Every NFL team’s potential breakout player for the 2022 season

There’s no underestimating the transition from college football to the NFL, where it takes some players time to fully adjust to the size and speed of the pro game.

It’s why rookies rarely thrive and why we see some substantial jumps for young players over the course of a few years.

There are a number of players around the league who are primed to make a leap this season due to their situation and/or opportunity following what’s been a whirlwind of an NFL offseason, which has featured its share of change among NFL rosters.

From second-year quarterbacks to talented, young wideouts, our NFL Wire editors examined one player from every team poised for a breakout year in 2022.

Arizona Cardinals: WR Marquise “Hollywood” Brown

AP Photo/Gail Burton

The Cardinals made the move to get Brown on draft night, pairing him with his old college buddy, Kyler Murray. He cleared 1,000 yards in 2021 in a run-heavy offense and injuries at quarterback. Now, he plays in a receiver-friendly offense with a ton of weapons with a quarterback he already has tons of chemistry with. With DeAndre Hopkins suspended the first six games of 2022, Brown and his speed will likely be a popular target for Murray. – Jess Root, Cards Wire

Atlanta Falcons: WR Bryan Edwards

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Falcons had no choice but to target the wide receiver position heavily after losing Russell Gage and Calvin Ridley early in the offseason. Atlanta used a first-round pick on USC’s Drake London, signed a handful of bargain-bin free agents and traded for Raiders WR Bryan Edwards. London is the new No. 1 by default, but Edwards is the player to watch in this group. The former third-round pick finished the 2021 season with a career-best 571 receiving yards and three touchdowns, while averaging 16.8 yards per catch. Plus, the ex-Raider has experience with Falcons QB Marcus Mariota. – Matt Urben, Falcons Wire

Baltimore Ravens: WR Rashod Bateman

AP Photo/Terrance Williams

Bateman was a first-round selection in 2021, and showed enticing flashes of potential during his rookie season despite missing the first five games of the year with an injury that he suffered in training camp. Now with WR Marquise Brown with the Arizona Cardinals and the team opting not to bring in a veteran option, Bateman is locked in as Baltimore’s No. 1 wideout. With a full offseason to get better and work on his game as well as his natural gifts as a route runner and a pass catcher, Bateman could be in store for a huge year in 2022. – Kevin Oestreicher, Ravens Wire

Buffalo Bills: WR Gabriel Davis

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

This pick is only a surprise to those who think Davis already has “broken out,” but he’s a popular choice for many in this category. Davis had his four-touchdown outing against the Chiefs in the playoffs, but his first two regular seasons haven’t blown up. The depth chart always had someone ahead of him who was the starter across from Stefon Diggs. In 2022, that’s not the case and Davis will likely see top snaps for the first time in his career which should see him catch a lot more attention. – Nick Wojton, Bills Wire

Carolina Panthers: CB Jaycee Horn

Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

We’re not telling any tales out of school here—Horn is the real deal. He didn’t get to prove that enough last season, as a broken foot knocked him out of the final 14 games of his rookie campaign. But when he was able to show us something, the 2021 eighth overall pick shut it down over 95 snaps in coverage—allowing just one catch on five targets with an interception. Expect Horn—whose athleticism, size, instincts and pedigree make him the full package at corner—to shine on his comeback trail. – Anthony Rizzuti, Panthers Wire

Chicago Bears: QB Justin Fields

AP Photo/Aaron Gash

Following a rocky rookie season, Fields is gearing up for a fresh start under new offensive coordinator Luke Getsy. Fields flashed his special skillset as a rookie, and now it’s about refining it. While the Bears haven’t done a lot to surround Fields with a strong supporting cast this offseason, the offense will take a huge step forward if Fields does. His natural progression and being in an offense that fits his skillset should be a recipe for success. While this Bears team isn’t expected to be contenders, this season would be considered a win if Fields has a breakout year. – Alyssa Barbieri, Bears Wire

Cincinnati Bengals: DE Joseph Ossai

USA Today Sports

Ossai, a third-round pick in 2021, looked like a breakout star during his rookie preseason before suffering a season-ending injury and that hype is starting to pick back up again. He was running with the first team and getting the best of names like Tristan Wirfs, so it’s justified. He’ll also be joining a line that features Trey Hendrickson on the opposite edge and Sam Hubbard rushing on the interior next to D.J. Reader, so it’s easy to see him having a monster season if he can stay on the field. – Chris Roling, Bengals Wire

Cleveland Browns: WR Donovan Peoples-Jones

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

A late round pick in 2020, Peoples-Jones showed flashes of great plays as a rookie and had a great training camp in 2021. Unfortunately, it didn’t translate to a big season with 34 receptions for 597 yards and three touchdowns as the team’s primary outside receiver (after Odell Beckham Jr. was released). With Amari Cooper acquired, Peoples-Jones can flourish as the second receiver with Deshaun Watson throwing him the football in 2022. – Jared K. Mueller, Browns Wire

