1 Player on Every NFL Team Who Could Disappoint in 2022
At this point in the NFL offseason, we hear a lot of optimism about impressive rookies and veterans ready to elevate their new teams, but it's never too early for a reality check.
The truth is that notable players will disappoint you in 2022.
Several early-round draft picks have turned heads during spring practices. Before you buy into the hype, remember that they haven't put on full pads yet.
Over the past few months, general managers and coaches have highlighted players who will have opportunities to take on bigger roles, which gives us an idea of who's going into the campaign with heightened expectations. In some cases, the roster makeup won't allow some of those players to raise their production levels.
Veterans will put pressure on themselves, especially if they've struggled to hold on to starting jobs or noted the competition at their positions.
We'll single out one player on each NFL roster who could fall short of self-imposed, in-house or perceived outside expectations with an underwhelming season.
Arizona Cardinals: WR Rondale Moore
At the NFL Scouting Combine, head coach Kliff Kingsbury expressed optimism about Rondale Moore's role for the upcoming season.
"#Cardinals HC Kliff Kingsbury says he expects WR Rondale Moore to be a much bigger part of the offense in 2022 and the goal will be to get him the ball in space. Christian Kirk and A.J. Green are free agents," Pro Football Focus' Doug Kyed tweeted.
Since Kingsbury made that comment on March 1, the Cardinals re-signed tight end Zach Ertz and Green, selected tight end Trey McBride in the second round of the draft and acquired wide receiver Marquise Brown from the Baltimore Ravens.
Even though wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins will serve a six-game suspension for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy, Moore still has to compete with two established veterans, a pass-catching rookie tight end who caught 90 passes for 1,121 yards and a touchdown at Colorado State last year and Brown, who has a history with quarterback Kyler Murray from their time at Oklahoma.
As a second-round pick from the 2021 draft, Moore has some pressure to play up to expectations, but he could become the third option in the passing attack behind Brown, Ertz and Green. If McBride carves out a role in two-tight end sets and Hopkins commands a high number of targets upon his return, Moore seems unlikely to top his rookie receiving numbers (54 receptions for 435 yards and one touchdown).
Atlanta Falcons: WR Bryan Edwards
In May, the Atlanta Falcons acquired Bryan Edwards and a conditional 2023 seventh-rounder from the Las Vegas Raiders in exchange for a 2023 fifth-round pick. He could carve out a starting role with rookie first-rounder Drake London, Auden Tate and Olamide Zaccheaus in competition for the top spots at the position.
With that said, Edwards didn't take full advantage of his increased opportunities last year.
In 2021, he started in 12 out of 16 games, hauling in 34 passes for 571 yards and three touchdowns. Though he recorded respectable receiving numbers, the 23-year-old wideout struggled with consistency.
After the Raiders waived wideout Henry Ruggs III—who has been charged with four felonies and misdemeanor gun possession after a car crash that resulted in the death of Tina Tintor and her dog—Edwards didn't record a catch in three out of nine appearances for the remainder of the term. In that same time span between Weeks 9 and 18, he only eclipsed 30 receiving yards in a game twice.
Edwards was teammates with Atlanta quarterback Marcus Mariota for two years in Las Vegas, but the veteran signal-caller has only thrown 30 passes since 2020. Furthermore, Mariota has a history of battling injuries, which means we could see rookie third-rounder Desmond Ridder under center at some point in 2022.
With a shaky starter in Mariota, Edwards' inconsistencies and the healthy presence of London and tight end Kyle Pitts, who caught 68 passes for 1,026 yards and a touchdown last season, the former Raiders wideout may not see a big jump in production.
Baltimore Ravens: S Kyle Hamilton
Surprised to see Kyle Hamilton available, Baltimore Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta selected the safety out of Notre Dame who ranked high on the team's big board. Now the coaching staff has to find a role for him, which may be difficult this year.
The Ravens have two proven starters at safety in Chuck Clark and Marcus Williams, who just signed a five-year, $70 million deal. They can experiment with Hamilton and use him in the slot following the release of Tavon Young, but cornerback Marlon Humphrey may move inside if Marcus Peters and Kyle Fuller line up on the boundary in nickel alignments.
New defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald will have to exercise some creativity if he wants Hamilton on the field for meaningful snaps.
Barring injuries at safety or a trade that involves Clark, Hamilton could be a rotational slot defender in the big nickel formation and the sixth defensive back in dime packages, which would give the 14th overall pick few opportunities to make an impact in his rookie year.
