An NFL head coach’s job is never really done. There’s no such thing as a mental vacation, because the operation of NFL football is a 24-7, 365-days-a-year task.
Each year, 14 head coaches are fortunate enough to make the NFL postseason. But those teams and the 18 less fortunate franchises are still busy with player exit meetings, tape reviews of prospective draft picks, their own free agents, NFL Combine, college pro days, player meetings, culminating with the NFL draft.
After all of that, head coaches then have to manage people, personalities and egos.
Being an NFL head coach means you have no real offseason. For many, the pressure is on to find those final pieces that will hopefully lead to a Super Bowl run. For others, it’s about acquiring young talent and as many future picks as possible to rebuild the roster.
An immense amount of researched is required to hit on a draft pick, but it’s definitely not a perfect science. So far in this 2022 NFL season, several rookies have distinguished themselves as draft “hits.” In the process, they’ve made their front office look like draft masters, while they produce in “Big Games, Big Moments.”
Aidan Hutchinson — Lions (Edge)
The Lions rookie edge rusher looks like the real deal in defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn’s fast and aggressive defense. “Hutch,” the Plymouth, Michigan, native who grew up a Lions fan had nine tackles and three sacks in his first two NFL outings. Right now, it looks like the 2021 Heisman Trophy runner-up was a great pick at No. 2 in April’s draft.
With those three sacks Hutch set a single-game Lions rookie record. But he also knows getting sacks are a byproduct of the entire defensive line.
Here’s what he said about his ability to rush the QB.
“Sacks are a very tedious thing, so you need everyone clicking and I thought we were clicking today.”
Aidan Hutchinson has three sacks today which is the @Lions rookie record for sacks in a single game…
It's only halftime pic.twitter.com/X7mjxVv2K9
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) September 18, 2022
Jahan Dotson — Commanders (WR)
The diminutive Dotson has immediately established himself as the most talented receiver on the Commanders team, as far as talent goes. The former Penn State star had eight catches for over 100 yards and three touchdowns in the team’s first two games.
His game-winner against the Jags in Week 1 was thing of beauty. The Dotson pick caught a lot of flak in April, but he’s showing many why he was chosen at No. 16 by the franchise.
— Pro Football Culture (@proftblculture) September 11, 2022
Garrett Wilson — Jets (WR)
The new-look Jets have added some quality pieces to their roster over the last couple of drafts. In the 2022 draft they landed former Ohio State Buckeyes stalwart pass catcher Garrett Wilson, who has shown why he was so coveted. He has the ability to line up at all three wideout positions, allowing the offense to move him around and avoid consistent coverage.
Through the season’s first two games, he responded with 11 grabs for 154 yards and one touchdown, including a game-winner in a surprising come-from-behind 31-30 win over the Browns enroute to a 1-2 start.
— New York Jets (@nyjets) September 18, 2022
Sauce Gardner — Jets (CB)
When you talk about Gardner, stats don’t tell the whole story. The rangy No. 4 overall pick in the 2022 draft has shown that man-to-man coverage ability that allowed him to never give up a touchdown catch his entire college career at Cincinnati.
Thus far, Sauce hasn’t had much work on his side of the field. In fact, it looks as if his reputation precedes him. In his first two games he was only been thrown at three total times.
Travon Walker — Jaguars (Edge)
The surprise top overall pick in the 2022 draft has flashed so far games this season, leading the surprising Jaguars to a 2-1 record and a hold of first place in the AFC South. In his NFL debut against the Commanders, he tallied four tackles, a sack and one interception. His early production indicates the Jaguars made the right choice by choosing him as the cornerstone of a rebuild on the defensive side of the football under first-year Super Bowl-winning head coach Doug Pederson.
As with any sport, the only team truly satisfied at season’s end is the one hoisting the championship trophy. Coaches will often find the silver lining in a season that has fallen short of expectations. When it comes to title contenders, however, owners and general managers want results, not moral victories.
Offseason preparation and selecting valuable draft picks are elements of team building that make and break a coach.
When the Atlanta Falcons made former USC Trojans star Drake London the top receiver taken in the draft with the eighth pick, they knew they were getting a physical specimen. But I don’t think they expected his route-running to be so crisp.
Drake London — Atlanta Falcons, WR
The Atlanta Falcons organization is in rebuild mode, but the team could easily be 3-0. Having blown late leads against the New Orlean Saints and L.A. Rams in the first two weeks of the season, Atlanta showed much more promise than expected. The player that has jumped off the screen is wideout Drake London, who’s averaging 71 yards per game receiving with two touchdowns in three games. He’s also got 16 receptions on his 21 targets through the three weeks. Right now, quarterback Marcus Mariota, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft is at the helm, but the team has visions of London catching touchdowns from future signal-caller Desmond Ridder, who was also taken in 2022 draft.
2. Garrett Wilson — New York Jets, WR
Wilson is a stud who at times was overshadowed by fellow wideout Chris Olave during their time at Ohio State. But he’s so dynamic that the Jets drafted him with hopes of him becoming their No. 1 weapon in the passing game. With Wilson’s ability to line up at all three receiver positions, when you look at film it’s easy to see his 18 receptions this season should be 30. In the team’s lone win over the Browns, Wilson caught two touchdowns, including the game-winner in the waning seconds.
As always, Garrett Wilson’s best trait is his releases at the LOS.
— Luke Grant (@LukeGrant7) September 26, 2022
3. Devin Lloyd — Jacksonville Jaguars, LB
Lloyd has fit seamlessly with Jags star defender Josh Allen and the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft, Travon Walker. Those three are the cornerstones of the Jags defense.
4. Derek Stingley Jr. — Houston Texans, CB
While he’s allowed some catches, none have been for more than 14 yards, and he’s defended five passes as well. What goes unnoticed about Stingley is his willingness to support the run as a tackler. He leads all corners in the league with 18 tackles this season.
The NFL draft is traditionally the first big moment of the new NFL calendar year, where players will see their dreams come to fruition. NFL coaches are under the gun to make the winning recipe work come mini-camps, training camps and the season. Early rewards are always best, and these rookies have hit the NFL-ground running, proving that when executed correctly the draft process works.
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