It can be tough to get ultra-hyped for the NFL Preseason, but it does give us a glimpse into the emerging young talent and how their abilities may shake out! Let’s peek at a few rookies who should be on everyone’s radar this year.
Does George Pickens seem to be the whole package or what? Drafted number 52nd overall in the 2nd round by Pittsburgh, Pickens has really caught the attention of both the Steelers and teams across the league. Not only can the receiver out of Georgia catch the ball with incredible control, but he can block with the best of them. The preseason highlight reels of his blocks make it hard to believe he is a wide receiver!
The primed wideout is a welcomed sight in Steel City. Despite missing most of his Junior year to an ACL tear, it looks as though the receiver’s decision to join the big boys may have been the right call. Pickens jived well with all three quarterbacks during preseason QB competitions which will lend itself well whether it be connecting with Trubisky in week one or one of the rookies at QB, Kenny Pickett, later on in the year. The Steelers majorly lucked out with their new receiver falling to the second round and adding depth behind Claypool and Johnson.
Another Georgia Bulldog has entered the chat! The star-studded linebacker was taken by the Philadelphia Eagles 83rd overall in the 3rd round of the draft. Befuddling many, the former team captain sat untouched through the first two rounds. His downfalls, according to some, were Dean’s smaller size at a notch under six feet and around 225 pounds. With fear he won’t have an easy time against NFL O-lines, it is also worth noting that throughout his tenure in Athens, he missed no playing time to injuries which is an attractive asset in this league.
Other accolades for Dean include the 2021 Butkus Award, a National Championship (defeating Alabama in January 2022), and a 3.5 GPA in Mechanical Engineering with just two semesters shy of completion. The brainy athlete decided to suit up in pads and a helmet on Sundays, but also realizes the importance of his education. The Eagles got a steal snagging Dean so late after falling to the third round.
Drafted 11th overall (drafting up, actually) in the first round, the Saints had one thing in mind: weapon. The NFL freshman and former track star is set to give Jameis Winston another speedy option downfield alongside Michael Thomas. Olave’s tenure at Ohio State was beyond productive, to say the least. He set the record at OSU for most receiving touchdowns in a season (35), playing in three Big Ten Championships, and three CFP games.
Apart from his modest size, there really weren’t many drawbacks when assessing Olave. His flexibility, awareness, route running, and assured hands (only 5 drops on 101 targets in 2021) has to give Winston some confidence in looking away from Kamara and Thomas. As long as the rookie can continue to excel with speed to avoid contests from big-bodied defenders, he should quickly establish a name for himself in the National Football League.
Romeo Doubs/Christian Watson
In true Aaron Rodgers fashion, he gave high praise to his rookies at camp…soon after some public criticism. It was a tad confusing, but as we have learned of the veteran quarterback over his 18-year career, he does not mince words. On the flip side, he also does not hand out unwarranted applause.
Trying to fill the Davante Adams void and add roster depth are the two receivers, Christian Watson (2nd round pick, 34th overall, out of North Dakota State University) and Romeo Doubs (4th round, 132nd overall pick, out of Nevada). Each of these young men dons their own receiving style as Watson is big, fast, and physical while Doubs thrives in agile routes and straight-line speed.
While there is pressure to keep a productive offense in the air, the Packers are still able to rely on guys like Allen Lazard, Rob Tonyan, and Randall Cobb. Rodgers mentioned on the Pat McAfee Show that the new additions have been extremely present and asking all of the right questions, which you love to see. It’s nerve-racking to imagine the burden placed upon the rookies in Green Bay, but this is when newbies can etch their names into franchise faithful for years to come.
Travis Etienne Jr.* (Drafted in 2021)
I am well aware that Etienne is not a true rookie; however, considering his entire 2021 season was spent on injury reserve, all eyes are on the Jacksonville running back to, well, run it back. For all intents and purposes, he is a newbie! Some are even predicting a CPOY designation come year’s end. The hype around T.E. Jr. is real and we know (new) Head Coach Doug Pederson is excited to throw him in Trevor Lawrence’s offense!
Likened to an Alvin Kamara-type, Etienne has it all: explosive power, dominance in the red zone, and even pass-catching capabilities. These strengths coupled with his history with Lawrence are generating hype among Jags country and fantasy lovers alike.
These young players mentioned above are just a smattering of the rookies that are to come in the 2022 season. Check back ways into the season for a look at how these young men have lived up to their expectations!