For an NFL player to be considered an off-season surprise, he probably didn’t live up to expectations up to this point. Or, in the case of the 2022 draft class rookies, they probably didn’t get picked until at least the third round, or beyond.

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Every team needs its players to progress. Even the good ones. Teams improve when their average players become good and their good players strive to become great.

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We asked our NFL Nation reporters to pick one off-season standout from each of the teams they cover. The answers range from veterans signing year-long deals with new teams this offseason (Buffalo wide receiver Jamison Crowder), to younger players who haven’t hit their ceiling (Laviska Chenault Jr. of Jacksonville) to day three rookies. who could have had an early impact (offensive takeover of Braxton Jones in Chicago).

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All 32 of these players captured the attention of our reporters and their teams this offseason, showing they could play a bigger role than expected in 2022.

Go to command:
JAX | CS | LAC | LAR | LV | MIA | MY
northeast | NO | New York | New York | FI | PIT | SF


Buffalo Bills

WR Jamison Crowder

While the speedy Isaiah McKenzie seems to be leading the charge in the battle to be slot recipient Cole Beasley, Crowder looked solid during the offseason in his first offseason with the Bills. Having ended his time with the Jets with injuries (despite having 833 receiving yards in his first season with the team in 2019), Crowder may have found some form at Buffalo. The competition between McKenzie and Crowder for slot receiver time will be one of the most spectacular in training camp. — Alena Getzenberg

Miami Dolphins

OL Connor Williams

Signed from the Cowboys as a free agent this offseason, Williams was originally slated to take over at left back for the Dolphins in 2022. specified position. He will have to beat the current starter Michael Deiter, but it looks like Williams should lose. –Marcel Louis-Jacques

New England Patriots

WR Tre Nixon

The 2021 seventh-round pick caught two deep passes from Mack Jones, one of which he pinned to his chest with his right arm tightly covered to earn himself a surprise trip to the podium for a post-workout interview. Nixon, who drove to the stadium every day with Jones last season as they took COVID tests together before entering the building, spent 2021 on the practice team. He faces a crowded WR depth chart led by DeVante Parker, Jacobi Meyers, Nelson Agolor, Kendrick Bourne and 2022 second-round pick Tyquan Thornton, but he made an early case as a player to keep an eye on when training camp kicks off. — Mike Reiss

New York Jets

WR Jeff Smith

Smith, known for his special teams, in particular as a punt team shooter, impressed with his wide receiver shooting. He ended a strong off-season with a terrific one-handed touchdown from a long pass from Zach Wilson. A former undrafted free agent who started his college career as a quarterback, Smith is getting better and better (26 career shots). In a pinch, he can play wide, remaining a mainstay in special teams. — Rich Jiminy


Baltimore Ravens

TE Isaiah Most likely

The fourth-round pick was the second tight end taken by the Ravens this year, but this off-season he has impressed with his ability to open up and his large tackle radius. “Beware of this guy,” security guard Tony Jefferson said. “He’s going to be really good.” Chances are, the one from Coastal Carolina was the star of mini-camp’s final day when he caught several touchdown passes during red zone drills, including a spectacular one-handed tackle.

“It was an amazing catch,” quarterback Lamar Jackson said. “So the sky is the limit.” — Jamison Hensley

Cincinnati Bengals

WR Kwami Lassiter II

The rookie’s undrafted free agent had an impressive offseason. The wide receiver even earned a few first-team representatives on offense. If Lassiter can make it into the special teams rotation, he could have a shot at making the 53-man roster. — Ben Baby

Cleveland Browns

S. Grant Delpit

The former second-round pick has struggled with injuries, including a torn Achilles during his rookie season in 2020. But now, according to forecasts, Delpit really took the lead this offseason, more than once intercepting Deshawn Watson in training. In Delpit and John Johnson III, safety could prove to be Cleveland’s main strength this season. — Jake Trotter

Pittsburgh Steelers

TE Connor Hayward

It’s hard to really go unnoticed as Cam Hayward’s little brother, but rookie Hayward impressed in off-season practice and showed chemistry with first-round quarterback Kenny Pickett in a pleasant hitch during a two-minute mini-camp workout. Hayward, selected in the sixth round, plays a hybrid role as tight end and defender in an offense that values ​​the versatility of its players. Since he has worked primarily with tightlands and wide receivers, Hayward will likely not compete for a spot on the defensive end with Derek Watt, so both will likely find roles on the 2022 squad. — Brook Pryor


