5 Rookie Cornerbacks Had Massive Days on Sunday

During the NFL season, fans usually keep an eye on certain position groups from the previous NFL draft. We know how the wide receiver class is doing, and the pass-rushers class, and we definitely keep score on the most recent quarterback class. One group fans don’t often keep tabs on are rookie cornerbacks, though. However, this year, the 2022 CB class might be one of the best in years, and five of them had an incredible Week 5.

2022 NFL Draft rookie cornerbacks

NFL rookie cornerbacks
(L-R) Rookie cornerbacks Tariq Woolen, Kaiir Elam, Sauce Gardner | Nic Antaya/Getty Images; Cooper Neill/Getty Images; Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

At the 2022 NFL Draft, teams selected 37 rookie cornerbacks through seven rounds. While many of those will never make a difference in the league, many of them already are as rookies. Five of these cover men had big weeks in Week 5, including three first-rounder who made their first career picks on Sunday.

Houston Texans: Derek Stingley Jr., LSU, No. 3 overall

Derek Stingley Jr. would have been a top-three pick in 2019 if he could have come out after his freshman season. Two mediocre seasons at LSU later, though, NFL talent evaluators weren’t so sure.

Then the Houston Texans made the first surprising pick of the 2022 draft by taking Stingley over Cincinnati’s Sauce Gardner.

The pick had worked out well over four weeks. Stingley played 95% of his team’s defensive snaps during that period. He has 23 tackles, a sack, and three passes defended. He didn’t have an interception, though, until Week 5, and it came on a huge third-quarter play in the end zone during Houston’s first win of the season over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

New York Jets: Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, Cincinnati, No. 4 overall

After helping the Cincinnati Bearcats make history by making the College Football Playoffs, Sauce Gardner was the highest-rated corner coming into the 2022 draft. After the Texans made their surprising pick, the New York Jets sprinted to the podium so head coach Robert Saleh could take the second coming of Richard Sherman (on the field).

Through Week 4, Gardner was the least targeted rookie CB in the NFL, so the cover man was still looking for his first pick heading into the Week 5 matchup with the Miami Dolphins.

After Teddy Bridgewater — in for a concussed Tua Tagovailoa — went out with a possible concussion, a seventh-round rookie out of Kansas State, Skylar Thompson, came in. That’s who threw in Gardner’s direction and became the first QB the rookie has intercepted in the NFL.

Buffalo Bills: Kaiir Elam, Florida, No. 23 overall

There was a good chance that Florida CB Kaiir Elam would become a solid NFL player. That’s because his father, Abram Elam, played defensive back in the NFL for seven seasons and his uncle, Matt Elam, played pro ball for three years.

The Bills took Kaiir Elam with the No. 23 overall pick to bolster its thin defensive backfield, and, as the depth chart gets even thinner as the season goes along, Elam has become the main man on the outside for the Bills defense.

The former Gator played all but one snap for the Bills D the last two weeks, and in the team’s Week 5 38-3 blowout of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Kaiir Elam made his first career pick against fellow first-round rookie Kenny Pickett.

New England Patriots: Jack Jones, Arizona St., No. 121 overall

Jack Jones had a tough road to get to the NFL. The California native initially signed with USC out of high school, failed out, enrolled in Moorpark College to get his grades up, did, went to Arizona State, got suspended for violating team rules, then fell to the fourth round of the 2022 NFL Draft.

However, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots stopped his fall, and now Jones is rewarding that selection.

The former Sun Devil had his first interception in a tight Week 4 loss vs. the Green Bay Packers. He followed that up by making his second career pick (an incredibly acrobatic one) in a Week 5, 290-0 blowout of the highest-scoring team in the NFL to that point, the Detroit Lions.

Seattle Seahawks: Tariq Woolen, Texas-San Antonio, No. 153 overall

Tariq Woolen came into the 2022 draft out of tiny UTSA as an incredibly raw prospect. However, at 6-foot-4, 208 pounds, he ran a mind-blowing 4.26 40-yard dash at the combine.

Despite the rare size and athleticism, he still slid to the fifth round. That’s when the size-loving Seattle Seahawks jumped in and took him off the board. That’s paid off big time.

Woolen had the best Week 5 of all and maybe the best first five games of any rookie cornerbacks in the NFL this season. He made interceptions in Weeks 3 and 4, and in Week 5, he added another INT and a fumble recovery in a tough 39-32 loss to the New Orleans Saints.

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