The first three weeks of the 2022 NFL season has revealed plenty about each team and their roster.

While much of this intel isn’t surprising—many superstars are playing at high levels and plenty of end-of-roster backups are struggling—there have been a few shocking revelations during the month of September.

Every team has at least one unheralded player on their 53-man roster who has defied expectations by performing at a high level. With that in mind, let’s take a look at these hidden gems and what they have accomplished thus far.

Arizona Cardinals: WR Greg Dortch

Few would have expected Greg Dortch to emerge as a key member of the Arizona Cardinals receiving corps in 2022.

Dortch, a second-year pro out of Wake Forest, was a little-used member of the team last year. He caught just three passes for 15 yards across the entire 2021 campaign.

The 24-year-old already has already well surpassed those marks, posting 20 catches for 198 yards and a touchdown in just three games.

With the aging A.J. Green ineffective and Rondale Moore sidelined, Dortch has seamlessly picked up the slack.

While Marquise Brown and Zach Ertz both have more targets, with 34 and 25 respectively, Dortch’s 23 have clearly established him as the No. 2 wideout in DeAndre Hopkins’ absence. This is further established with no one else on the team than these three having more than 15 targets.

Dortch may slow down when Hopkins returns, but the Cardinals can at least be confident in their ability to withstand an injury or suspension thanks to his breakout performances.

 

Atlanta Falcons: LB Mykal Walker

The Atlanta Falcons have plenty of question marks dotting their rebuilding roster, but they may have found a linebacker worth building around in Mykal Walker.

After seeing action sparingly during his first two years in the league, the Fresno State product stepped into a full-time starting role this season.

He’s making the most of his expanded workload—Walker has played all 194 of Atlanta’s defensive snaps after logging just 193 in 17 games last year—by notching 22 tackles, two pass defenses, an interception and a sack.

Walker is also capitalizing on the opportunity he’s received to be a leader in this defense. Head coach Arthur Smith spoke about why decided to make the 25-year-old his on-field defensive play-caller (via Scott Bair of AtlantaFalcons.com):

"We had a lot of faith in him, the way he developed last year and the games that he had to play in there, especially stack linebacker behind the ball. Now, he has the green dot, he's continued to develop. I like his football IQ and he's making plays; he made a hell of a play [against the Rams] on the interception".

Walker should only improve with more experience. If the plays he’s made through the first three games of the season are any indication of the direction his career is going, the Falcons found a gem with their fourth-round pick in 2020.

 

Baltimore Ravens: WR Devin Duvernay

Following their decision to trade away Marquise Brown early in the offseason, the Baltimore Ravens appeared to have a glaring hole at the WR2 position. Despite this apparent issue, the front office opted to avoid drafting a prospect or bringing in a free agent.

The team instead trusted its in-house options to take over the role, something Devin Duvernay has admirably done in his third NFL season. The 25-year-old seems like a natural fit in this run-first offense, making the most of the limited amount of looks he gets each week.

Duvernay has become a bona fide scoring machine, already reeling in three touchdowns on just eight targets this year. He’s proving to be surehanded as well, catching all eight passes thrown his way.

Factor in his elite return abilities—Duvernay made the All-Pro team as a kick returner last year—and potential as a rusher—he saw two carries in Week 3—and you have a player who rapidly developing into one of the most versatile and dangerous weapons the league has to offer.

While he’s likely to remain the third option behind star tight end Mark Andrews and top wideout Rashod Bateman, the Ravens offense will surely be scheming up ways to get Duvernay the ball when points are needed.

 

Buffalo Bills: WR Isaiah McKenzie

Isaiah McKenzie wasn’t guaranteed a feature role within the Buffalo Bills offense this year, needing to beat out Jamison Crowder for the starting slot receiver job in training camp.

After accomplishing that feat, McKenzie has gone on to reward Buffalo’s faith by getting off to an impressive start to his 2022 campaign. The 27-year-old has caught 11 passes for 132 yards and two scores, emerging as the third-most targeted wideout on the roster with 15, behind Stefon Diggs and Devin Singletary who have 35 and 16 respectively.

While he hasn’t been perfect—McKenzie drew the ire of fans for not getting out of bounds on the final play of last week’s defeat to the Miami Dolphins—the Georgia product is looking like a strong contributor with the potential to get even better.

If he continues his current pace, McKenzie will shatter his previous career-highs of 30 catches for 282 yards and five touchdowns in a season.

It was never going to be easy to replace Cole Beasley in this passing attack, but McKenzie has done an admirable job and should only get better with more reps.