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In order for an athlete to be considered a surprise, he probably hasn't met expectations so far. In the case of rookies from the 2022. draft class, they probably weren't picked until the third round.

The players need to progress. The bad ones. Good players push towards being great, and bad players push towards being good.

Our reporters were asked to pick a surprise star from each team. There are different answers from veterans who signed one-year contracts for new teams, to young players who haven't hit their ceiling, to Day 3 rookies who could make an early impact.

All 32 of these players have caught the attention of our reporters and their teams this winter, showing that they could play a bigger role in the future.

Jump to a team:




NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | PHI | PIT | SF



Buffalo Bills

There is a wide receiver, named Jamison Crowder.

In the battle to take over Cole Beasley's slot receiver role, Crowder looked solid in his first season with the Bills. Even though he had 833 receiving yards in his first season with the team, he might have found a good fit in Buffalo. There will be a competition for playing time at slot receiver.

Miami Dolphins

The OLConnor Williams.

Williams was supposed to be the Dolphins' left guard in 2022. After training at center, he became the team's starter and the leader in the locker room. Williams will have to beat out Deiter in order to win the starting job.

New England Patriots

Nixon is a wide receiver.

An unexpected trip to the post-practice interview podium was earned by the seventh-round pick, who caught two deep passes from Mac Jones, one of which he pinned to his chest with his right hand. Nixon and Jones took their COVID tests together before entering the facility and Nixon spent the next two years on the practice squad. He has made an early case as a player to watch when training camp begins because he faces a crowded wide receiver depth chart.

Receiver Tre Nixon was in the same Pats' draft class as Mac Jones and they're starting to build some chemistry. Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire

New York Jets

Jeffrey Smith is a receiver.

Smith is known for his work on the punt team. He had a great one-handed touchdown catch on a long pass. Smith started his college career as a quarterback, but is now an improving receiver. He can play wideout in a pinch.


Baltimore Ravens

Isiah likely.

He was the second tight end taken by the Ravens this year, but he has impressed with his ability to get open and his large catch radius. Tony Jefferson said to watch out for this man. He's going to be great. The star of the final day of mini camp was Likely, who caught several touchdown passes, including a one-handed grab, during red zone drills.

The quarterback said it was a great catch. The sky is the limit.

Cincinnati Bengals

Lassiter was a wide receiver.

The free agent had a great year. The wide receiver was on the first team. Lassiter may have a chance to make the 53-man roster if he works his way into the special teams rotation.

Cleveland Browns

Grant Delpit is a person.

The former second round pick has battled injuries. Delpit has excelled this winter, intercepting Deshaun on more than one occasion in drills. Safety could be a big strength for Cleveland this season.

Pittsburgh Steelers

There is a tight end in the picture.

It's hard to be under the radar when you're the younger brother of a first-round pick, but the rookies impressed in the off-season workouts and showed a chemistry with a first-round pick. A hybrid tight end/fullback role is what Heyward is expected to play in the offense. Because he has been working mostly with tight ends and receiver, he won't be competing for a roster spot on the team, making it likely that he will find a role on the team in the future.

Connor Heward, the younger brother of Cam Heyward, has shown well in his first NFL practices. Keith Srakocic/Associated Press


Houston Texans

Collins is a wide receiver.

The quarterback said the second-year receiver has stood out this spring. Collins' talent is off the charts, according to Mills. According to Mills, Houston needs to find ways to get Collins the ball in the near future.

Indianapolis Colts

Campbell is a wide receiver.

It's possible that Campbell can stay healthy in the future. He worked out with the first unit, starting opposite of Michael Pittman Jr., while also working out with the second unit. Staying healthy is the key to Campbell's success. In the first three years of his career, he has played 15 games. Campbell can be used in a number of ways if he is healthy.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Laviska Shenault, Jr. is a wide receiver.