Buffalo Bills: QB Josh Allen
The Buffalo Bills offense, which is built around quarterback Josh Allen, could regress following the departure of former offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who took the New York Giants' head-coaching job in January.
Going into 2022, the Bills have a first-time offensive play-caller in Ken Dorsey. He served as the quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator over the last three years. With a hint of optimism, Allen shared a realistic outlook of the offense as he talked to reporters last month.
"And, again, it’s going to be a learning process for [Dorsey] as well," Allen said. "We’re humans. We’re not perfect. We’re not expecting each other to be perfect. But as long as we’re on the same page, which I think we are and we'll continue to grow with it, I think we’ll be just fine."
The Bills may not start the season red-hot on offense. If they don't, Dorsey and Allen will have to iron out some wrinkles to match the production rate of last year's unit, which ranked third in scoring and fifth in yards.
Allen could have a decent year, though his development may plateau as the offense goes through changes. If he regresses like Ryan Tannehill after the Tennessee Titans lost offensive coordinator Arthur Smith to the Falcons last offseason, Bills fans can forget a shot at the Super Bowl.
Carolina Panthers: CB C.J. Henderson
The Carolina Panthers acquired C.J. Henderson and a fifth-round pick from the Jacksonville Jaguars in exchange for tight end Dan Arnold and a third-rounder last September.
In 10 games (five starts) with the Panthers, Henderson struggled, allowing a 75.9 percent completion rate and a 121.6 passer rating in coverage. The 2020 first-rounder may not have an opportunity to redeem himself.
The Panthers re-signed Donte Jackson, and fellow cornerback Jaycee Horn will return to action after he broke his foot last September. Through his first two seasons, Henderson has mostly played on the boundary, so Myles Hartsfield may hold on to the lead slot position. If that's the case, the former could play a limited role in dime packages.
As a top-10 pick from the 2020 draft, Henderson has great potential, but he may not see the field much in the upcoming campaign unless Jackson or Horn goes down with an injury.
Chicago Bears: QB Justin Fields
While fellow 2021 first-round quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson saw their teams make major changes to their offensive personnel, Justin Fields had to settle for a few backup receivers with the addition of Byron Pringle, Equanimeous St. Brown, Tajae Sharpe and Dante Pettis. None of them has caught 50 passes in a single campaign.
The Chicago Bears also selected Velus Jones in the third round of the draft. In his most productive collegiate term as a receiver, he caught 62 passes for 807 yards and seven touchdowns, which doesn't generate much excitement for his rookie outlook.
During an interview with Bleacher Report's Scott Polacek, Fields expressed his confidence in a wide receiver group that doesn't have notable names aside from Darnell Mooney:
"We don't have an Odell [Beckham Jr.] or a Cooper Kupp on our team, but at the end of the day, I think if everybody is on their P's and Q's, and we're on top of everything and not making mistakes, the players we have right now are good enough. ... Just because we don't have a big-name guy, doesn't mean those guys aren't talented. I have plenty of confidence in myself and my teammates that we're going to get the job done."
On ESPN 1000 (h/t Jeremy Layton of the New York Post), new general manager Ryan Poles said the organization is "all in" on Fields, but that's hard to believe with the uninspiring additions at wide receiver.
While the team may expect Fields to show vast improvement, don't count on that happening in 2022.
Cincinnati Bengals: G Jackson Carman
As a tackle at Clemson who converted to guard at the pro level, Jackson Carman had to deal with a learning curve last year, and he went through rough patches. The 2021 second-rounder suited up for all 17 games, which included six starts, but played sparingly during the team's playoff run to Super Bowl LVI.
Carman will face competition for the starting left guard spot with the addition of rookie fourth-rounder Cordell Volson.
"It appears the starting spot at left guard is open, which makes it one of the top position battles of the offseason," ESPN's Ben Baby wrote. "When the Bengals drafted him, Volson said he was ready to get to work."
At North Dakota State, Volson played at every position across the line except center, so he doesn't have a clear edge over Carman in experience at left guard, though the pair could head into training camp close to even in a race for the job.
Despite Carman's draft pedigree, he may open the season as a backup on the depth chart.
Cleveland Browns: DT Jordan Elliott
Through the first part of the Cleveland Browns' offseason program, Jordan Elliott has looked the part of a starter. Defensive line coach Chris Kiffin praised him for his body physique and conditioning, per cleveland.com's Mary Kay Cabot:
"The guy I’ve been most pleased with this offseason has been Jordan Elliott. Coming in, not just saying it, he’' bigger, faster, stronger. He put in the work from the time the season was over. So he looks different out here than he ever has. Really excited for him. It’s all in front of him."
