With the Chiefs beating the Eagles 38-35 in Super Bowl LVII, it seems fitting to take a look back at the 2022 NFL season and rank the top 5 Hokies who shined brightest in America's most popular league this past season.
There were plenty of good candidates and some rankings that may surprise you, but with that said, here are my top 5 from 2022.
5. Chicago Bears RB Khalil Herbert
There are plenty of quality full-time starting Hokies that could have been in this spot including Baltimore Ravens S Chuck Clark, Pittsburgh Steelers S Terrell Edmunds, Las Vegas Raiders LB Divine Deablo, Green Bay Packers OT Yosh Nijman, and more. However, there was one player who may not have been a starter but was clearly valuable to his team and showed he should be a starting running back somewhere next season: Khalil Herbert.
Herbert may have played on the worst team in the league, but he was definitely not a reason why they were at the bottom of the league.
In his limited opportunities, Herbert was effective and efficient with 731 rushing yards and 4 touchdowns on only 129 carries for an average of 5.7 yards per carry. His 5.7 yards per carry ranked best among running backs who averaged at least 6.5 carries per game with Justin Fields being the only player who had more carries than him and a higher yards per carry. The 0.4 yards per carry between him and the second highest RB Aaron Jones is the same as the gap between Jones and the 12th highest RB Isaih Pacheco.
Pro Football Focus wasn't as high on Herbert ranking him as the 33rd best RB in the league though PFF is simply a good data point but far from the only part of our evaluation. However, Herbert also didn't get the same number of chances as many of the guys ahead of them even though he averaged 1.7 yards per carry more than David Montgomery who only had 72 more carries than Herbert.
There's no doubt that Khalil Herbert should be a high-level starting RB somewhere in the NFL whether that's in Chicago or elsewhere. Hopefully, Herbert getting that chance happens sooner rather than later.
4. Cleveland Browns OG Wyatt Teller
Wyatt Teller may not have been a Pro Bowler this season, but there's no doubt that the veteran offensive guard had another strong season for the Cleveland Browns.
Teller's grades were slightly down from his strong 2020 and 2021 seasons but he still graded out with a grade just over 70 that ranked 18th among 77 eligible offensive guards. This also included him ranking in the top 12 of run blocking guards and well in the top half of pass blocking guards.
Teller has come into the league and been a machine for the Browns becoming a staple of their offense. He played a big role in helping star RB Nick Chubb have the best season of his career and boost Jacoby Brissett to one of his better seasons while he had the starting reigns prior to the return of Deshaun Watson after his rightful long suspension that probably should have at least been a full season.
Of course, Teller will have high expectations for himself to re-find his top form that sent him to the Pro Bowl in 2021, but more Pro Bowls seem like a certainty for him going forward with the Browns and wherever else his NFL career may take him.
3. Buffalo Bills LB Tremaine Edmunds
You may be surprised to see Tremaine Edmunds not at the top of this list, but that isn't because Edmunds had a disappointing season but rather because there were multiple Hokies who shined at a very high level during the 2022 season.
Injuries limited Edmunds to 13 regular season games, but made the most of his starts with his fifth-straight season with 100+ total tackles in five seasons having 102 including 6 stuffs with 1 sack plus 3 QB hits and 7 pass deflections.
Edmunds has been quite productive to date in his career, but the analytics were big on his 2022 with Edmunds earning his career-best grade that helped him rank 5th among linebackers across the league for Pro Football Focus. His growth as a coverage linebacker was most significant this year as he had his PFF grade in that area to date by far while having under 70% of passes targeted his way completed for the first time.
Ever since Tremaine Edmunds entered the league, he's been a dominant machine at linebacker and a key piece on a solid Buffalo Bills defense. Now, he's earned the right to get paid big money and given his age entering only his age 25 season in 2023, he should become one of the highest-paid linebackers in the NFL.
If Edmunds was healthy, he likely would be higher on this list. Regardless, it's likely a safe bet to expect Edmunds on this list for at least the next 5-10 years.
2. Washington Commanders CB Kendall Fuller
Kendall Fuller continued to be a playmaker in his eighth season in the NFL playing a big role for the Washington Commanders as a versatile cornerback who can cover just about anyone.
That showed as Fuller was a big play machine with 3 interceptions this past season including 2 pick 6s plus 13 pass deflections, the second most in his career, and 52 tackles while starting all 17 games for the Commanders. This came on a defense that almost carried an offense mired with QB drama to the playoffs coming up just short despite their offensive issues.
His Pro Football Focus grades were also strong as he ranked 15th among cornerbacks this year including receiving a top 21 grade as a coverage and run defending CB among over 100 eligible cornerbacks. He showed some big improvement in a couple areas this past with opponents completing under 56% of passes against Fuller, the second-lowest completion percentage allowed of his career. He also missed under 8% of his tackles for only the second time in his career as well.
This came in a season where he faced tougher matchups than he has to date in his career with his highest number of external cornerback spots in his career. That combination shows how Fuller continues to step his game up even in his eighth season in the NFL.
It was a big year for Kendall Fuller who should continue to be a key piece for Washington's defense going forward.
1. Minnesota Vikings OT Christian Darrisaw
Christian Darrisaw was absolutely phenomenal for the Minnesota Vikings this past season developing into one of the best offensive tackles in the league. While Justin Jefferson and Dalvin Cook and Kirk Cousins will get the most credit for the strong season that the Vikings had, Darrisaw deserves tons of credit as well.
The second-year tackle somehow didn't make the Pro Bowl despite being an anchor of the Vikings' prolific offense. Darrisaw was graded out as the second best offensive tackle in the NFL from Pro Football Focus being one of only 3 to earn a 90+ overall grade for his performance this season from PFF along with Trent Williams of the 49ers and Andrew Thomas of the Giants.
Diving deeper into the numbers from PFF, Darrisaw incredibly allowed only 23 pressures on Kirk Cousins over the course of 610 pass blocking snaps which means that he didn't allow pressure on 97.4% of his pass blocking snaps. The thing that may be more incredible is the fact that Darrisaw graded out as an even better run blocker this past season breaking the 90 grade overall for the season in that area.
Now Darrisaw did miss three games this past season which is probably why he missed the Pro Bowl during a season where he was well on his way to getting there for the first time. However, it would be shocking if we don't see Darrisaw make plenty of Pro Bowls in the coming years as the next great VT offensive tackle following the footsteps of Duane Brown.