Gophers NFL Season in Review

Another NFL season in the books, and sadly for the 3rd season in a row no Gopher took home a Super Bowl ring. We do have plenty of Gophers to celebrate though! Antoine Winfield Jr. was named first team All-Pro. Blake Cashman and Boye Mafe had breakout seasons. Terrel Smith, John Michael Schmitz, and Jordan Howden made their NFL debuts and started as rookies. In total 9 Gophers made it to the playoffs and had players in both the NFC and AFC Championship.

Antoine Winfield Jr.

AWJ put together his best season as a pro coming into a contract year for himself becoming the 2nd Gopher this decade to be named First Team All-Pro. He was tied as the league leader in forced fumbles and fumble recoveries while winning multiple NFL Defensive Player of the Week, and Winning Defensive player of the Month in December. In only his 4th NFL season, AWJ is now top 20 all time in Sacks by a DB. His impact was not only limited to the playing field, with him earning a Walter Payton Player of the Year nominee for his work in the community.

As of now he is currently a restricted free agent, but I expect him to be compensated very well with a new contact this offseason.

Boye Mafe

Mafe really turned it on in his second year as a pro. After only starting 3 games as a rookie, he became a starter in year 2. He set a franchise record with 7 straight games with a sack and also forced his first fumble. I expect him to continue to grow as a starter and double digit sacks should be on the horizon!

Blake Cashman

In his 5th NFL season, Cashman had a breakout year as a starting linebacker for the Texans. He had struggles with injuries early in his career so it was also his healthiest season. He collected an AFC Player of the Week honor in Week 6, had his first career interception, and racked up 19 tackles after switching to Mike Linebacker.

He is set to be a free agent this year and I expect this season has earned him some money!

De’Vondre Campbell

Two seasons removed from his All-Pro season, Campbell struggled with injuries for the playoff bound Packers. When healthy he was still the Packers starting MLB. Off the field, Campbell’s impact in the community earned him a Walter Payton Player of the Year nominee. If interested you can donate to the De’Vondre Campbell Family Youth Foundation here.

Campbell has been listed as a potential cut candidate for the Packers who are set to be over the cap. We should get more clarity on where he will be playing next year in the following couple of months.

Rashod Bateman

Bateman moved across 1000 career receiving yards in his third year for #1 AFC seed Ravens. He had a career high 11.5 yards/catch but wasn’t able to get a large share of targets in a receiving room that saw 6 players have over 30 receptions.

Bateman is heading into his fourth year, which has significant contract implications with his 5th year option coming up.

John Michael Schmitz

JMS was named as a starter for the Giants going into his rookie season. He suffered a setback during the season with a lower leg injury, but returned to the starting lineup once fully healthy.

He is expected to be a key piece of the Giants offensive line moving forward.

Ko Kieft

Kieft saw a decrease in offensive output this season, finished with only one catch (which was a TD!). He continued to be an effective run blocker and special teams stalwart for the Bucs.

Eric Murray

Coming into the season as a backup and appearing mainly on special teams, Murray was thrust into the Texans starting lineup after some injuries. Unfortunately he suffered a knee injury putting him on IR and ending his season.

Murray is set to become a free agent this offseason.

Jack Gibbens

After getting promoted to starting linebacker after making the Titans squad as a rookie, Gibbons was named a week 1 starter in his 2nd year as a pro. He racked up 95 tackles before a back injury placed him on IR late in the season. With a new HC and DC, it will be interesting to see what role Gibbens carves out for the Titans in his 3rd year.

Carter Coughlin

Coughlin continued as a key contributor on special teams for the NY Giants in his 4th season as a pro. He had a special team high 9 tackles. His rookie contract is set to expire this offseason.

I expect his ability to contribute as a special teamer to get him a camp roster at the very least going into the 2024 season.

Daniel Faalele

Faalele continued as a backup tackle for the #1 AFC seeded Ravens who saw limited action. He also appeared on the FG unit for the Ravens. With his size and upside, we can hope to see him getting more reps as his career progresses.

Benjamin St-Juste

St-Juste put together his best season as a pro in year 3. He collected his first career interception and had two forced fumbles as a starter on the Commanders defense. He’s heading into a big year as he enters the final year of his rookie contract.

Terell Smith

Smith was able to make an impact as a rookie in the Bears secondary learning behind All-Pro Jaylon Johnson. He had a memorable forced fumble and recovery. I expect him to continue to grow into a potential starter (should the Bears not resign Jaylon Johnson).

Jordan Howden

As the season progressed Howden earned more playing time getting 7 starts due to his exceptional play. He finished the season as the starting free safety and is expected to keep that role going into 2024.

Tyler Johnson

After spending the first 16 games of the season on the practice squad in a crowded WR room, Johnson capitalized in his only game collecting a TD pass.

He is currently listed on the Rams active roster going into the offseason.

Gophers on the Practice Squad and Coaching Staffs

Tanner Morgan spent a couple of weeks on the Vikings practice squad while also volunteering for the Gopher football team this fall.

Thomas Rush spent the entire rookie season on the Titans practice squad.

Esezi Otomewo spent his second season on the Jaguars practice squad. He has played in a total of 5 total NFL games with 5 total tackles.

Aaron Hill was an assistant strength coach for the Super Bowl 49ers. After the season was over, he was announced as the Green Bay Packers Head strength coach.

Nick Rallis finished his first season as a DC for the rebuilding Arizona Cardinals who finished 4-13.

For more Gophers content, follow @devincnelson4 and @gopherhole on Twitter

(All Stats pulled from

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