The Browns didn't re-sign Malik Jackson or Malik McDowell, who was charged in January with aggravated battery on a police officer, resisting arrest and exposing sex organs in public. As a result, Elliott, a 2020 third-rounder, has an opportunity to seize the first-string job. He'll have to earn it with rookie fourth-rounder Perrion Winfrey on the roster.
Winfrey has the ability to penetrate, which is key for a 3-technique defensive tackle. Last year at Oklahoma, he recorded 11 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks and flashed during Senior Bowl week.
Through two seasons, Elliott has only recorded 41 tackles (16 solo) and a pass breakup through 32 outings (four starts). Without much production at the pro level, he may have to share a large portion of snaps (even as a starter) with Winfrey.
Dallas Cowboys: OL Tyler Smith
In a mailbag question, a reader asked about Tyler Smith's progress through OTAs. Rob Phillips and David Helman of the Dallas Cowboys' official website both gave glowing assessments of the rookie first-rounder, but Helman cautioned not to get too excited about non-padded spring practices:
"He looks like he belongs, there's no doubt. But as Rob also mentioned, let's not lose our minds about two OTAs. Things are going to change severely when the pads go on — and then again when he starts going against guys like Vita Vea, Javon Hargrave and Aaron Donald. But yes, so far, I'm very impressed with Tyler Smith."
Cowboys fans should be particularly careful with early evaluations of Smith because he's going to transition from being a collegiate tackle at Tulsa to a guard in his first year at the pro level.
Smith may become the eventual replacement for left tackle Tyron Smith, but the Cowboys inserted him in a competition with Connor McGovern at left guard following the departure of Connor Williams. For the rookie, a shift from the perimeter to the interior could come with growing pains in regular-season action.
Denver Broncos: Edge Randy Gregory
The Denver Broncos don't know what they're going to get out of Randy Gregory in a full-time starting role. He has yet to play through a complete season or more than 55 percent of the defensive snaps in a single campaign.
Early in his career with the Dallas Cowboys, Gregory served multiple lengthy suspensions for violating the league's substance-abuse policy, but since his reinstatement in September of 2020, he's turned his career around.
Last year, Gregory recorded 19 tackles, four tackles for loss, six sacks (tying a career high) and 29 pressures. According to ESPN's Ed Werder, he backed out of an agreement with the Cowboys because of salary-forfeiture language in the contract. The Broncos signed him to a five-year, $70 million deal.
With that investment in Gregory, the Broncos will likely expect to see a more complete player with a higher number of tackles and stops behind the line of scrimmage, which is a gamble because the 29-year-old doesn't have high-volume numbers across the board in any of his five active seasons.
Detroit Lions: WR Jameson Williams
When healthy, Jameson Williams can bring an explosive component to an aerial attack. Last year at Alabama, he hauled in 79 passes for 1,572 yards and 15 touchdowns, routinely scorching defenses for big plays over the top.
The Detroit Lions may have to exercise some patience with Williams coming off a torn ACL, though. Head coach Dan Campbell isn't optimistic about the rookie wideout taking the field at the start of training camp, per The Athletic's Chris Burke.
"I don't see him being ready for training camp," Campbell said. "I don't see that. I'm very hopeful, but I don't see it. We're gonna do this thing the right way, and when he's ready, he'll be ready. But, no, I don't feel like you're gonna see him out there [on] day one."
The Lions don't have to rush Williams back to action. They signed wideout D.J. Chark and retained Josh Reynolds, who's developed a rapport with quarterback Jared Goff over the past five years dating back to their time with the Los Angeles Rams. Amon-Ra St. Brown had a strong rookie showing with 90 receptions for 912 yards and five touchdowns in 2021.
If Williams recovers in time for Week 1, he'll need to establish a connection with Goff while the other receivers and Pro Bowl tight end T.J. Hockenson strengthen their rapport with the signal-caller. The rookie wideout may not hit his stride until late in the 2022 term.
Green Bay Packers: WR Christian Watson
Following the departure of wide receiver Davante Adams via a trade to the Raiders, the Green Bay Packers will have plenty of targets to go around. Wideout Christian Watson can fill a void in the passing game, though he'll have some competition for looks downfield.
Head coach Matt LaFleur said that wide receiver Sammy Watkins will be a "big part of our offense." Allen Lazard could have a strong fifth year because of his experience playing with Aaron Rodgers. Randall Cobb has teamed up with the 38-year-old signal-caller for nine seasons.
