10 Day 3 rookies to watch for in the 2022 NFL season

Houston, Texas, US; Houston Texans running back Dameon Pierce (31) catches a pass during training camp at the Texans practice facility. Mandatory Credit: Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

• Baltimore rookie tight end Isaiah Likely probably won't make a push for a starting role, but he should make a solid impact as TE2.

• Green Bay offensive lineman Zach Tom has shown his versatility at camp by getting reps at four different positions, so far.

• Texans first-year running back Dameon Pierce has a legitimate chance to take over the starting role as RB1 in Houston.

You can usually count on one hand the number of Day 3 picks who make an impact as rookies. That being said, the ones who do usually show they were under-drafted fairly early on.

Here are 10 rookie Day 3 picks who have already been making noise in training camp and will be worth monitoring throughout the preseason.

10. RB Isaih Pacheco, Kansas City Chiefs

Pacheco wouldn’t be the first under-drafted Rutgers running back to make an impact early on in his NFL career. It goes without saying that his college situation wasn’t exactly conducive to producing at the position, whereas his new NFL environment very much is.

Pacheco brings a speed element that no one else in the Chiefs' backfield can match. His 4.37-second 40-yard dash at 216 pounds was the best weight-adjusted 40 time in the running back class. The biggest question will be whether can he break tackles in the NFL, as he struggled mightily to do so in college. He shedded only 64 tackles on 562 career rushing attempts at Rutgers.

9. TE Isaiah Likely, Baltimore Ravens

Likely could not have gone to a better landing spot than Baltimore. While his ability to inline block was a massive question mark coming out of college, it won’t show up a ton in Greg Roman’s offense. 

The Ravens often deploy their tight ends as move blockers, which is precisely where Likely excelled at Coastal Carolina. His natural receiving ability has been on full display as a result, and he’ll see a good deal of snaps as TE2 behind Mark Andrews.

8. LB Malcolm Rodriguez, Detroit Lions

The linebacker position is a wide-open competition in Detroit. Without much in the way of established veteran talent in front of him, Rodriguez could very well work his way into a starting spot. The sixth-rounder has already caught the attention of his head coach:

That’s not too surprising to anyone who watched Rodriguez at Oklahoma State. He plays a hard-nosed brand of football, not backing down from anyone despite his size disadvantage. He’ll at the very least make an impact on special teams if he doesn’t sneak into a starting spot.

7. OT Zach Tom, Green Bay Packers

Tom has already shown off his versatility early on in Packers camp, playing live reps at four different positions.

Recently, he’s consistently been running as the first team right tackle with Elgton Jenkins and David Bakhtiari still sidelined. Tom was one of the more NFL-ready pass protectors in the draft class, posting an FBS-high 92.1 pass-blocking grade last season. 

6. WR Kyle Phillips, Tennessee Titans

While there wasn’t a ton of competition, given the state of the receiver position for the Titans, Phillips has already earned the starting slot receiver spot. All reports out of Titans camp are that he hasn’t looked like a rookie at all.

Phillips was seldom utilized in UCLA’s offense last season, but the tape showed an incredibly precise route-runner with the kind of agility to separate from the slot at the NFL level. He put on a show at the Shrine Bowl, as well, where he earned the highest grade in the one-on-ones. 

5. CB Cobie Durant, Los Angeles Rams

Anytime an established starter has high praise for a rookie, it’s worth taking notice. Durant has already earned the respect of his peers for his work this offseason.

One might think that Durant coming from South Carolina State would bring about a steep learning curve, but that apparently hasn’t been the case. Durant is very much in the mold of former Ram Darious Williams at only 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds. That’s not nearly as big of an issue in Los Angeles’ scheme as it is elsewhere, though. With Williams now gone, there are snaps up for grabs at cornerback that Durant could take.

4. OT Braxton Jones, Chicago Bears

With the Teven Jenkins saga unresolved in Chicago, it’s been Jones lining up as the Bears' first-team left tackle. 

That’s obviously a touch concerning given the level of competition leap going from Southern Utah to the NFL. Jones dominated his competition last season about as much as one possibly can, however, with run- and pass-blocking grades of 90.0-plus. He’s got all the traits to be a starting left tackle in the league, but it will be trial by fire this preseason.

3. QB Sam Howell, Washington Commanders

Early reports out of Commanders camp have not been kind to newly acquired quarterback Carson Wentz. While Howell looks unlikely to unseat Wentz in Year 1, Howell could still beat out Taylor Heinicke for the QB2 job. And if the reports are to be believed, he looks to be doing just that.

Howell has NFL-caliber arm talent and mobility, but the questions about how the offense he played in at North Carolina would translate to the league caused him to fall to the fifth round. If he’s already picking up the Commanders' offense, that’s a great sign for the future.

2. RB Dameon Pierce, Houston Texans

With a who’s who of cast-off running backs standing between him and a starting job, Pierce has shown up to Texans camp out to prove he’s RB1. According to reporters on the ground, he’s been just that.

The crazy thing is that Pierce’s best trait — his ability to break tackles — isn’t something you’ll even see a ton of in a practice setting. Pierce broke 39 tackles on 100 carries last season at Florida. Look for that ability to shine once again when the preseason starts.

1. WR Romeo Doubs, Green Bay Packers

The buzz around Doubs is close to reaching a crescendo. Every day there’s a new play to ogle at for the fourth-round pick. 

And now he’s even gotten votes of confidence from his quarterback and head coach. It’s no secret that the Packers are desperate for someone to step up in the absence of Davante Adams. So far, that’s reportedly been Doubs. We’ll see if that continues when the pads come on in the preseason. 


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