittsburgh Steelers depth chart.
It’s fair to say the reports out of Steelers’ training camp aren’t glowing right now. Even with Mitch Trubisky struggling with first-team reps, Pickett can’t take advantage. The prospect every other NFL team seemed comfortable passing on in Round 1, hasn’t quite displayed what the Steelers’ coaching staff wants to see right now.
He can change that on Saturday night. It’s going to be one of the most advantageous situations among the NFL rookies. Facing the Seattle Seahawks, Pickett faces backups for one of the worst defenses in the NFL. While he’ll also be sharing the field with players competing for roster spots, this is Pickett’s first shot to prove he deserves to make starts in 2022.
Dameon Pierce, running back, Houston Texans
It doesn’t come as much of a surprise that one of the most unheralded NFL rookies is already standing out at Houston Texans training camp. Dameon Pierce showed outstanding ability with the Florida Gatos, former head coach Dan Mullen just didn’t use him nearly enough. Now in the NFL, Pierce is already staking his claim as one of the best Texans’ offensive players.
Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network recently attended training camp in Houston, noting that veterans Marlon Mack and Rex Burkhead were mentoring the young running back. Despite him being their direct competition, they clearly see that Pierce is the future.
“He has generated the most big plays of any running back at camp and always runs behind his shoulder pads, maintaining a low center of gravity.”Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network on Houston Texans running back Dameon Pierce
Set to face the New Orleans Saints, this is Pierce’s opportunity to explode out of the gate. He could prove to be far too physical, patient and athletic for the competition he is lined up against. If Houston feeds him a lot, he could be one of the best NFL rookies this preseason.
Sam Howell, quarterback, Washington Commanders
All NFL rookies enter the league with a level of confidence. Needless to say, quarterback Sam Howell believes he’ll handle the adjustment from college football to the professional level just fine. In fact, he doesn’t believe it’s even a ‘major step” for him.
It’s certainly bold talk from a fifth-round pick who was selected outside the top 140 selections. Keep in mind that many viewed Howell as a first-round talent before his stock cratered in 2021 at North Carolina. Fast forward to now, Howell is firmly locked in as the No.3. quarterback.
The role certainly isn’t what he wants, but it will allow him to play a heavy percentage of the snaps in Week 1 of the preseason. We also can’t deny the physical tools, especially the athleticism. Facing so many fellow NFL rookies and other unproven players, Howell could prove to be a gem.
Nakobe Dean, linebacker, Philadelphia Eagles
One of the most talented players in the 2022 NFL Draft, linebacker Nakobe Dean only fell because of his size and medical concerns. Considering the Philadelphia Eagles are already throwing out the rookie into their first-team defense, it’s a safe bet he’ll be playing a lot of football this year.
Dean essentially served as a coach on the Georgia Bulldogs defense, getting his teammates lined up and reacting to plays as if he drew them up. He is a film junkie who seems to routinely know what the opposition is doing and he’s far better than most NFL rookies at reading and reacting almost instantly. As long as Dean is on the field this weekend, fans of every football team should sit back and enjoy the show he puts on.