Back in March, general manager Brian Gutekunst said that Robert Tonyan is "ahead of schedule" in his recovery from a torn ACL. Before a knee injury cut his 2021 season short, the pass-catching tight end recorded 52 receptions for 586 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2020.
Rodgers must also build a connection with rookie fourth-rounder Romeo Doubs and, to a lesser extent, rookie seventh-rounder Samori Toure.
Watson would need a strong showing through training camp to grab Rodgers' attention. He's a 6'5", 208-pounder with 4.36 40-yard-dash speed, but the North Dakota State product may need extensive time to turn his potential into tangible production within a crowded pass-catching group.
Houston Texans: CB Derek Stingley Jr.
The Houston Texans have decided to tread lightly with Derek Stingley Jr., who underwent surgery for a Lisfranc injury last year.
While at a Texans' OTA session in May, Pro Football Network's Aaron Wilson didn't note any issues with Stingley's movement but suggested that the team has limited him as a precaution (h/t SportsTalk 790 AM):
"Backpedaling crisply and reversing direction, Texans rookie cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. didn't appear to have any issues with his mobility or discomfort during an organized team activity. The Texans are proceeding cautiously, though, with the first-round draft pick from LSU and limited his workload to individual drills Tuesday morning."
Since 2020, Stingley has suited up for 10 games. Furthermore, he's looked more average than exceptional in those outings (35 tackles, six tackles for loss and five pass breakups), which raises some concerns about the Texans selecting him with the No. 3 overall pick.
Head coach Lovie Smith said Stingley will go "full speed" at training camp, but the rookie will need to shake off some rust. He hasn't played in a game since last September.
Because of Stingley's average performances over the past two years and his injury history, he's a candidate to fall short of high rookie expectations.
Indianapolis Colts: QB Matt Ryan
According to The Athletic's Mike Sando, one NFL executive believes Ryan's decline will continue in his new career chapter with the Indianapolis Colts:
"I think age has caught Matt Ryan. I had him with a big decline last year. Matt has had a phenomenal career, a great quarterback, but it wasn’t like he was super big athletic or had a super strong arm. I see the skills declining a little bit quicker for him as a result. I think they could be looking at another quarterback in a year, and if they don’t win, look out for [team owner Jim] Irsay."
We must note that the Falcons traded Julio Jones to the Tennessee Titans last offseason, and fellow wideout Calvin Ridley missed 12 games as he addressed his mental health. Ryan also took 40 sacks behind a shaky offensive line.
With that said, the Colts have holes within their offensive unit as well.
They don't have a surefire starter to pair alongside wideout Michael Pittman Jr. Rookie second-rounder Alec Pierce and oft-injured fourth-year pro Parris Campbell will try to carve out key roles at the position.
Along the offensive line, the Colts have question marks at left tackle and right guard. They didn't re-sign Eric Fisher, who started in 15 games at the former position last year, and Mark Glowinski signed with the New York Giants, which opens up a job at the latter spot.
Ryan isn't a mobile quarterback, so he needs quality pass protection. The Colts' unsettled offensive line may lead to his downfall in 2022.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Edge Travon Walker
General manager Trent Baalke took a big swing with the No. 1 overall pick, taking Travon Walker over Aidan Hutchinson.
At the collegiate level, Walker lined up at different positions across the defensive line, but the Jacksonville Jaguars have employed him exclusively as an edge-rusher since he joined the team for rookie minicamp.
Last year, Walker logged 37 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, six sacks and six quarterback hurries for Georgia. Perhaps a move to the outside will suit his quick-twitch athleticism and unlock his pass-rushing potential. He recorded a 9.98 relative athletic score on a 10-point sliding scale, per Kent Lee Platte of Pro Football Network.
Nonetheless, Walker's draft status comes with exceptionally high expectations. The Jaguars won't publicly put the pressure on him to look like a star right away, but if he struggles to record a handful of sacks, skeptics will question Baalke's choice.
In a transition to full-time edge-rusher, Walker may need extensive time to find his way, though he has the physical tools to succeed at outside linebacker in an odd-man front.
Kansas City Chiefs: WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling
The Kansas City Chiefs could maintain some of their offensive explosiveness despite the departure of All-Pro wide receiver Tyreek Hill via a trade to the Miami Dolphins.
According to The Athletic's Nate Taylor, quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Marquez Valdes-Scantling established some chemistry through spring practices, which gives the team hope that head coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy can still dial up successful big plays in the passing game.
