There are a plethora of players taken in the 2022 NFL Draft who could break out in year two. Let’s take a look at three of them. Hitting on a draft pick is one of the best things a team can do for the benefit of their long-term outlook.
The 2022 NFL Draft was chock full of talented players who made an immediate impact in their first season. Some players may even be break-out candidates for year two. Rookies like Sauce Gardner have already established themselves as one of the top players at their positions, while others like Malik Willis may not even make the roster come week one.
Let’s zero in on three break-out players among 2022 NFL draftees.
2022 NFL Draft: Second year players who can make a jump
Aidan Hutchinson, Detroit Lions
The second overall pick in 2022 and a hometown kid, Aidan Hutchinson notched 9.5 sacks as a rookie and had an immediate impact. However, the Lions’ defense was among the worst in the NFL, and largely due to that was their secondary.
The Lions invested a ton of resources into their secondary. They added Cam Sutton, Emmanuel Moseley, CJ Gardner-Johnson, and Brian Branch to the secondary this offseason. These improvements should then give the pass rush more time to get home if receivers are blanketed at a higher rate, which could be great news for Hutchinson.
George Pickens is a hilariously talented player whose draft stock fell a bit because of injuries in college. He made his presence known during his rookie season with several highlight-reel catches. His 6’3″ frame and 4.4 speed makes him a true threat on the outside.
He ended his rookie season with 52 catches for 801 yards and four touchdowns. He did this primarily catching passes from Mitchell Trubisky and a rookie Kenny Pickett in 2022. I do think Pickett takes a step in year two, and Pickens is going to settle in more as the true WR1 of the Steelers.
I’d expect Pickens to cross the 1,000 yard mark in 2023.
Dameon Pierce was taken in the fourth round of the 2022 NFL Draft out of Florida and instantly made his presence known. He’s an extremely tough runner and excellent tackle breaker. In 13 games in 2022, Pierce rushed for 939 yards on 220 carries for four touchdowns. a 4.3 yards per carry average.
He also added 165 receiving yards on 30 receptions. All in all, Pierce finished with 1,104 scrimmage yards in 2022, which equates to 84.9 yards per game in his 13 games played.
Not only will Pierce take a huge step forward in 2023, but playing in a Shanahan-style system on offense will surely do him great benefit. I’d expect him to easily surpass 1,000 rushing yards if he can stay healthy.