Top Rookies in the NFC North
Each new NFL season brings a new crop of rookies with a relatively equal chance of becoming stars or busts. The NFC North is full of such rookies to watch this season. The Detroit Lions have added high-motored, intelligent defenders as well as a receiver who can absolutely fly down the field, the Packers had multiple first-round picks and are looking for new targets for Aaron Rodgers., while the Vikings and Bears added some good pieces to their defenses.
Aidan Hutchinson, DE, Detroit Lions
How can you not list the No. 2 overall pick? While I don't like that he's a Wolverine, the Lions' defense needed this kind of player. The team has lacked a premier pass-rusher for years, and adding a guy of Hutchinson's caliber is sure to pay dividends. There's a reason people have been so high on him, and he's done little to prove otherwise. I expect Hutchinson to become a star, even if he wasn't jumping off the screen in his first game.
Malcolm Rodriguez, LB, Detroit Lions
After all the publicity he received on the HBO offseason series Hard Knocks, there's no way "Rodrigo" was not going to be on my list. During his college career at Oklahoma State, he was one of the smartest players on the defense and always around the ball. Many thought his perceived physical limitations would cause him to be a special teams player at the next level, but he has surpassed all expectations--especially as a sixth-round pick.
In the season opener against the Eagles, Rodriguez routinely made plays, threw Pro Bowl center Jason Kelce a few yards downfield, and finished as the top-rated Detroit defender according to Pro Football Focus. Head coach Dan Campbell also continued to praise Rodriguez in his Monday press conference.
Jameson Williams, WR, Detroit Lions
Just as Hutchinson was a much-needed addition to the defense, Wiliams is the perfect addition to the Detroit offense. One of the areas in which Lions receivers really struggled in 2021 was getting separation from defenders--which was mostly due to a lack of speed.
There was a noticeable improvement on Sunday even without Williams, but he has game-changing speed that can open up the field even further. Once he is healthy enough to get on the field, he takes this offense to another level.
Lewis Cine, S, Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings needed someone to pair with Harrison Smith on the back end of the defense, and Cine could even become Smith's replacement once he retires. The former Georgia Bulldog was considered one of the top safety prospects in the 2022 Draft because of his quick and hard-hitting playing style and has the tools to become a star. While injuries have kept him off the field for now, plenty of players with similar abilities have become great NFL players. With a great deal of turnover in personnel and players growing older, Cine will be an important young player for Minnesota this season and into the future.
Quay Walker, LB, Green Bay Packers
Walker is another one of the many Georgia defensive players who were selected in the draft, and he may be the best coverage player of the linebackers. Green Bay took him in the first round and clearly has high expectations for him as he has already entered the starting lineup. For what it's worth, the Packers have been good at finding solid linebackers no matter where they are drafted, so Walker's development should be in great hands.
While Sunday was not a good showing from the Green Bay defense, Walker finished his debut with eight tackles against Minnesota.
Christian Watson, WR, Green Bay Packers
Watson's size and speed helped him rise into the second round of April's draft. The North Dakota State product had a monstrous offseason that had many pundits considering him a potential star at the next level. While his frame and talent can cause issues for opposing defenses, there are some questions about his hands and catching ability.
That issue popped up on Sunday as he dropped a sure touchdown in the loss to the Vikings, I think he'll be a good player as he adjusts, but there is much expected of him as a rookie in a reshaped receiving corps.
Romeo Doubs WR, Green Bay Packers
Doubs is another Packers rookie who will be relied on heavily in 2022. From what I've heard, he's actually been the most impressive of the rookie receivers in camp. He was ultra-productive as a college player at Nevada and has a chance to be a solid NFL player.
Jaquan Brisker, S, Chicago Bears
It's not that the Bears necessarily needed another safety, but a player of Brisker's talent was too good to pass up. The Penn State product was one of the best safeties in college football and came off the board later than expected. He's yet another hard-hitting, ball-hawking safety that pairs perfectly with his teammate (in this case Eddie Jackson). I have high hopes for Brisker, even though he plays for Chicago.