Through four seasons with the Green Bay Packers, Valdes-Scantling averaged 17.5 yards per catch and led the league in that category (20.9 yards per reception) for the 2020 season.
On the flip side, Valdes-Scantling doesn't have the most reliable hands. He's finished two of his four campaigns with a catch rate below 48 percent and never recorded a rate above 53 percent.
Valdes-Scantling played with a four-time league MVP in Aaron Rodgers, so we cannot point to a less than ideal quarterback situation for his inconsistencies. The wideout may run hot and cold with missed opportunities in the vertical passing game.
Las Vegas Raiders: RB Josh Jacobs
New Las Vegas Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels has already installed a running back by committee in the backfield. Josh Jacobs may hold on to the lead role, but he's probably going to share touches with Kenyan Drake, Brandon Bolden and rookie fourth-rounder Zamir White.
In the big picture, the Raiders could benefit from a full running back room. As The Athletic's Vic Tafur pointed out, Jacobs has some minor shortcomings that the team needed to take into account:
"He has not proved to be very durable, having missed six games and being limited in at least nine others due to injuries. Though he has shown he can close wins out, Jacobs is not a home-run hitter, as his longest run the last two seasons was 28 yards (done twice). And mixed in with a bunch of compliments in February, McDaniels added that Jacobs needs to work on his ball security. So, based on all that, it’s unlikely the Raiders now make Jacobs the bell cow back that Jon Gruden always said he was."
Drake and Bolden, who played under McDaniels when he served as the New England Patriots offensive coordinator, will likely handle the pass-catching duties. White can spell Jacobs in certain situations.
Jacobs may log fewer than 200 rushing attempts in a single season for the first time in his career if the Raiders intend to keep him fresh for the entire 2022 campaign. His workload is clearly on the decline.
Los Angeles Chargers: LB Kenneth Murray Jr.
Kenneth Murray Jr. probably disappointed the Los Angeles Chargers when he lost a hold on his starting job at the end of the last season. To make matters worse, the 2020 first-rounder may not recover from a down year.
This offseason, Murray underwent left ankle surgery, and he missed spring practices. The third-year pro may find himself in a highly contested position battle at training camp.
The Chargers signed linebacker Troy Reeder, who played under head coach Brandon Staley when he served as the Rams' defensive coordinator in 2020. Reeder started in seven out of 16 outings that year. Los Angeles also added Kyle Van Noy, who can play inside and outside linebacker.
The front office put some pressure on Murray. The Chargers would probably like to see him respond to competition for the starting job. If the Oklahoma product opens the 2022 campaign in a backup role, he would step firmly into the bust conversation.
Los Angeles Rams: OT Joe Noteboom
Following Andrew Whitworth's decision to retire, Joe Noteboom has big shoes to fill with heightened expectations.
The Los Angeles Rams re-signed Noteboom on a three-year, $40 million deal, which suggests that he'll start at left tackle for the upcoming season. The 27-year-old played well in place of Whitworth three times between the 2021 season and the playoffs, but he's only started in 17 regular-season games—some of those contests at left guard and right tackle—through four campaigns.
Still unproven as a full-time starter at tackle, Noteboom has a lot to prove despite his recent performances. Keep in mind that he had a chance to carve out a first-string role at left guard between 2019 and 2020, but the versatile offensive lineman suffered a torn ACL and a calf injury that shortened his time on the field in those seasons.
Noteboom must showcase his ability to play at a high level and stay healthy through a full term as a starter. The Rams signed him to a deal that ranks 22nd among tackles in average annual value, which is a moderate gamble on the fifth-year pro.
Miami Dolphins: QB Tua Tagovailoa
Tua Tagovailoa couldn't ask for much more help from the Miami Dolphins.
Miami signed a couple of veteran offensive linemen in three-time Pro Bowler Terron Armstead and Connor Williams, added dual-threat running back Chase Edmonds, inked a deal with slot wideout Cedrick Wilson Jr. and acquired All-Pro wide receiver Tyreek Hill from the Chiefs.
With those additions, Tagovailoa should take a notable leap in his third season, though he may disappoint if you expect him to post gaudy numbers.
First, Tagovailoa must stay healthy. He's missed 10 games in two seasons.
Secondly, aside from Armstead at left tackle, the Dolphins still have an unsettled offensive line. They've experimented with Williams at center during spring practices. Last year, he took offseason reps at the position with the Cowboys but didn't play a regular-season snap there.
