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2022 NFL All-Pro: Rookies Who Could Crash the Party

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Many rookies have long adjustment periods to the NFL. They develop over a handful of seasons before breaking out in their third or fourth seasons. However, a select few come out and establish themselves as the premier option in their position. Since 2010, 17 players have made the All-Pro team as a rookie. Many of the players made it as a special teamer, but a handful made the jump on offense or defense. Let’s look at five rookies who could climb the mountain and be an NFL All-Pro Rookie.

Breece Hall, Running Back, New York Jets

There is a decent history of rookie running backs becoming All-Pros, but Ezekiel Elliott is the only player to do so since 2000. Before Elliott, future Hall of Famers Marcus Allen, Eric Dickerson, Barry Sanders, and Edgerrin James also were first-year All-Pros.

Hall’s enemy here is workload. Since 2010, only 11 rookie running backs have eclipsed 250 carries. While 250 carries might seem arbitrary, 81 of the last 82 All-Pro running backs hit that mark (excluding the 1982 strike season). The only exception is Jamaal Charles, a back who averaged 6.4 yards per carry across 230 carries in 2010.

Hall, despite being the top running back in the class, might not be the starter from Week 1. However, several factors are working in his favor. First, the Jets have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, and many of their pieces are stellar run-blockers. Second, there is plenty of disaster potential with quarterback Zach Wilson. The Jets could throw in Wilson’s towel and turn Hall into a modern-day James Wilder (record holder for most touches in a season), as well as an NFL All-Pro rookie.

Tyler Linderbaum, Center, Baltimore Ravens

History is not on Linderbaum’s side. While there have been three rookie NFL All-Pro offensive linemen since 2010, there were zero between 1961 and 2013. Zack Martin, Jack Conklin, and Quenton Nelson have burst through the glass ceiling, however.

Linderbaum is a generational prospect, and he will be in a run-heavy offense that should highlight his movement skills. While there are a handful of excellent centers (and a Jason Kelce retirement tour) in the way, Linderbaum could be the 2022 version of Creed Humphrey. Humphrey was an absurd snub from both the All-Pro team and Pro Bowl teams in 2021 as a rookie. It can be difficult to break through along the offensive line as reputation and past performance often carry heavy sway, but Linderbaum could be the unique prospect that becomes a voter favorite as an NFL All-Pro rookie.

Ahmad Gardner, Cornerback, New York Jets

In the last 60 years, just one cornerback has made the All-Pro team as a rookie. In 1981, future Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott starred as a boundary corner for the eventual Super Bowl champion 49ers. Lott moved to safety several seasons later, making five more All-Pro teams.

Since Lott, only four rookie cornerbacks have even made the Pro Bowl: Charles Woodson (1998), Devin McCourty (2010), Marcus Peters (2015), and Denzel Ward (2018). McCourty and Peters did make the second All-Pro team, so all hope is not lost for “Sauce” Gardner.

Gardner’s reputation as a lockdown corner precedes him. The fourth overall pick in the draft, Gardner is a Day 1 starter, and he is likely to be a stud from the beginning. He has dimensions that were designed in a lab, and he can do anything in coverage. He might need to get lucky with some interceptions to help traditionalist voters, but Gardner should be a premier cornerback right away.

Jordan Stout, Punter, Baltimore Ravens

Since 2000, two rookie punters have made the NFL All-Pro team. The G.O.A.T. punter Shane Lechler made it for the 2000 Raiders. In 2018, Michael Dickson secured both Pro Bowl and All-Pro nods.

Stout was the highest-drafted punter in the 2022 class, and he quickly locked up the starting job as Sam Koch retired. However, Koch’s presence as a mentor should help Stout. Throughout his career, Koch developed a bevy of different kinds of punts. Koch compared these different kinds of kicks to a golfer’s bag of clubs. While Koch is a special teams consultant, Stout’s toolkit as a punter should be watched.

Stout has an excellent leg, but the Ravens also will value his accuracy and placement toward the sideline and ability to pin opponents inside the 20. If reports from Ravens’ camp are to be believed, Stout is well on his way to taking Koch’s mantle as the franchise’s best punter. Koch never made an NFL All-Pro, but Stout could have a shot early in his career at becoming an NFL All-Pro Rookie.

Marcus Jones, Return Specialist, New England Patriots

In the last 10 seasons, five rookie return specialists have made the NFL All-Pro team. If there was a position to predict a rookie winner, it would be a returner, and this returner, in particular, looks like he could be an NFL All-Pro rookie star.

Jones was an ultra-accomplished returner in college. All told, he scored nine touchdowns on returns, taking six kicks and three punts back for touchdowns. Jones averaged 28.4 yards per kick return in his collegiate career and 14.0 yards per punt return. In 2021, Jones won the Johnny Rodgers award for being the most outstanding return man in college football.

Despite playing just two years in the Sun Belt and two years in the American Athletic Conference, Jones holds conference records in both. He holds Sun Belt records for kick return average and kick return touchdowns while he holds AAC records for punt return yardage and punt return touchdowns. Jones could be the next great NFL returner, as well as an amazing NFL All-Pro rookie.

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Ryan Potts is an avid football and baseball fan. He covers the NFL and Major League Baseball, focusing on the Baltimore Ravens and Atlanta Braves.