The Last Word on Sports NFL department will select the best players in each division by position in this series. Examining the 2022 NFC North offense, we will look at those players projected to be the best in this division.
2022 NFC North All-Division Team: The Offense
Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers, Packers
Aaron Rodgers played in 16 games in 2021.
In 13 of those 16 games, he threw 2+ TDs with 0 INTs.
No other QB in NFL history has done that. pic.twitter.com/ZzzXzXxfuT
— Eli Berkovits (@BookOfEli_NFL) July 30, 2022
The back-to-back NFL MVP is poised to take the Packers on a deep run in the playoffs in 2022. This biggest issue facing Rodgers and the team is the loss of standout wide receiver Davante Adams. The Packers decided to part ways with Adams this offseason and traded him to the Las Vegas Raiders. This leaves the role of top wideout to Allen Lazard, who finished last season strong and ended 2021 with eight touchdown catches. The Packers did bolster their wide-out corps in the draft by adding second-round pick Christain Watson and fourth-rounder Romeo Doubs.
The Packers are 26-6 in his last 32 regular-season starts under Rodgers. Over the last two seasons, he has thrown 85 touchdown passes and only nine interceptions. He also led the NFL in passer rating and QBR each season. Even without Adams, the 38-year-old quarterback appears to be poised for another excellent season to take Green Bay to the top of the NFC North standings and the playoffs.
Running Back: Dalvin Cook, Vikings
When healthy, Cook is one of the best running backs in the NFL. He was a Pro Bowler in 2021 after rushing for 1,159 yards and six touchdowns. He also caught 34 passes for 224 yards. The big thing for Cook and the Vikings is that he needs to stay healthy, as he missed time in 2021 due to ankle and shoulder injuries. In fact, he has never played every game in a season, battling through various injuries throughout his career.
However, a new offensive philosophy in Minnesota under first-year coach Kevin O’Connell could allow Cook to post similar numbers while remaining healthy. The team appears to be headed to more of a pass-heavy approach. This means that Cook should see his numbers increase in the passing game while getting some relief from his previous rushing workload. All of this should allow Cook to have an outstanding 2022 season.
Wide Receiver: Justin Jefferson, Vikings
Recently, Jefferson was quoted as saying that his goal is to reach 2,000 receiving yards in 2022. There is no doubt that he has the talent to be the first player in NFL history to reach this goal. He’s the definition of a big-play threat now playing for a coach developing a more pass-heavy approach. While that goal would seem somewhat difficult to gain, he did amass 1,616 yards last season. Not only is he the top receiver in the NFC North, but he is also working his way up to the top receiver in the NFL.
Wide Receiver: Darnell Mooney, Bears
Mooney brings excellent deep speed, route running, and after-the-catch ability to his skillset. In 2021, he had 81 catches for 1,055 yards. He also tied for sixth in total receptions over 15 yards downfield (20), finished sixth in separation rate against single coverage, and was one of 22 wide receivers with double-digit broken tackles after the catch. His numbers should rise quite a bit as he develops chemistry with his young quarterback Justin Fields.
Wide Receiver: Adam Thielen, Vikings
After struggling with an injury down the stretch last season, Thielen looks to bounce back in 2022. A player with great route-running skills and the ability to be successful in the red zone makes him one of the top receivers in the NFC North and the NFL. Having a great deal of attention focused on his teammate, Justin Jefferson, should give him the opportunity for many targets in 2022.
Tight End: T.J. Hockenson, Lions
Hockenson is one of the most reliable tight ends in the NFL. He averaged 7 targets a game until an injury ended his season after Week 12. Improvements in the Lions’ receiving corps should take some focus on him and allow him to be as productive, if not more than in previous seasons. His best season was in 2020 when he hauled in 67 passes for 723 yards and six touchdowns on his way to his first Pro Bowl.
Center: Frank Ragnow, Lions
Ragnow has made steady progress in each of his five years in Detroit. While his pass protection is more than adequate, his run blocking is what sets him apart from others. He was outstanding during his first four games of the 2021 season before an injury sidelined him for the rest of the year.
Left Guard: Cody Whitehair, Bears
The former Kansas St. standout has done well in spite of being shuffled around the Bears’ offensive line. This may have resulted in him having his worst season in 2021, but the former Pro-Bowler should rebound to be one of the more solid guards in football. The new coaching staff and some offensive line stability should allow Whitehair to perform much like he did when he was named to the Pro Bowl in 2018.
Right Guard: Michael Schofield, Bears
In a division where every right guard position on every team is up for grabs, the recent signee of the Bears gets the nod here. The former third-round pick of the Denver Broncos brings stability and playoff experience to a team that desperately needs this at the position and their entire offensive line.
Right Tackle: Penei Sewell, Lions
Sewell had a decent rookie season in spite of jumping back and forth between left and right tackle. Finding a home on the right side should see him improve even more and make the best at this position in the division. As one of the best overall prospects in the 2021 NFL Draft, his second year in the Lions system should allow him to develop into one of the better right tackles in all of football.
Left Tackle: David Bakhtiari, Packers
A healthy Bakhtiari is among the elite of left tackles in the game and has graded out as the best pass protector from 2016-20. He gets the nod in a division with other talented left tackles even though he has gone through 19 very difficult months of rehab on his injured left knee. There is no timetable yet for his return, but his previous track record is giving him the nod over the solid and developing Lions left tackle Taylor Decker.