If the Dolphins field another weak offensive line, new head coach Mike McDaniel may have to lean on the run with a plethora of running backs (Edmonds, Myles Gaskin, Raheem Mostert, Sony Michel and Salvon Ahmed) to protect Tagovailoa, which would cap the signal-caller's passing numbers for the 2022 season.
Minnesota Vikings: CB Andrew Booth Jr.
Considered a first-round pick heading into the 2022 draft, Andrew Booth Jr. went through a couple of bumps on the road over the past few months.
Because of a quad injury, Booth didn't participate in workouts at the NFL Scouting Combine. He also underwent core-muscle surgery, but the Clemson product should be ready to take the field for training camp, per ESPN's Adam Schefter. Last month, head coach Kevin O'Connell said the rookie is "really close" to 100 percent.
The Vikings have cornerback Cameron Dantzler, who allowed a 54.1 percent completion rate and a 74.7 passer rating in coverage last year, and they re-signed Patrick Peterson. They don't have to rush Booth into a full-scale workload right away.
No one should be surprised if Booth comes off the bench to start the season and has to wait his turn behind Dantzler and a solid veteran in Peterson. In the event that one of the two returning starters goes down, Booth should be the primary backup to fill in on the boundary, but the coaching staff may ease him into the rotation if he's limited through training camp.
New England Patriots: WR Tyquan Thornton
We don't need to look any further than 2019 first-rounder N'Keal Harry for evidence of the New England Patriots' shaky draft history with wide receivers.
Harry has caught 57 passes for 598 yards and four touchdowns through 33 games (18 starts) across three seasons. In a text to NFL Network's Mike Garafolo in late April, the wideout's agent said he's had "positive dialogue with the Patriots about exploring trade possibilities."
While it's unfair to connect Harry's underwhelming career start to Tyquan Thornton's short-term outlook, the Patriots haven't drafted a wideout who went on to have a productive career in New England since they took Julian Edelman with a seventh-round pick in 2009.
Furthermore, Thornton must climb a crowded depth chart to earn a top spot at wide receiver. He'll go into training camp behind DeVante Parker, whom the team acquired from the Miami Dolphins this offseason, along with Kendrick Bourne, Jakobi Meyers and Nelson Agholor.
If Thornton makes a strong impression, his 4.28 speed can bring another dimension to the offense. However, the rookie second-rounder faces a lot of competition for targets.
New Orleans Saints: WR Michael Thomas
If you think New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas will return to action in All-Pro form, reconsider those lofty expectations.
Coming off multiple ankle surgeries, Thomas hasn't participated in practices throughout the spring. Nick Underhill of NewOrleans.Football believes the star wideout is "heading in the right direction" with his recovery, though.
Underhill won't ring the alarm bells until Thomas misses training camp, but the Saints don't need to heavily rely on him with the addition of rookie first-rounder Chris Olave and five-time Pro Bowler Jarvis Landry.
Quarterback Jameis Winston already seems impressed with Olave.
"Smooth as the other side of the pillow," Winston said about Olave (h/t The Athletic's Katherine Terrell). "Just real smooth. He can get in and out of breaks very well. Electric, and smart, man."
The Saints may not rush Thomas back to a full workload after he missed the entire 2021 season. Landry and Olave could do the heavy lifting early as the team eases its top receiver back into a prominent role in the passing game.
New York Giants: WR Wan'Dale Robinson
New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones and rookie wideout Wan'Dale Robinson have built a connection through the spring. The second-round pick has generated some buzz after some strong performances on the practice field.
With that said, don't buy Robinson as an immediate contributor yet.
Jones has to prove that he can turn his career around under a new coaching staff. On top of that, the Giants have a plethora of pass-catchers, which will make it difficult for a first-year receiver to see a steady volume of targets.
Kenny Golladay, Sterling Shepard, Kadarius Toney and Darius Slayton all figure to be ahead of Robinson on the depth chart at wide receiver. Furthermore, running back Saquon Barkley expects to take on a sizable role as a pass-catcher, per CBS Sports' Josina Anderson.
Big Blue might entertain trade offers for Toney and Slayton, according to The Athletic's Dan Duggan. But even if the Giants deal one of them, Robinson would probably go into the regular season as the No. 4 wideout at best.
At 5'8" and 185 pounds, Robinson will likely line up in the slot and handle some ball-carrying duties, but he seems primed for a role as more of a gadget player than a consistent threat in the passing game.
New York Jets: QB Zach Wilson
New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson had a bumpy rookie campaign, to put it kindly. He threw for only 2,334 yards, nine touchdowns and 11 interceptions with a 55.6 percent completion rate through 13 games.
