It was an excellent year for Rookies in the NFL. The 2022 draft class packed a punch and provided immediate impact players for teams. Today, the NFL announced the finalists for the Rookie of the Year award.
Let’s run down the list and discuss their candidacy.
Sauce Gardner – CB (NYJ)
We start with my favorite rookie of the entire list of finalists (heck, maybe even the draft class), Sauce Gardner.
Gardner led the NFL in passes defended (20). And he was one of two players to record 75 tackles and 15 pass breakups this season. Gardner’s 20 passes defended this season were the most by a rookie since 2015, and he did all of this with no shortage of swag.
Gardner running around Lambeau Field with a cheesehead on to troll Packers fans has to be one of my favorite moments of the season.
Aidan Hutchinson – EDGE (DET)
Aidan Hutchinson was a beast this season for the Lions, and we saw that twice in Chicago, especially in the second game.
Hutchinson led all rookies with 9.5 sacks in his first season in Detroit. He also became the first rookie since 1982 with at least nine sacks and three interceptions (one of which was against Justin Fields). Hutchinson was a breakout performer from the jump, making his presence felt with a three-sack performance in Week 2.
And he did this …
And this …
Chris Olave – WR (NO)
Chris Olave makes up one-half of the Ohio State duo of wide receivers up for this year’s Rookie of the Year honors. Olave led all rookie receivers with 69.5 yards per contest this year and caught 72 passes for the Saints.
The former Buckeye wideout posted 12 games with 50-plus receiving yards and became just the third Saints receiver to log 1,000 or more yards in a season. And honestly, doing that with the assortment of quarterbacks he had throwing him the ball in New Orleans this season is pretty impressive.
Did you know that Olave ran a 4.26 40-yard dash? Well, now ya (and Josh Norman) do!
Kenneth Walker III – HB (SEA)
We got to see some of the explosiveness of Kenneth Walker III in the Wild Card round this past weekend. It’s no wonder why Walker racked up 1,215 scrimmage yards and 1,050 yards to go along with nine touchdowns.
Walker led all rookies with five games with 100 or more yards this season for the Seahawks. Again, Seattle got themselves a solid back in the second round of last year’s draft.
Garrett Wilson – WR (NYJ)
Garrett Wilson led rookie receivers and broke Jets franchise records for receptions (83) and yardage (1,103) this season. Wilson is a lethal combination of elusive and fast and put up monster numbers with Joe Flacco, Zach Wilson, and Mike White slinging it to him this season.
Wilson had 75 or more receiving yards in eight games this season and was one of two receivers with multiple two-touchdown games this season.
Tariq Woolen – CB (SEA)
Last, but not least, Seattle’s second Rookie of the Year finalist, Tariq Woolen. Woolen was tied for the league lead in interceptions (6) this season. He was also tied for second in the league in fumble recoveries (3), and tied for fourth in passes defended (16).
Woolen even had a pick-six this season and became the first player since Marcus Peters (2016) with at least six interceptions and three fumble recoveries in the same season. Not too shabby.
Woolen is probably the favorite for the award at this point. At least for my money.