Eight NFL players who will shift the balance of power in 2022: One from each division expected to have a major impact

The 2022 NFL season has been full of surprises as new players on new teams completely shift the balance of power not just in their respective divisions, but in the NFL as a whole. Strategist Matthew Stafford took the Los Angeles Rams to superbowlwide receiver Ja’Marr Chase was a huge factor in the Cincinnati Bengals‘ playoff run and rookie quarterback McJones got Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots back to the playoffs.

However, it wasn’t just newcomers, as we saw some young players take important steps in their development that helped their teams a lot, like Las Vegas Raiders wide Renfrow Hunter and Tennessee Titans defensive tackle Jeffrey Simmons. Which actors will alter the balance of power in the NFL this coming season?

Below, we’ll identify a player in each division who could help their teams win the division crown in 2022. Players from teams that won their divisions in 2021 are not eligible for this list. That being said, let’s go.

AFC East

Tyreek Hill, Miami Dolphins

Of all the wild wide receiver drama we’ve seen this offseason, the Tyreek Hill trade was perhaps the most surprising move. The perennial All-Pro has taken his talents to South Beach and will add a unique element to Mike McDaniel’s offense. Everyone can agree that Patrick Mahomes is a better quarterback than Tua Tagovailoa, but that doesn’t mean there will be any low-light reels premiered this year where Hill gets undershot or publicly laments his new signalman’s play. Whether burning through free safety or beating inside defenders on a quick tilt, Hill can do a lot on offense. In fact, his first request following the rally was to return punts! He’s one of the many pieces the Dolphins have added this offseason that I believe can help Miami at least challenge Buffalo in the AFC East.

AFC North

Odafe Oweh, Baltimore Ravens

Oweh made the NFL Pro Football Writers of America All-Rookie Team last year after having 33 combined tackles, five sacks and three forced fumbles. A pretty promising start to his NFL career after recording zero sacks in his last seven games at Penn State.

Many predict Ravens wide receiver Rashod Bateman will step up in 2022 – which would be great – but can you imagine what it would do for this team if the Ravens had a new monster crashing around the edge? This secondary with Marcus Peters, Marcus Williams, Kyle Hamilton and Marlon Humphrey would absolutely thrive. What stands out about Oweh is how quick he is and it feels like he’s ready for a huge campaign. Pass-rusher is a prime position, and the Ravens having a star there will help them in their quest to move from worst to first in the division.

AFC South

Michael Pitman Jr., Indianapolis Colts

Vegas is once again leading the Colts to win the AFC South, despite not having done so since 2014. matt ryan is the newcomer who has fans excited at Indy, but it’s perhaps his No. 1 wide who’s most excited for a new quarterback. Pittman had a pretty impressive second season in the NFL, catching 88 passes for 1,082 yards and six touchdowns. With his talent and what is seen as an upgrade at quarterback, we could see better numbers from Pittman in 2022.

Jonathan Taylor may be the MVP for this offense, but Pittman being a legitimate No. 1 wide could mean the Colts win the division. Along with having a new quarterback, Pittman also has more talent around him. Beginner Alec Pierce made headlines at camp, and this may be the year Paris-Campbell can stay healthy.

AFC West

Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers

The Kansas City Chiefs are still considered AFC West favorites, even though the rest of the division got a facelift this offseason. The Denver Broncos are certainly an intriguing team with the addition of Russell Wilsonbut the Chargers are my pick to win the division in 2022. If I’m right, it will be largely thanks to star quarterback Justin Herbert.

The former NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year upped his game last season, as he was second in passing yards with 5,014 and third in passing touchdowns with 38. He feels like someone who is going to be in the MVP conversation all year, and I also think he is a player who is gaining confidence. What he showed through two seasons is impressive. Kudos to the football gods for creating this Mahomes vs. Herbert rivalry that we can enjoy for years to come.

NFC East

James Bradberry, Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles have been the darlings of punters this offseason. In fact, at 25-1 in Caesars Sportsbook, the Eagles received more money to finish with the NFL’s best record in 2022 than all other NFC teams combined. Some see Jalen hurts take a big step forward this coming season or A.J. Brown triggering the attack, but I’m more excited about the defense.

Philly could have one of the best defenses in the league as the front office has added a pass-rusher Haason Reddickversatile defensive back Chauncey Gardner Johnsonlinebacker white kyzir and drafted two players from what might be the most dominant defense in college football the story. Another starter added by the Eagles is cornerback James Bradberry – who most recently played for the rival New York Giants.

The former Carolina Panther earned Pro Bowl honors in his first season with the Giants in 2020, then recorded a career-high 47 tackles, 17 passes defended and four interceptions in 2021. As a cornerback No. 2 in front of Darius Kill, Bradberry provides the Eagles with the necessary experience and talent in the secondary. He may be the underrated player solidifying this unit, which could help the Eagles move past the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East.

NFC North

Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings

We all know at this point that Justin Jefferson is one of the best players in his position, but there’s reason to believe this upcoming season could be his best yet. New Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell is a potential coach that people have been watching for years now. Not only has he worked with Sean McVay, but he’s also next in line to keep alive the stereotype of the former Washington assistant who was ignored but then morphed into a star head coach stereotype. Jefferson told me about this offseason that under O’Connell, everyone is having fun and connecting as a team.

The former No. 22 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft finished his rookie campaign with 1,400 yards and seven touchdowns on 88 catches, breaking the record for most receiving yards recorded by a rookie. Jefferson then improved in 2021 with 1,616 yards and 10 touchdowns for 108 catches. That’s two NFL seasons, two All-Pro selections and two Pro Bowl appearances.

With O’Connell improving the offense and already knowing the quarterback Kirk Cousins good enough, it just feels like we have a recipe for another monster Jefferson campaign. He told me in June that he wanted to prove he was the best wide receiver in the NFL, and he could do it in 2022.

NFC South

Chris Olave, New Orleans Saints

The Saints made a great choice in wide receiver Chris Olave, and that wide receiving body is 100 times better than last year with the return of Michael Thomas and the addition of Jarvis Landry.

With Thomas and Landry’s injury issues coming off his worst season in the NFL, I feel like Olave is going to play a pretty big role in this offense in 2022. He left Ohio State in as the program’s all-time leader in receiving touchdowns with 35 and caught 13 touchdowns last season — which ranked first in the Big Ten. He was versatile, consistent, and has everything it takes to be a legitimate NFL wide player. James Winston had the fourth-best winning percentage among starting quarterbacks in Week 1 last season, going 5-2 with what was one of the narrowest receiving bodies in the NFL. I can’t wait to see what he can do with weapons around him.

NFC West

Trey Lance, San Francisco 49ers

It’s Trey Lance time at The Bay, and that fan base is thrilled. I’m sure Lance’s first full season as a starter will include both impressive highs and disappointing lows, but he may be a quarterback who progresses towards the end of the regular season – much like the 49ers did it as a team. Last year.

The thought process is quite simple: if Lance can be just a bit of an upgrade over Jimmy Garoppolo, then the 49ers will be in the thick of the fight again. I’m not going to lie, I really like the Rams to win the division to more money. But if there’s another team that can steal the NFC West, I’ll take Lance and the 49ers.

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