The Jets vastly improved his supporting cast this offseason, though. They signed Pro Bowl guard Laken Tomlinson and selected wideout Garrett Wilson and running back Breece Hall in the first and second rounds of the draft, respectively. They also revamped their tight room with the additions of C.J. Uzomah, Tyler Conklin and rookie third-rounder Jeremy Ruckert.
Between those newcomes and the second-year growth of wideout Elijah Moore and running back Michael Carter, Wilson should be ready for takeoff.
However, Wilson didn't show a lot of promise or gain a ton of momentum at the end of the 2021 season. He threw for multiple touchdowns in only three games and tossed just three touchdown passes across his last five outings.
Even with high-quality playmakers and a stronger offensive line, Wilson may take baby steps rather than leaps and bounds this season. Brian Costello of the New York Post noted that the 22-year-old had an "up-and-down spring" in practices open to the media.
Philadelphia Eagles: QB Jalen Hurts
Jalen Hurts faces heightened expectations with the addition of Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Brown, whom the Philadelphia Eagles acquired from the Tennessee Titans during Day 1 of the 2022 NFL draft in exchange for a first-round pick.
In 2021, Hurts thrived in a run-pass-option-heavy scheme that featured the league's top ground attack. Now, he must help balance the offense with a talented pass-catching group that features Brown and fellow wideout DeVonta Smith.
Last year, Quez Watkins emerged as a reliable big-play receiver, hauling in 43 passes for 647 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, tight end Dallas Goedert continued to showcase his consistency in the passing attack with 56 receptions for a career-high 830 yards and four touchdowns.
Hurts has the personnel to elevate last season's 25th-ranked passing offense to at least the top 12 in the upcoming campaign, but he must continue to improve on his accuracy.
Hurts' completion rate jumped from 52.0 percent as a rookie to 61.3 percent last season. But if he isn't in the 64-67 percent range, the Eagles could leave a lot of yards and points on the field in 2022.
Pittsburgh Steelers: WR Diontae Johnson
It may be difficult for Pittsburgh Steelers wideout Diontae Johnson to play up to his own expectations.
According to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler (h/t Chris Mueller of 93.7 The Fan), Johnson wants a new deal with the Steelers and believes he's capable of posting big numbers in 2022.
"My understanding is that Diontae Johnson wants to be in Pittsburgh long-term. I think he's prepared to play it out," Fowler said. "... I think he sees himself as having a chance in year four to be a top guy."
Coming off his Pro Bowl season with a career-high 107 catches for 1,161 yards and eight touchdowns, Johnson must overcome a few major obstacles to rack up even gaudier numbers in 2022.
First and foremost, he needs Mitch Trubisky to rebound as a decent starting quarterback or rookie first-rounder Kenny Pickett to get off to a quick start. But even if one of them plays well, they'll have plenty of targets in the aerial attack.
In addition to wideout Chase Claypool and tight end Pat Freiermuth, Johnson may lose some targets to rookie second-rounder George Pickens and rookie fourth-rounder Calvin Austin III.
Even if Pittsburgh fields a top-10 passing attack, Trubisky and Pickett will have far too many options to focus on one pass-catcher. That doesn't bode well for Johnson, who wants to show that he's one of the league's top receivers.
San Francisco 49ers: QB Trey Lance
Trey Lance has started in only three games between his time with North Dakota State and the San Francisco 49ers over the past two seasons. Fans should temper their immediate expectations for him, especially with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo still on the Niners roster.
Back in April, general manager John Lynch pushed back against the notion that the Niners would automatically hand Lance the starting job (h/t Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area):
"All these reports, I don’t know where they all come from. We always believe in competition, but at the same time, we are great believers in what Trey Lance brings to the table. We believe he is ready. He is going to have to show that. I think he’s ready to show that to us, show that to his teammates, and show that to the world."
Head coach Kyle Shanahan said he can see a scenario in which Garoppolo remains on the 49ers roster through 2022. That would give them high-level veteran insurance in case Lance isn't ready to take over the offense.
Even if Lance starts the campaign under center and the 49ers eventually trade Garoppolo, the young signal-caller figures to go through some growing pains. He also might not have to carry a heavy offensive workload within Shanahan's system, which leans heavily on the ground attack. San Francisco has ranked among the top five leaguewide in rushing attempts in two of the last three seasons.
Seattle Seahawks: LB Cody Barton
Heading into a contract year, Seattle Seahawks linebacker Cody Barton has a chance to show he's a starting-caliber player.