Shenault was ranked second in the NFL with eight drops and had trouble with routes, but he seems to have rebounded this spring. He has been open and transparent with the media. He's on his fifth offensive coach in as many seasons, but he's still confident. Shenault worked as a returner. He was asked to try that by the team. Farwell has been impressed.

Farwell said that he is dynamic. The returner position has a lot of speed and power that you don't see from other positions.

Tennessee Titans

Chigoziem Okonkwo is a member of the team.

The fourth-round pick picked up what the coaching staff asked of him and is already showing his skills by lining up across the formation he did in college at Maryland. In two days of mini camp, Okonkwo caught four touchdown passes. A diving catch in the corner of the end zone was made by Ryan Tannehill.

Tannehill said it was physical. He gives us another weapon because of his size, strength, speed, and ability to play through contact.


Denver Broncos

Ojemudia is a CB.

He wouldn't be able to find a player who has drawn more praise than Ojemudia during the off-season. Ojemudia, who was thrown into the starting lineup as a rookies because of injuries to others in 2020, did not play a lot on defense last season. When the Broncos took a precautionary approach to Ronald Darby's shoulder injury in the spring, he quickly grabbed the attention of a new defensive staff. The Broncos practiced Ojemudia like he is a CB4.

Kansas City Chiefs

The man is Juan Thornhill.

For the first time since tearing theACL in his left knee as a rookies in the middle of the season, Thornhill was in top shape during the off season. He said he will respond with an All- Pro season after the Chiefs asked more of him. He said he's committed to doing that.

Safety Juan Thornhill will be counted on in the Chiefs' secondary with Tyrann Mathieu gone. Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire

Las Vegas Raiders

Alex Leatherwood is an offensive lineman.

The oft-maligned first-round pick, who was moved from right tackle to right guard after just four games last season, spent a lot of time back at right tackle. Leatherwood was drafted to be a tackle and was given every chance to win the job back. He will be on track to get his old job back if he gets a lot of time on the outside. It's not yet known whether that's a positive development for the offensive line as a whole.

Los Angeles Chargers

Guyton is a wide receiver.

The coach didn't hesitate when he was asked which player was a surprise star. "Jalen Guyton was great in the off-season," Staley1-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-6556 was1-65561-6556 was1-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-6556 In the spring, he made a lot of big plays. He was in good shape when he arrived. He is moving well. I thought he was moving around. He did well on special teams. Guyton caught 59 passes for 959 yards and six touchdown over the last two seasons.


Dallas Cowboys

T.J. Vasher is a football player.

Vasher didn't practice because of a knee injury, but he used the off-season to get himself into the conversation. Vasher got a lot of work in the summer because Michael Gallup, James Washington, and Noah Brown were out with injuries. Mike McCarthy said that he has made some big-time flash plays. He has had some, particularly in the red zone, which shows his ability down there. There are big plays in drills. I think it's important for young players to get the details of everyday situations.

New York Giants

Daniel Bellinger is a member of the football team.

The fourth-round pick got a lot of playing time with the first team this spring. He was underutilized at San Diego State because of his hands and how he was moving at the mini camp. It's good news for Bellinger's chances of making an impact as a first baseman. Bellinger made a strong first impression, and it looks like the Giants have an opening at the position.

Philadelphia Eagles

Watkins is a wide receiver.

The third-year wideout made a lot of noise this spring, including a 40-plus yard touchdown catch that made the quarterback dance. The coaching staff and management are the main sources of buzz. They think he has the ability to be a productive receiver. Finding targets for him will be the biggest issue with A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert all needing the rock.

Washington Commanders

St- Juste is a CB.

The third-round pick has mostly worked in the slot. The slot duties allow St-Juste to play with good feet. He has a good chance against a young player. St-Juste uses his long hair well. Injuries, specifically concussions, limited him to nine games last season.


Chicago Bears

OT Reggie Jones.

The fifth-round pick quickly emerged with the first-team offensive line at left tackle. Jones understands the importance of the reps he has gotten, which have helped him create a pre-snap process, learn different cadences and move faster.

