With the 2022 NFL season now officially in the books, all eyes turn toward the 2023 NFL Draft. But before a new wave of talent hits the league, Eric Edholm and Nick Shook are taking a team-by-team look back at the rookie class of 2022.
Today, Edholm examines the NFC West.
- (No. 9) Charles Cross, OT, 17 games/17 starts
- (40) Boye Mafe, OLB, 17 games/3 starts
- (41) Kenneth Walker III, RB, 15 games/11 starts
- (72) Abraham Lucas, OT, 16 games/16 starts
- (109) Coby Bryant, CB, 17 games/6 starts
- (153) Tariq Woolen, CB, 17 games/17 starts
- (158) Tyreke Smith, OLB, 0 games
- (229) Bo Melton, WR, 0 games (now w/ GB)
- (233) Dareke Young, WR, 13 games/0 starts
It's not a stretch to say that the Seahawks might not have returned to the postseason without the contributions of their rookie class. They received notable playing time from six first-year players -- three on offense, three on defense -- and replenished some of the depth issues that plagued Seattle down the stretch in recent seasons.
They addressed offensive tackle in a big way with Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas, who started all but one game combined last season and hardly embarrassed themselves. Cross had a few rough patches, allowing seven sacks (per PFF) and committing nine penalties, but displayed enough promise to cast him as the left tackle for the foreseeable future. And Lucas used his college experience to provide surprisingly steady play on the right side, especially as a pass blocker.
Kenneth Walker III actually received more first-place votes for Offensive Rookie of the Year than winner Garrett Wilson, giving the Seahawks their latest tackle breaker in the backfield. Despite being brought along slowly at first and suffering a late-season ankle injury, Walker surpassed the 1,000-yard rushing mark and ran for 97 or more yards in six of his 11 starts.
Tariq Woolen and Coby Bryant might be the Seahawks' starting corners for the next few years. How Woolen fell to Round 5 is anyone's guess, but he's a Seattle-style corner if there ever was one, tying for the league lead in picks with six (one pick-six) and flashing outstanding playmaking ability. Bryant opened eyes with four forced fumbles and has the makings of a quality slot corner if he can clean up his tackling and tighten his coverage a shade. Boye Mafe brought energy as a subpackage rusher and figures to reprise that role -- or even start -- in 2023.
- (No. 61) Drake Jackson, DE, 15 games/0 starts
- (93) Tyrion Davis-Price, RB, 6 games/0 starts
- (105) Danny Gray, WR, 13 games/ 0 starts
- (134) Spencer Burford, OG, 16 games/16 starts
- (172) Samuel Womack, CB, 16 games/1 start
- (187) Nick Zakelj, OG, 5 games/0 starts
- (220) Kalia Davis, DT, 0 games
- (221) Tariq Castro-Fields, CB, 2 games/0 starts (now w/ WAS)
- (262) Brock Purdy, QB, 9 games/5 starts
Notable free agent signee:
- Jordan Mason, RB, 16 games/0 starts
Raise your hand if you had Spencer Burford and Brock Purdy as the 49ers' no-doubt biggest rookie contributors before August? (Now put it back down, you filthy liar.)
Purdy was one of the most stunning rookie contributors in several years, going from Mr. Irrelevant to nearly a household name in just a few months. Thrust into the starting lineup in Week 13 for an injured Jimmy Garoppolo, Purdy led the Niners to a 5-0 regular-season finish and two playoff victories before suffering a torn UCL in the NFC Championship Game. But even with the major injury and with Trey Lance in place, Purdy completely rewrote the 49ers' future QB picture, giving himself a chance to earn back the starting job eventually.
Burford started all but one game, often rotating with Daniel Brunskill. Although Burford will never be a mauler in the run game, he's physically gifted enough to be a solid fixture in a Kyle Shanahan system. Jordan Mason was a surprise addition to the RB mix, offering nothing as a receiver but providing a physical punch as a runner late in the season. He's worth watching.
The two rookie defenders who played in nearly every game last season offer some promise. Drake Jackson started out well in a reserve role but seemed to fade down the stretch, as a healthy scratch in five of the final six games (including playoffs). He's twitchy with pass-rush potential but must show more stamina and strength to withstand a long season. Samuel Womack was a pleasant surprise, giving the team a nickel option for 2023.
- (55) Trey McBride, TE, 16 games/13 starts
- (87) Cameron Thomas, OLB, 17 games/0 starts
- (100) Myjai Sanders, OLB, 13 games/4 starts
- (201) Keaontay Ingram, RB, 12 games/0 starts
- (215) Lecitus Smith, OG, 10 games/2 starts
- (244) Christian Matthew, CB, 14 games/3 starts
- (256) Jesse Luketa, OLB, 7 games/0 starts
- (257) Marquis Hayes, OG, 0 games
The trade for wide receiver Marquise "Hollywood" Brown left the Cardinals without a first-round pick and put a true lid on what this rookie class could accomplish, especially when their top selection (Trey McBride) was something of a luxury pick. He was barely targeted the first 10 games of the season (four targets) but finished strong as a chain-moving receiver with Zach Ertz out injured. McBride might not have immense upside, but he can be a solid contributor.
Third-round defenders Cameron Thomas and Myjai Sanders each had three sacks in limited chances. Both saw increased playing time down the stretch, but there's a reasonable question of how high their respective ceilings are. Together, they make decent platoon potential, but the Cardinals are starving for pass-rush help with J.J. Watt retiring. One or both of these edge rushers must step up their game.
The only other major rookie contributors were Lecitus Smith and Christian Matthew. Smith stepped in full time in Weeks 9 through 11 with middling results. He isn't guaranteed a starting role in 2023. Matthew earned most of his snaps early on special teams, but was given an extended look in December as an outside corner, showing enough promise to earn another shot.
- (No. 104) Logan Bruss, OG, 0 games
- (142) Cobie Durant, CB, 13 games/1 start
- (164) Kyren Williams, RB, 10 games/0 starts
- (211) Quentin Lake, S, 9 games/0 starts
- (212) Derion Kendrick, CB, 15 games/6 starts
- (235) Daniel Hardy, OLB, 6 games/0 starts
- (253) Russ Yeast, S, 15 games/1 start
- (261) A.J. Arcuri, OT, 8 games/1 start
Selling out to win a Super Bowl meant the Rams had zero picks inside the top 100 overall. Their draft class reflected that in terms of Year 1 contributions, but it wasn't a total morass.
The biggest development was finding depth in the secondary. After sitting quite a bit early, Cobie Durant shined late in the season, intercepting three passes (with a pick-six) and shockingly leading the NFL in INT return yardage. Is he a budding star or a flash in the pan? The Rams seem to like him quite a bit. Derion Kendrick was picked on as an early-season starter and eventually benched, but he should get another crack at earning time. Russ Yeast and Quentin Lake both had brief late-season auditions and could be in the mix for regular playing time with several DBs headed for free agency.
One big disappointment was the preseason ACL injury to their top pick, Logan Bruss, who would have been in line for starting on a beat-up Rams offensive line had he not been hurt. Kyren Williams, the only offensive contributor of note, had some later-season chances but still must prove he is capable of being the team's third-down option in a muddled backfield picture.