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How did former Gophers players perform in the NFL this season?

De'Vondre Campbell and Antoine Winfield Jr. were highest graded players among former Gophers

Green Bay Packers linebacker De'Vondre Campbell (left) and cornerback Rasul Douglas (right) celebrate after making a third-down stop against the Los Angeles Rams on Dec. 19, 2022, at Lambeau Field.
Green Bay Packers linebacker De'Vondre Campbell (left) and cornerback Rasul Douglas (right) celebrate after making a third-down stop against the Los Angeles Rams on Dec. 19, 2022, at Lambeau Field.
Tork Mason / USA Today Sports

The Gophers football program had 16 alums play in the NFL during the 2022 regular season and seven of them have advanced to the playoffs.

Here are takeaways from how Gophers players performed:

Highs

Last season, Packers linebacker De’Vondre Campbell was the Gophers’ first All-Pro honoree since kicker Chip Lohmiller in 1991. Pro Football Focus graded him at 85.0 a year ago; this year, he was at 73.2, with 96 tackles, two interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), six tackles for lost yards and no sacks across 13 games.

Campbell was the Gophers' second-highest graded player in 2022 behind Buccaneers safety Antoine Winfield Jr. (77.8). Winfield’s grade also dipped, from 89.5 in 2021 when he made the Pro Bowl. Winfield Jr. produced career highs of four sacks and seven tackles for losses (TFL) this year, along with 80 total tackles in 13 games.

Surprises

The Buccaneers drafted tight end Ko Kieft in the sixth round and he played in all 17 games, producing seven receptions for 80 yards and a touchdown in Week 12 vs. Cleveland. He played 265 snaps on offense and 275 on special teams.

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The Titans picked up linebacker Jack Gibbens as an undrafted free agent last spring. The Abilene Christian transfer played in the final five weeks of the regular season, with an interception against Houston in Week 16. He finished with 28 tackles.

Local angle

Defensive end Esezi Otomewo had one tackle in each of the final five games for the Vikings. The 2022 fifth-round draft pick has four pressures in 90 total snaps and one TFL. He has garnered praise from head coach Kevin O’Connell and veteran defensive end Za'darius Smith, who said this week, “He’s going to be great for us on this defense.”

Not so high

Seattle took Boye Mafe with the 40th overall pick last spring, but the edge player hasn’t been as disruptive as the Seahawks would have hoped as a rookie. Boye was credited with 10 pressures in 188 pass-rush snaps, per PFF. The Hopkins High School product had 31 tackles and three sacks playing in all 17 games.

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Father Time

Carolina linebacker Damien Wilson, Arizona tight end Maxx Williams and Houston safety Eric Murray are the longest-tenured Gophers in the NFL, starting in 2015 or ’16, respectively, but each veteran saw their playing time and production shrink in 2022.

Wilson was an every-game starter for years before this season. He still played in all 17 games, but had only five starts with 38 tackles, four TFLs, two sacks and a forced fumble.

Murray had 27 tackles in 17 games but saw his snap total on defense go from 759 in 2021 to 118 in 2022. He did play a career-high 403 snaps on special teams.

Williams, of Waconia, Minnesota, had three receptions for 18 yards in 11 games and one start.

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Injuries

Rashod Bateman, Baltimore’s first-round pick in 2021, had 15 receptions for 285 yards and two touchdowns in six games. He tried to play through a foot injury, but opted for season-ending Lisfranc surgery in early November.

Houston linebacker Blake Cashman of Eden Prairie, Minnesota, was hit by injuries during his first three years in the NFL, but he was able to play in 16 games in 2022. He had 26 tackles, four TFLs, three sacks and two pass breakups.

Upswing

Fellow Eden Prairie product Carter Coughlin played in all 17 games for the New York Giants in 2022 and will make his second trip to U.S. Bank Stadium to play the Vikings in a wildcard playoff game Sunday. He played only six defensive snaps in 2022, but was a mainstay on special teams with nearly 400 snaps on those units.

Cornerback Benjamin St-Juste had improved stats across the board with Washington in 2022. He had 42 tackles, seven pass breakups, two sacks and a forced fumble in 12 games.

Briefly

Offensive tackle Daniel Faalele, a fourth-round pick by Baltimore, made one start in 2022, but played in 16 games on special teams. … Receiver Tyler Johnson was let go by the Buccaneers before the season, played two games without a catch for the Texans and has been back on the Buccaneers practice squad to finish the season. … Quarterback Chris Streveler played two games for the Jets; he completed 10 of 15 passes for 90 yards in spot duty in Week 16. … Offensive tackle Sam Schlueter was brought into training camp by the 49ers but did not make the team. He was on the Jets’ practice squad to end the year.

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This story was written by one of our partner news agencies. Forum Communications Company uses content from agencies such as Reuters, Kaiser Health News, Tribune News Service and others to provide a wider range of news to our readers. Learn more about the news services FCC uses here.

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