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6 potential AFC breakout candidates for the 2022 NFL season | NFL News, Rankings and Statistics

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The AFC will feature quite a few recent faces for the 2022 NFL season, most notably longtime NFC standouts Russell Wilson, Matt Ryan and Davante Adams — just just a few of the players who will probably be moving to the AFC this season.

Then, there are the intraconference moves: Former Latest England Patriots J.C. Jackson became a Los Angeles Charger, and a shell-shocking offseason trade between the Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins sent star wide receiver Tyreek Hill to South Beach.

Every NFL team endures turnover in an offseason, and people moves pave the way in which for breakout seasons. Listed here are three offensive players and three defensive players who’ve a probability to step up in 2022.

QB Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins

It wasn’t the smoothest sailing for Tagovailoa during his first two NFL seasons with defensive-minded head coach Brian Flores. And while Tagovailoa’s passing numbers did improve from his rookie season to his sophomore campaign, his overall and passing grades still did not hit 70.0.

SeasonDropbacksPFF gradeGrade rank
202142867.322 of 39
202032663.933 of 42

Through two seasons, the Alabama product has struggled to hit enough big plays to nullify the variety of mistakes he’s made. In 2021, Tagovailoa’s turnover-worthy plays (22) outweighed his big-time throws (10), and he finished with a better turnover-worthy percentage (4.8) than big-time throw percentage (2.4) for a second consecutive season.

Nonetheless, the Dolphins have now created a significantly better environment for his or her young quarterback, most notably by bringing in wide receiver Tyreek Hill.

Hill has mastered the power to thrive as a vertical threat while prospering within the intermediate game, and he can provide Tua with the outlet he must take the subsequent step. The 28-year-old speedster leads the NFL in virtually every deep receiving stat — including receptions (65), yards (2,574) and touchdowns (27) — since 2017, and his 75 combined first downs and touchdowns tied for the third-most amongst wide receivers last season. 

While Tagovailoa has all the time been knocked for his undersized frame and limited arm strength, he has never had the elite separators he now has in Hill and second-year speedster Jaylen Waddle. In a scheme predicated on getting top-level playmakers open and into space, Tua looks significantly better equipped for fulfillment in Yr 3 of his NFL profession.

WR Gabriel Davis, Buffalo Bills 

Last 12 months had the makings of a possible breakout campaign for Gabriel Davis, but then the Bills signed Emmanuel Sanders to tag-team with Cole Beasley because the secondary options within the receiving corps. 

Davis showed some flashes in 2021, recording career-highs in targets (74), receptions (45), receiving yards (791) and PFF grade (81.5) over the 12 months, however the highlight of his sophomore 12 months got here within the team’s final postseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs when he hauled in 8-of-10 targets for over 201 yards and 4 scores, good for a 92.5 PFF receiving grade within the eventual loss. It showed how monumental he may very well be in his third 12 months with All-Pro quarterback Josh Allen.

Davis has all the time thrived as a deep threat: His 500 receiving yards from deep passes is a top-30 mark amongst NFL wideouts over the past two seasons, and he ranked fifth within the nation in deep yards in his final season in college (620). What he hasn’t been in a position to control throughout his young profession has been the goal distribution. His 74 targets were a career-high this past 12 months, nevertheless it still trailed the top-three pass-catchers on the 2021 Bills roster.

Last season, Stefon Diggs saw a decline in passing targets and receptions, though each surpassed the century mark for the second consecutive season. While he continues to get all the eye on the alternative side of the sphere, the door opens for pass-catching opportunities elsewhere. It’s now or never for Davis to have a breakthrough as a budding NFL star receiver. What higher approach to construct upon his career-high overall grade (81.5) and receiving grade (80.0) than because the clear-cut WR2 in 2022.

WR Treylon Burks, Tennessee Titans

The Titans didn’t need to pay A.J. Brown top-of-the-market money, so that they replaced him with one other big, physical and athletic rookie wide receiver in Burks. In doing so, they thrust the first-year pass-catcher into the WR1 role for the upcoming campaign.

The 6-foot-2, 225-pound wide receiver averaged 8.6 yards after the catch per reception and broke 24 tackles on 115 receptions across the past two college seasons, grading above 80.0 in each of those two years. Gifted with an otherworldly size-speed combination, he’ll offer value vertically and on schemed touches underneath. 

With Brown’s 110 targets from last season now up for grabs, Burks could have every opportunity to showcase his talent down in Tennessee. 

S Kyle Hamilton, Baltimore Ravens

Hamilton fell into Baltimore’s lap in the midst of the primary round, more than likely because his slower-than-expected 40-yard dash tanked his stock.

Nonetheless, the 6-foot-4, 220-pounder has absurd length and improbable eyes in coverage, and he continues to be one among the highest explosive athletes in the category. He recorded 22 combined pass breakups and interceptions in his three-year college profession — and only five Power Five safeties have recorded greater than 15 over that span.

Hamilton was a real playmaker at Notre Dame, and he now joins a Ravens secondary that recently added safety Marcus Williams and already has Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters.

CB Asante Samuel Jr., Los Angeles Chargers

Outside of Derwin James, no Chargers defensive back registered a coverage grade over 70.0: Veteran Chris Harris was a colossal Chargers flameout who wasn’t re-signed, while Michael Davis finished a turbulent season as CB1 with a career-low 54.4 coverage grade.

Samuel suffered two concussions in his rookie season, limiting him to only 12 games and 693 snaps, but he still managed to rank tenth amongst 123 qualifying cornerbacks in forced incompletion percentage. The following step for him is to limit the massive plays, as he gave up 12 explosive plays of 15 or more yards a season ago. 

EDGE Kwity Paye, Indianapolis Colts

Paye registered a 77.5 pass-rushing grade in true pass sets last 12 months, a top-35 amongst all pass-rushers. He also recorded a 20% win rate while totaling 20 hurries, three hits and 4 sacks on those reps — all in his first NFL season.

Paye’s pass-rushing grade was the very best of all Colts’ edge rushers, and he racked up the second-most pressures on the team (39). With the pre-draft addition of Yannick Ngakoue into the fold, Paye’s numbers could increase this 12 months with a bookend edge rusher on the alternative side. 

Paye’s rookie impact went under the radar because he didn’t have the sack numbers of a Micah Parsons. Nonetheless, he has the potential to construct upon that in 2022, and a change in scheme with added reinforcements can elevate him into a major AFC breakout candidate.

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