With Week 15 of the NFL season underway, there are officially four weeks left in the regular season. The competition for league awards is heating up as the playoff races heat up. One of the most intriguing involves rookies, who have made significant contributions to their respective teams. Some have emerged as instant stars, and when it comes to the most notable players, one team appears to have done quite well in last year’s draught, propelling it into the playoff picture.
All of this got us thinking: if you were an NFL GM or coach and could steal a 2022 rookie for your roster, who would you choose?
Cornerback for the Jets Gardner’s Sauce
This is an intriguing question with multiple possible answers. It also depends on what each individual values the most. Finally, my choices are Sauce Gardner, Aidan Hutchinson, Christian Watson, and Garrett Wilson.
Gardner’s play isn’t just exceptional for a rookie; he’s playing like a Top 3 corner in the league and should be considered for an All-Pro selection. My selection here is also intended to be a trend buster. We’re living in a golden age of great wide receivers, many of whom are still in their early careers. As more athletes enter the league, the players tasked with slowing them down should be rewarded. That’s why I believe corners like Gardner will become sought after in league circles. Versatile pass rushers are certainly high-value players, but they come around more often than true shutdown corners.
Joe Douglas of the New York Jets had three first-round picks in the 2022 NFL draught (two technically, but he traded back into the round to make it three) and chose cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, wide receiver Garrett Wilson, and defensive end Jermaine Johnson II.
Johnson has contributed to New York’s strong front seven, but Wilson and Gardner are already future stars. Gardner, in particular, is the favourite to win Defensive Rookie of the Year. His two interceptions may appear to be insignificant, but quarterbacks quickly realised that throwing to the rookie was a bad idea. He’s also intercepted 16 passes this season.
As a general manager, it makes sense to follow Douglas’ lead from eight months ago and sign a game-changing player in a key position. In a matchup-based league, being able to cover a No. 1 receiver with your own stud on the other side makes a big difference in the game plan. Gardner would immediately improve any team.
Gang Green’s rookie class has lived up to expectations after GM Joe Douglas was widely praised for “winning” the 2022 NFL draught. Before suffering a torn ACL in Week 7, RB Breece Hall looked like a legitimate Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate. Garrett Wilson, the No. 10 overall pick, is now in contention for the award, thanks to new starting QB Mike White, who is regularly getting the ball into Wilson’s hands. However, Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner could end up being the draught class’s crown jewel. The fourth-round pick has quickly proven to be the lockdown corner he was expected to be and is already ranked as the league’s top defensive back by the analytics website Pro Football Focus. Gardner has also helped instil a swagger and fear factor in a Jets defence that surrendered the most points and yards in the NFL just a year ago. Please pass the Sauce if I can just get one 2022 rookie on my roster.
Garrett Wilson, a wide receiver for the New York Jets
Much depends on how my roster is currently assembled, but the 2022 draught class was loaded at wide receiver. Garrett Wilson was the best all-around receiver in the class, and he’s proving it. Wilson has the most receiving yards (868) by a rookie in Jets history, and he leads all rookies with 63 receptions this season. He’s had at least 75 yards receiving in six games this season, with five of those coming in the Jets’ last six. Wilson’s route running and playmaking abilities are impressive, and he will only improve. Despite inconsistent quarterback play, he’s putting up impressive numbers. Right now, he’s my pick for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. If I’m the general manager or coach, hopefully I already have an elite quarterback ready to pass the ball to Wilson.
Some of my favourite rookies this season have been Lions wide receiver Jameson Williams, edge rusher Aider Hutchinson, receivers Garrett Wilson and George Pickens, and running back Kenneth Walker III. But did you see how Lions receiver Jameson Williams celebrated his first touchdown of his career last week? Williams was overjoyed. He barely even celebrated with teammates in the end zone – one because he was so far ahead of them for his 41-yard touchdown, and two because he was in such ecstasy running up and down the Lions sidelines. Williams, the No. 12 overall pick who tore his ACL playing for Alabama in the national championship game last January, displayed tenacity in his recovery and joy for a moment he deserved. What team wouldn’t want a player like that? Fortunately, the Lions have him.