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Week 1 NFL Practice Squad Power Rankings 2022: Lions WR Tom Kennedy at No. 1 on opening weekend

You’ve waited. You’ve read countless articles. You’ve scrolled and stopped at hundreds of videos. You’ve had your fantasy drafts. You’ve labored through preseason games. It’s here. There are butterflies in your stomach again. And it feels glorious.

The Practice Squad Power Rankings are back, a sculpted, well-oiled machine, brimming with confidence after an offseason spent with an optimal balance of intense training, prolonged rest and recovery, beaming sunlight and invigorating cold showers all while sticking to a high-protein diet.

The Practice Squad Power Rankings have entered their prime. They’re on preseason award watch lists. With another hot start to the season, there’ll be contract-extension talks. The first few years of The PSPR were fun and fast and at times chaotic. But those learning experiences shaped these rankings and built them into the juggernaut they are today. The Practice Squad Power Rankings are ready to blow the doors off expectations, reach new heights, and infuse, positive, upbeat energy to your life every single Friday for the next 18 weeks.

And I’m genuinely grateful you’re back. Now let’s get to the specifics.

The expanded, 16-man practice squads are about the only good thing to come out of the pandemic, and they’re here to stay in the NFL. Because of this, I run the Practice Squad Power Rankings parallel to the league. I write about 16 individuals every Friday, 10 officially in the rankings and six honorable mentions.

But I’ll always stay true to the origins of The PSPR, which were to highlight young players. That means I won’t be featuring “veterans” this season. Selecting someone like Josh Gordon – currently on the Titans practice squad – would not embody the fundamental intention of The PSPR.

So for the sake of The Practice Squad Power Rankings’ dignity, I’ll only be including practice-squaders who are rookies, second-year players, third-year players, or fourth-year pros. Players drafted from 2019 on. That’s it.

As always, I’ll track every single PSPR member who gets The Call – aka elevated to his respective team’s 53-man roster on gameday. At that stage, said player moves from being a PSPR member into the exclusive Practice Squad Power Ranking alumni fraternity. The running count will be known as the “Call Up Tally” or “The CUT” for short.

Here’s to The Practice Squad Power Rankings flourishing this season, emerging as a legitimate superstar, earning a massive payday and starting to cement its legacy in the hallowed halls of the Internet’s football-media industry.

White was the No. 1 junior-college running back recruit in the class of 2020. On 88 totes for South Carolina last season, he averaged 6.6 yards per. And, on film, his juice di lui jumps off the screen. Dynamic cuts, Tesla-like acceleration, power through contact. It’s still a shock he went undrafted. I guess teams like to see more of a workload in college for a runner? I love the minimal wear on his body by him. The Dolphins have Raheem Mostert and Chase Edmonds in their backfield. White can step in and contribute in Year 1. He’s very talented.

Blackshear played college football for six years. Thanks, COVID. No, really. He got that extra time due to a medical redshirt and COVID-19 granting everyone an extra year of eligibility. It didn’t lead to him being drafted. But it did lead him to Buffalo, where Blackshear was jaw-droppingly good in the preseason. He averaged 4.8 yards per carry, amassed 93 yards on eight receptions, and scored two touchdowns. His ability of him to change directions without throttling down was super-impressive for a UDFA back.

Darby was a sixth-round pick in 2021 and hardly got an opportunity in Year 1 – as is the case for many late-round selections. He’s someone who played with electric in-game suddenness and long speed in college, not at all appearing to be a 4.59 guy with a 34.5-inch vertical. In four seasons at Arizona State, he averaged 19.7 yards per grab (on 67 snags) with 13 touchdowns. The Falcons aren’t exactly a club oozing with receiver talent after Kyle Pitts and Drake London. Darby deserves a shot as the downfield specialist in Hotlanta.

7. Jayden Peevy, DT, Titans

Peevy had a long and reliable career at Texas A&M battling against powerful centers and guards in the SEC, and he’s a specimen at nearly 6-6 and 310 pounds with arms over 35 inches. He uses those tentacles outstandingly against the run, to keep blockers off his chest before dispatching them en route to the ball carrier. Peevy plays more athletic than his combine would indicate, with good range between the tackles. Tennessee has quality players inside along their defensive line, but Peevy can add more sturdiness on the interior if needed.

Another Vikings cut from the 2021 class, you don’t have to be a draft analyst to understand Robinson’s supreme upside. He’s nearly 6-foot-6 and 270 pounds with a high-caliber pro day workout on his resume. Plus, he’s only 24 years old. The former Florida State standout – and highly sought-after recruit – spent all of his rookie campaign on injured reserve but flashed in the preseason. Minnesota added defensive line pieces via free agency, but Robinson can provide extra juice if it’s needed.