Dallas Cowboys: RB Tony Pollard

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Fans have clamored for Pollard to get more touches and 2022 may finally be the year it happens. No, he’s not going to siphon carries away from Ezekiel Elliott, at least not to a large degree. Pollard has a chance to be the beneficiary of trading away Amari Cooper. He spent plenty of time in the slot at Memphis, but offensive coordinator Kellen Moore has resisted using him in such a way in Dallas. That appears on the verge of changing as the Cowboys don’t have many established receiving weapons after CeeDee Lamb, Dalton Schultz and Michael Gallup, with the latter not scheduled to be back from an ACL tear until midseason. Pollard may assume a Deebo Samuel type of role for the Cowboys, which would soar his production levels. – K.D. Drummond, Cowboys Wire

Denver Broncos: WR Jerry Jeudy

Jerry Jeudy
Jerry Jeudy

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

After catching 52 passes for 856 yards and three touchdowns as a rookie, Jeudy — a first-round pick in 2020 — was expected to have a breakout year in 2021. Instead, Jeudy caught just 38 passes for 467 yards with no touchdowns last fall, a big disappointment. Granted, Jeudy missed six games with an ankle injury and one game because of COVID-19 last year, and his quarterbacks when healthy were Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock. Now that Russell Wilson’s in town and Jeudy’s healthy again, the talented receiver will aim to have the breakout year fans have been waiting for. Jon Heath, Broncos Wire

Detroit Lions: CB Jeff Okudah

AP Photo/Carlos Osorio

It’s been a frustrating start to Jeff Okudah’s NFL career. The No. 3 overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft has played just 10 games over two injury-riddled seasons. He’s looking healthy and confident entering the summer, ready to prove he is worthy of the lofty draft status. Okudah projects to start either outside or in the slot, where the team really needs his aggressive mentality and tackling prowess. Everything is in place for Okudah to finally shine for the Lions in 2022. – Jeff Risdon, Lions Wire

Green Bay Packers: S Darnell Savage

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Going out on a bit of a limb here. Savage, a first-round pick in 2019, was terrific to end his third season but took a considerable step back during his first year in Joe Barry’s defense last year. Savage is going to be more comfortable in the scheme in Year 2, and his combination of experience and athleticism should provide a real opportunity to rebound in 2022. Plus, the Packers have terrific pass-rushers in the front seven and three excellent cornerbacks playing in front of him; that’s a safety’s dream. The guess here is that Savage plays faster and creates (and finishes!) more big plays this season. He has legitimate Pro Bowl potential if it all comes together in 2022. – Zach Kruse, Packers Wire

Houston Texans: QB Davis Mills

Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

The Texans have committed 2022 to Mills, and not just by allowing the second-year signal caller to be the de facto starter. Houston gave Mills an offensive coordinator out of the David Shaw system at Stanford in Pep Hamilton, who was Mills’ QB coach in 2021. The Texans also gave Mills help along the interior with the first-round pick of Kenyon Green, and fortified the passing attack with the second-round pick of John Metchie. Houston is committing to the run, which is always a quarterback’s best friend when successful. Mills will have a fair shot to chase away 2023 quarterback prospects, and if he succeeds, GM Nick Caserio can check off quarterback as one of the needs filled. – Mark Lane, Texans Wire

Indianapolis Colts: DE Kwity Paye

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The 2021 first-round pick had a solid rookie season and will be looking to build off of it while working in a new scheme under new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. Paye has all of the tools to be an elite edge rusher, and he flashed some of that upside during a three-game stretch in which he registered 17 total pressures. The addition of defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, combined with the presence of defensive tackle DeForest Buckner shold give Paye plenty of one-on-one looks. Putting it all together over the length of the season is the goal in Year 2 and an even more aggressive front, Paye should be on his way to a breakout campaign. – Kevin Hickey, Colts Wire

Jacksonville Jaguars: QB Trevor Lawrence

Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

While the Jags didn’t necessarily land All-Pro receivers for Trevor Lawrence, the addition of coach Doug Pederson can’t be overlooked for the young quarterback and his offense. The Jags’ Week 17 upset over Indianapolis, who had much to play for, is a prime example of what Lawrence can do with a distraction-free environment. That said, fans shouldn’t be exactly shocked if Pederson can get more of that out of Lawrence, who has a more talented offense than he did then. – James Johnson, Jaguars Wire

