Every season, several NFL teams will have a breakout season from a player previously under the radar. These are players who came into the league without much clout and had spent at least one year on an NFL roster. Sometimes these are one-year aberrations, other times it jump-starts a standout career, but for at least one season they came out of nowhere to make an impact for their team.
For the New Orleans Saints, some recent examples of such players include DE Trey Hendrickson, WR Willie Snead, DT David Onyemata, WR Marquez Callaway, LB Demario Davis, and running backs Chris Ivory and Khiry Robinson.
The Saints have one of the league's most talented and complete rosters on both sides of the ball. Not all of their talented core was built through top draft picks or high-profile free-agent signings. Excluding rookies, here are two players that could be surprise contributors to the Saints in 2022.
KENTAVIUS STREET, DT
Street was a fourth-round selection out of NC State in the 2018 NFL Draft by San Francisco. He’d tear his ACL during his 2018 Pro Day, an injury that cost him all of his rookie year and most of 2019. Street would appear in three games at the end of that season before landing back on injured reserve for San Francisco's playoff run.
Finally healthy in 2020, Street played in 15 games, appearing in 40% of the defensive snaps with 11 total tackles, including one for loss. He’d follow that up by appearing in every contest for the 49ers last season and recording 3 sacks, 7 pressures, and six tackles for loss among 29 total stops.
At 6’2” and 287-Lbs., Street was a versatile contributor for a deep San Francisco defensive front. He’s capable of playing inside or on the edge, but projects as a defensive tackle for the Saints. Street is still developing as a pass rusher but has a devastating spin move to disengage from blockers. He’s a power player who can push into offensive backfields and create disruption against the run and pass.
Street, 26, has an opportunity to bolster his career this season. He was signed to a one-year deal by New Orleans and will count just $1.27 million against the salary cap. The Saints got just two sacks, 19 QB hits, and 10 tackles for loss from their rostered defensive tackles in 2021.
New Orleans often moved one of their talented edge rushers inside on obvious passing downs and expect a bounce back year from Onyemata. However, Street could provide additional interior disruption that would make an elite New Orleans defense even stronger this season.
DEVINE OZIGBO, RB
An undrafted rookie out of Nebraska in 2019, Ozigbo spent training camp with the Saints. Despite a strong preseason, he was released among the team’s final cuts. He was picked up by Jacksonville, where he had 28 rushing yards and 12 receptions for 65 yards in 18 games over two seasons as a reserve back.
Ozigbo was re-signed by New Orleans off the Jaguars practice squad early last year. He’d play two games for the Saints before being released and re-signed by Jacksonville, then ended the year by signing a reserve/future contract with New England. The Saints re-signed him for a third time after the Patriots released him earlier this offseason.
Ozigbo, 25, had 2,196 rushing yards and 49 receptions for 488 yards in four years with Nebraska, including 1,082 yards on the ground as a senior. He developed into a special teams contributor for the Jaguars, something he wasn't able to do in his first tryout with the Saints.
New Orleans lacks proven running back depth behind Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram, especially with Kamara facing a possible league suspension. Third-year RB Tony Jones Jr. has experience in the system and undrafted rookie Abram Smith is an early fan favorite. Both players are also potential breakout candidates.
At 6-feet and 225-Lbs., Ozigbo possesses power between the tackles and decent speed along the edge. He’s also a solid receiver out of the backfield, giving him the versatility to grab a key role in the New Orleans offense.
Other possible dark horse contributors for the Saints in 2022
- Tony Jones Jr.,RB
- Juwan Johnson, TE
- Eric Wilson, LB
- Kaden Elliss, LB