Detroit Lions

Trinity is the name of the person.

During Dan Campbell's exit meeting after last season, Benson asked for advice on how to return better. Campbell praised him during minicamp as one of the guys who is having a hell of a spring, and so far, he has taken all of that advice. Adding speed to his skills has elevated his confidence. He's going to have a fight for a spot in a competitive receiving corps.

Green Bay Packers

O LB Gary.

The Packers did not do a lot of 11-on-11 work in the off-season. Gary had a great spring as well. Coming off a career-best season, he was lean and muscular. He was one of the few starting players who stuck around through the end of the workouts.

Rashan Gary looks to build on a breakout season in which he had 9.5 sacks. Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire

Minnesota Vikings

LBBrian Asamoah.

His sideline-to-sideline speed was obvious in non-contact practices. He said he wanted $5 every time he ran by someone. He said he's a rich man because he keeps passing them.


Atlanta Falcons

LBNate Landman.

This is a deep cut in terms of the Atlanta roster, but the undrafted rookies was active in 7-on-7 drills and seemed to find the ball. It's probably still a tough road for Landman to make the roster as an inside linebacker, but he might have jumpstarted himself into being in the conversation if he builds on his workouts.

Carolina Panthers

Terrace Marshall Jr. is a wide receiver

A year ago, Marshall was working on the side as the Carolinas nursed him back from a foot injury. He had 17 catches for the year. He may be a player who emerges on a team without a lot of proven talent behind DJ Moore andRobbie Anderson.

Injuries hounded Terrace Marshall as a rookie, but he looks as though his explosiveness is back. Nell Redmond/Associated Press

New Orleans Saints

Thompson is a defensive back.

The player who earned his way onto my 53-man roster projection is the second-year defensive back who flashed the most during the spring and summer practices. Thompson started the season on injured reserve before being signed to the practice squad and playing in two games. He could be used as a safety/nickel/corner.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Deven is a wide receiver.

Todd Bowles, the coach of the New York Jets, noticed Thompkins at the end of the mini camp. I would love to see what he does in training camp. He's quick, he's fast, he's great off the ball, and he's made some good catches. We want to know how he does in training camp and preseason. I'm going to look at him.

He ran a 4.35 40-yard dash at his pro day, which was the second-fastest in college football. At 5-foot-7 and 155 pounds, he is a long shot to make the 53-man roster at a position that already has Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. His ticket would likely come in the form of kick and punt returns.


Arizona Cardinals

Benjamin was a running back.

The door is open for the 2020 seventh-round pick to get the reps he needs to show what he can do. He has married his ability to receive and pass the ball to a player who can be his backup. He caught the attention of the coach. Benjamin, who feels like it has taken him longer to see the field than he thought, will be the front-runner to be the backup when camp begins. It's up to him to keep his job in the off season.

Los Angeles Rams

Atwell is known asWR Tutu Atwell.

The second-round pick's improvement this spring was pointed out by both Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp during mini camp. Stafford said that everything Atwell does seems to be intentional. After he injured his shoulder, Atwell was placed on injured reserve and did not play again last season. The Rams' top three RECEIVERS are set to start the season, but Atwell could play a role in the future.

San Francisco 49ers

Jauan is a receiver.

He became one of the Niners' most reliable targets on third down and in the red zone after Week 14. Over the last five games, he had 16 catches for 212 yards and 11 of them went for a touchdown or a first down. In the off-season, there has been an easy chemistry between Jennings and Lance that has made them one of Lance's favorite targets. He has had his best offseason since entering the league, which is good news for his role in the future.

Receiver Jauan Jennings spent the offseason building some chemistry with Trey Lance. Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire

Seattle Seahawks

L.J. collier was a DE.

You usually don't think of former first-round picks as surprise stars, but that's exactly what they are. Clint Hurtt said during the spring that he was having one of the best springs of any Seattle defender. The defensive-line rotation is a little crowded after the acquisitions of Jefferson and Harris.