Kansas City Chiefs: WR Mecole Hardman

© Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, when Hardman’s production was criticized, he pointed to the fact that he had a future Hall of Fame tight end and receiver who were ahead of him in the pecking order. Without Tyreek Hill, it’s time for Hardman to show out within the Chiefs’ offense. There’s reason to believe that he can have a breakout year with more targets too. In 2021, of receivers with more than 35 targets, Hardman had the second-most yards after the catch per reception with 12.6 per Pro Football Focus. He’s a weapon with the ball in his hands and getting the ball in his hands more frequently could prove beneficial for Kansas City. Charles Goldman, Chiefs Wire

Las Vegas Raiders: LB Divine Deablo

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Deablo didn’t play much early in the year as he was making the transition from safety to linebacker. But by the end of the season, he was one of the best linebackers on the team. Deablo will get a chance to start at the weakside linebacker spot and he should be a perfect fit in Patrick Graham’s defense. His speed and athleticism are desperately needed in a defense that lacks it in the middle of the field. It wouldn’t be a shock if he led the team in tackles in 2022 as he will rarely come off the field. – Marcus Mosher, Raiders Wire

Los Angeles Chargers: CB Asante Samuel Jr.

Asante Samuel Jr.
Asante Samuel Jr.

AP Photo/Ashley Landis

Drafted in the second round of the 2021 NFL draft, Samuel strung together a solid rookie season. On 58 targets, he surrendered 36 completions while registering 11 passes defended and two interceptions, which tied for a team-best with safety Derwin James. Samuel, however, suffered two concussions, which limited him to 12 games. Now fully healthy, Samuel will enter his sophomore campaign in a secondary that now features All-Pro J.C. Jackson. With Jackson aboard, it will allow Samuel to play inside or outside, depending on the package, where he should resume his playmaking skills and establish himself as one of the top young corners in this league. – Gavino Borquez, Chargers Wire

Los Angeles Rams: NT Greg Gaines

AP Photo/Michael Conroy

Gaines already had a mini-breakout in 2021, but he still hasn’t become a household name around the NFL. That could change this year. As the unquestioned starter at nose tackle without Sebastian Joseph-Day in the mix, Gaines should play a ton of snaps and show why he’s one of the most underrated defensive linemen in the game. He’s a very good pass rusher for a guy who lines up over the center, and his ability to plug up running lanes is better than most. Don’t be surprised if Gaines winds up making his first Pro Bowl in 2022. – Cameron DaSilva, Rams Wire

Miami Dolphins: QB Tua Tagovailoa

AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

It would be tough to find a player that has dealt with more in the last year than Tagovailoa has. He’s combated Deshaun Watson rumors, poor offensive line play, injuries and inconsistencies/termoil in the coaching staff. Now, he has an improved group ahead of him with Terron Armstead and Connor Williams joining the line, and a number of new weapons, including Tyreek Hill, Chase Edmonds, Raheem Mostert and Cedrick Wilson Jr. Throw in an offensive-minded head coach and Tagovailoa has a lot going for him in 2022. – Mike Masala, Dolphins Wire

Minnesota Vikings: OT Christian Darrisaw

Elizabeth Flores/Star Tribune via AP

Christian Darrisaw was off to the races with a solid rookie season for the Vikings. The No. 23 overall pick of the 2021 NFL draft has been everything the team could have hoped for as Kirk Cousins’ blindside protector. It’s only natural to expect him to be even better in Year 2 with Kevin O’Connell overseeing the offense. His second-year leap could scale all the way to a Pro Bowl nod. Yes, Darrisaw really is that good. – Jordy McElroy, Vikings Wire

New England Patriots: LB Josh Uche

Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

If you asked me at this same time last year, I would have said Josh Uche. So let’s double down, shall we? The 2020 second-round pick has done nothing but flash potential. But that’s the problem. He’s in Year 3 and he should he more consistent. He shouldn’t be flashing. We shouldn’t even be talking about potential. Over the last few years, Uche got a pass because of a deep group of veteran linebackers. But they’re all gone. It’s time for Uche to sink or swim, and with some playing time, I’m betting he develops into one of the team’s best players. – Henry McKenna, Patriots Wire

New Orleans Saints: LB Pete Werner

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

A year spent behind Kwon Alexander on the depth chart was good for Werner, who is now positioned to start next to Demario Davis while Alexander hangs around in free agency. The second-year pro out of Ohio State was impressive in run defense on limited snaps for the Saints and appeared to be doing a better job of translating his athleticism to coverage assignments. Now he needs to take that next step and prove he can be a three-down defender during training camp. – John Sigler, Saints Wire