Barton had to wait his turn behind K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner, so he started in only five games over his first three seasons. The Seahawks let Wright walk in free agency last offseason and cut Wagner back in March, which clears the way for the Utah product to start full-time in 2022.
Thus far, new defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt seems impressed with the way Barton has come along this offseason, per ESPN's Brady Henderson:
"Really good in the pass game. He's always had a great awareness for that. He's got a background being a safety growing up, and then obviously working his way down into the box so you see some of those things with his awareness and picking up pass routes and the communication with guys on the back end. …The effort, the attention to detail for Cody has always been a part of it, but now he has a great opportunity, and he's had a really nice spring so far."
Though Jordyn Brooks started in all 17 games last season, he's still younger (24 years old) than Barton (25). Brooks also doesn't have as much as experience Wright and Wagner to help Barton as he takes on a bigger role.
Barton may look more raw than ready going through his first season as a full-time starter.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: WR Russell Gage
Tom Brady put the spotlight on wideout Russell Gage last week as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers went through mandatory minicamp.
"He has to have a big year,” Brady said about Gage, via ESPN's Jenna Laine. “That is a very important role for an offense that throws the ball as much as we do."
Because wide receiver Chris Godwin doesn't have a clear-cut timetable for a return from a torn ACL, Gage may see a high volume of targets over the first few weeks of the season.
Gage racked up at least 66 catches, 770 receiving yards and four touchdowns in both 2020 and 2021 with the Atlanta Falcons, but he may need time to adjust with a new quarterback.
Brady has already established a strong rapport with four-time Pro Bowl wideout Mike Evans. According to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, the Buccaneers also feel "optimistic" about tight end Rob Gronkowski staving off retirement for another year and eventually re-signing with the team.
As the third option in the passing game in the early part of the season, Gage can still post respectable receiving numbers. But if he has a slow start, wideout Tyler Johnson, who's played two years in the system with Brady, could see a bigger role.
Tennessee Titans: WR Treylon Burks
Before you consider Tennessee Titans wideout Treylon Burks as a potential candidate for Offensive Rookie of the Year, keep in mind that he'll play in a run-heavy offense featuring Derrick Henry.
The Titans might lighten Henry's workload after he missed nine games last season with a broken bone in his foot that required surgery. That could backfire if quarterback Ryan Tannehill continues to play at an average level following the departure of former offensive coordinator Arthur Smith, who took the Atlanta Falcons' head-coaching job last offseason.
Last year, Tannehill posted passing numbers (21 touchdowns and 14 interceptions) similar to his mediocre years with the Miami Dolphins between 2012 and 2018. Upon joining the Titans, he was a Pro Bowler and the Comeback Player of the Year in 2019 and had a highly productive 2020 campaign with a career-high 33 touchdown passes.
Burks has a quarterback who lost significant momentum following the 2020 season and faces pressure with rookie third-rounder Malik Willis behind him on the depth chart. He'll also compete for targets with an established veteran in wide receiver Robert Woods, who said he feels "really, really good" as he recovers from a torn ACL.
Burks missed multiple OTA sessions and mandatory minicamp practices, too. Wide receivers coach Rob Moore said the first-rounder dealt with early issues because of asthma.
Burks needs a strong showing in training camp or he might struggle early on in the season. He also might have limited opportunities in an offensive attack that often isn't reliant on Tannehill's arm.
Washington Commanders: LB Jamin Davis
The Washington Commanders have a weakness in the middle of their defense, particularly in coverage on passing downs. To fill that void, they selected Kentucky linebacker Jamin Davis in the first round of the 2021 draft, but he allowed an 85.7 percent completion rate and a 107.1 passer rating in coverage as a rookie.
If the Commanders don't sign another linebacker, they'll be putting a lot of pressure on Cole Holcomb and Davis to stay healthy and play well at the position. The latter's athleticism has to shine, though.
In his final year at Kentucky, Davis showed flashes of a complete, every-down linebacker, logging 102 tackles, three interceptions and two pass breakups. He'll have a chance to rediscover that form in the 2022 campaign, but Washington should add veteran insurance in case the second-year linebacker remains a liability on passing downs.
Late in the season, Davis seemed to play a lot better going downhill. All three of his tackles for loss came after Week 12. Nevertheless, he needs to able to stay on the field for third downs. The former Wildcat is still a work in progress as a defender in space.
College football statistics are provided by cfbstats.com.
Maurice Moton covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @MoeMoton.