Nixon was Carolina’s fifth-round pick in 2021 after a dazzling career at Iowa. And at 6-3 and 320 pounds, he had a Muhammad Wilkerson-esque workout at Hawkeyes Pro Day. Long with some moves in the pass-rush holster and plenty of reps defeating blocks to halt the run, Nixon should be at the top of the priority list for the Panthers when they need more depth up front next to Derrick Brown on the defensive line. Dude can play.

Hodgins had to have been one of the Bills’ final cuts after the preseason he pieced together. He had 16 grabs for 124 yards and a few of those receptions were of the highlight-reel variety. A sixth-round pick in 2020, Hodgins got early buzz as a rookie in training camp before two injuries derailed his debut NFL season. He spent the 2021 on Buffalo’s practice squad, and now finally healthy, he showcased to Buffalo coaches the amazingly good ball skills he repeatedly demonstrated during his illustrious career at Oregon State. At 6-4, he’d give the Bills major size out wide.

Humphrey has done it in the NFL, in games that count. He has three games with over 40 yards receiving and three receiving touchdowns in his pro career. He does look like a Lil ‘Jordan skying for the football down the field at around 6-4. That was his trademark of him at Texas and with the Saints in his first three seasons when given the opportunity. Now with the Patriots, a club not boasting an elite receiver group, Humphrey deserves more of a chance after 13 catches for 140 yards and a score this preseason.

2. Thomas Graham, DB, Bears

Bears, look. I know you drafted two defensive backs. I know it’s a new regime. But did you not watch Graham in his first NFL start last season against Justin freaking Jefferson? Three pass breakups. Three! The lights weren’t too bright for him. Graham was a ball magnet in college with 32 pass breakups and eight interceptions across three seasons at Oregon. I don’t even have to check those stats anymore, I’ve written them so many times. Graham deserves to be part of the Bears’ youth movement in the secondary.

There’s a saying that a team ultimately becomes an embodiment of their head coach. Kennedy is the receiver version of Dan Campbell. This is a 5-10, 190-ish pound former undrafted free agent from Bryant College who roasted NFL cornerbacks in the preseason to the tune of 16 catches for 143 yards with two touchdowns. Gritty. Football. Guy. Kennedy can give the Lions a two-headed monster in the slot with Amon-Ra St. Brown. He just needs to get THE CALL.

Honorable Mention

Nazeeh Johnson, DB, Chiefs

Johnson was a stat-sheet filler at Marshall with 302 tackles, seven picks, and 19 pass breakups in five seasons. He can man the nickel corner spot. Free safety. Strong safety. He tackles well and plays with authority on every snap.

Anthony Brown, QB, Ravens

The Ravens already have Tyler Huntley as Lamar Jackson’s backup. Brown is more Jackson insurance. A capable runner with a thicker frame and Jackson or Huntley, Brown has quality arm strength, too. After having his ups and downs at Oregon following a transfer from Boston College, Brown looked the part of a reliable QB3 in the preseason with a 117.7 passer rating.

Jason Poe, OG, 49ers

We have Mercer on the PSPR board! Poe, a Mercer alum, was a wrecking ball in college, and he tested like a high-caliber athlete at the Georgia Pro Day. Yeah, the Bulldogs gave him the opportunity to showcase his skills di lui, and he thoroughly impressed. Poe feels like an athletic brawler of a guard Kyle Shanahan will eventually get the most out of in San Francisco.

Deven Thompkins, WR, Buccaneers

No big deal with Thompkins here, just a wideout who went for 1,704 yards on 102 receptions last season at Utah State. Yes, he’s small, which is why he went undrafted. But aren’t we in an era of the NFL where smaller and faster is better than bigger and slower? Dude can separate, he’s lightning-fast down the field and proved his explosiveness of him with a 4.44 time and an 11-foot broad jump at his pro day. Of course, the Buccaneers have droves of receivers, but Thompkins absolutely could become a favorite underneath and occasional downfield target for Tom Brady. He doesn’t care about draft position.

Kennedy Brooks, RB, Eagles

Brooks won’t wow anyone athletically. That’s usually not good at the running back spot. But he legitimately may have been the most naturally skilled running back in the 2022 draft class. I sincerely believe that. Vision, subtle cutting capability, and downright insane balance through contact. He was a joy to watch at Oklahoma, where he had three 1,000-plus yard seasons. He forced 60 missed tackles on 197 rushes last year. 60!

Curtis Brooks, DT, Colts

Brooks was a late-bloomer at Cincinnati but may have been the most dynamic purely pass-rushing three technique in the 2022 class. I mean that. On just 304 pass-rushing snaps, Brooks registered 43 pressures thanks to an awesome blend of first-step quickness, leverage, and power at the point of attack.

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