New York Giants: QB Daniel Jones

Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

For three straight years, it’s been expected that quarterback Daniel Jones will break out. Unfortunately, after a solid rookie campaign (save the turnovers), Jones has fallen off the map. He struggled mightily in an overly conservaitve and nearly non-functioning offense under Joe Judge and Jason Garrett, but in his absence it was made abundantly clear how much Jones raised that dreadful unit. Now under head coach Brian Daboll and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka, the Giants intend to open the offense up and let Jones do what he does best – be aggressive and throw the ball deep. – Dan Benton, Giants Wire

New York Jets: WR Elijah Moore

AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

Moore showed plenty of promise as a rookie last season, catching 43 passes for 538 yards and five touchdowns. But by no means was that a complete breakout. That could come in 2022 if he’s able to stay healthy and get more consistent play from his quarterback, Zach Wilson. Moore is a smooth route runner with good speed, too, creating plenty of big plays and yards after the catch. The Jets as a whole should be much better this season, and Moore will be a major part of that potential resurgence. – Cameron DaSilva, Jets Wire

Philadelphia Eagles: S Marcus Epps

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

By season’s end, Epps was Philadelphia’s most productive safety and the young defensive back should really take the next step in 2022 after seeing significant snaps in 2021. Epps is a tone setting free safety who’ll flourish in the box and could become a poor man’s version of Tyrann Mathieu. – Glenn Erby, Eagles Wire

Pittsburgh Steelers: TE Pat Freiermuth

Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Last season the Steelers got a taste of the type of weapon Freiermuth can be. Freiermuth finished his rookie season with 60 receptions for 497 receiving yards and seven receiving touchdowns. But this season, with a new quarterback and a new offense, Freiermuth should have a chance to improve across the board. Whether it is Mitch Trubiksy or Kenny Pickett under center, having a huge target like Freiermuth will make for an excellent security blanket. – Curt Popejoy, Steelers Wire

San Francisco 49ers: QB Trey Lance

AP Photo/Gary McCullough

This is as obvious as it gets, but the 49ers entire 2022 season relies on their second-year quarterback. Don’t buy the rumors that Jimmy Garoppolo is sticking around so he can keep the starting job. This is Lance’s team moving forward, and the jump he makes from Year 1 to Year 2 will drive San Francisco’s success. His 10 full quarters in 2021 were full of ups and downs. He’ll need to be dramatically improved and more consistent this year to break out, but his skill set inside of head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense sets the table for a big season for the 2021 No. 3 overall pick. – Kyle Madson, Niners Wire

Seattle Seahawks: LB Jordyn Brooks

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

In the absence of future Hall of Fame middle linebacker Bobby Wagner (now with the Rams), the Seahawks will be looking to Brooks for more leadership. Coach Pete Carroll has told reporters that Brooks will be taking over Wagner’s former role as the team’s defensive play-caller. Brooks made great strides in coverage in 2021 compared to his rookie season. Now, he’ll need to take the next step and become a complete defender to help make up for the loss of No. 54. – Tim Weaver, Seahawks Wire

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: OLB Joe Tryon-Shoyinka

Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Last year’s first-round pick, Tryon-Shoyinka showed flashes of brilliance as a rookie, bagging four sacks in a rotational role behind Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul. JPP isn’t expected back this season after struggling through multiple injuries last year, which will thrust the No. 32 overall selection from the 2021 draft into the starting lineup full-time. He’s got prototypical size for an edge defender, along with the explosiveness, length and athleticism to be an impact pass rusher. Opposing offenses will have to keep most of their attention on the likes of Barrett and Vita Vea up front, which should leave plenty of 1-on-1 opportunities for Tryon-Shoyinka to get after the passer. – Luke Easterling, Bucs Wire

Tennessee Titans: CB Kristian Fulton

Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

Fulton took a huge step forward in 2021 and was the Titans’ best cornerback, but his season went mostly under the radar outside of Nashville. Fulton posted career-bests in completion percentage against (51.4 percent) and passer rating allowed (71.3) after an injury-riddled rookie season. Some would argue Fulton broke out in 2021, but the LSU product will really turn heads in 2022 and enter the conversation as one of the best corners in the NFL. – Mike Moraitis, Titans Wire

Washington Commanders: CB Benjamin St-Juste

Glasheen USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

The Commanders loved St-Juste as a rookie, but concussions limited him to nine games in 2021. In OTAs, Washington’s defensive coaches have St-Juste working some in the slot. While that seemed a bit surprising since the 6-foot-3 St-Juste played outside in college and as a rookie, coaches love versatility. The more areas in which St-Juste can help the defense in 2022, only enhanches his chances of becoming a regular. Washington did not add another veteran corner this offseason so St-Juste will be one of the top three corners behind Kendall Fuller and William Jackson III. If he can stay healthy, he could quickly become an important piece to the defense. – Bryan Manning, Washington Wire

[listicle id=653985]