Every season, new stars are born in the NFL. Think about Ja’Marr Chase erupting for 201 receiving yards in Week 7 of 2021 against the Ravens. T.J. Watt had another memorable breakout performance, totaling three sacks in Week 1 of 2018.
Plenty of promising young players are rising. Headed into the 2022 season, 7 NFL players are on track to be breakout stars.
QB Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars
After being selected No. 1 in the 2021 NFL Draft, Jacksonville had high hopes for Trevor Lawrence. The Jaguars got their QB that could turn the franchise around. Year one did not go as planned.
Lawrence was turnover-prone, finishing with a 12-touchdown-to-17-interception ratio. Jacksonville had few weapons, plus, Travis Etienne missed the entire season and RB James Robinson missed the final two games of 2021. Per PFF, Lawrence’s targets had 37 dropped passes, which ranked as the second-most in the NFL.
This season, the second-year QB has a more favorable situation. The Jags upgraded the wideout room with the signings of Christian Kirk and Zay Jones. Also, Jacksonville boosted the O-line, adding five-time Pro Bowl guard Brandon Scherff and third-round rookie center Luke Fortner. Etienne will be ready for Week 1 and Robinson is making great progress off a torn Achilles.
Lawrence possesses elite talent. With a better supporting cast and added experience, this could be the year Jacksonville gets its star signal caller.
RB Javonte Williams, Denver Broncos
One could argue that Javonte Williams was already nearing star status following his excellent rookie season. With a more prominent role and Russell Wilson at QB, Williams could become one of the NFL’s elite running backs.
In 2021, Williams rushed for 903 yards while averaging 4.4 yards per carrying. According to The Draft Network, the former North Carolina Tar Heel totaled 63 broken tackles on 203 carries. For comparison, Jonathan Taylor — who led the NFL in missed tackles — broke 66 tackles on 332 carries.
Denver features a two-man attack with Williams and Melvin Gordon, who had 203 rushes last season. Williams is expected to get an increased workload, giving him All-Pro potential.
EDGE Odafe Oweh, Baltimore Ravens
In his rookie season, Odafe Oweh posted five sacks and 33 tackles. The 6-foot-5 edge-rusher had a typical rookie year with many peaks and valleys. Oweh showed off massive potential throughout the year. He led Baltimore at three forced fumbles and PFF credited Oweh with 49 QB pressures, which ranked third among rookies.
The former first-rounder had a limited role, limiting his stats. As a full-time starter, Oweh could shine. The Ravens will have more defensive help as many starters return from injury. Once it clicks, the league’s in trouble.
Oweh recorded a mind-boggling 4.37-second 40-yard dash. A 6-foot-5, 251-pound edge-rusher ran a sub 4.4… you read that right. Plus, the second-year Raven has great length and bend. Everything is there, it’s time for Oweh to break out.
DT Christian Barmore, New England Patriots
The interior defensive line is not the most talked about in the position. Like the offensive line, defensive tackles are oftentimes unsung heroes. Aaron Donald is about the only defensive tackle that gets the recognition he deserves.
New England’s Christian Barmore could be the next superstar defensive tackle. In his rookie season, Barmore had a limited role with two starts. The former Alabama DT finished with 46 tackles and 1.5 sacks. In the second half of the season, Barmore looked like a different player. He became one of the NFL’s best pass-rushing defensive tackles, finishing with 48 pressures.
Barmore continues to trend in the right direction as he dominates the Patriots’ camp.
CB Jaycee Horn, Carolina Panthers
Carolina had a potential Defensive Rookie of the Year three games into 2021. Cornerback Jaycee Horn made an instant impact in the secondary. In three games, he allowed two receptions on seven targets. When throwing at Horn, quarterbacks had a 28.6% completion percentage and a 39.6 QB rating. Unfortunately, the rookie corner suffered three broken bones in his foot in Week 3. This was a season-ending injury, but he enters 2022 healthy.
If Horn plays a full season, he appears poised for a breakout year. Remember how good Denver’s Patrick Surtain II was last year? Horn can be just as good, if not better. With Horn ready to go, the Panthers could have a star defensive back.
QB Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins’ offense will be exciting. The duo of Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle should be special. Running backs Chase Edmonds, Raheem Mostert and Sony Michel signed in free agency. In addition, Terron Armstead is a massive upgrade on the offensive line. Head Coach Mike McDaniel leads the offense as an excellent play-caller.
Tua Tagovailoa will be the deciding factor. Through two seasons, Tagovailoa has a 27 touchdown-to-15-interception ratio. Furthermore, he was under 50 QBR in each season. With a new offensive system, will Tagovailoa break out as Miami’s franchise QB?
The upside is certainly there. The third-year QB can be pinpoint accurate, and he’s put his deep ball on full display in training camp. This is by far Tagovailoa’s best situation. He’s had poor receivers, ineffective run games, and inconsistent protection up to this point. Tagovailoa has a great shot to break out.
WR Rondale Moore, Arizona Cardinals
Rondale Moore will have a vital role to start the season. Lead receiver DeAndre Hopkins will miss six games due to a PED suspension. In addition, newly acquired Marquise “Hollywood” Brown faces a potential suspension after his arrest for criminal speeding.
A.J. Green and Moore will be Kyler Murray’s top wideouts in the meantime. Moore is a Swiss Army Knife. He can be utilized in the run game or as a slot receiver. Moore has the speed, vision, and lateral quickness to be lethal in the open field.
Rondale Moore is just too much fun pic.twitter.com/5RchWuX3ly
— Travis May (@FF_TravisM) September 12, 2021
Arizona must get creative in Hopkins and Brown’s absence. Moore could be the solution. If the second-year receiver turns heads, how do you deny him playing time? Even with the return of Hopkins and Brown, Moore can earn an elevated role leading to a breakout season.