Houston Texans

WR Nico Collins

Quarterback Davis Mills pointed to second-year wide receiver as the player who excelled this spring. Mills said that Collins is “well-versed in this offense” and “his talent is off the charts”. Collins had 33 catches for 446 yards and one touchdown last season, and Mills said Houston needs to “find ways to get [Collins] ball” in 2022. — Sarah Barshop

Indianapolis Colts

WR Parris Campbell

Maybe, just maybe, 2022 is the season when Campbell can stay healthy. He spent most of the offseason training on the first line, starting with Michael Pittman Jr. as the second wide receiver, while also looking comfortable with quarterback Matt Ryan. The key for Campbell — as it has been since he was drafted in 2019 — is to stay healthy. He played 15 of 49 possible games in the first three seasons of his NFL career. If the Colts are healthy, they can use Campbell in a variety of ways, including in the slot and on the move. — Mike Wells

Jacksonville Jaguars

WR Laviska Chenot Jr.

Chenault had a tough 2021 – he finished second in the NFL with eight falls and had trouble with routes – but he seems to have bounced back this spring. He was confident in OTAs open to the media. His confidence is high despite being the fifth offensive coordinator in as many seasons (three with the Jaguars and two with the Colorado). Chenot also worked as a repatriate. The team asked him to try it with Jamal Agnew, who is recovering from a hip injury. Special groups coordinator Heath Farwell was impressed.

“He’s dynamic,” Farwell said. “There is a speed and power that you don’t really see in all positions, but especially in the return position.” – Michael DiRocco

Tennessee Titans

TE Chigozim Okonkwo

The fourth-round rookie quickly learned what the coaching staff asked him to do and is already showing his versatility by lining up the whole formation like he did in college in Maryland. Okonkwo caught a total of four touchdowns in two days of mini-camp training. One of them was a jump catch into the corner of the end zone on a pass by Ryan Tannehill.

“Only physically,” Tannehill said. “To see his size, his strength, his speed, how he can play through contact, he definitely gives us another weapon.” — Turron Davenport


Denver Broncos

CB Michael Ojemudia

You would be hard-pressed to find a player, at least on this side of quarterback Russell Wilson, who received more accolades than Ojemudia during OTAs and mini-camp. Ojemudia, who started as a rookie in 2020 due to injuries to other players, rarely played defense last season after suffering a serious hamstring injury in preseason. He quickly caught the attention of a new quarterback and worked with starting players as the Broncos prudently approached Ronald Darby’s OTA shoulder injury. The Broncos played Ojemudia in practice like he was CB4 after Pat Surten II, Darby and K’Von Williams. — Jeff Legvold

Kansas City Chiefs

With Juan Thornhill

Thornhill is healthy for perhaps the first time since he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in 2019 as a rookie and has been impressive during off-season training. Now that Tyranne Mathieu is gone, the Chiefs will ask him for more, and Thornhill said he’ll answer with an All-Pro season. “I am determined to do it,” he said. — Adam Teicher

Las Vegas Raiders

OL Alex Leatherwood

The oft-maligned 2021 first-round pick, who switched from right tackle to right back after just four games last season, spent a lot of time in the offseason in proper tackle. He was drafted and trainer Josh McDaniels said Leatherwood will be given every opportunity to win back the contract. So spending so much time outside should do wonders for his confidence and also put him on the path to reclaiming his old job. Whether this will be a positive thing for the offensive line as a whole remains to be seen. – Paul Gutierrez

Los Angeles Chargers

WR Jalen Guyton

Coach Brandon Staley didn’t hesitate when he was asked at the end of the off-season program which players suddenly stood out. “Jalen Guyton was a fantastic off-season player,” Staley said. “This guy made a lot of important games for us this spring. He came physically just in great shape. He moves great. I thought he could move. A pro in his fourth year, Guyton has caught 59 passes for 959 yards and six touchdowns in his last two seasons. — Lindsey Thiry

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys

WR T.J. Vasher

Signed last year as an undrafted free agent, Vasher has been out of training due to a knee injury, but he has used this offseason to draw himself into conversation with the host side. With Michael Gallup working on…